LeBron Decision II: All Mavs Can Do Is Wait

A frenetic dust storm has descended on Vegas in the form of a league-altering meeting between LeBron James and Pat Riley. Rick Carlisle is about to descend on Vegas, too. But there is no frenzy, as the Mavs coach is calmly tutoring the likes of Gal Mekel and Ivan Johnson. 'Nobody can sign anything until the 10th,' Rick says. 'We're working every angle we can.' Working. And watching.

LeBron James is always at the forefront of NBA business, never more than now, as he shops himself on the free-agent market. The Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers have in recent years coattailed their way to the fore thanks to the sport's best player, and are now jousting to do the same today.

Miami has earned the inside track here, as his most recent employer, and at least out of respect, James meets this afternoon with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas. Miami is the "home team'' here and can therefore offer James a five-year max deal starting at $20.7 mil; other bidders can offer just four years.

LeBron, though, is one of a kind. His earning power is such that he could desire a shorter-term deal and a chance to hit the market again in, say, three years.

Or he might wish to leave the "home team'' for his "home town'' (home state, actually, as Akron isn't quite Cleveland). This possibility has created all sorts of educated guessing ... and some uneducated guessing ... about "winds blowing'' and theories about his wife's influence and fluctuating percentages.

What is known: Riley will pitch the Heat's immediate rebuild, not just with the recent addition of minor parts like Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger but also with ideas about how LeBron can remain teamed with Wade and Bosh ... or maybe there's a way to add Carmelo Anthony instead.

The Cavs will pitch a plan that is in motion as we speak. They locked up young stud point guard Kyrie Irving with a five-year, $90 million extension that can be signed, as Carlisle notes, on Friday. On Wednesday, they moved out $9.5 million in salary in a three-team trade with Boston and Brooklyn that now gives them about $21.7 million of room ... a hand-in-glove fit for and James' $20.7-million max.

And Cleveland can do more. They don't require "room'' to make a monster trade for, say, Kevin Love. They don't need room for Merry Minimums like Ray Allen to ring-chase alongside James. Heck, Cleveland's biggest obstacle might be to get owner Dan Gilbert and LeBron to forgive one another for their comic sans breakup in 2010.

And what of the Dallas Mavericks? They must wait.

Impatience from fans is understandable, but no more deserved that the time LeBron and his ilk are talking to make up their minds on decisions of a lifetime. Somebody wrote that the LeBron Logjam is "crippling'' the process. But why should James be hurried into a decision? So benefit the 29 teams he won't be playing for?

Carlisle recognizes this.

"It's early,'' says the Mavs coach, who spent part of Wednesday in the AAC gym overseeing members of the Mavs summer-league squad like journeyman center Ivan Johnson and young guard Gal Mekel. “We’re very optimistic. It’s a very exciting time in our business. There’s an opportunity for a lot of movement and to make your team better.” ''

The Mavs have made their position clear to LeBron as one of five teams given a preliminary meeting with agent Rich Paul. (And, Mavs owner Mark Cuban tells us, that session went "extremely well.'') The current vibe suggests Dallas will be on the outside looking in, with Cleveland and Miami in charge of stirring up all the desert dust.


As of late Tuesday, though, the Mavs had not been informed by the James camp that it was down to a two-team race. So Dallas waits. Waits for word on that second meeting. Waits for the dominoes to fall that would put LeBron in Miami or Cleveland, with the losing bidder grabbing a seat in the Musical Chairs game for other small forwards like Parsons, Deng and Ariza ... and then, aggressive as Dallas might be in those cases, still, ultimately, waits some more. (In other words: If, for instance, Cleveland doesn't get LeBron, the Cavs can use that cap room to chase Parsons - and possibly elbow Dallas out of the way.)

“A lot of this is driven by the activity of the best players and if the best players remain undecided, it’ll hold things up awhile,” Carlisle says. “But that’s their right.''

Indeed. And as big-fish free agents, it's a right they've earned. And nothing -- not our impatience, not the Mavs' hunger, not even the promises being made to LeBron in the desert -- change that. Until LeBron himself decides on a change.

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