On Tuesday, when NBA teams are officially authorized to begin negotiations with free agent players, the Phoenix Suns are reportedly going to pursue the league’s top two free agents.
Yahoo! Sports published a report Sunday detailing the team’s interest in both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, who have each opted out of their contracts with the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, respectively, thanks to an early termination option.
The Suns’ interest, the report says, is not in one player or the other, but in both.
Each player would receive a max contract and Suns officials are said to be determined to meet with James to persuade him of the effect and possibilities of the partnership.
James and Anthony are said to have a liking of playing alongside one another. They have joined forces on past NBA Eastern Conference All Star teams and have played on U.S. Olympic men’s basketball three times, in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
In 2003, James was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers while Anthony went third to the Denver Nuggets. Anthony, 30, is seven months older than James, who will turn 30 later this year.
Salary-cap structures make it prohibitive for teams elsewhere to fit these two stars together without completely gutting a roster, but Phoenix’s general manager Ryan McDonough has constructed a far different reality to sell them in potential meetings next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Suns have $33.5 million in salary-cap space and could shed the next $10 million needed to sign James and Anthony to maximum contracts without unloading the young core of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and center Miles Plumlee that pushed the franchise to 48 victories in the Western Conference last season.
James shares agent Rich Paul with Bledsoe, which is a factor Yahoo! explains in its report.
Because of Paul’s relationship with Bledsoe and James, the Suns know the agent has a more intimate understanding of Phoenix’s potential appeal than most. Paul knows the Suns are the fifth-winningest franchise in NBA history, that owner Robert Sarver has gone into the luxury tax three times in recent years, that Phoenix has long been a preferred residence of thirtysomething stars with families.
Most of all, the Suns understand Paul has a keen knowledge of how James’ international brand and marketing appeal transcends media markets. James doesn’t need New York or Los Angeles or Miami to push product – only winning. That’s the sell of the Suns, just as it will be the Rockets and Cavaliers, too.
The Suns last season finished ninth the Western Conference in their first year under new general manager Ryan McDonough and coach Jeff Hornacek.
While the negotiation period — known as the July Moratorium — between teams and free agents can begin Tuesday, July 1, contracts cannot be officially signed until a week later, on July 8.