Jul 032010

John Paxson, Gar Forman (on phone), Tom Thibodeau and Jerry Reinsdoft arrive. (AP / Phil Long)

~By Chris Hine

CLEVELAND — The Bulls got the last at-bats Saturday on the final day of the three-day LeBron-athon, with their contingent scheduled to meet with the free-agent superstar after the Cavaliers had their turn.

Cavs officials, including coach Byron Scott, arrived first at the IMG building shortly before 11 in a van and SUV. The crowd got excited and threw powder in the air when a white SUV arrived soon afterward, but James wasn’t inside. He arrived in a silver Mercedes and the crowd didn’t seem to realize he was in it. James entered the building dressed in a black T-shirt and shorts.

The Cavaliers’ meeting with James ran about two hours — a little longer than expected — and in brief remarks to the media, general manager Chris Grant said it went well and that he was glad LeBron chose Cleveland as the site of his meetings.

After the Cavs left, the Bulls arrived, including new coach Tom Thibodeau, GM Gar Forman, John Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf. They donned jackets, but no ties. The Bulls didn’t park in the parking garage where the other teams parked; so they had to cross the road … ala the Beatles in Abbey Road.

The Bulls met with LeBron for about three hours (12:15 p.m. to 3:14 p.m. CT), before leaving in two SUVs to a chorus of boos from Cleveland fans who were waiting outside.

The Bulls left without saying a word, but Thibodeau left with a smile on his face. Unlike the other suitors, the Bulls did not cart any visual aids or equipment.

On Friday, the Knicks met with him for 2 hours and 50 minutes.

In what may be their last effort to show support for James, Cavaliers fans made their way downtown to greet James and Cavaliers executives as they prepared for their 11 a.m. (Eastern time) meeting.

A rough estimate put the crowd at a couple hundred fans — and they were indeed fans, not Cavaliers employees like the previous two days. There was even a couple of people dressed in Santa Claus outfits, for some reason.

The crowd was chanting “LBJ” and got one chant of “Noah sucks” going, in reference to the Bulls’ Joakim Noah, who was critical of Cleveland during last season’s playoffs.

“We’ve done some amazing things the last five years,” assistant GM Lance Blanks Grant said after the meeting. “We won a lot of games and went deep into the playoffs, but we’re not satisfied with anything we’re doing. We think it’s pretty incredible that LeBron chose to have these meetings in Cleveland, at his home.”

After James and the Cavs officials went inside, the fans were informed that they should return around 3 p.m., when James would be departing.

“Without him, we won’t be anything,” said 20-year-old Jordan Martin, who came downtown to support James with his father and three brothers. “If he leaves, the team and the city won’t be the same.”

Tribune News Services contributed


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