INDEPENDENCE — With a new rumor about LeBron James’ impending free agency seemingly surfacing every few hours, the most sound one Tuesday had the Cavaliers on the verge of hiring Brian Shaw as their next head coach.
Several outlets went so far as to report the two sides had agreed on a deal — Shaw is unlikely to get anywhere close to the five-year, $30 million offer turned down by Michigan State’s Tom Izzo — but the Cavaliers had made no announcement late Tuesday night.
Shaw and agent Jerome Stanley, neither of whom could be reached for comment, were in town Monday and Tuesday meeting with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant. Reached by another media outlet in the area, Stanley declined comment.
An announcement from the Cavaliers confirming Shaw’s hiring could come as early as today, but nothing was set in stone.
Free agency, meanwhile, begins Thursday, and James, as always, is at the center of numerous rumors.
The most compelling one to surface Tuesday was that unrestricted free agents James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who are all seeking maximum contracts, talked about the possibility of all signing with Miami.
The Heat doesn’t have quite enough salary cap space to give all three max contracts, though it cleared another $1.9 million Tuesday by waiving forward James Jones.
Jones’ contract, which would have paid him $4.64 million in 2010-11 and $4.96 million and $5.28 million, respectively, the two seasons after that, would have become guaranteed tonight.
Miami, which has only Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers under contract, can divvy up its available cap money equally between Wade, James and Bosh and get them all close to the max, or it can sign Wade and James to the max and give Bosh slightly less.
The monetary differences in either scenario aren’t that great, but egos could come into play.
There’s also the possibility the Heat could trade Beasley to a team with cap space and take only future draft picks in return, which would give Miami enough money to sign Wade, James and Bosh to max deals.
Exactly how Wade and James, who both like to have the ball in their hands the majority of the time, would mesh is a subject for debate. Who would be Miami’s leader on the floor and in the locker room is also open to conjecture.
From a basketball standpoint, what kind of depth Miami would be able to put around Wade, James and Bosh in 2010-11 is even more uncertain, as the Heat would basically have to fill out its roster by signing players to minimum contracts.
What’s almost certain is that two-time reigning league MVP James is slated to begin meeting with teams Thursday morning somewhere in the Akron area, with the first suitor expected to be the New Jersey Nets and new billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Despite James’ friendship with Nets part-owner Jay-Z, New Jersey is considered a long shot to land the 25-year-old, as are the Los Angeles Clippers.
James is also expected to meet with Miami, the New York Knicks, who have enough cap space to sign two players to max contracts, the Chicago Bulls, who have almost enough room to sign two max players, and the Cavaliers, the Akron native’s employer for the first seven years of his career.
There were also reports Tuesday that there have been disagreements among James’ inner circle about what is best for his future.
Supposedly, business manager Maverick Carter, a longtime friend and former teammate at St. Vincent-St. Mary, favors having James stay with the Cavaliers, while confidant William Wesley (a.k.a. World Wide Wes) is strongly pushing the Bulls.
Carter told the New York Times on Tuesday that Wesley would not be present at meetings between James and interested teams.
Whether Cleveland’s apparent impending hiring of Shaw will be a positive in swaying James to stay is unclear, though he supposedly fits one of the small forward’s wishes in that he played 14 seasons in the NBA.
If that’s the case, though, then Chicago’s hiring of non-player Tom Thibodeau would have hurt the Bulls’ chances, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Shaw, 44, has never been a head coach, but he won three titles as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers (2000-02) and reached the NBA Finals with Orlando in 1995.
A 6-foot-6 combo guard, Shaw averaged 6.9 points and 4.2 assists over his career, then immediately became a scout for the Lakers in 2003-04.
He has spent the last six seasons as an assistant to Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson, who is expected to announce late this week whether he will return to the bench or retire.
The other candidate to succeed Mike Brown as Cleveland coach is Byron Scott, who previously coached New Jersey and New Orleans, but the Cavaliers appear to have zeroed in on Shaw.
Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney, did not return phone calls.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.