As Miami Heat president Pat Riley begins to pursue free agency at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday, LeBron James and his Big Three teammates plan to give the franchise a window to recruit a supporting cast and close deals with them, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Heat's free agents – James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem – have the framework of deals in place to remain with Miami, arming Riley with his limitations within the salary cap to sign talent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
"Everybody has their [contract] number and has left a little bit of room to let [Riley] maneuver," one source briefed on the contract discussions told Yahoo Sports.
Now, it is on Riley to replenish a roster that failed in a five-game NBA Finals loss to San Antonio. As Yahoo Sports reported on Saturday, James is pursuing a full max contract extension, beginning at $20.6 million – or something slightly below. Bosh and Wade will need to take pay cuts – Wade's significant – to create the cap space for Miami to be competitive in pursuit of free agent targets that include Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza and Marvin Williams.
Among top-level NBA executives and agents, there remains a strong belief that Miami will convince its key players to return on new deals. Within the suitors for James, there's an increased pessimism they'll never get a serious chance to engage James in free-agent meetings and presentations, sources told Yahoo Sports. His agent Rich Paul told teams he will accept their calls beginning after midnight on Tuesday, but there's no sense the formal meetings will be scheduled in the near future, sources said.
As one general manager told Yahoo Sports, "Right now, it's clear they're buying time for Riley to go out and hit the market."
Paul has avoided any communication with teams on James' free agency, abiding by loosely enforced NBA rules on holding free agent talks before the official start of the period at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday, league sources said. Cleveland undertook an investigation in 2010 on James' camp, charging tampering with James and league sources believe that's a significant reason why Paul has been so careful.