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Sports
Report: Four teams have held meetings with LeBron James’ agent
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Report: Four teams have held meetings with LeBron James’ agent

Report: Four teams have held meetings with LeBron James’ agent
Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez
The Heat’s LeBron James wouldn’t deal Sunday night with questions about whether he will opt out of his contract. “Me and my team will sit down and deal with it. I love Miami. My family loves it. But obviously right now that’s not even what I’m thinking about.” (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Report: Four teams have held meetings with LeBron James’ agent

There seems to be a lot riding on Heat president Pat Riley’s trip to California.

Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra flew west Thursday to meet with prospective free agents, and the success of that venture could have a major impact on whether LeBron James stays in Miami.

James has been on vacation, but ESPN reported that his agent, Rich Paul, has been hearing pitches in Cleveland. The Rockets, Mavericks, Suns and Cavaliers all delivered presentations.

An anonymous official from one of those teams told Yahoo! Sports that James “seems ready to explore the market” if he is not content with whom Riley recruits, though another team employee who was in Cleveland believed it was “all a smoke screen” to apply more pressure on the Heat.

Late Thursday, Yahoo! reported that Paul said LeBron would meet personally with teams if Riley did not do enough to improve the Heat.

Riley is likely to meet with several Los Angeles-based players and agents this weekend and appears to be recruiting longtime star Pau Gasol. Riley also might be in the market for forward Trevor Ariza and others. Gasol, who averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season, arguably would be the best player Miami has put alongside the Big Three since they joined forces in 2010.

Other than that, there do not seem to be many splashy moves left for Riley to make. Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry, possibly the most attractive free agent beyond Carmelo Anthony and Miami’s Big Three, agreed to re-sign with the Raptors at $48 million over four years. It appeared as though the Heat never got a meeting with Lowry, and his choice came down to Toronto or Houston.

Riley has not commented publicly on any free agents, so it is difficult to ascertain how much of a priority Lowry was. Either way, Riley has yet to solidify any deals as he hunts for additions that will satisfy James.

Yahoo! also reported that one person who sat down with Paul got the impression that there is “a breakdown in communication” among the Big Three. That likely refers to finances, given the multiple reports that James is looking for the maximum salary while Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are expected to take pay cuts from what they were slated to make in the next two seasons.

There has been no word from James publicly regarding his plans, and he was noncommittal about every facet of his free agency when he last spoke to the media June 17. It appears he has not met face-to-face with any teams.

That could change depending on what happens this weekend. Yahoo! reported that some organizations could be invited to meet directly with James early next week.

Phoenix was one of the teams supposedly trying to lure James and Anthony to play together, though Anthony has not visited the Suns and is not expected to. He finished his highly publicized recruiting tour with the Lakers and Knicks on Thursday.

ESPN reported that if Anthony is out of play, Phoenix would make a run at Bosh instead. Bosh has reiterated for months that he intends to stay with the Heat.

For James, returning to Cleveland would be a shocker considering the way his departure from the team went in 2010 and the current state of its roster. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert posted a letter on the team website torching James and describing his move to Miami as “cowardly betrayal.”

The Cavs organization seems to have partially made amends with James over the past few years, and he returned to Cleveland during the season to attend the jersey retirement ceremony of former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

If James were to leave Miami he would be gambling on the unknown rather than putting his trust in Riley.

Riley has been a winner with three organizations in his three-plus decades as a coach or executive, and surrounded James with a strong enough cast to reach the NBA Finals four times in four years. James had never won a championship before leading the Heat to back-to-back titles in 2012 and ’13.

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News

  • Pickens County deputies are searching for an armed fugitive.  Authorities are looking for Nicholas Bishop in the area of Priest Circle in Talking Rock.  Bishop is believed to be armed with a handgun and on foot after he abandoned a stolen vehicle around 2 p.m.  If you see him, call 911 immediately. Officials say do not attempt to approach him. - Please return for updates.
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  • A drunken driver destroyed a row of headstones at a historic Carrollton cemetery, causing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of damage, police said. According to police, the driver was coming down Martin Luther King Street on March 19, ran a stop sign, jumped a curb and crashed into the city-owned cemetery. The broken headstones range in date from the late 1800s to 1950. 'And what we discussed is, if one is damaged beyond repair, we'll put something back that's respectful. It's hard to replace it with the exact same item. The families aren't around anymore, so the city will take on the responsibility,' city manager Tim Grizzard said. TRENDING STORIES: Thousands of Georgians could lose food stamps next week 16-year-old in custody after hoax call about school gunman Food prices at SunTrust Park vs. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: What's the difference? The 35-year-old driver, Ray Antonio Baker, was arrested and charged with DUI. City officials said they will ask his insurance carrier to pay for the damage. 'Our plan is to go after the individual's insurance to pay for repairs. If that doesn't pay for everything, the city will certainly pick up the tab,' Grizzard said. Officials said this isn't the first time a driver has damaged headstones, but it's not a big enough problem to put up a wall. 'It's not something that has happened often enough that we need to put up a barrier. If it was a recurrent spot, we would do something,' Grizzard said. City officials said it could take weeks to repair the damage.
  • Ed Blankmeyer expected his St. John's baseball team to have a solid start this season. But not even the veteran coach could have predicted the Red Storm to roll like this. They're 19-2, the program's best opening to a season since the 1981 squad that featured future major leaguers Frank Viola and John Franco won 26 of its first 27 games. Baseball America has St. John's ranked No. 14 in the country, tying its highest spot in that poll since that squad 36 years ago. 'For us to get off to this type of start, you have to be running on all cylinders,' Blankmeyer said. 'And at this point, we're lucky to be running on all cylinders.' St. John's, which beat Wagner 6-2 on Wednesday, was tied for second in the country with a .334 team batting average. The Red Storm's 2.61 ERA ranked eighth, making them the only Division I team to place in the top 10 in both categories. 'It's unusual to have everybody getting off to such a good start, really unusual,' Blankmeyer said. 'That's something that was nice to see because what that's done is we've gained momentum.' The Red Storm are also at No. 5 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, their best ranking since the school's last College World Series team in 1980 — also with Viola and Franco. St. John's is ranked No. 13 in both the USA Today Coaches' and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association polls, and No. 15 by D1Baseball.com. 'It's been a blast,' said redshirt-junior first baseman John Valente, who had a school-record 30-game hitting streak snapped last week. 'I think it all comes down to everyone on the team having fun this year. We have a different chemistry than past years, I believe. Everyone's pulling the same rope and we're excited, especially with all these wins.' Among those victories, St. John's has beaten defending national champion Coastal Carolina and nationally ranked North Carolina — both on the road. The only losses for the Red Storm, whose RPI ranks 12th in the country, have come at East Carolina and Liberty. 'When you look at our team, you don't see a bunch of power guys or like the Vanderbilts or LSUs, where they have the potential No. 1 draft pick or something like that,' senior right-hander Ryan McAuliffe said. 'We kind of just have a group of 30 guys who play together and have fun.' People have noticed, too, with those lofty spots in the polls serving as a sure sign of respect. 'Obviously, it's cool to look at, but I think it's more for our friends and family back home,' said McAuliffe, from North Reading, Massachusetts. 'For us, we know how good we're playing and know that we're very talented. I think the rankings just add to it.' It's a terrific start for a team based in the Northeast, where programs are traditionally stuck working indoors all winter before heading outside in mid-February — usually warming up in better temperatures on the road to open their season. 'I told the guys that I like to look at the season in thirds,' said Blankmeyer, in his 22nd season at St. John's and the program's career victories leader. 'We're basically past the first third of the season and you guys have an 'A,' but now you've got to play the next two-thirds of the season, which includes your conference, and guys are getting better, so we've got to get better.' Valente, from New Rochelle, New York, has played a big part in the early season success. He ranked among the Division I leaders with a .440 batting average, boosted by that impressive hitting streak. 'Coach Blankmeyer's pretty much like, well, we haven't really even started the season yet,' Valente said. 'We haven't accomplished anything, and I like it like that. You can't have your ego keep you from playing the game the way you know you can.' The Red Storm have six regular starters hitting .300 or better, including Valente, designated hitter Gui Gingras (.462), shortstop Jesse Berardi (.395), center fielder Jamie Galazin (.403), left fielder Michael Donadio (.359) and catcher Troy Dixon (.339). Every starter but second baseman Josh Shaw (.293), who's a sophomore, is either a junior or senior, including third baseman Robbie Knightes (.286) and Anthony Brocato (.267). 'This is a mature group,' Blankmeyer said. 'They know what needs to be done.' The pitching staff has also gotten contributions from several players, with freshman right-hander Sean Mooney leading the way with a 2-0 record and 0.88 ERA. McAuliffe is 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA, but is dealing with a minor arm ailment that will sideline him a few weeks. Same with junior lefty Kevin Magee, who's 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA. That leaves young arms such as sophomore righty Michael LoPresti (4-0, 3.70) and freshman lefty Jeff Belge (3-0, 3.92) to help solidify the rotation. 'Right now, we're going to be challenged a little bit because as we start entering five-game weeks, we're very thin,' Blankmeyer said. 'So, some of these relievers who haven't had extended stints are going to have to take the ball, so that's going to challenge us a little bit, but it also gives them an opportunity to contribute.' So far, so good for St. John's. Big East Conference play doesn't begin until next weekend, and the Red Storm know they've got a long way to go before they can consider this a special season. 'This team, talent-wise, without a doubt has the chance,' Blankmeyer said. 'But it's consistent play and performing. Time will only tell.