Now, LeBron James wants time to think.
The Miami Heat president met with the four-time NBA MVP on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas, two people familiar with the situation said, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly disclosed details of the meeting. James, his agent Rich Paul, Riley and Heat executive Andy Elisburg were at the meeting, said one of the people.
James has not made a decision and will not make any announcements before Thursday, a person said, adding, “He wants to meet with his family.”
So now, Miami waits. So does Cleveland. So, too, does just about the entire NBA — because once James picks the Heat or the Cavaliers, the teams believed to be serious suitors for his services, the domino effect of other free agent moves will surely follow.
The meeting in Las Vegas lasted for more than an hour and 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, as well as the draft rights to guard Shabazz Napier, but there’s still plenty of jobs to be filled.
And the Heat have mostly been in a holding pattern while waiting for James to make his next decision.