Sunday, June 28, 2015

LeBron James opting out probably doesn't mean he's leaving, but it does let him hold the Cavs hostage

Today, LeBron James officially notified the Cavaliers that he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent (which is something I expected might happen before he even signed with the Cavs in the first place).  The widespread opinion is that LeBron has no intentions to actually leave Cleveland:

However, there is this:

On Friday, Chris B. Haynes of was the first to reveal LeBron's plan.  Haynes wrote:

"James will take a wait-and-see approach while the Cavaliers tend to their housekeeping matters, league sources told Northeast Ohio Media Group. ...

The belief is James wants to observe how management goes about retaining and accumulating assets keep the organization in win-now mode and improve the roster.

The chance of James bolting the city of Cleveland for a second time is slim, but his approach will allow him to assess the Cavaliers' moves before re-signing. It also applies pressure on the organization to do whatever is necessary to strengthen the team."

This afternoon, ESPN's Brian Windhorst basically reiterated Hayne's words:

Baskeball Insiders' Steve Kyler also added:

People will say this is just so LeBron can get paid more money (which is true given the league's absurd TV deal that kicks in in 2016 and the rising salary cap that will follow), but why should he care that much about making the absolute most he can in NBA salary?  According to Forbes, the $20.8 million the Cavs paid him this year wasn't even a third of his total income.  Why would a few extra million per season in NBA wages actually matter to him?  Shouldn't winning titles be much more important?

Regardless of the money, there's another reason for LeBron's decision to opt out, even if he does plan on staying in Cleveland.  For the time being, and as a long as he sticks to one-year deals, James basically becomes the teams' general manager (which is funny because he's already shown he's the de facto head coach as well).

The possibility of LeBron leaving is always going to be hanging over the Cavs' heads, forcing them to do exactly what he wants them to.  James can effectively hold the franchise hostage, directing it to make whatever trades or free-agent signings he chooses.

Also from Haynes, David Griffin, the man with title of GM in Cleveland, recently said the following about LeBron in regards to the Cavs' roster:

"We've heard from him every day pretty much. ... It's been great. He's been very much engaged with us on a lot of different levels. It's been positive."
Griffin and Cavaliers fans will say this a good thing, that it just means James is interested in ensuring the club does its best to compete for a title next season.  But let me ask you this, how can it make sense for a star player to also make coaching and management decisions?  If that was the case, teams around the league would've figured out a long time ago they could save money by no longer employing those unneeded positions.

Sorry Cleveland, but GM LeBron isn't doing player LeBron any favors in his quest to bring you a championship.

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