LeBron James made a somewhat surprising visit to his Nike-sponsored basketball camp in Akron, Ohio Monday and arrived wearing a Yankees cap. At the same time, Amar’e Stoudemire and his agent, Happy Walters, were in New York completing the details on a five-year, $99.7 million contract to become the first significant piece in the Knicks long-awaited rebuild.
But while the Knicks can only hope the addition of Stoudemire makes them more attractive to James, the sense that continues to project from his inner-circle is that the two-time MVP will ultimately decide to stay in Cleveland. He is not expected to make an official announcement until later in the week.
“I don’t think it matters,” said one person close to James’ inner-circle. “I get the sense he is staying.”
“We hope it helps,” said a high-ranking Knicks official after the team came to terms with Stoudemire, “but who knows.”
With that said, the Knicks would welcome another audience with James, preferably here in New York. To follow up from their meeting with him on Thursday, team president Donnie Walsh sent two officials to Cleveland on Saturday morning to sit down with James’ agent, Leon Rose, and further explain their plan to build the team with their nearly $35 million in salary cap space.
“In the general meeting it was talked in general terms,” Walsh said Monday. “They didn’t seem to have an understanding as to how we could do it, so we had to go and show them.”
Walsh said “there’s always an invitation for him to visit” New York, but “his camp made the decision he wasn’t going to visit anybody so he didn’t.”
Stoudemire promised to reach out to James, who lobbied in February for the Cavaliers to made a trade with the Suns for the five-time all-star power forward. A deal could not be reached, however, and the Cavs settled instead with Antawn Jamison.
It is believed, however, that James would prefer Chris Bosh as a teammate over Stoudemire, but after meeting with Bosh on Friday in Chicago, the Knicks got right to work at locking up Stoudemire. Asked when he reached the point to pass on Bosh, team president Donnie Walsh said, “When Amar’e Stoudemire said he wanted to be here.”
There have been reports that the Cavaliers could work a sign-and-trade for Bosh to satisfy James, but according to an NBA source, the Cavs have not met with Bosh to gauge his interest in going to Cleveland. But that doesn’t mean LeBron hasn’t talked to him. Still, for the Cavs to work out a deal for Bosh, it would mean giving up key assets – Mo Williams and J.J. Hickson, to start – that would deplete the roster.
Bosh is more likely to sign with the Heat and join Dwyane Wade in Miami or could join James or Wade in Chicago via sign-and-trade. It’s also possible he could accept a sign-and-trade arrangement to another team, such as the Houston Rockets, which is a scenario that could throw a serious wrench into the works for both the Bulls and Heat. That would leave Wade with either Carlos Boozer or David Lee to choose from if he returned to Miami, which gutted its roster to make a run at the top free agents. Or Wade might view the Heat as a lost cause and consider either his hometown Bulls or even the Knicks – now with Stoudemire in the fold – as better options.
Said Walsh, “We’re keeping track of all this on a minute-by-minute basis.”
The story certainly seems to be change that frequently.