SBD/Issue 204/Franchises

Decision Day: LeBron's Choice Could Change Everything For Cavs

James' Departure From Cavaliers Would Be
One Of Region's Most Crushing Sports Moments

LeBron James' free-agency decision "will change everything for the Cavaliers and their fans," according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. If James "stays in Cleveland, the Cavs remain a legitimate contender," and if he leaves, there is "nothing owner Dan Gilbert and all of his millions can do to change the fact that [the] Cavs are headed back to the middle of the NBA pack." With James, the Cavaliers "sell out every home game and Cleveland is one of the biggest planets in the basketball universe," but without him, the casual sports fan "starts talking about when Browns' training camp starts" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/8). In Akron, Jason Lloyd writes if James leaves the Cavaliers, it will be "one of the most crushing moments in a region used to heartbreak" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/8).

PUTTING ALL THEIR EGGS IN ONE BASKET: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy reports the Nets "weren't meeting with free agents" while James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh "were mulling their conglomerated future, so they handcuffed themselves while fall-backs decided to go elsewhere." It was a "LeBron-or-bust gamble that will likely backfire, especially since the Nets haven't secured a running mate to entice James," and "barring the unexpected ... the Nets' summer of promise was a failure." The team has "marketed owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority partner Jay-Z as the 'The Blueprint for Greatness' and the keys to landing James," but both Prokhorov and Jay-Z "were in Europe last weekend during the heart of the free-agent courtship." If James chooses to join the Knicks, it would be a "public relations disaster for the Nets" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/8).

EMPIRE STATE OF MIND? In N.Y., Marc Berman cites a Knicks source as saying that CAA's Leon Rose, who reps James, "told the Knicks they'd get word shortly before" James announces his decision tonight on ESPN. But Rose "made no promises." A Knicks source: "It's nuts, but it's worth the wait" (N.Y. POST, 7/8). Also in N.Y., Filip Bondy writes "The Decision," ESPN's one-hour special during which James will announce his decision, "can be as absurd and self-absorbed as" James wishes. Bondy: "You can trot out some kids, to make it seem like it's not all about LeBron, and we won't call you on it. Unless you're going back to Cleveland, or to Chicago or to Miami. Then all bets are off and we will not be happy about being used, teased and discarded" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/8). Meanwhile, MSG shares yesterday "soared" 6.9% over the "excitement surrounding the possibility" that James might sign with the Knicks. The "pop in the shares of MSG, which owns the Knicks, means the Dolan family, which owns 20 percent of The Garden, made about" $20.5M yesterday (N.Y. POST, 7/8). Meanwhile, if the Knicks were to sign James, it "would not only ensure a stronger ROI on the rebuild, but would have a positive impact on profitability levels across MSG's businesses," BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in a research note released this morning. "Suite sales, merchandising sales and MSG Network ratings all stand to benefit from a meaningfully stronger Knicks' team with an iconic player like LeBron" (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

CAVALIER ATTITUDE: In an informal poll on conducted from yesterday afternoon to noon today, 40% of the 374 respondents felt that James will play for the Cavaliers next season. The Knicks were the second-likeliest landing spot for James with 33% of the vote, followed by the Heat 12%, Bulls 6%, Nets 6% and Clippers 2% (THE DAILY).

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