Home Court: Cavaliers begin their presentation to LeBron James; Bulls coming nextBy Tom Withers, AP
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Cavaliers selling LeBron on staying home
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers used their home-court advantage to convince LeBron James to give them a few more years to win an NBA title.
Hoping the comforts of home will sway James to stay, the Cavs made their presentation to the brightest star of this summer’s star-studded free agent class Saturday. Following their meeting, which lasted a little more than one hour, general manager Chris Grant was pleased with the visit.
“We had a very good meeting with LeBron and his group,” Grant said. “We had fun and it was very interactive. We know LeBron well. I would characterize it as positive.”
The Cavs’ entourage, which included new coach Byron Scott, made the three-block drive to James’ downtown business offices to make their homespun pitch to the mega free agent. Hundreds of fans lined the sidewalks outside IMG headquarters with many holding signs saying “Home” and some throwing powder in the air to mimic James’ signature pregame routine.
As the Cavs departed, the Bulls’ delegation arrived for their meeting — the last one scheduled with James and his advisors.
Owner Jerry Reinsdorf, general manager Gar Forman, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and new coach Tom Thibodeau showed up at 1:15 p.m. dressed business casual in sport coats. Unlike the other suitors, the Bulls did not cart any visual aids or equipment.
They met for three hours, a day after they sat down with Dwyane Wade for the second time since free agency opened, before leaving in two SUVs to a chorus of boos from Cleveland fans who were waiting outside.
Chicago is hoping the chance to follow Michael Jordan’s larger-than-life legacy — and a roster featuring rising star guard Derrick Rose — will lure James to the Windy City.
Wearing a black T-shirt and shorts, James showed up less than two minutes after the Cavs, arriving in a silver sedan before heading upstairs to the eighth floor to listen to the Cavs.
Scott was accompanied by Grant, owner Dan Gilbert and assistant GM Lance Blanks.
The Cavs were the fifth team to visit with James, following New Jersey, New York, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers. While those teams could offer James millions and, in some cases, a better roster, none of them had seven years invested in the 25-year-old and none could guarantee him that leaving home would bring him a championship.
With James as their leader, the Cavs made it to the playoffs in each of the past five years. But despite having the league’s best regular-season record, they fell short of a title, losing this year to the Boston Celtics in the second round.
Cleveland can offer $30 million more than any other team on a maximum-length contract, but James has said his only goal is to win championships.
The Cavs share his vision.
“We’ve done some amazing things the last five years,” Grant said. “We won a lot of games and went deep into the playoffs, but we’re not satisfied with anything we’re doing. We think it’s pretty incredible that LeBron chose to have these meetings in Cleveland, at his home.”
Grant politely declined to address any questions for the media gathered on the sidewalks outside the IMG building, which has been the epicenter for the summer’s free agent frenzy.
As part of their presentation, the Cavaliers showed James an animated film based on the TV series “Family Guy” — one of James’ favorites shows — which included James and characters of his friends. According to a person familiar with the Cavs’ plans, the video also contained some serious moments.
Cleveland fans, pained by decades of sports heartache and without a championship team to call their own since 1964, can’t bear the thought of life without LeBron.
“Without him, we won’t be anything,” said 20-year-old Jordan Martin, who came downtown to support James with his father and three brothers. “If he leaves, the team and the city won’t be the same.”
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