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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

LeBron James, Cavs agree to 3-year, $60 million extension

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James agreed early today to a three-year contract extension worth about $60 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers, keeping the All-Star forward with the club through at least the 2009-10 season.

The contract includes an option that would allow James to extend the deal one season, the Cavaliers reported on their Web site. The contract, which James is yet to sign, will take effect after the 2006-07 season.

I knew all along and I had always said that I wanted to stay here in Cleveland, so it s a terrific day for me and my family to actually make it official, James said in an interview on the team s Web site. Now I can continue to concentrate on basketball and helping bring a championship to Cleveland.

James chose an extension that is for two years less than the maximum deal the Cavs could have offered under the league s collective bargaining agreement, a five-year package worth as much as $80 million.

We did extensive research and with the way the CBA is set up, it makes the most business sense to sign this extension and then look at another new contract in four years, James said.

With James traveling on the West Coast, no formal news conference was planned.

Although the 21-year-old James announced Saturday that he had agreed to an extension with the Cavs, terms couldn t be announced until today, when the NBA s moratorium on free agency ended.

The deal works out well for James and the Cavaliers, whose management made the negotiation process run smoothly, said the player s agent, Leon Rose.

They really look at their relationship with LeBron as a partnership and understand that helping LeBron maximize his opportunities only helps them as well, Rose said.

The Cavs offered James the maximum deal, but understand why he decided that contract wasn t best for him, general manager Danny Ferry said.

This allows LeBron to maximize his value while wearing a Cavaliers uniform.

LeBron is an intelligent young man. He did his due diligence and is excited about continuing to play with the Cavaliers and from our perspective his presence is beyond measure, Ferry said.

The deal is a huge relief for a team that has risen into contention in James three seasons and fans who were worried the 6-foot-8 superstar might leave Cleveland, which hasn t celebrated a championship since the 1964 Browns won the NFL crown.

James, who s from nearby Akron, has resurrected a franchise that has never reached the NBA finals. With James hitting winning shots in the playoffs, the Cavaliers came within one victory last season of reaching the Eastern Conference finals.

If I didn t believe in this team and this organization and the direction that we re headed, I wouldn t have signed the extension, James said.

Ferry wasn t concerned that James could leave after four seasons.

Based on the direction we re headed, we re confident we ll still be in a great position when that time comes, Ferry said.

The Cavs turnaround began when they won the 2003 draft lottery and selected James with the No. 1 overall pick out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. James has had more points, assists and rebounds at a younger age than any player in NBA history.

Last season, James became just the fourth player to average at least 31.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists, joining Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Michael Jordan. He was named the youngest All-Star game MVP, and finished runner-up to Phoenix s Steve Nash for league MVP.

Now we need to continue to bring in the players to complement LeBron in our quest for an NBA title, said Ferry, who plans to try to re-sign restricted free agent power forward Drew Gooden.

I think we are really building a championship-quality team and organization and our run this year in the playoffs makes me very anxious to get back at it next year, James said.

Despite that, James said there s still work to be done by the team and himself before it s time to negotiate his next contract.

If we continue to build a winning team and I continue to perform at the highest level, then we both will come out of this as winners and the fans will win as well, he said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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