Did Rich Paul let it slip that LeBron James would be opting out of his contract?

While it seems pretty clear, based on reports, that LeBron James is likely to return to the Lakers, there are a couple of ways that could play out. LeBron could opt into his contract and extend for more money or opt out and look for a no-trade clause.

Both options have their merits, but LeBron and Rich Paul, his agent with Klutch Sports, haven’t tipped their hand yet. That is until Friday.

During the alternate telecast of the Mavericks and Timberwolves game with Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report as well as Aaron Lefkoe, Bomani Jones and Vince Carter, Paul joined to talk about LeBron. During his discussion of LeBron’s situation and how much weight he is or isn’t throwing around with regards to the coaching search, Paul referred to LeBron as a “free agent.”

Is it a slip of the tongue? Probably. But the only way LeBron to become a free agent is if he opts out of his contract.

Realistically, there probably isn’t too much to read into this. I don’t Paul was putting a whole lot of thought into his wording during this segment. This also isn’t some decision that greatly sways the Lakers’ chances.

Regardless if he opts out or extends, the Lakers remain in pole position to retain LeBron, at least according to all reports. While the Lakers will be under a microscope for the moves they make up to and including draft night.

It’s the way for LeBron to use some of his leverage and perhaps the threat of leaving. He did attend at the Cavaliers’ playoff game. Those moves are typically deliberate, even if he doesn’t hold quite as much weight this time around as he did enter previous offseasons.

That could also be why Paul might have let it slip what their plan was. Getting a no-trade clause might be a newly-desired clause after the unexpected approach by the Warriors during the season. While the Lakers did not trade him, it might have led to Klutch and LeBron wanting to ensure they wouldn’t be tempted to do so.

It’ll be an interesting offseason for the Lakers and LeBron and one that Paul might have tipped their hand just a bit.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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