|LeBron James, fashioning the best in casual camp counselor wear, arrives for presentations by the Heat and Clippers. (Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer/Associated Press)|
Two suitors left for James
Cavaliers, Bulls set to pitch today
The preliminary bouts are finished. It’s time for the main event in the fight for LeBron James, free agent extraordinaire.
Chicago vs. Cleveland. To the winner, the crowned King.
With the Nets, Knicks, Heat, and Clippers having come and gone after making their pitches, the Bulls and Cavaliers will have opportunities to convince the reigning MVP that they are the team for him.
The Cavaliers will go first at 11 a.m. today, when they will remind the Ohio-born, Akron-bred superstar that there’s no place like home.
The Bulls, who will follow at 2:30 p.m., are counting on making a lasting impression as the last team through the door. The Bulls will tout their roster with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng. And Chicago could be working on a trump card to drop on James’s table if it gets a commitment from another high-profile free agent, such as Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.
According to a person familiar with James’s options, he has no timetable to announce where he’ll sign.
While other teams have made splashy presentations to James over the past two days at his business offices in downtown Cleveland, the Cavaliers have been making themselves more appealing to him. Yesterday, they introduced Byron Scott as their coach, and he didn’t waste any time making a prediction on where he thinks James is headed.
“I think at the end of the day, he’s going to make the right decision, and he’ll be here in Cleveland for the rest of his career,’’ said Scott, who insisted he did not consult with James before agreeing to a contract. “His legacy of winning championships in his hometown will be like nothing he’s seen in his life.
“There’s nothing like winning at home. I won three titles in my hometown [Los Angeles], and there’s not a better feeling.’’
Yesterday, he listened intently to presentations by the Heat and Clippers. Miami used every precious second of its promised time with the King — and then some.
Team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, billionaire owner Micky Arison, and former center Alonzo Mourning spent nearly three hours meeting with James, trying to convince him to continue his career in sunny South Florida under the palm trees and the state’s friendly income-tax laws.
The majority of Miami’s delegation arrived at 10:20 a.m. James showed up two minutes before the scheduled 11 a.m. meeting looking like a summer camp counselor in T-shirt, shorts, and a backpack.
At 1:50 p.m., the Heat’s brass paraded single file through the lobby of the IMG building without saying a word. Before getting in their cars, they passed the Clippers’ two-man contingent of acting general manager Neil Olshey and executive Andy Roeser.
The Clippers wrapped up their meeting with James in about an hour. When they concluded, James was asked how things were going as he headed out the door. “Good,’’ he said.
Wade says the meeting, which lasted 2 1/2 hours, was mutually agreed upon. He said: “Things are getting very interesting,’’ but shrugged when asked if the Bulls had made him an offer.
The Bulls sitdown came shortly after the 2006 NBA finals MVP spent more than two hours getting wooed by the New York Knicks, who became the fourth team in two days hoping to woo Wade away from the Heat.
Bosh tweeted that he and Wade dined Thursday night in Chicago and posted a picture to prove it.
Bosh met for more than two hours in Chicago with the New York Knicks. In a tweet, Bosh called the Knicks’ presentation during a meeting that lasted 2 hours 40 minutes “another impressive one.’’
“You’ve got to enjoy this,’’ he said. Asked if there were any offers, he said “No, not yet. Everything is still pending.’’
The Bucks made another major move, agreeing in principle to a $40 million, five-year deal with guard John Salmons, a person familiar with the negotiations told the AP. The move to lock up Salmons, who played for the final half of last season with the Bucks, came one day after power forward Drew Gooden agreed to a $32 million, five-year deal . . . A person with knowledge of the situation says Amar’e Stoudemire’s days with the Phoenix Suns are over after the team reached agreements with forward Hakim Warrick and center Channing Frye. The person told the AP that Warrick agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal, shortly after Frye agreed to a five-year, $30 million offer to stay in Phoenix . . . Veteran point guard Steve Blake told a Portland, Ore., radio station that he has agreed to a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.