Sources: Nets to meet James first
All the elaborate recruiting plans for LeBron James will have to change. James will not go on a recruiting tour, his longtime business manager Maverick Carter told ESPN.com Friday.
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"LeBron is not going on a tour," Carter said. "He never planned to go on a tour and has not been a part of any team's plans for a recruiting trip."
Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar will visit with individual clubs in northeastern Ohio once the free-agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the latest plan calls for the New Jersey Nets -- led by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority owner/longtime James pal Jay-Z -- to be the first team to meet James face to face. No one from James' camp, though, would confirm the meeting.
On Saturday, a source told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor that the Knicks also will be meeting with James on Thursday.
It was not immediately clear how many teams James plans to meet with on a daily basis when free agency commences.
Sources said various teams were made aware of James' anti-tour stance Wednesday, sending many of them into scramble mode. The New York Knicks -- who according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer were planning a spectacular, celebrity-laden dinner cooked by a world-renowned chef for James on July 1 -- quickly canceled it and began plotting an emergency Plan B, according to two sources.
James' decision throws a monkey wrench in the plans of several clubs that hoped to sell him on non-basketball-related enticements such as the vibrancy of their city, the social life it might afford or the A-list celebrities who support their teams.
It's believed that James -- who is the face of this historic free-agent class -- wants to keep the focus on basketball and believes hosting teams in Ohio can prevent the recruitment process from turning into a spectacle.
The Knicks, who also planned to give James a tour of New York City, are going ahead with plans to bring Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on visits to New York, according to sources, but they will have to travel to meet with their top target, James, on neutral turf.
James has already met with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who traveled to Akron, Ohio, last week along with members of Cleveland's front office to visit the All-Star forward. On Thursday, general manager Chris Grant refused to characterize the team's discussions with James.
"We're a family here," Grant said.
There's a chance the Cavs will meet with James again before he hits the open market, Grant said. Cleveland can offer James up to $30 million more than any other team on a maximum-length contract.
James has not given any indication which way he's leaning. He has spent his entire career with the Cavs, who were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by Boston. James has said winning is the most important factor in choosing his next team.
Grant wouldn't divulge any special plans by the Cavs to woo James.
"We have a plan and we will execute it," he said.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. ESPN.com's Marc Stein, ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.