LAS VEGAS — Pat Riley made his pitch. And now, LeBron James wants time to think.
The Miami Heat president met with the four-time NBA MVP on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly disclosed details of the meeting. James, his agent Rich Paul, Riley and Heat executive Andy Elisburg were at the meeting, said one of the people.
James has not made a decision and will not make any announcements before Thursday, a person said, adding, “He wants to meet with his family.”
So now, Miami waits. So does Cleveland. So, too, does just about the entire NBA — because once James picks the Heat or the Cavaliers, the teams believed to be serious suitors for his services, the domino effect of other free agent moves will surely follow.
The meeting in Las Vegas lasted for more than an hour and took place more than two weeks after James opted out of his contract and elected to become a free agent, and the day before free agents may begin signing contracts.
James spent part of his day before the meeting at his annual skills academy with some of the nation’s top high school and college players, interacting and observing workouts. That was part of the reason why Riley had to fly across the country to make the meeting happen, with hopes that he would return to Miami from the gambling haven with a huge win — keeping James in Heat colors for at least another season.
Several teams have met with Paul during the free-agent process, but it appears James has only one decision to make: Cleveland or Miami, the same choice he pondered four years ago when he decided play with the Heat. With James, the Heat won four Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships.
The Cavaliers didn’t sit idle waiting for James and Riley to meet.
Cleveland created salary-cap space earlier Wednesday with a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, ensuring they have enough to offer the James a maximum contract.
But James had said he would meet with Riley and the Heat before making his decision.
The meeting came nearly three weeks after Riley addressed reporters following Miami’s loss to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, when he insisted that the Heat needed to make some adjustments to get better — but didn’t need a massive rebuilding job to stay at a championship level.
“You’ve got to stay together if you’ve got the guts, and you don’t find the first door and run out of it if you have an opportunity,” Riley said on June 19. “This is four years now into this era, this team, four finals. It’s only been done three other times before. And two championships. From day one to the end, it was like a Broadway show. Sort of ran out of steam, and we need to retool. We don’t need to rebuild, we need to retool, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
If James leaves, it’ll be more than a retooling project that awaits Miami.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — the other members of Miami’s “Big 3” of the past four seasons — are also free agents, and neither has given any hint as to what they will do, though it’s still expected Wade will not leave the Heat. Miami has just two players under contract for next season, one of those on a partially guaranteed deal. The Heat have also reached agreements with forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, as well as the draft rights to guard Shabazz Napier, but there’s still plenty of jobs to be filled.
And the Heat have mostly been in a holding pattern while waiting for James to make his next decision.
Knicks optimistic Carmelo will return
LAS VEGAS — Carmelo Anthony appears committed to re-signing with the Knicks, and it could become official Thursday.
A league source close to the situation said the Knicks are “optimistic” that Anthony will remain with the team he forced a trade to in 2011. He is expected to accept the Knicks’ maximum offer of five years and $129 million today, the first day that teams can sign free agents.
The Daily News, citing an unidentified person close to Anthony, said the All-Star small forward believes in team president Phil Jackson and will re-up with the Knicks, barring a last-minute change of heart.
But a league source with ties to Anthony said in a text “no decision yet. Still up in the air.” That could be because the other teams pursuing Anthony haven’t been told they’re out of the running.
The Bulls, Rockets, Lakers and Mavericks made sales pitches to Anthony, but the Lakers and Bulls have been the Knicks’ biggest competition. The Knicks, however, have been the front-runners in the sweepstakes. They can offer the most money and want him to be the focal point of the triangle offense that new coach Derek Fisher will run.
NBA salary cap goes to all-time high $63.1 million
NEW YORK — The NBA has set the 2014-15 salary cap at $63.1 million, an all-time high, paving the way for contracts to be signed.
Deals can become official starting at 12:01 EDT on Thursday. Players and teams could agree to contracts starting July 1, but they couldn’t be signed during the moratorium period.
The cap is a 7.5 percent increase from last season’s $58.7 million.
The league also says Wednesday that the tax level jumped 7.1 percent to $76.8 million. Teams exceeding that will have to pay a luxury tax.
Parsons agrees to Mavs’ offer sheet
The Dallas Mavericks have made a move at small forward, agreeing with restricted free agent Chandler Parsons on a three-year offer sheet worth more than $45 million.
Houston will now have to decide whether to match the offer.
Two people with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday night that Parsons agreed to the offer sheet with the Mavericks, while a third person confirmed the terms. The people commented to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the offer sheet can’t be officially signed until Thursday, when the NBA’s moratorium on signing free agents ends.
The Rockets would then have three days to match the offer, though it wasn’t immediately clear if they would do so for the 25-year-old forward who has played for them the past three seasons. Parsons was a second-round pick out of Florida in the 2011 draft.
Popovich agrees to extension to stay with Spurs
While the rest of the NBA world waits in limbo for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to decide where they are going to play next season, the San Antonio Spurs just keep quietly making sure the band is getting back together for a run at a second straight title.
In the middle of the James hysteria on Wednesday, the Spurs issued a two-sentence press release announcing that coach Gregg Popovich had agreed to a multi-year contract extension. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.