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LeBron James opts out of contract, becomes free agent, reports say

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 11, 2018 in Boston. Credit: Getty Images / Adam Glanzman

LeBron James is available — again.

James, according to multiple reports, had his agent, Rich Paul, inform the Cavaliers on Friday morning that he will become a free agent rather than exercise his $35.6-million option to stay with the team for one more year under his current contract.

Players had until 11:59 p.m. on Friday to inform their current teams of their intentions.

This will be James’ third trip to the open market in his 15-year NBA career. He will officially become a free agent at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Free agents can reach an oral agreement on Sunday but cannot officially sign until next Friday.

James has changed teams as a free agent twice in his career. In 2010, when his contract was up with Cleveland, he joined the Miami Heat. In 2014, he exercised the early termination of his option with the Heat and returned to Cleveland.

Just because James opted out of this contract doesn’t mean he won’t be back in Cleveland. He is widely believed to be deciding between signing a contract with the Lakers or a new contract with Cleveland.

The Lakers have been considered a leading contender since it was reported that James has spoken with other marquee players, including Kawhi Leonard, about playing together in Los Angeles. There is some thought that James is reluctant to go to Los Angeles unless the Lakers can get a second big-name player.

Other teams that might try to sign James include the Rockets — who are a long shot because they would have to get him in a complicated sign-and-trade scenario — the 76ers and the Celtics.

James, a four-time NBA MVP, three-time champion and 14-time All-Star, is coming off one of his best seasons at age 33. He averaged 27.5 points, a career-high 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds in leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals.

Despite his incredible season, James clearly was frustrated by the way his team was swept by the Warriors in the Finals. Given that the Cavaliers have little cap space and a weak supporting cast, it’s hard to see how things could quickly improve for him in Cleveland.

Though James is the prize of free agency, he isn’t the only big name who could change teams. Paul George could leave Oklahoma City for the Lakers, which the Los Angeles native has long called his dream destination. Kevin Durant has said he wants to stay with the Warriors, but he could have a sudden change of heart. And San Antonio has big decisions to make about Leonard. The Spurs can take a risk and keep him for the final year of his contract, offer him a new deal or trade him elsewhere.

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