LeBron Changes the Game. Again.

↵In 2006, LeBron James shook up the NBA by signing a short contract with Cleveland. Typically, stars sign contracts of maximum length -- the league's contracts are guaranteed for the most part, and long-term security is as important as high salary. LeBron could have signed for five years, taking him through 2012. Instead, he took a three-year deal with a fourth year option, setting him up for 2010 free agency. Fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh followed suit; Chris Paul and Deron Williams have copied the idea since.
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↵That date -- July 1, 2010 -- has since been etched in every fan's brain. New York made some roster-crushing trades with the sole purpose of freeing up salary cap space for 2010. Other teams (including New Jersey and Detroit) have done the same thing. But LeBron has found another loophole in the collective bargaining agreement: he can sign an extension with the Cavs in 2009 to take effect in 2010. (Actually, it's unclear if LeBron's people figured it out or if Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer came up with the suggestion.) And LeBron said he's considering it.
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↵Basically, LeBron could get through his entire career without ever being a free agent and always have the security blanket of potential free agency looming right around the corner. Security comes in two forms in LeBron's situation: the security of a long-term maximum salary and the security of being able to affect change with his team. If LeBron keeps rattling off these three-year deals, he'll always have a proverbial gun at Cleveland's head: give me a winner, or I'm gone. It's a bit of a brilliant development, one which fellows like Paul will surely follow.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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