Sources: No probe from Cavs, Raptors
The Cleveland Cavaliers have no plans to push for an NBA probe into the circumstances that led to LeBron James joining Team USA colleagues Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking.
NBA commissioner David Stern said Sunday that the league would investigate the Heat's signings of James and Bosh for any illegal negotiating or planning before free agency officially started if the Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors make that request.
Reached Sunday by ESPN.com, Stern said: "Whenever a team lodges a tampering charge, it is investigated."
The Cavaliers declined official comment Sunday, but one source briefed on Cleveland's intentions told ESPN.com that -- in the wake of owner Dan Gilbert's vitriolic open letter to Cavs fans that slammed James for leaving his home-state team -- the organization wants to try to keep the focus from here on its post-James future as much as possible.
Toronto likewise declined comment, but one source with knowledge of the Raptors' thinking indicated that they will not press for an inquiry, either, preferring to let league officials decide if any sanctions are warranted with regard to recent acknowledgements from the three players that they have been talking about teaming up for some time.
Stern also declined further comment but is expected to expound on the subject Monday night when he is scheduled to meet with reporters in Las Vegas following an owners meeting devoted to the league's ongoing labor negotiations with the NBA Players Association.
Although labor matters were initially expected to dominate the agenda, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Friday that he intends to push for renewed discussion about the league's tampering rules and how they are enforced.
Adande: No Collusion Shadow On Trio
While awaiting a good nickname for the new LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh collaborative, let's establish that there are three things they can't be called: conspirators, colluders or tamperers, writes J.A. Adande. Story
Concerns about this issue have been mounting since an ESPN.com report in late June that James, Wade and Bosh met face-to-face before free agency to discuss their plans. Yet the league's general position has been that players are not subject to the same tampering restrictions as teams except for "the most egregious cases," when it can be proven that a player was operating as a direct extension of team management.
Miami's counter to any tampering claims figures to center on the premise that James, Wade and Bosh have openly dreamt of playing together at some level since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and that the Heat turned out to be the only team in the league in the long-anticipated summer of LeBron that had the requisite salary-cap space to sign all three players.
The Heat will also undoubtedly point to the fact the Cavaliers and Raptors -- to ensure that neither team lost its franchise player without compensation -- just willingly completed sign-and-trade deals with Miami for James and Bosh.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in Sunday's editions that James, Wade and Bosh actually hatched the idea of playing together during a stint with Team USA in the summer of 2006 at the World Championships in Japan, which contributed to each of them signing new contracts in 2007 containing an opt-out clause after three seasons to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2010.
Tensions nonetheless remain high in various cities around the league, starting obviously with Cleveland, some 72 hours after James announced in a one-hour special on ESPN that he would be leaving the Cavaliers after seven seasons to play alongside Wade and Bosh.
A comment made by Bosh at a welcoming rally Friday night in Miami has only fueled accusations that the three stars began plotting their joint move to South Florida well before they were technically allowed to. Bosh initially told the assembled crowd that the trio had been talking about landing with the same team for "months" before catching himself and amending that statement to "days."
Cuban told a group of reporters Friday at the NBA's annual summer league in Las Vegas that he would urge Stern to look into the matter whether or not Cleveland or Toronto asks, saying: "I'm going to bring it up to the league that we really do have to re-evaluate the issue of player tampering. Who knows what will happen? But I have to suggest it to them because there has to be more definitive rules.
"It's not just the Cavs," Cuban continued. "It could be any team. It could be the Heat in a couple years. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. But there has to be a way to keep these guys away from each other for the last week anyway."
Wade and Bosh are represented by the same agent -- Chicago-based Henry Thomas -- and were together throughout the league's moratorium period between July 1-7 when teams and free agents could meet and negotiate deals to the point of reaching agreements in principle. Thursday was the first day that teams and players could actually execute new contracts.
James and two of his closest advisors -- business manager Maverick Carter and agent Leon Rose -- took a different approach, inviting six teams to the Cleveland area to make their pitches over a three-day span before committing to the Heat.
But James and Wade acknowledged at a press conference Friday night that the three players were in frequent contact as they finalized their decisions where to sign, with the information flow also facilitated by the fact that Thomas joined Rose at CAA in July 2009.
Wade acknowledged Friday night that what he termed as "the possibility" that all three stars could someday wind up on the same team was established "a long time ago."
Stern, however, has made it clear that he would not punish player-to-player interaction with the same vigor that the league threatens to punish team contact with players that they don't employ, suggesting that it is unrealistic to try to put limits on or police player fraternization.
At the NBA Finals, when asked about the prospect of various top free agents holding a so-called "summit" -- as Wade playfully suggested to the Chicago Tribune in late May -- Stern said he would not try to stop it or punish participants for getting together.
"They can have it," Stern said on June 3.
ESPN.com reported June 28 that James, Wade and Bosh held a scaled-down version of the summit to seriously discuss the prospect of playing together with the Heat.
Sources in the initial report told ESPN.com that the sitdown took place in Miami during the weekend before July 1, which was subsequently denied strenuously by Thomas. But sources close to the process reconfirmed to ESPN.com on Wednesday that the players convened at least one face-to-face meeting before July 1, except that sources now acknowledge that the meeting was on James' Northeast Ohio turf on the Saturday before the NBA draft.
The Plain Dealer reported in Sunday's editions that Wade flew with Bosh to Akron to meet at James home, where Wade-- still under contract to the Heat -- pointed out that only Miami had the cap space to afford all three players.
The newspaper also reported that the Cavaliers were aware of a November meeting Heat president Pat Riley had with James and Michael Jordan in Miami, with Jordan in town to do some Nike work with Wade. But Cleveland, according to the Plain-Dealer, did not register a tampering complaint with the league about the meeting, believing that Riley's primary purpose was convincing James that more modern players need to pay homage to Jordan, who at the time had not yet become majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
After James' Cavaliers beat Wade's Heat on Nov. 12, with Riley and Jordan watching together courtside, James made the announcement that he no longer wants to wear No. 23 and that all players, in a bow to Jordan, should forsake that number.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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