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Sports


Terry Pluto commentary: What are teams offering LeBron James behind closed doors?
Courted by about a half dozen teams; decision expected Thursday
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
LeBron James will announce his decision during an hour-long special Thursday at 9pm on ESPN.
Courtesy of Brandon Davis
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In The Region:
Thursday is the first day NBA free agent players can sign a new contract, and likely when Cavs star LeBron James will announce where he plays next season. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks to Amanda Rabinowitz about what teams have been telling James behind closed doors.
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 Amanda Rabinowitz: “LeBron James has been courted by the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat ..and the Cavs of course…what has been going on at these meetings and what are these teams offering him?”

Terry Pluto: “Don’t forget The Clippers. They have no coach. They have no general manager. They didn’t send their owner, but they sent these two guys in suits. They said they had a very nice time talking to LeBron James. They probably got his autograph. I don’t know what they were doing.
The Knicks went in there and said, ‘We’ll make you a billionaire.’
The Nets have a Russian owner, who went in and talked about making him a global icon. I don’t know whether they gave him all the Vodka he can drink, or whatever. Lebron, as I understand, is either a teetotaler or a very light drinker…They probably were very cautious about mentioning the fact that you have to play … two years in Newark, while we’re building this new arena in Brooklyn. Just like I’m sure the Knicks did not want to mention how in the last nine years they have not had a winning record.
 Miami came in. They talked South Beach. They talked Dwyane Wade.
The Bulls came in probably with the most interesting scenario. One is LeBron likes Chicago, because he likes the Midwest. Secondly, they have some pretty good players.”
 
AR:     At these meetings, what can they offer LeBron, other than money? Can they give him gifts? What kind of things can they pull out to try and get him there?
 
TP:      “Really there is a limit. They can only give a gift worth up to $500. In fact, there was a report out about a month ago that said, ‘Oh! Well, Lebron could sign with the Knicks and then buy stock in Madison Square Gardens.’ David Stern, NBA Commissioner, said, ‘No. He can’t.’
The bottom line is still the Cavs can offer one more year and $30 million more than anybody else. That’s hanging over all these negotiations. The Cavs approach was a little different. They had met with him at least twice, if not more. In those preliminary meetings they laid out, ‘Yeah, we don’t have a lot of room to sign free agents on our salary cap, but we could do some things trade wise.’ I’m sure they got his thoughts on what kind of coach he wanted too.”
 
AR:     The Cavs do have a new coach, Byron Scott. How does he factor in to LeBron’s decision?
 
TP:      “I think it’s a huge plus for the Cavaliers because the guy comes in having went to the Nets in New Jersey, sort of a nothing franchise, and twice took them to the NBA finals. Then he went to New Orleans, took a horrible team and got teamed up with Chris Paul, star point-guard. This is an important thing. Right now, as we speak, [Paul] has been in Akron this week helping LeBron at his skills camp. All these guys say they are friends with LeBron. Chris Paul and LeBron really are friends.
If LeBron signs somewhere else, whatever pressure he was feeling here to win, it multiples two or three times. He’s the savior, whether he is going to New York, Chicago, or wherever. The pressure is on him to produce a championship. If he signs in Cleveland, the pressure is not on LeBron. The pressure is on Dan Gilbert, new general manager Chris Grant and Byron Scott to take this wonderful talent that’s in your backyard and turn him into a champion.”
 
AR:     Writer Marc Berman from the New York Post says Cleveland doesn’t deserve LeBron. He’s dogging the fans here, saying fans in Cleveland aren’t being supportive enough for their player, if they really want him to stay. They’re not showing up at these meetings outside the doors. Does Cleveland deserve LeBron?
 
TP:      “It’s typical New York arrogance. They think Cleveland doesn’t even rate as a truck stop…so fine. He can say what he wants, and I can do the cheap shots back. In the end, if you’re really looking at it from a basketball point of view, how many people are or aren’t in front of a building while you’re meeting with these teams has absolutely nothing to do with LeBron’s decision. He knows he’s in a comfort level here.”
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