- Associated Press - Sunday, October 31, 2010

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The New Jersey Nets had the first chance to convince LeBron James to join their team.

James won’t say whether they ever really had a chance.

Before his Miami Heat faced the Nets on Sunday, James would only say his summer sit-down with Nets officials, including owner Mikhail Prokhorov and coach Avery Johnson, was a positive experience.

“I’m here in Miami, but it was a great meeting,” James said. “I left with definitely respect for this organization, respect for Avery Johnson, respect for the owner and for everyone that has anything to do with the Nets. Nothing bad from that meeting and nothing bad I have to say about this organization. It was great.”


Not good enough, though. James chose the Heat and the chance to join up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, instead of a team that was coming off a 12-70 finish.

But James said the Nets‘ record last season didn’t automatically eliminate them.

“No, you can’t go off that. They’re 2-0 now, so I don’t think they won their first game until mid-December last year. So you can’t go from previous years,” James said. “If that’s the case, this Miami Heat team won like 15 games (in 2007-08). Before I got to the Cavs, they only won 17, even though I didn’t have anything to do with that because of the lottery. But you don’t take a team’s past year and based on what the following year could be.”

The Nets were the first team to meet with James in Cleveland on July 1, kicking off the most-hyped free agency period in league history. They were optimistic, believing James would be intrigued by a pitch from Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who had recently completed his purchase of the team and boasted he would increase their profile globally.

Plus, James has a longtime friendship with rap mogul Jay-Z, a minority owner of the team. The Nets‘ case could have been strengthened if they were already in Brooklyn, but their planned move has stalled and they are now scheduled to play two years in Newark before the Barclays Center opens.

James said he didn’t know if that hurt New Jersey.

“I think this place is great,” he said. “Brooklyn is a great city also. But I’ve never been in Newark, I’ve never been in Brooklyn, so I don’t know if it would have helped the case or not.”

James met with five other teams after the Nets, though he said he never ranked them before announcing he was headed to Miami during his heavily criticized TV special, “The Decision.” He did allow that he would have done some things differently if he could do free agency over, though didn’t say what those would be.

Choosing New Jersey over Miami wouldn’t be one of them.

“I’m happy I’m in this uniform, but much respect to the Nets,” he said.