What LeBron James declining option means for Sixers free agency hopes

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James has made a decision.

Teams can negotiate with free agents starting at midnight Sunday. That would be damn near impossible for Houston in this scenario, barring one of their star players (theoretical James included) taking an unprecedented discount. Houston would have to gut their roster to even make this possible and it's extremely unlikely any of the parties involved would be in favor of that.

James told the Cleveland Cavaliers that he is not exercising his $35.6 million contract option for next season and will hit the free-agent market, two people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. The Thunder can offer him more money and George could get a five-year, $176 million and stay in Oklahoma.

The Los Angeles Lakers are understood to be frontrunners to secure his signature but the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have also been linked. But before you start going insane and reconstructing each team's roster in the hopes of adding James, let's just examine the realistic options.

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There is a huge amount of excitement around the city of Los Angeles for the possibility that James could be headed to the Lakers. Similarly, Pat Riley was reportedly frustrated with James in '14 when he seemed distant and disengaged during their conversation in Las Vegas at the start of free agency. The Rockets pushed the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference finals last month.

There is a healthy amount of skepticism around the National Basketball Association that the Spurs will be willing to trade Leonard to Los Angeles, though. Whether or not they play out is one thing, but to say players don't at least engage each other on the subject is another.

The big question all season has been whether the Akron native will leave Cleveland again and it's nearly time for him to provide us with an answer. In each those two cases, James or his representatives met with several teams.

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