According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, LeBron James -- who has never been the single highest-paid player on his own team -- will seek the maximum salary in free agency, which begins tomorrow. Per Windhorst:
"Teams who contact James will be informed that he wants no less than the maximum salary number for next season, sources said. The max number is projected to be $22.2 million. In 2010, James accepted a pay cut when he signed with the Miami Heat, taking less than the maximum salary to help make space for other free agents."
All along, the Miami Heat have remained the heavy favorites to retain LeBron, at least for next season. However, Windhorst also writes that, "If James follows through with his demands and signs a deal starting at the full max number and the Heat also re-sign Bosh and Wade then Miami will likely not be left with appreciable salary-cap space even if Wade and Bosh accept pay cuts." Basically, if he wants to make the max and stay in Miami, he will have to play alongside primarily the same cast of characters.
Would the Cavaliers be able to offer LeBron the max? The answer is yes, although they would have to make some moves. David covered the team's cap flexibility over the weekend. It would be fairly easy for them to free up max money for LeBron, or somebody else.
Another nugget from Windhorst's article, which was first noted yesterday by USA Today's Sam Amick, is that LeBron's agent, Rich Paul, will be handling the first round of discussions with teams who are interested. Paul is based out of Cleveland. He was, of course, the one who actually called the Cavs on the night of "The Decision" in 2010 because he thought it was "the right thing to do."
Obviously, it will still be a very longshot for the Cavs to lure LeBron home, at least this summer. Their roster, as currently constructed, won't be the most appealing option for a player who wants to win another title next season.
But, just to add a little more fuel to the fire, here is a video that was posted on YouTube late last week. It depicts LeBron refusing to answer questions about his future while being pestered by a fan. It also depicts Zydrunas Ilgauskas, at about the 27 second mark.
According to Sam Amico, Ilgauskas is still very much a part of the Cavs' front office.
Ilgauskas not only works for Cavs, he and new regime tight. RT @cavsredsbengals: does big Z still work for the cavs?— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 28, 2014
Big Z was at least one of Cavs pre-draft workouts that I know of, probably more. Enjoy rest of your weekend. Talk to you in free agency.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 28, 2014
We shouldn't read too much (or perhaps anything at all) into the fact that LeBron and Z were apparently hanging out together. They have always been tight.
Still, the next week or two could be interesting.