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LeBron James staying hands-off for Cavaliers in recruiting free agents

While the NBA's free-agency frenzy kicked off Friday night, signaling the official start of the Cleveland Cavaliers' mission to return to a championship level, the team's biggest star is remaining hands-off as he watches the action unfold.

LeBron James is not actively recruiting free agents on behalf of the Cavs as the franchise zeroes in on its targets, a league source told ESPN on Saturday.

LeBron James has played an active role in recruiting for the Cavs in the past, including meeting with Kevin Love in 2015 and making calls to veterans such as Mike Miller and James Jones. David Liam Kyle/NBAE/ Getty Images
James was scheduled to spend the weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, according to AL.com, attending the wedding of Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe. James and Bledsoe share an agent in Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul is also attending the wedding, as are Bledsoe's fellow Kentucky Wildcat alumni John Wall of the Wizards, who also is a Klutch client, and DeMarcus Cousins of the Pelicans, among others.

The choice by James to be a bystander comes at a fragile time for the team, which is navigating free agency without a general manager in place after parting ways with David Griffin nearly two weeks ago. Assistant GM Koby Altman has been elevated to de facto interim GM while Cleveland continues to negotiate with Chauncey Billups to accept a position to run the front office.

A prominent agent told ESPN that he has been communicating with both Altman and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert as the free-agency process plays out.

Billups, it would appear, is in no rush to finalize anything. He has agreed to play for the "Killer 3s" and make his debut in the BIG3 League on Sunday in Charlotte.

James' approach is a departure from his conduct in the past. He has actively pitched players on coming to play in Cleveland, including his pivotal poolside meeting with Kevin Love in Los Angeles in the summer of 2015 that led to Love's re-signing and James' calls to veterans such as Mike Miller and James Jones that were instrumental in those players' wanting to join the Cavs at a discount.

On Saturday, the team reached an agreement with point guard Jose Calderon, his agency, Priority Sports, announced. A Cavs source told ESPN that Calderon will sign a one-year, $2.3 million deal for the veterans minimum.

Calderon was one of two veterans the team had been targeting to be backups for next season, along with power forward Zach Randolph, multiple league sources confirmed to ESPN. Randolph has a score of other suitors who can pay him more than Cleveland can afford, including the Sacramento Kings, coached by Dave Joerger, who previously coached Randolph in Memphis.

In theory, a call from James to Randolph could influence the former All-Star big man to play for the Cavs and leave money on the table. It is unclear whether James' decision has anything to do with the manner in which Cleveland parted ways with Griffin after he helped guide the team to three straight Eastern Conference titles, including the NBA championship in 2016.

James has been jokingly referred to as the Cavs' real GM the past several seasons because of his involvement in team decisions, but now that Cleveland doesn't have anyone filling that position, he appears content to observe from afar.

It would be difficult to imagine that James -- who has personal connections to plenty of the league's players from his time with USA Basketball, position as a Nike spokesman, perennial All-Star and summer skills academy director -- has been completely dormant behind the scenes since the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors 4-1 in the NBA Finals.

Even if James has not approached any free agents, there is always the possibility he has maintained contact with players currently under contract -- Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony have both been linked to potential buyouts in Chicago and New York, respectively and are good friends with James -- in the hopes of bolstering the Cavs' chances at another ring. The Undefeated's Mike Wise reported last week that despite speculation about James' future plans when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2018, including talk of him going to Los Angeles, the most likely scenario would be James re-upping with the Cavs and staying put.

The Cavs' interest in Randolph was first reported by Turner Sports. Cleveland has only the taxpayer's midlevel exception at its disposal, worth about $5.1 million, plus veterans minimum contracts it can offer.

Even at the minimum, Randolph, like Calderon, would cost $2.33 million as a 10-plus-year veteran, but only $1.47 million would count against the cap, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. Adding both players under Cleveland's current tax situation would cost the Cavs nearly $8 million in additional taxes.

The Cavs' tax bill could change for the better if they are able to complete a proposed trade with the Houston Rockets and unload Iman Shumpert's $11 million in a salary dump, as first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Cleveland is also in talks with former first-round draft pick Cedi Osman, who has been playing overseas, as first reported by Cleveland.com.

Source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/19785438/lebron-james-not-actively-recruiting-cleveland-cavaliers-free-agency

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