LeBron James gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in Miami. ASSOCIATED PRESS
LAS VEGAS — Pat Riley has gotten his chance at convincing LeBron James to stay in Miami, said a person familiar with the situation.
The Miami Heat president met with the four-time NBA MVP today in Las Vegas, the person told The Associated Press. James, his agent Rich Paul, Riley and Heat executive Andy Elisburg were at the meeting, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly announced who would be attending the meeting or when it would take place.
It was unclear whether James informed Riley where he would play next season, the person said.
The meeting 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.
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, but there’s still plenty of jobs to be filled.
And the Heat have simply been in a holding pattern while waiting for James to make his next decision.