Cuban goes public with quest for James

Updated: May 21, 2010, 3:44 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has gone public with his quest to acquire LeBron James.

In an interview this week posted on CNNMoney.com, Cuban expressed his interest in James as a free agent and said that the NBA star needs to play in a place where he trusts the organization.

If James does not reach an agreement with the Cavaliers by July 1, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

"Come July 1st, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James, and if he leaves via free agency, then it's going to be tough," Cuban said. "If he does like I'm guessing, hoping he will, which is say, 'I'm not going to leave the Cavs high and dry,' if he decides to leave -- there's still a better chance he stays -- then he'll try to force a sign-and-trade, and that gives us a chance."

Cuban's comments could fall under the NBA's tampering rules, although he dismissed that notion Thursday. In 2008, the league sent a memo to the 30 NBA teams detailing specific guidelines when discussing potential free agents with the media.

The memo read: "If a member of your organization is asked by the media about a potential free agent prior to the July 1 following the last season covered by the player's contract, or about any other person under contract with another NBA team, the only proper response is to decline comment."

Penalties outlined in the memo could include suspension, prohibition of the offending team from hiring the person being tampered with, forfeiture of draft picks and individual and/or team fines of up to $5 million.

Asked if he believes James will stay in Cleveland or sign with New York or elsewhere, Cuban said:

"I don't know, don't know. What I do know about LeBron in the minimal time I've spent talking to him is he just wants to win. Money's not his issue. He needs to be some place where he trusts the organization. And look, [owner] Dan Gilbert in Cleveland did everything he possibly could, that's just the way the game works. If there was a template that we all could follow, we'd all have championship rings."

Cuban said Thursday that he is not concerned that his comments could be construed as tampering by the league.

"No. It's not tampering. Not even close," Cuban replied via e-mail.

NBA spokesperson Tim Frank said Thursday that the league is looking into Cuban's comments.

Dallas' interest in pursuing a sign-and-trade deal for James has been the subject of speculation for months, but Cuban's comments are believed to be his first public acknowledgment of that plan.

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag. ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.

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