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Monday, July 5, 2010

LeBron caps meetings, chews over next move

CLEVELAND (AP) After three days being romanced by six NBA teams, a few billionaires, coaches, executives, hip hop's biggest star, and fixating the sports world on his every move, LeBron James got behind the wheel of his customized car and drove home.

Only he knows where he's going next.

James concluded his personal free-agent summit on Saturday by hearing presentations from the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose pitch focused on his familiarity with their franchise and tickled his sense of humor, and the Chicago Bulls, the last team and the one believed to have the best chance of stealing him from Ohio.

The meetings are over.

The guessing game has begun.

The ball is in James' court.

The Cavs came away from their 90-minute sit down with a renewed confidence that James will re-sign with them.

"It went very well," said a person with knowledge of Cleveland's visit. "It was very easy, very relaxed. There were moments of emotion and moments of laughter."

Knowing James as well as they do, the Cavs, who were represented by owner Dan Gilbert, new coach Byron Scott, general manager Chris Grant and assistant GM Lance Blanks, tried to lighten things up by showing the 25-year-old a cartoon featuring him and his friends as characters.

The team had an animated video made in the style of "Family Guy" — one of James' favorite TV shows — that depicted some inside jokes and locker-room humor as the Cavaliers reminded James that he is indeed part of their extended family. James was joined in the meetings by business manager Maverick Carter, close friend Randy Mims and agent Leon Rose.

The Cavs' entourage only had to make a three-block drive from Quicken Loans Arena to James' downtown business offices to make their homespun proposal to the mega free agent. Instead of making a national tour, James decided to have the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Cavs and Bulls meet him on his home turf. At this point, he has not other scheduled visits.

Indications are that James will spend the remainder of the holiday weekend considering the offers before announcing his decision sometime next week.

The Cavs did not ask James when he will announce his decision, the person said.

Because it's home, because they can offer him $30 million more than any other team on a maximum-length contract, and because they've built a championship-caliber team around him, the Cavs feel good about their chances of keeping the two-time MVP.

Hoping to tug on James' heart strings, the Cavaliers organized a "fan tunnel" down East 9th Street to welcome him. Hundreds of fans lined the sidewalks outside the IMG building, and when James pulled into the parking garage, fans held up signs that said "Home" while others tossed white powder in the air, mimicking his pregame ritual.

Nowitzki staying put

DALLAS (AP) Dirk Nowitzki is sticking with the Dallas Mavericks.

Next question: Will he and Jason Kidd be able to lure anyone to join them?

Nowitzki's adviser, Holger Geschwindner, said late Saturday night that Nowitzki and Mavs owner Mark Cuban have agreed "to get it done." Teams and free agents can strike deals at any time, but can't sign them until Thursday.

According to a person familiar with negotiations, the deal is for more than $80 million over four years, with a no-trade clause. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the NBA's moratorium until Thursday. Team officials couldn't comment because of that same rule.

"I think it's a great deal," Geschwindner said. "We're pumped."

The deal was first reported by ESPN.

The 2007 NBA MVP has spent his entire 12-year career in Dallas. He is the franchise's career scoring and rebounding leader and has led the Mavs to 10 straight 50-win seasons.



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