LeBron James meets with Heat as decision looms
Cavaliers clear space with trade
Pat Riley made his pitch. And now, LeBron James wants time to think.
The Miami Heat president met with the four-time NBA MVP on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly disclosed details of the meeting. James, his agent Rich Paul, Riley and Heat executive Andy Elisburg were at the meeting, said one of the people.
James has not made a decision and will not make any announcements before Thursday, a person said, adding, "He wants to meet with his family."
Canada's Wiggins could be affected by LeBron decisionThe Cavs created enough salary-cap space to offer the superstar free agent a maximum contract on Wednesday agreeing to trade guard Jarrett Jack, swingman Sergey Karasev and center Tyler Zeller in a three-team deal with Brooklyn and Boston, a person familiar with the deals told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because teams are not permitted to discuss trades until the league's moratorium ends Thursday.
With open roster spots, Cleveland isn't done.
Not long after making the trade with the Celtics and Nets, the Cavs had exploratory discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a possible trade for three-time All-Star Kevin Love — if James does return to Cleveland, said a person with knowledge of the inquiry.
The Timberwolves would be looking for No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins to be part of any potential package from Cleveland in order to consider parting with Love if the talks were to become more serious, the person said, speaking with the AP on condition of anonymity because neither team publicly announced the conversation.
Whatever the Cavs' next move is — with or without James — they could package together their other assets, including future first-round picks, to make a run at other All-Star players.In the three-team trade the Cavs pulled off earlier Wednesday, Cleveland will receive guard Marcus Thornton from the Nets and send him, Zeller and a future first-round pick to the Celtics. Also, the Cavs are trading Jack and Karasev to the Nets.
Jack, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent last season, was scheduled to make $6.3 million, Zeller will make $1.6 million and Karasev $1.4 million.
In trading those salaries, the Cavs have enough to give James a maximum, $20.7 million contract — if he decides to sign with Cleveland. James played his first seven seasons with the Cavs before leaving as a free agent in 2010, and it's apparent the team is doing everything it can to bring him back.
Last season, the salary cap was approximately $59 million, and the league announced Wednesday that it will increase 7.5 per cent to an all-time high of $63.065 million for the 2014-15 season. The tax level — the point at which a team is penalized for exceeding the salary cap — for next season has increased by 7.1 percent to $76.829 million.
ESPN first reported details of the three-team trade.
As he weighs his options, James will not meet with any other teams, the person added.
So now, Miami waits. So does Cleveland. So, too, does just about the entire NBA — because once James picks the Heat or the Cavaliers, the teams believed to be serious suitors for his services, the domino effect of other free agent moves will surely follow.
The meeting in Las Vegas lasted for more than an hour and took place more than two weeks after James opted out of his contract and elected to become a free agent, and the day before free agents may begin signing contracts.
James spent part of his day before the meeting at his annual skills academy with some of the nation's top high school and college players, interacting and observing workouts. That was part of the reason why Riley had to fly across the country to make the meeting happen, with hopes that he would return to Miami from the gambling haven with a huge win — keeping James in Heat colors for at least another season.
He returned to the camp after the meeting, jumping into some games with the high school players.
James spent a few minutes on each court during the evening session, high-fiving the kids as he played. And when Shake Milton of Owasso, Oklahoma, hit the deck on one play, James shouted, "Hold on, I got you, stay down," then promptly helped his teammate to his feet. Another highlight came when James showed off his passing skills, throwing a no-look assist to Jayson Tatum of St. Louis for a two-handed slam.
Several teams have met with Paul during the free-agent process, but it appears James has only one decision to make: Cleveland or Miami, the same choice he pondered four years ago when he decided play with the Heat. With James, the Heat won four Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships.
The Cavaliers didn't sit idle waiting for James and Riley to meet.
Cleveland created salary-cap space earlier Wednesday with a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, ensuring they have enough to offer the James a maximum contract.
But James had said he would meet with Riley and the Heat before making his decision.
The meeting came nearly three weeks after Riley addressed reporters following Miami's loss to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, when he insisted that the Heat needed to make some adjustments to get better — but didn't need a massive rebuilding job to stay at a championship level.
"You've got to stay together if you've got the guts, and you don't find the first door and run out of it if you have an opportunity," Riley said on June 19. "This is four years now into this era, this team, four finals. It's only been done three other times before. And two championships. From day one to the end, it was like a Broadway show. Sort of ran out of steam, and we need to retool. We don't need to rebuild, we need to retool, and that's what we're going to do."
If James leaves, it'll be more than a retooling project that awaits Miami.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — the other members of Miami's "Big 3" of the past four seasons — are also free agents, and neither has given any hint as to what they will do, though it's still expected Wade will not leave the Heat. Miami has just two players under contract for next season, one of those on a partially guaranteed deal. The Heat have also reached agreements with forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, as well as the draft rights to guard Shabazz Napier, but there's still plenty of jobs to be filled.
And the Heat have mostly been in a holding pattern while waiting for James to make his next decision.