MIAMI — Yes, LeBron James visited Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem in Miami during this year’s playoffs. No, it doesn’t mean James is returning to the Heat this summer.
Just a few days after Haslem revealed that James visited Miami during a break in the playoffs, the Miami native wanted to clear something up on the topic.
“Can I say one thing about this Bron situation?” Haslem said unprompted on the subject during a 45-minute appearance on the Five Reasons Podcast with Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham. “People take everything out of context and they take things and they take what they want from things. I told people before the Finals that me, LeBron and Dwyane sat down and had lunch, and people took it as — I don’t know where LeBron is playing at next year. I ain’t ask him, I ain’t talked about it. When me, him and Dwyane sat down, we talked about life, we talked about our kids, we talked about business. We’re in our 30s now, basketball is not the only thing we talk about.
“So for people to take what I said or interpret what I said. Man, I got phone calls. I’m looking on Instagram, I’m looking at the newspaper. Nah, man. OK yeah, we sat down to eat, is that a crime? The man swept the team before and he had the time to come down here and have dinner with friends. That’s all that was. I don’t know where LeBron is going. I ain’t ask LeBron where he’s going. Hopefully he comes to the Heat. But if not, I’m still going to be LeBron’s boy.”
Haslem has a point. A person visiting friends during their off time shouldn’t be newsworthy, but the rules are different when it comes to a superstar like James.
Haslem said last week that James’ future as a potential free agent was not discussed during their conversation in Miami. The visit took place in between the Cavaliers’ sweep of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals and the Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Celtics.
Multiple Las Vegas sports books and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith have included Miami as one of the teams in the running for James. Haslem said last week that he’s willing to get in on the recruiting if the 14-time All-Star really is considering a return to the Heat.
“There are great pieces here and we all know the city loves him and we all know what he’s capable of doing,” Haslem said to reporters last week during a visit to the Heat’s youth summer camp at South Broward High. “I’m sure the organization and I would love to have him. But as a friend, once again, I support LeBron with whatever decision he makes. So we’ll see. Am I going to be a part of the recruiting process? Hell yeah. If he reaches out and we talk, I’m going to throw it out there. But you just never know.”
But there’s one big issue, the Heat currently lack the salary-cap space to sign James in free agency.
The Heat are already close to the luxury tax line with 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $119 million. That puts Miami way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line, and definitely not in position to sign a max player like James unless it can shed a lot of salary.
The easiest path to a James-Heat reunion is through a sign-and-trade agreement with the Cavaliers or James opting into the final year of his current contract and then getting Cleveland to trade him to Miami.
Free agency begins July 1.