LeBron James to meet with Heat’s Pat Riley before decision
By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer July 7, 2014 11:29AM
LeBron James, of the Miami Heat, poses with Don Shula, left, and Pat Riley.
Updated: July 8, 2014 2:37PM
MIAMI — Before LeBron James makes his next decision, Pat Riley will get a chance to convince him to stay in Miami.
Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press late Sunday night that James will meet with the Heat president this week before making a decision about where to play next season. The time and location of the meeting were still being scheduled, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the Heat nor James announced their plans publicly.
“In the next two or three days,” one of the people said.
Monday would seem difficult, unless James’ schedule changes. He has a commercial shoot planned and was expected to travel to Las Vegas later in the day for his annual camp with some of the nation’s best young basketball players, an event that opens Wednesday. James also has been planning a trip to Brazil for the World Cup final on July 13.
There’s urgency from the Heat perspective as well. NBA players can begin signing new contracts Thursday, with some deals already having been agreed upon and plenty of others likely to fall into place in the coming days, so it would clearly benefit the Heat to know James’ plans sooner than later.
USA Today Sports first reported the plans for James and Riley to discuss matters.
The news of the planned Riley-James meeting came toward the end of a wild Sunday, sparked by news that one of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s private jets was heading to South Florida. And the plane did land at an airport in Fort Lauderdale around 6:40 p.m., albeit at a different facility than the flight plan indicated, for reasons that were not made clear.
The plane stayed for about 3½ hours. It was unknown who was on the plane.
Still, the mere notion of a James-Cavaliers reunion seems to have Cleveland — the team the Akron, Ohio, native spent his first seven seasons with before leaving for Miami — on anxious edge.
James opted out of his contract with the Heat last month, as did fellow Miami stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James’ agent, Rich Paul, met with the Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks while the four-time NBA MVP was vacationing last week.
James’ decision would figure to set off a wave of other deals. If he stays in Miami, that would almost certainly help convince Wade and Bosh to stay with the Heat. If James returns to Cleveland, the Cavaliers would more than likely have to make a trade of some significance to open up salary cap space.
Riley and the Heat won over James with their sales pitch four years ago — and Miami has been to the NBA Finals all four years that it has had James in uniform, winning two championships. When James made the highly expected move to opt out and become a free agent this summer, Riley said through the team that he looked forward to having an opportunity to meet with him and discuss their futures together.
Now, it would seem they’ll be discussing if they’ll actually have a future.
The Cavs are hoping they can impress James with a young roster that includes No. 1 overall draft picks in Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. In the early hours of free agency last week, Irving agreed to a five-year, $90 million contract extension the All-Star point guard is expected to sign Thursday.
Cleveland also has room under the salary cap, but will need to clear more space to offer James a max deal.
One stumbling block for the Cavs could be the fractured relationship between Gilbert and James. When James left in 2010, Gilbert wrote a scathing letter to Cleveland fans, condemning the four-time league MVP. He also told the AP he felt James quit in playoff games.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.