INDEPENDENCE — LeBron James made a big decision Tuesday.
He’ll make a much, much bigger one Thursday when he announces his free agent decision during an hour-long ESPN special that will begin at 9 p.m.
The Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls are considered the frontrunners, but the fact James has confirmed when he will announce his decision creates even more mystery and drama around the most-hyped free agent in NBA history.
Could close friend and fellow free agent Chris Bosh be coming to Cleveland through a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors?
Has James decided to stay with the Cavaliers regardless of how that rumor plays out?
Is he leaving for Chicago — or somewhere else — after spending seven seasons playing up the road from his native Akron?
And where will James be when he reveals his decision on ESPN?
James’ first tweet had nothing to do with free agency. Instead, it dealt solely with introducing himself, LeBron style, to Twitter followers: “Hello World, the Real King James is in the Building.”
Under the screen name KingJames, the 25-year-old had 83,000 followers before he posted that tweet and was up to almost 164,000 by Tuesday evening.
Basketball-related news regarding James, meanwhile, changed considerably throughout the day, culminating shortly after 10 p.m. with the announcement the superstar would reveal his decision on ESPN.
Earlier in the day, ESPN.com reported the Cavaliers and Raptors were talking pretty seriously about a sign-and-trade that would allow Bosh to make the maximum $125 million over six years, going so far as to mention Cleveland players that could possibly be involved — Anderson Varejao and/or J.J. Hickson, plus Delonte West, Anthony Parker and perhaps a draft pick — in the deal.
James was even supposedly trying to persuade Bosh, who can make a maximum of $96 million over five years if he signs directly with another team, to join him in Cleveland via a sign-and-trade.
Those rumors had cooled considerably by evening, with SI.com going so far as to report Bosh had ruled out a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers.
According to a source, the truth is somewhere in the middle: The Cavaliers and Raptors have talked, but nothing specific has been discussed, as Bosh is also still considering Miami and Chicago.
There were several other rumors involving the Cavaliers, with a source confirming they had interest in Phoenix combo guard Leandro Barbosa, free agent sharpshooter Mike Miller and free agent big man Brendan Haywood.
The Cavaliers have only the full mid-level exception of about $5.5 million to offer free agents, but their own unrestricted free agent, Shaquille O’Neal, could play a key role in helping them acquire another player.
Dallas officials have said the team doesn’t want to sign Haywood, who was originally drafted by the Cavaliers, simply to trade him, but O’Neal has made some noise about wanting to play for the Mavericks, so it’s not out of the question the two centers could end up changing teams.
Though he is looking for more money, Miller could sign for the mid-level — or the Cavaliers could use O’Neal in a sign-and-trade with Washington. Miller was in Akron earlier this week for James’ Nike-sponsored skills academy for high school and college stars.
Cleveland was reportedly shopping Jamario Moon and West for Barbosa, a lightning-quick combo guard who doesn’t always take great shots. Barbosa has spent the majority of his career backing up Steve Nash.
As for James, he showed up at the University of Akron about four hours later than expected for his skills academy and once again did not talk to the media.
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound small forward, who appeared to be in excellent shape when he took part in a pickup game on Monday, arrived in a juiced-up Dodge pickup truck and walked into Rhodes Arena with former Cleveland teammate Damon Jones.
Organizers asked media members to leave late in the afternoon, soon after James arrived.
Cavaliers players Moon, Daniel Gibson and Jawad Williams were also on hand, as was 2009 first-round pick Christian Eyenga, who spent last season playing in Spain.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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