LeBron James will opt out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat, exercising his early termination option, according to multiple media reports. The Los Angeles Lakers are interested in meeting with James but are "proceeding with caution," according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
James is expected to meet with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade prior to the June 30 option deadline, according to Yahoo Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, and Heat president Pat Riley released a statement that reiterated James' decision to become a free agent was expected. Free agency begins on July 1.
The Lakers will have salary cap space to offer James a four-year maximum contract and have shown a willingness to pay their superstar players. Beyond that, the Lakers spent well over the salary cap for years while the team was built around Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Bryant's extension, along with Steve Nash's expiring $9.7 million contract, serve as road blocks for a big summer spending spree.
Rumors of Los Angeles trying to sign both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in the same summer are still heating up though, with ESPN's Brian Windhorst revealing this tidbit on the Lakers quietly preparing for an opportunity to make a run at both players:
The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, had begun exploring such machinations even before the opt outs of James and Anthony had become known, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
The Lakers have been trying in recent days to package the No. 7 overall pick in Thursday's draft with the expiring contract of Steve Nash (who's owed $9.7 million next season) to free up enough room to offer James and Anthony at least $16 million each next season to join forces with Kobe Bryant, Shelburne reported.
Los Angeles has displayed a focus on the NBA Draft with few reports regarding their approach to free agency. Instead, the front office has been holding workouts over the last month as they weigh their options with the seventh-overall pick.