The team created salary-cap space on Thursday with a three-way trade, ensuring they have enough to offer the superstar free agent a maximum contract.
A person familiar with the deals says the Cavs have agreed to trade guard Jarrett Jack, swingman Sergey Karasev and center Tyler Zeller in a three-team deal. The moves are designed to open room under the salary cap so they can land James, the four-time league MVP and most sought after player on the market.
The Cavs have agreements with Brooklyn and Boston, the person 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 person said 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, is 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.
The Cavs, meanwhile, gave James more to consider about Cleveland with their trades.
And, the Cavs may not be done. Cleveland has other assets, including future first-round picks it could package together to make a run at other All-Star players whether James signs or not.
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 percent to 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 percent 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.
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