LeBron James appeared all-but-guaranteed to be the biggest Lakers free agent signing since Shaquille O’Neal on the eve of free agency, and while the Lakers still appear incredibly likely to land the The King’s services, it appears the Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers are still in the mix to varying degrees.
In fact, the first free agency news about James didn’t center around his long-awaited meeting with Magic Johnson that may or may not have happened. While we don’t know what went on on that front yet, we do know that James and his agent Rich Paul spoke with Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman right at the start of free agency, according to the very plugged in Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.
What exactly they talked about, however, is still unknown:
Sources declined to characterize the nature of the call. Was James listening to Altman’s pitch to rejoin the Cavs, maybe sign the largest contract in the league? Or was it courtesy call for James to tell his hometown team himself that he’s decided to move on?
And before taking it as some sign that James is definitely heading home, it’s worth noting Vardon’s very next sentence:
James’ interest in joining the Lakers is strong, sources told cleveland.com.
So the Lakers aren’t out of this thing yet. It’s just clear they’re going to have some competition. Competition like the Sixers:
Philadelphia is meeting with LeBron James and his reps today in Los Angeles, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2018
For today's meeting, Sixers will meet with LeBron James' reps, sources tell ESPN. James will not attend this meeting. https://t.co/KJGS0xp5Yy— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2018
Philadelphia still seems like a long shot (if it wasn’t, Joel Embiid wouldn’t be trolling James on Twitter), but not as much of a long shot as Denver, who is adorably trying to get an audience with James, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
The Denver Nuggets are aggressively pursuing a meeting with star free-agent forward LeBron James, a league source told Yahoo Sports, hoping to convince James that Denver’s talent makes the Nuggets an ideal short-term fit.
Denver has been in contact with James’ agent, Rich Paul, and has doggedly tried to position the team as James’ best option, the source said. Paul George’s decision to re-sign with Oklahoma City has taken a potential James teammate in Los Angeles off the board, and thus far the Lakers’ talks with San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard have gained no traction.
It’s still hard to take Denver seriously as a suitor given that James has never shown or been leaked to have any interest whatsoever in playing there, but hey, if the team wants to put that out there to show its fans it’s trying, that’s cute and they shouldn’t be stopped.
It would appear the Sixers (who offer the chance to stay in the east and a talented young core) and the Cavaliers (who are home, I guess?) are the biggest threats to the Lakers’ chances to sign James, but until there are rumors that he’s waffling on the Lakers, it doesn’t seem like there is too much to worry about.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.