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James speaks with Cavaliers; agent met with 76ers

By JOE VARDON • Jul 1, 2018 at 4:32 PM

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James' agent Rich Paul was scheduled to meet with Philadelphia 76ers leadership Sunday in Los Angeles as part of James' free agency, multiple sources told cleveland.com.

James, who along with his family is at his home in L.A., will not attend the meeting, sources said.

The Sixers do not quite have the cap space to pay James a maximum salary ($35.6 million next season), but could clear it with little trouble if James wanted to head their way.

They can trade Jerryd Bayless' expiring contract ($8.6 million) and one or two additional assets, among other options. Paul also represents young Sixers star Ben Simmons. Philadelphia is among the teams that could trade for Kawhi Leonard, which could entice James.

The most Philadelphia or any team besides the Cavs could give James is a four-year contract worth about $153 million. The Cavs can offer James a five-year deal worth about $207 million.

Both James and Paul spoke on the phone with Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman as the NBA's frenzied free agency season started officially at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

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? James' interest in joining the Lakers is strong, sources told cleveland.com

A source said late Saturday night that at least Paul and Altman would speak, and ESPN was first to report that the league's most mega free agent was also on the call.

Free agents can verbally agree to new contracts now, but they can't be signed until July 6. James' decision is not expected to take long.

James spoke to Altman from James' home in Los Angeles. He flew there with his family on Saturday from their vacation on Anguilla, an island in the Caribbean. On Friday, Paul informed Altman that James would not exercise his $35.6 million option on his contract with the Cavs for next season and would become a free agent.

James, 33, could sign a five-year, roughly $207 million contract with the Cavs, or a four-year, $153 million deal with another team (like the Lakers).

Given James' stature and skillset, teams don't make contract offers to him. He picks the team and sets the length of the contract.

Paul George and Chris Paul, two NBA stars linked to James as potential candidates to join him with the Lakers, both agreed to four-year max contracts with their old teams on Sunday — George with Oklahoma City and Paul with Houston.

A source close to James said James would not be involved with any of these initial meetings with team, so perhaps it was a small feather in Cleveland's cap that James at least hopped on the phone with Altman.

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