The Cleveland Cavaliers have cleared a path for LeBron James to come back home.
The Cavs created enough salary-cap space to offer the superstar free agent a maximum contract by agreeing to trade guard Jarrett Jack, swingman Sergey Karasev and centre Tyler Zeller in a three-team deal with Brooklyn and Boston, a person familiar with the deals told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because teams are not permitted to discuss trades until the league’s moratorium ends Thursday.
The moves are designed to open room under the salary cap so they can land the Akron-born James, the four-time league MVP and most sought after player on the market.
With open roster spots, Cleveland isn’t done.
Not long after making the trade with the Celtics and Nets, the Cavs had exploratory discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a possible trade for three-time all-star Kevin Love — if James does return to Cleveland, said a person with knowledge of the inquiry.
The Timberwolves would be looking for No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins to be part of any potential package from Cleveland in order to consider parting with Love if the talks were to become more serious, the person said, speaking with the AP on condition of anonymity because neither team publicly announced the conversation.
Whatever the Cavs’ next move is — with or without James — they could package together their other assets, including future first-round picks, to make a run at other All-Star players.
In the three-team trade on Wednesday, Cleveland will receive guard Marcus Thornton from the Nets and send him, Zeller and a future first-round pick to the Celtics. Also, the Cavs are trading Jack and Karasev to the Nets.
Jack, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent last season, was scheduled to make $6.3-million, Zeller will make $1.6-million and Karasev $1.4-million
In trading those salaries, the Cavs have enough to give James a maximum, $20.7-million contract — if he decides to sign with Cleveland. James, who played his first seven seasons with Cleveland before leaving as a free agent in 2010, was expected to meet with Miami President Pat Riley in Las Vegas before making a decision about his future.
James spent part of the Wednesday at his Nike-sponsored skills academy, where he interacted with high school and college players. It’s not known exactly when or where James will meet with Riley or if other Heat officials will be present.
Under NBA rules, teams must abide by a salary cap set by the league. If the combined salaries of the team’s roster surpasses the cap, teams are forced to a pay additional taxes. Last season, the salary cap was approximately $59-million, and the league announced Wednesday that it will increase 7.5 per cent to an all-time high of $63.065-million for the 2014-15 season. The tax level — the point at which a team is penalized for exceeding the salary cap — for next season has increased by 7.1 per cent to $76.829-million.
ESPN first reported details of the three-team trade.
Jack’s first season with Cleveland didn’t go as he or the Cavs had hoped. He signed a four-year, $25-million deal last July after playing in Golden State. The Cavs counted on him being a leader for their young team, but it didn’t work out as Cleveland finished 33-49, missed the playoffs and fired coach Mike Brown.Report Typo/Error