CLEVELAND – First, the Cavaliers got LeBron James’ word. Then they got his signature.
James signed a two-year, $42.1 million contract with the Cavs on Saturday, a day after he announced he was returning to play in Cleveland and try to end the city’s 50-year championship drought.
The deal provides flexibility for the NBA’s biggest star with the league’s maximum salary expected to rise in the future.
A person familiar with the negotiations said James’ contract includes an option for the four-time league MVP to become a free agent next summer. However, it is strictly “a business deal,” according to the person who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the team is not providing any details about the agreement.
By only signing for two years, James can get another contract with the Cavs before the 2016-17 season, when a new television deal is expected to push the maximum salary higher. The max contract for next season is $20.7 million.
Until this deal, James had never been the highest paid player on his team in 11 seasons as a pro.
The Cavs did not provide any terms of the contract in a release, citing league policy.
James announced he was returning to the Cavaliers on Friday, picking Cleveland over Miami and reversing the decision he made four years ago to sign as a free agent with the Heat.
In an essay in Sports Illustrated, James indicated he will finish his career in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers are confident the Akron, Ohio, native is committed to them long-term.
“We could not be happier to welcome LeBron James home,” Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said. “Yesterday, LeBron, through his essay, told us he wasn’t going anywhere except Cleveland and that ‘Cleveland is where he always believed he would finish his career.’ These words and commitment put all of us, including LeBron, in the best position to build our franchise the right way and achieve the kind of goals we all know are possible. Expectations will be at the highest levels but no one should expect immediate and automatic success.”
ESPN.com first reported the contract terms for James.
James is in Brazil to watch Sunday’s World Cup final between Argentina and Germany.
Lin traded to Lakers
New York — Jeremy Lin is still on his way to the Los Angeles Lakers, even after the Houston Rockets failed to land coveted forward Chris Bosh in free agency.
The Rockets still plan to execute the trade that will send the point guard to Los Angeles for cash, two people with knowledge of the deal told AP on Saturday. The people requested anonymity because the trade has not been officially announced.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey plunged into the free agent market with designs on adding a third star to play with James Harden and Dwight Howard. He made a brief overture to LeBron James and hosted Carmelo Anthony for a visit, but both of those efforts were rebuffed.
Morey then made a four-year maximum offer to Bosh, the versatile forward who was credited with being the defensive backbone during the Miami Heat’s run to four straight NBA Finals.
To create the salary cap room to make the offer, Morey reached an agreement to trade Lin, who will make about $15 million this season in the last year of a deal that counts only $8 million against the cap, to the Lakers, who have the cap room to absorb Lin’s contract without sending much back in return.
When James chose to return to Cleveland on Friday, the path appeared to be clearing for the Texas-born Bosh to join up with the Rockets and vault them into contender status in the powerful Western Conference.
But Heat president Pat Riley quickly recovered from James’ rejection and convinced Bosh to stay in Miami with a whopping five-year, $118 million offer.
Melo to stay with Knicks
New York — Carmelo Anthony is staying with the New York Knicks.
Anthony has decided to remain in New York, choosing the Knicks over a number of teams which could have given him a better chance for the championship he craves.
The All-Star forward met with Chicago, Houston, Dallas and the Lakers, but has informed the Knicks he will return, a person with knowledge of the details told AP on Saturday on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.