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LeBron James could opt for free agency, agent Rich Paul's comment hints on TNT - NBC Sports


2024 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 27: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Denver Nuggets during Round 1 Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 2024 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

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LeBron James has until June 29 to decide whether to opt in to the final year of his contract with the Lakers, which means signing an extension with the team (totaling $164 million over three years), or opting out, in which case he becomes a free agent and can re-sign with the Lakers or another team.

LeBron has played his decision making close to the vest, but his agent Rich Paul was on the TNT alternate broadcast of the Western Conference Finals and said a little more.

Rich Paul: “LeBron is a free agent.”… but LeBron currently has a pending player option. Interesting slip up from his agent. 👀(via @ChrisBHaynes) pic.twitter.com/5IrtdnP8C1

— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) May 26, 2024

“LeBron’s a free agent. I gotta focus on his business ... and let the Lakers hire who they want to hire. He’s always showed up and played for whatever coach is there.”

When Chris Haynes called out Paul and asked if that meant LeBron would decline his option, Paul wouldn’t go down that road. “Chris, you know I don’t do my business over the air, man...

“I don’t know what he’s gonna do. We’re gonna do what we do every year. We’re gonna evaluate the situation and we’re gonna make the best decision.”

LeBron’s history is of using the leverage of his free agency to get a team to make short-term roster upgrades that make them more competitive (often while saying he’s not involved in these decisions). That feels like what is going on now. In the mind of LeBron and his agent Paul, maybe they want to look at this offseason as if they were free agents, but the sense from sources with teams around the league that while LeBron may flirt with other teams he’ll ultimately re-sign or extend with the Lakers.

If LeBron opts in and signs a max two-year extension with the Lakers, it would be worth $164 million over the three years. (No team can offer LeBron more than three years because of the over-38 rule.) If LeBron opts out and re-signs with the Lakers, his max deal is worth $162 million over three years. Another team — Philadelphia, would be interested if LeBron becomes a free agent — can offer up to $157 million over three years.

For now, the focus is on the Lakers and their coaching search, in which J.J. Redick — not so coincidentally LeBron’s podcast partner — is one of the frontrunners for the job.

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