1. In The End, He's Always Had The Final Word
Special to ESPN.com
CLEVELAND -- Since he turned pro a little more than seven years ago, LeBron James has kept his inner circle tight and issued few new invitations.
With the biggest decision of his career about to be at hand when free agency starts July 1, those who know James will tell you he's going to close it down even more. Closing it to the point that when he signs, it will not be the product of a consensus; there will not be a vote.
It will be decided by a committee of one.
This has been James' personality since he was a teenager. He possesses a firm control over decisions that involve his business and basketball interests. Those who know him best will affirm it but instead let him do it in his own words.
In his only public comments since the end of the season, made to Larry King in a much-hyped interview, James made this point crystal clear. It was hardly the most emphasized part of the discussion, but for those who know how James operates, one statement on free agency was more important than all the others.
"Ultimately, that one person [I listen to] is me," James told King. "You know, even with the discussion with the rest of the free agents, with my friends, those free agents, with my supporting cast, ultimately, it's going to -- it's going to be me. I'm going to have to sit down and say where do you want to play? What's going to be your future?"
Ultimately, James means, it is going to be that committee of one.
When James ended negotiations with Reebok to sign with Nike for less money, it was his call.
When James tore down a $2 million home on an otherwise unremarkable property outside Akron, Ohio, to clear land to build his dream home, it was his call.
When James fired his highly successful agent at age 20 to start his own marketing company -- an unprecedented move -- it was his call.
When James decided to blow off protocol and not shake hands after losing to the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, it was his call.
Some of the decisions have worked out, some of them haven't. One thing is unchanged: James doesn't have regret for any of it, and that is because he makes and then stands behind his choices and largely does it alone. He always has and probably always will.
There has been plenty of speculation as to how certain relationships will affect James' free-agent choice. There's been debate about what level of influence certain members of that inner circle will have.
Of the six or so teams that plan to come somewhere near James' Akron home this week, some no doubt will attempt to use those relationships to leverage their position with James.
But if James stays true to the persona he's been developing for a decade, a lot of it will be a waste of time. There is one person to sell, and it is the man who intends to wear No. 6.
Truth be told, James has never minded his friends earning a living with the help of his name. He allows them to profit off planning parties that he'll show up to for a few minutes. He'll make a few phone calls to help his agents recruit new players. He'll be fine with people using his name to help others get hired in various businesses inside and outside of basketball.
Growing up without much family, he also has deeply embraced the relationships he has with his extended family now. All of them grew up and live in Akron, including his longtime girlfriend and mother of his children, Savannah Brinson, whom he took to her senior prom on an off night in his rookie season.
Because of all of that, there has been an expectation that those parties will lead him to a choice. One perhaps to satisfy his friends who profit from him, sponsors and agents by changing towns and creating massive new business interests. Or one his relatives will want, hoping he'll stay in his hometown, where the extended family he has built after a lonely childhood can stay together.
But that would go against the James all those people truly know. They might speak up, but when the final call is made, there will be just one voice. The product of a committee of one.
Brian Windhorst covers the Cavs for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
2. Why No Royal Tour Is Good For Knicks
NEW YORK -- LeBron James just did the Knicks a favor, a big one. By making them play their most important game on the road -- a game set for Thursday in Ohio with The King and his court -- James stripped much of the glitz and glamour out of the Knicks' playbook.
Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni will have to sell basketball, a program, an honest-to-God plan that has everything to do with winning titles and nothing to do with Donald Trump's money and Chris Rock's mouth.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have already committed to making free-agent visits to New York, but James already knows everything he needs to know about the bright lights of Broadway. So the Knicks' roster of New York-centric entertainers and personalities -- much deeper than their roster of ballplayers -- never represented the part of the sales pitch that would make like Mariano Rivera and close the deal.
By forcing the Knicks to hop on a plane, James is forcing them to focus on the real issues that will make or break their bid. Those issues include:
• Can Walsh acquire the right complementary players around James and, if so, how quickly can he do it?
• Is D'Antoni capable of designing and inspiring championship-level defense?
• Will Jim Dolan remain more committed to paying the luxury tax than the two most prominent peers he'll be competing against, Chicago's Jerry Reinsdorf and Miami's Micky Arison?
• Will Danilo Gallinari develop into an All-Star?
• For the full O'Connor story, click here.
4. Prepare The 'Bulls Win!' Cut?
Speculation on Thursday night was that the Bulls might get a second-round pick in return from the Wizards or, according to the same ESPN report, possibly Sacramento. But that hardly matters as moving Kirk Hinrich and his $9 million contract, and dumping their draft pick, would fatten the Bulls' free-agent budget from $20 million to $30 million, nearly enough to pay two max-salary free agents.
Seriously, anything less and you sense poor Bulls GM Gar Forman will have some significant explaining to do.
Too bad because it's a no-lose for the Bulls. And yes, that's even if, horrors, James stays in Cleveland or goes somewhere other than Chicago. Even if he takes Bosh with him.
After Bosh, and assuming Dwyane Wade stays put, Joe Johnson reportedly is frothing to come to the Bulls, so much so, according to the Tribune, that he would be willing to sign early. At off guard, Johnson would form a dream backcourt with Derrick Rose. Carlos Boozer would complete that picture nicely.
• For the full Isaacson story, click here.
5. Bosh: Winning Priority
6.Getting LeBron For A Song
Special to ESPN.com
In Ohio, Gov. Ted Strickland joined Sen. Sherrod Brown and other Buckeye State celebrities for the singing of "Please Stay LeBron," performed as a parody of the 1985 charity music video single, "We Are The World."
Since that ballad hit the intrawebs, a veritable anthology of anthems has poured out from home computers in every hopeful metropolis, all of them imploring LeBron to make the move to their ZIP code (i.e. Dayeezy's "LeBron To Chicago").
One evening, in his Dallas home, Ben Rogers wrote and recorded the "Bron Bron Song" on the Mac in his kitchen. The track now auto-plays on the website LeBronToTheMavs.com.
7. I Love New York?
Free agent Amare Stoudemire sports a Yankees cap while watching New York play the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 22.
8. Buyers' Guide: Rudy Gay
Special to ESPN Insider
• For the full story, click here.