James not worried about being top-paid player

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - LeBron James wants to win as many championships as he can. When it comes to the titles dictated by money, he’s not that interested.

The Miami Heat star says he’s not worried about being the NBA’s highest-paid player.

“It doesn’t matter to me being the highest-paid player in the league,” James said. “I think my value shows on the floor.”

He added: “If this was baseball, it (the salary) would be up, I mean way up there.”

James spoke following the team’s afternoon shootaround in Indianapolis leading to Friday night’s Heat-Pacers game.

Initially, the questions were about whether the league’s collective bargaining agreement would allow other teams to build the same way Miami did, by signing three big-name players.

James was the top prize on the free-agent market in 2010 but acknowledged he took less money to play with Miami and pursue NBA championships with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

James and Bosh each reportedly signed six-year deals worth $110 million. Wade’s deal was for six years and $107 million. Each deal was under the NBA’s maximum contract.

The Heat won the title last season, and all three Miami stars can opt out of their contracts next year. There has been speculation that the Cavaliers, James‘ former team, might be interested in signing him, as would the Los Angeles Lakers.

But under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which begins to be implemented in earnest next season, teams will be penalized more harshly for exceeding the salary cap than they were in the past, and repeat offenders will have it even worse.

It’s already making an impact.

The new economic structure has already led to some significant personnel decisions. Oklahoma City decided to break up a core that had taken the Thunder to the NBA Finals the previous summer when they chose to ship James Harden to Houston just before the season rather than sign him to a contract extension that would have subjected the team to the more punitive luxury tax.

In the past two weeks the Memphis Grizzlies, who were considered to be legitimate challengers to the Thunder in the West, traded valuable bench player Marreese Speights and two other players to Cleveland for Jon Leuer in a salary dump, then sent leading scorer Rudy Gay, who is making $16.5 million this season with $37 million more over the next two years, to Toronto.

The move helped get the Grizzlies under the cap for next season, but left coach Lionel Hollins wondering if they still had enough to compete in the powerful Western Conference.

“When you have champagne taste, you can’t be on a beer budget,” Hollins said, before going on to say he understands the challenges new Memphis owner Robert Pera faces in one of the NBA’s smaller markets.

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