It must have been the most surreal moment ever to take place in a Cleveland parking garage.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z and assorted other club officials were on their way out of their meeting with LeBron James when they crossed paths with the Knicks contingent on their way into their own meeting.
There were surely no pleasantries exchanged between the two sides as they slipped past each other since neither side wants to see anything but tears from their opposition when James announces what team he'll grace with his presence. There's also the little matter of the billboard the Nets put up across the street from the Garden, which ticked off Knicks owner James Dolan enough that the cable mogul called the team and the league in an effort to have it taken down.
It's staying up, what with Dolan not controlling the rights to public space in Manhattan and all, and, frankly, the Knicks have bigger things to worry about right now. Getting James has been the goal of two years of work, from the hiring of Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh to the trades that gutted the roster and cleared salary cap to the renovation of the Garden, and failing here would be fairly devastating to the team.
D'Antoni would almost certainly start looking for the closest exit, the Knicks will have cap room and no superstars (maybe not even some regular stars as Rudy Gay re-signed with the Grizzlies and Joe Johnson is believed to be close to doing the same with the Hawks) and the fans, stalwart throughout, will have to decide just how much losing they can take without the promised light at the end of the tunnel.
We can't know what LeBron thought of the pitch, although if he's the least bit of a softie he had to be touched by the fact that Walsh showed up in wheelchair. The G.M. is recovering from neck surgery and isn't long for the grind of life in the league. He was brought in to make this day possible and accomplished that mission. He's led the water to LeBron but he can't make him drink.
"I think it went well," D'Antoni said. "But obviously everyone that gets the chance to talk to him will probably say same the same thing."
He was right. Nets coach Avery Johnson said exactly the same thing on his way out of the meeting. Tomorrow, members of the Heat and Clippers will say the same and the Bulls and Cavaliers won't be far behind. There will be sources close to each of those teams saying that the meeting went even better, "tremendous" is the word someone from the Nets passed along to ESPN. Don't believe them because they're trying to sell you the same way they tried to sell LeBron.
It's all up to James now.