James, Cavaliers agree to 2-year contract


Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND — There was no need for a heartfelt letter this summer. LeBron James isn’t going anywhere.

This decision was easy.

Just shy of the one-year anniversary of his celebrated homecoming, James agreed to terms on a two-year, $47 million contract, two people familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press on Thursday.

The deal includes a $24 million player option for 2016-17, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because James has not yet signed the contract.

That will be done soon enough as the four-time MVP has a busy schedule over the next few weeks to promote a new comedy film in which he portrays himself.

James is hosting a VIP screening for family and friends in Akron on Friday, where he’ll walk the red carpet with the other stars of “Trainwreck,” an R-rated movie he filmed last summer shortly after announcing he was returning to the Cavs.

Unlike last July 11, when his essay in Sports Illustrated touched Cleveland fans and changed the NBA’s landscape, James wasn’t the star attraction during this summer’s free agency period.

DeAndre Jordan and others took care of all the drama as James went on vacation in the Bahamas with close friends Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

James ended any suspense or speculation about his future with Cleveland by saying several times during the past season that he intends to end his career with the Cavs.

This is the first time since 2006 that James will re-sign with a team. On two previous occasions as a free agent he left for another team, signing with Miami in 2010 and Cleveland in 2014.

It had been expected that James would wait to see if forward Tristan Thompson, who is also represented by his agent, Rich Paul, would sign before he negotiated with the Cavs.

But on the first day teams could sign players, James made his intentions known to the Cavs, who in one season went from a lottery team to Eastern Conference champions with James.

With more experienced players and perhaps a few new ones, there’s no reason why the Cavs won’t be in the title chase again. James’ skills have shown no signs of erosion, and owner Dan Gilbert has shown a willingness to shell out major money to keep his biggest star surrounded with quality players.

And while his agreement with the Cavs is not a surprise, it does give him future flexibility and the ability to make more money next summer when the league’s new TV deal kicks in. The $24 billion package is expected to escalate the salary cap by millions.

The 30-year-old James led the Cavs to the NBA Finals in his first season back. Cleveland lost in six games to Golden State, but through no fault of James.

Forced to carry the scoring load following injuries to All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love, James was brilliant against the Warriors, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists — the best statistical line in finals history.

But it wasn’t enough, and after dropping to 2-4 in the finals, James said he’s more motivated than ever to bring a championship to Cleveland, which has gone without a major pro sports title since 1964.

Before free agency opened, James met in Los Angeles with Love, who said the pair had a “very honest” talk before the forward announced he would re-sign with Cleveland. Love signed his five-year, $113 contract on Thursday, saying in a video posted on The Players’ Tribune website that his talk with James helped him come to “the biggest decision of my life.”

“I always say, chase what you love and everything you love will chase you right back,” Love said. “That’s happiness.”

James can relate. He said numerous times last season that he and his wife, Savannah, and their three children, were happy being back in Ohio. He’s at ease around the people who know him best, and he’s determined to make good on his promise to deliver them a championship.

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