LeBron speaks with Cavs as free agency opens

LeBron speaks with Cavs as free agency opens

LeBron speaks with Cavs as free agency opens

James' agreement with the Lakers was announced through a simple press release sent by his agent, Rich Paul, which says James, a 14-time All-Star, three-time Finals MVP, and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was joining the Lakers. Cleveland has deep salary-cap issues - partially caused by James' failure to commit long-term - and the Cavs now lack enough talent to unseat the champion Golden State Warriors.

This time around, LeBron leaving feels a lot difference.

Last summer's stunning trade of guard Kyrie Irving left the Cavs without a quality running mate for James, who was forced to carry a heavier offensive load throughout the regular season and playoffs.

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This is the third time in eight years that James switches teams having swapped the Miami Heat, where he won two rings in four years, to return to Cleveland in 2014. Smith reported the Lakers can have as much as $68 million if they can work something out with Luol Deng, and by withdrawing a qualifying offer to Julius Randle, making him an unrestricted free agent. In his final season with the club, James will make $41 million. He played in all 82 regular-season games and then somehow carried a team that underwent several transformations to a fourth straight conference title and matchup against the Warriors.

James has played 11 total seasons with the Cavs, pushing them to five Finals - counting the franchise's first trip in 2007. The terms were confirmed by a person familiar with the situation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal can not become official until the league's offseason moratorium ends this week. Los Angeles might not look like a title contender now, especially in a world where the Golden State Warriors exist, but - in James' estimation, presumably - it will. James, who was in Los Angeles, is also being pursued by the Lakers, who have enough salary-cap space to sign him and another star player. It also helps that the Lakers are one of the game's premier franchises. The best the two teams can do is meet in the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers can offer top money plus talent and draft picks in order to surround James with competitive players enough to challenge the Warriors, who suddenly must contend with James as a Pacific division rival rather than a foe to be faced only twice a season and for the National Basketball Association title. He thanked Cavaliers fans in an Instagram post, saying the city will always be his home.

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