They are proceeding with caution, however, aware that James might simply re-sign for less so the Miami Heat can add another free agent of note.
The Heat looked short-handed and exposed in a five-game loss to San Antonio in the NBA Finals.
The Lakers also are interested in Carmelo Anthony, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, and plan to seek a meeting with the high-scoring forward, who has officially opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks.
The Lakers, though, are leery of Anthony joining James in Miami and aren’t quite as interested in him compared with James.
Both players would have to take pay cuts if they joined the Lakers at the same time. The Lakers have already committed $23.5 million to Kobe Bryant and $9.7 million to Steve Nash next season, putting them about $34 million toward the projected $63 million salary cap after Robert Sacre’s contract is also taken into consideration.
Anthony would have made $23.3 million next season and James would have made $20 million. James was also under contract for the 2015-16 season at about $23 million.
The Lakers could free up more money toward next season’s payroll by waiving Nash via the stretch provision and paying him the $9.7 million over three years instead of one.
Miami went to the Finals the last four seasons and won two championships but would be financially challenged to add anything of note to the trio of James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade without one of them opting out.
Bosh and Wade each have two years and about $43 million left on their contracts and are not expected to opt out.
With Wade slowed by knee soreness and Bosh playing inconsistently, Anthony would give Miami a much-needed scoring jolt. He averaged 27.4 points last season and turned 30 last month.
James, who turns 30 in December, has shown no signs of slowing down after averaging 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists last season. It would be sensible, however, for him to opt out in an effort to improve the team. The Heat would otherwise be too far over the salary cap and the most they could have spent on a free agent would have been $3 million next season. The average NBA salary is about $5.5 million.
ESPN.com first reported that James was opting out of his contract.
Free agency begins June 30 at 9:01 p.m. Pacific time.