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ON THE NBA

One day until LeBron James can finally go a-courtin', and not a moment too soon

James officially becomes a free agent after midnight Thursday, whereupon all the wild (and wildly inaccurate) speculation will, hopefully, cease. That will leave him to make his choice from among six teams (including the Clippers!), and everyone else to get on with their lives.

June 29, 2010|Mark Heisler

Just one shopping day until LeBron James' free agency, thankfully.

Ending speculation that began in 2005 when he took a shorter extension to become a free agent this summer, James officially goes on the market a minute after midnight, at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, Thursday.

Not that it's going the way anyone thought it would. After years of teams' planning fetes for him, the King called off his royal tour, realizing the more lavish it got, the more he'd be bashed.

Going low-key, or submerging entirely, James will host six suitors — Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, New York, New Jersey and, yes, the Clippers — at an undisclosed site, reportedly near his hometown, Akron, Ohio.

Think: office building in industrial park, surrounded by lots of dark SUVs and security personnel.

The Nets and Knicks will go first Thursday afternoon in presentations expected to last about two hours each.

In the meantime, the league is hunkered down amid a blizzard of conflicting reports, with the people who actually know something terrified to disclose it for fear of angering James.

The latest was ESPN's report that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh met over the weekend in South Florida.

It was a bombshell, suggesting LeBron was open to accepting a co-leading role with Wade, rather than insisting on a team of his own. . . .

If only it had happened.

Bosh was, indeed, in Miami but if he was spotted with friends, they don't appear to have been James and Wade.

Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that Dwyane was with him in Chicago over the weekend.

Not that it was a secret. Wearing a White Sox jersey, Wade took his two sons to a Cubs-Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field.

Countering ESPN's report that the players were there for a golf tournament, the event's host, DJ Irie, told the Sun-Sentinel that Wade and James cancelled.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported James was in New York, citing an unnamed source close to LeBron.

Adding to the confusion, or causing more than his share, is American's best-known "shadowy figure," street-agent-gone-legit William Wesley.

Wesley, a.k.a. World Wide Wes, has been lionized in recent articles like the one in GQ titled "Is This the Most Powerful Man in Sports?"

In it, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino tells "New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Cleveland . . . it would probably be smart to have a relationship with William Wesley."

No kidding. Who in hoops didn't already have a relationship with Wes?

Wesley has been a James confidant but insiders say he's rarely in Cleveland, and noted that access to LeBron, who's known for making up his own mind, doesn't mean influence.

The real insiders remain James' old friends known as the "Four Horsemen," including former high school teammate/current business manager Maverick Carter.

When the James camp pulled the plug on plans to visit teams, it pointedly left Wesley dangling, all but formally renouncing him.

"All the Wes rumors are untrue and he will not be at the meetings," Carter told the New York Times' Jonathan Abrams.

"Wes has nothing to do with where he [James] goes."

So, it's what it was:

If James makes a purely basketball decision, it's Chicago.

If he wants to stay home, Cleveland.

If he has a New York thing, New York or New Jersey, which will become Brooklyn in 2011.

Actually, I think he wants to make a basketball decision, stay home, has a New York thing and is intrigued at the thought of playing with Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman, Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, as well as with Wade and Bosh.

Thankfully, real events are at hand.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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