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Nets feeling optimistic for James

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after a foul is called on him in the second half against the Boston Celtics during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. (May 9, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

After a 90-minute meeting with LeBron James Thursday in Cleveland, the Nets were feeling good about their chances of landing the most celebrated free agent in NBA history.

The key question is: Were they feeling the same kind of confidence after a late dinner with power forward Chris Bosh last night in Chicago?

The general consensus is if the Nets are going to get James, they're going to have to convince Bosh to come along with him. The Nets, who are $30 million under the cap, believe they can clear a bit more room in order to sign both free agents to maximum contracts.

The Nets also met with Dwyane Wade Thursday in Chicago, but that was considered just a courtesy interview. It is generally believed that Wade will re-sign with the Miami Heat.

The Nets were the first team to be granted an audience with James yesterday, the first day of the free-agent signing period. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov's private jet landed in Cleveland at 10:28 a.m., bringing an entourage that included team president Rod Thorn, coach Avery Johnson and music mogul Jay-Z (who owns 1 percent of the Nets) to meet with James at the office of his business manager, Maverick Carter.

The majority of the entourage emerged at 12:43. Jay-Z, who is a close friend of James', stayed a couple of extra minutes. "It went well," Johnson yelled at reporters as the group left the building.

Apparently that was a shared sentiment, according to one league source. "They feel confident," the source said. "It was a good meeting."

The Nets had the NBA's worst record this past season and will not have a permanent home for two more years; they will play in Newark while their new arena is being built in Brooklyn.

This, however, wasn't what Nets officials emphasized in their meeting. James has long said he wants to be a global icon, and globalization was the key to the Nets' pitch. Using their new owner's international ties, the Nets are looking to position themselves as the first global franchise. James, who has said he would like to be a billionaire someday, also had expressed an interest in meeting Prokhorov, who is the 39th-richest man in the world.

James, who met with the Knicks right after the Nets, also is entertaining contingents from the Bulls, Heat and Clippers. There also is a chance he will elect to stay with his current team, the Cavaliers. James grew up in Akron, which is less than an hour's drive from Cleveland.

There was one small piece of bad news for the Nets yesterday. Rudy Gay, who was the Nets' Plan B at small forward if they didn't sign James, no longer is around. Gay reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract for $82 million to remain with the Grizzlies.

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