LeBron James leaving Cavaliers to join Lakers, and that’s actually good news for the Heat and rest of Eastern Conference

LeBron James speaks to the media after Cleveland was swept by Golden State in the NBA Finals. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

LeBron James took his time with the first two major decisions of his NBA career. It didn’t take long for him to make the third.

On the first day of free agency Sunday, James agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers — a deal that includes a player option in the fourth season, according to multiple reports. While his 2010 decision to join the Heat was revealed on a television special on ESPN and his 2014 decision to sign with the Cavaliers was released in a letter in Sports Illustrated, his latest move to Los Angeles was announced through a simple tweet by his agency group, Klutch Sports Group.

“LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers,” Klutch Sports Group posted on Twitter on Sunday evening.

James leaves the Cavaliers after playing the past four seasons in Cleveland, a stint that included an NBA championship in 2016. The future Hall of Famer spent four seasons with the Heat from 2010-14, winning two titles in 2012 and 2013 during his time in Miami.

While the Heat were rumored as a team James would consider in free agency this summer, the reunion was never realistic because of Miami’s salary-cap situation.

After signing Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard NBA contract Sunday, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.

With the Heat capped out, they will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird rights or even trades to fill out their roster.

How does James’ decision impact the Heat? The Eastern Conference lost its best player, as James’ team has represented the East in the NBA Finals for eight consecutive seasons.

James’ departure drops the Cavaliers from “title contender” status to just another Eastern Conference team and clears the way for others to make it to the Finals. The path to the championship series just got a lot easier for East contenders like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors.

The Heat, which made it to the playoffs as the East’s sixth seed last season, will also benefit from James moving West. The Cavaliers finished ahead of Miami in the standings this past season, but Cleveland will be a lot weaker without James.

James’ decision to join the Lakers took the biggest name in this year’s free-agent class off the board and capped off a busy first day in free agency that included decisions by other stars.

Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City’s Paul George, Houston’s Chris Paul and Denver’s Nikola Jokic all agreed to return to their teams. The four will re-sign on deals ranging from two to four years and totaling more than $500 million.

Aside from James, the most intriguing names on the move so far are DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers to Dallas, Trevor Ariza from Houston to Phoenix, and Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who left Philadelphia to sign with Milwaukee and San Antonio, respectively.

As for the Heat, the first bit of big news likely will involve free agent guard Wayne Ellington. Miami would like to retain the franchise’s record holder for the most 3-pointers in a season, but at what price? The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights and can pay him as much as $10.9 million next season, but that could put them above the new luxury tax line unless other salary is shed through a trade.

Ilyasova, Belinelli and Doug McDermott (Indiana) are long-range shooters like Ellington and their contracts were in the $6-$7.3 million per year range. Ellington will receive interest as the market settles, but expect him and the Heat to have several conversations.

[Heat summer League preview: Expect to see plenty of Bam Adebayo]

[Miami Heat swingman Rodney McGruder’s contract guaranteed for 2018-19]

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