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James mum as LeBronathon drags on

July 6, 2010

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— A pointed finger, smile, chuckle and head shake. That was all.

NBA free-agent LeBron James, black shirt, takes a shot over Florida State defender Chris Singleton (36) during a scrimmage at the LeBron James Skills Academy on Monday in Akron, Ohio.

NBA free-agent LeBron James, black shirt, takes a shot over Florida State defender Chris Singleton (36) during a scrimmage at the LeBron James Skills Academy on Monday in Akron, Ohio.

If LeBron James has made up his mind, he’s not saying so.

The world must wait.

The NBA’s most wanted man offered no clues about his highly anticipated free-agent decision Monday after making an unexpected appearance — and getting in a few full-court hoop games with good friend Chris Paul — at his Nike skills academy at the University of Akron.

After working out for two hours and then icing both his knees and right elbow for another hour, James, wearing a white T-shirt and his familiar New York Yankees cap, headed toward the door of Rhodes Arena.

On his way out, he was asked by the Associated Press if he had anything to say.

James pointed toward a reporter in the balcony, smiled and shook his head in amusement. He then drove away in a white Bentley, one of seven vehicles in a caravan that included Paul, manager Maverick Carter, business partner Rich Paul and security personnel.

Carter also politely declined comment to the AP.

James, who is considering offers from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and at least four other teams, was not expected to appear at the first day of the camp featuring some of the nation’s top high school and college players. However, not only did James show up, he got in a spirited workout that included shooting drills and scrimmages.

James guarded Duke’s Kyle Singler and Dayton’s Chris Wright during the 5-on-5 runs that virtually stopped everyone in the gym. Looking even more fit than usual, James had a few spectacular moves and threw a lob pass to Christian Eyenga, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick in 2009, for a jaw-dropping alley-oop dunk.

If the pressure of a decision that has several franchises and a few cities on hold, James didn’t show it. He joked around with Paul, former Cavs teammate Damon Jones and Cleveland’s Jawad Williams, now a restricted free agent. James also signed a sneaker tossed down to him by a youngster, who after getting it back, walked out in his socks so he wouldn’t mess up the autograph.

James is not expected to make his big announcement until the three-day camp ends Wednesday, one day before players can officially sign new contracts. He is scheduled to return to the camp this morning.

The Cavaliers and Bulls are considered the frontrunners to land James, the 25-year-old megastar who has spent his first seven seasons playing in Cleveland, which can offer him roughly $30 million more than any other team.

He’s the biggest domino, but two others have fallen.

On Sunday, Joe Johnson agreed to a six-year contract with Atlanta, and the New York Knicks scored big by getting a five-year, $100 million deal with free-agent forward Amare Stoudemire, who has already been recruiting James to join him in the Big Apple.

Stoudemire has spoken to James’ people and directly to Dwyane Wade last week.

Nike officials said James wasn’t going to attend the first session, which began at 3 p.m. But at 2:55, James walked in with a large group and immediately asked for the main locker room in the arena, where he often played as a high school star at St. Vincent-St. Mary, to be opened so he could get dressed.

A few minutes later, he came on the court startling some of the players warming up at four baskets. After stretching out with Cavaliers trainer Mike Mancias, who spends a lot of time with him during the off-season, James, dressed in a black, torso-hugging top, black shorts and his signature Nikes, went through some outside shooting drills.

As James fine tuned his game, camera crews filmed his every move from the other side of Rhodes, hoping to catch some sign that he has come to a decision.

A little more than an hour into his workout, James teamed up with Paul, Jones, Williams and high school teammate Romeo Travis, and went fullcourt against some college stars. Organizers asked TV crews and reporters to stop filming, perhaps afraid there could be a repeat of last year, when camper Jordan Crawford of Xavier dunked on James, and the video became an Internet sensation.

In the meantime, some Cleveland fans are on edge as they wait for James to announce his future plans.

“I wish I could close my eyes, got to sleep and when I wake up it’s over,” said Gail White, a bartender at a TGIF Friday’s near James’ home in Bath, Ohio. “I hope he’s not selfish enough to play somewhere else. I would hope he would want his hometown to succeed.

“Everyone wants him to stay. He means so much to the area, and people have been willing to tolerate the wait. I’ve talked to a lot of people and the consensus is that he’s going to stay. Let’s hope so.”

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