As SBN Chicago (among other networks) has reported, LeBron James is hosting six different franchises in Akron to help him decide on a free agency destination.
The New Tork Times, however, quotes an unnamed NBA executive who believes the proceedings are little more than a formality:
The executive, who did not want to be identified discussing a player who is not yet a free agent, said he had gathered from discussions with his fellow N.B.A. executives that James was strongly leaning toward joining the Bulls in tandem with another free agent, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors.
"I think it’s a done deal," the executive said.
He said he thought James was going ahead with the meetings in Ohio "to be respectful to all these teams who jumped through these hoops," a reference to the clubs, like the Knicks, who traded reasonably talented players like Jamal Crawford the last two seasons in an effort to open up as much salary-cap space as possible. But if James and Bosh are indeed going to Chicago, moves like the ones the Knicks made will have been done at least partly in vain.
As the Times notes, even after the Bulls' unceremonious dumping of Kirk Hinrich and his $9 million salary, the Bulls still don't have enough cap space to take on both Bosh and James. The solution may be in a sign-and-trade, where the Bulls would send the suddenly expendable Luol Deng to Toronto or Cleveland. That'll take some finagling with salaries, as Deng's $11.4 million salary isn't close enough to James' or Bosh's expected salary to make the trade work. There are ways around this, though--usually by signing B-list free agents as chess pieces.
Of course, Bosh's agent Henry Thomas announced an immediate denial of the reports, telling NBA.com that they were "completely untrue" and that Bosh "hasn't decided anything." But Thomas is still working on delivering a maximum salary for his client, so regardless of whether the reports are true, it's in Thomas's and Bosh's best interests to deny, deny, deny--even if it's just by pretending there's no difference between "leaning" and "deciding."