Sources: LeBron James leaning toward choosing Heat

According to one player who attended his skills

According to one player who attended his skills camp in Akron, Ohio, "the whole world is freaking out" about LeBron James' expected announcement on Thursday. (Credit: AP File, 2008)

After more than two years of planning and preparing, of salary dumping and cap-carving trades and wishful thinking, the Knicks may well find out that it was still not enough to land LeBron James.

According to multiple NBA sources, the two-time MVP Thursday night is expected to choose the Heat, where he would join fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The two Wednesday announced their commitments to the Heat and neither Wade nor Bosh had agreed to terms, which suggested they were waiting on James as the third piece.

James officially will announce his choice during his hour special, "The Decision," on ESPN at 9 p.m. He will make his selection from a group of six teams - the Knicks, Nets, Heat, Cavaliers, Bulls and Clippers - that met with him last week during a three-day period of presentations and sales pitches.

Donnie Walsh Wednesday afternoon told Newsday that he has been given no indication either way about the Knicks' chances with James. Reports from national media outlets such as ESPN have all but written off the Knicks, but Walsh had enough of following rumors. Those have dominated a weeklong LeBronathon that started last Thursday when the NBA's free-agency period began and the Knicks and Nets separately met with the two-time MVP and his representation in Cleveland.

"I've heard everybody else talk," Walsh said, "but I've never heard the kid talk."

The show will be staged at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn. Proceeds for the show will go to the Boys & Girls Club of America, a charity that is special to James. The significance of location certainly seems favorable for the Knicks because their Westchester practice facility is minutes away and Manhattan is just a 45-minute drive from there.

But it is not believed to be any indication. The Knicks certainly were prepared to go ahead with business by holding a noon news conference Thursday at the Garden to officially introduce Amar'e Stoudemire, who on Monday agreed to terms on a five-year, $99.7-million contract.

A person close to Stoudemire told Newsday that the five-time All-Star was "reaching out to LeBron" over the last few days to try to persuade him to join him in New York. The Knicks hoped the addition of Stoudemire, an All-NBA second-team power forward, would be the clincher. Now it appears he will be their biggest free-agency signing of the summer, which is still significant for a team that went 29-53 last season.

The Bulls, who already boast Derrick Rose, also added another piece to their roster when they came to terms with forward Carlos Boozer on a reported five-year, $80-million deal.

The Knicks are prepared to act quickly if James decides not to come to New York. According to multiple NBA sources, the team has several scenarios on hold that will be activated. One scenario involves the team sending David Lee to the Warriors for Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf.

The team also will get to work on looking for a point guard, with Raymond Felton and Luke Ridnour as the main targets. It's certainly not a blueprint for a championship-caliber roster, but with the right kinds of contracts, the Knicks still could have more cap flexibility next summer, when players such as Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker are scheduled to be free agents.

The Knicks have inquired about both players and have been told neither is on the block. Parker and Stoudemire have talked about teaming up with the Knicks, and a person close to Parker said he and his wife, actress Eva Longoria, are very interested in coming to New York.

Anthony has a three-year, $65-million extension on the table from the Nuggets, who expect he will sign it. But Anthony, who will be in New York City Saturday for his wedding, is believed to be hedging because he is unsure about the future of the Nuggets.

Anthony and Parker, however, are wary of not having a contract next summer and being stuck without one as the current collective-bargaining agreement expires.

If the Heat is, indeed, the choice, James, Wade and Bosh would form an unprecedented superstar trio that would instantly challenge the two-time defending champion Lakers for the NBA title. There has been talk that Pat Riley would return to the bench to lead this star-studded team in search of his sixth NBA title as a coach. Riley won one with Wade and the Heat in 2006.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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