LeBron 'just wants to win' ... for Cuban?

Updated: May 21, 2010, 1:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

One of LeBron James' closest advisers sought to stop the rumor mill surrounding the potential free agent.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban only added fuel to the fire.

Maverick Carter, James' longtime business partner and manager, on Thursday said James just wants to play basketball next season, whether that's in Cleveland or somewhere else.

"All these rumors out there are absolutely untrue," said Carter, the most powerful voice in James' inner circle. "LeBron just wants to win. He doesn't want to handpick his next coach."

A refuted report had linked Kentucky coach John Calipari with James as a possible package deal to prospective teams.

Cuban, meanwhile, went public with his quest to acquire James in an interview this week posted on CNNMoney.com, in which he 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.

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."

Before Cuban's entry, the most prevalent rumor had William Wesley, better known as "Worldwide Wes," offering James and Calipari as a package deal to teams around the league. A person close to Wesley, who is a friend and advisor to James, denied the reports to ESPN's Andy Katz earlier this week.

"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."

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

Several reports have James considering the Los Angeles Clippers because he'd have the ability to hire the club's coach and general manager.

Still others have said James has vetoed trades that Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry has wanted to pursue. In truth, according to members of the Cavaliers' organization, James has never been a hands-on participant in front-office decisions. The Cavaliers have solicited opinions from James when considering trades, but the notion that he's been the driving force behind all personnel decisions is off base.

James' decision on where he will play next year will come down to winning championships, Carter said. And with a month and a half left before James can talk to teams -- and the Cavaliers just a week removed from their disappointing second-round playoff exit -- he and his confidantes have yet to sit down to analyze all his possible landing spots. That process should begin sometime within the next week or so, Carter said.

Cuban said Thursday 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.

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard and ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan and Tim MacMahon was used in this report.

ALSO SEE