With LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony officially opting out of their contracts, multiple teams have begun the process of exploring roster moves that would create sufficient salary-cap space to sign 2014's marquee free agents in tandem this summer, according to sources close to the situation.
In addition to the Miami Heat's obvious desire to retain James by any means necessary and pursue Anthony if he urges them to do so, sources told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks are among the teams mulling potential trades designed to clear enough cap space to be able to recruit the two stars and close friends.
The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, had begun exploring such machinations even before the opt outs of James and Anthony had become known, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
The Lakers have been trying in recent days to package the No. 7 overall pick in Thursday's draft with the expiring contract of Steve Nash (who's owed $9.7 million next season) to free up enough room to offer James and Anthony at least $16 million each next season to join forces with Kobe Bryant, Shelburne reported.
The Clippers would need to make several trades to clear enough room under the salary cap to make an offer to James, but as ESPN reported in February, if LeBron were to leave Miami, the Clippers would be among his preferred destinations because of the strength of their roster and his close relationship to 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.
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 would have to trade some combination of prized young center DeAndre Jordan ($11.4 million), Jared Dudley ($4.25 million) and Matt Barnes ($3.4 million) to facilitate a deal.
Jordan's stature grew tremendously around the league last season, and sources indicate the Clippers have been reluctant to entertain any trade call that mentions him. Paul and Blake Griffin are considered untouchable.
ESPN reported Monday that the Rockets have begun working on trade exits for center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin to clear enough space under the salary cap to make a representative offer to Anthony. That extends to James as well, but Houston can clear only enough space to sign one of them.
The Rockets have been confident for some time, sources say, that they can move both Asik and Lin if necessary to create the requisite flexibility while hanging on to Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons.