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LeBron, Riley meet as decision looms

AP

Miami Heat president Pat Riley has had his chance at convincing LeBron James to stay in Miami, said two people familiar with the situation.

Riley met with the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas, the person told AP. James, his agent Rich Paul, Riley and Heat executive Andy Elisburg were at the meeting, one of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly announced who would be attending the meeting or when it would take place.

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 to 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.

Spurs extend Popovich

San Antonio AP

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 news release announcing that coach Gregg Popovich had agreed to a multi-year contract extension. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

After beating the Miami Heat for the franchise’s fifth championship last month, the Spurs quickly found out that Tim Duncan would indeed return next season. Deals with Patty Mills and Boris Diaw ensured that the roster would remain largely intact, so there was little doubt that the 65-year-old Popovich would return for a 19th season on the Spurs bench.

The talk of his pending retirement has grown louder as the years have gone on, but Popovich showed no sign of slowing down in season No. 18. He led the Spurs to a league-best 62 wins in the regular season, earned his third coach of the year award and then helped the team recover from the heartbreak of last year’s loss to the Heat in the finals with an emphatic five-game triumph this season.

Popovich is 1,116-533, including the playoffs, in a career that started in 1996. He is the longest-tenured coach in any of the four major American pro sports and has led the Spurs to at least 50 wins 16 times, including 15 in a row.