ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne reported that the four-time All-Star is "untouchable":
Yes, the Clippers are discussing a run at LeBron. No, they would not trade Blake Griffin. Doc has assured him many times he's "untouchable"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 24, 2014
Shelburne explained the financial steps the Clippers would have to take in order to grab one of this year's most coveted free agents:
The Clippers have $76 million committed in salaries for next season. That figure will decrease to $71.7 million after Darren Collison, Glen Davis and Danny Granger opt out of their contracts for next season, meaning the Clippers likely would have to trade some combination of prized young center DeAndre Jordan (one year, $11.4 million), Jared Dudley (three years, $12.1 million), Matt Barnes (three years, $10.1 million), Jamal Crawford (three years, $16.3 million) or J.J. Redick (four years, $27.7 million) to facilitate a deal.
Shelburne also noted that James considers the Clippers a strong contender in terms of his new destination:
ESPN reported in February that if James were to leave Miami, the Clippers would be among his preferred destinations because of the strength of their roster and his close relationships with Chris Paul and coach Doc Rivers. Paul is one of James' best friends and the two have talked about playing with each other since they were in high school, when they met on the AAU and prep all-star circuits. Paul is godfather to James' son Bryce and they were in each other's weddings.
Signing James or Anthony is now an option after the two stars opted out of their current deals.
First was Carmelo, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Carmelo Anthony's agent, Leon Rose, confirms Melo has opted out on his contract with the Knicks.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) June 23, 2014
LeBron followed a day later, per ESPN's Chris Broussard:
LeBron James' agent Rich Paul has told Heat LeBron will exercise early termination option— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 24, 2014
The Clippers won't be the only team pulling out all the stops in order to lure one of the All-Stars. Players of this caliber don't often hit the open market and the chances that both are available at the same time are even more remote.
Who is a likelier target for the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason?
The Clippers without James or Anthony are one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They earned the No. 3 seed in the conference in the regular season before exiting the playoffs in the second round courtesy of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Put James or Anthony together on a team with Griffin and Paul and you've got, on paper, the team best positioned to dethrone the champion Spurs.
Fans knew to bunker in when the two officially became free agents. The rumors will be flying fast until they sign with new teams.
For the time being, though, Clippers fans can at least eliminate the possibility of Griffin playing elsewhere when the 2014-15 regular season tips off.