The Nets will get the first crack at LeBron James and they intend to make the most of it.
The private Gulfstream jet of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has landed in Ohio with a delegation that also includes team president Rod Thorn, coach Avery Johnson and hip-hop impresario Jay-Z. The group is scheduled to sit down with James and his advisers early this morning and sell him on coming to New Jersey.
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Or make that New Jersey for two years before moving to a brand-new, state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn, which James has called his favorite borough.
The key to the Nets' pitch will be the future of the team, which they are looking to position as the NBA's first global franchise. Forget that the 12-70 Nets had by far the worst record in the NBA last season and have been the No. 2 team in their market for their entire existence. The New Jersey delegation is going to try to sell James on the team's desire to be No. 1, both in Manhattan and in the world. They will talk about the fact that workers began pouring the cement for the arena in Brooklyn this week. Or about the new mural the team just had painted overlooking Madison Square Garden. It features Jay-Z, Prokhorov and the words "The Blueprint for Greatness."
In the more immediate future, the team will try to sell James on the fact they have $30 million in cap space, a future All-Star center in Brook Lopez, a talented point guard in Devin Harris and a new coach with the best winning percentage in NBA history at .735 after 3 1/2 years with the Dallas Mavericks.
"We feel we have a compelling story to tell. We'll tell our story and see what happens," Thorn said. "Selling that story is very exciting.
"We'll say we have good young pieces, that we have a team that's only going to get better, that we have an owner committed to having the best possible team he can have, that we're going into an area and an arena in a couple of years that will be second to none, and that we're committed to having a good team."
About the only uncertainty in the whole situation is the 69-year-old Thorn, who has announced that he is retiring after the free-agent signing period. The Nets are said to be looking at several replacement candidates, but you can bet they would replace Thorn with James' mom if they thought that would get him to come to New Jersey.
Of course, James isn't the only free agent with whom the Nets plan to sit down.
Tomorrow in New York, the Nets will entertain Chris Bosh, James' buddy, and try to convince him that they have more going for them than the Heat and the Knicks. They are also tentatively scheduled to speak with Dwyane Wade, though everyone expects Wade to re-sign with Miami.