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Thursday, July 8, 2010
Reinsdorf: Bulls great without James

ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was hoping to land LeBron James, but losing him to the Miami Heat hasn't dampened Reinsdorf's enthusiasm about next season.

"I respect his decision, but as I've said before, I believe we'll be better than Miami," Reinsdorf told ESPNChicago.com's Melissa Isaacson.

James joins Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on a team many expect will contend for an NBA title.

"Miami will have three great players, but no center, no point guard and no cap room," Reinsdorf said before the decision. "I think we'll be better if he comes to us, but I think we'll be a great team without him."

And that was the message Reinsdorf, vice president John Paxson, general manager Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau conveyed to James during their meeting Saturday.

"I opened the meeting saying, 'If it's in the best interest of your family, and for loyalty reasons, you want to stay in Cleveland, you should stay in Cleveland. I am not here to tell you to leave Cleveland, but to let you know that if you decide to leave Cleveland, we're the best place for you to go,'" Reinsdorf said. "I wouldn't even try to talk him into leaving Cleveland, but I would tell him that we're better than New York, New Jersey and Miami."

Reinsdorf shot down the notion that a perceived lack of loyalty to former Bulls stars such as Michael Jordan impacted James or other free agents.

"LeBron told us he talked to Michael, and Michael said very positive things about the Bulls and about me," Reinsdorf said. "It's nice to hear, but I've seen Michael many times since he stopped playing, and we have a very cordial relationship. So I wasn't shocked, but I was gratified."

Forman issued a release after James' decision that echoed Reinsdorf's confidence.

"I remain convinced that this organization made the strongest of bids to acquire LeBron James during this free agency period," Forman's statement read. "While we're disappointed he chose to go to another franchise, our strategy for the future competitiveness of this organization did not begin or end with James, and we feel today's addition of two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer significantly strengthens our team's already talented roster.

"It is our goal to keep exploring every avenue that it may take, whether through trades or free agency, to continue to build this team to compete at a championship level."