Sitting in the front row at Cleveland Clinic Courts on Friday smiling and chatting prior to a press conference were Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Rich Paul. Nearly one year to the day of ''The Decision,'' Paul and the Cavaliers have been reunited.
Paul, of course, is close to LeBron James. He is also the first ''R'' in LRMR — James' marketing company. He is only loosely affiliated with it these days, however, since he is now working at Creative Arts Agency and breaking into the player-representation business.
CAA has offices worldwide and is one of Hollywood's top talent agencies. It is also loaded with NBA megastars such as James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.
One of its newest clients is Cavs rookie forward Tristan Thompson, which is what brought Paul back to the Cavaliers. Thompson does not have any ties to LRMR, but he is represented completely by CAA.
Despite the falling out between James and the organization last summer, that never really trickled down to Paul. He has always maintained a good relationship with the Cavs, particularly General Manager Chris Grant.
''You have business and you have personal side,'' Paul said. ''I never really got into the personal side of that [with James].''
The Cavs had been in contact with James' mother, Gloria, throughout the free-agent process last summer. Even on the morning of ''The Decision,'' the Cavs had still been chatting with Gloria. But by early afternoon, she had stopped taking their calls. That's when it started to become clear what was happening.
As the television program was about to begin, Paul picked up the phone and called Grant to tell him what was happening.
''Nobody told me to do it,'' Paul said. ''I just felt like it was the right thing to do.''
Both Cavs rookies Thompson and Kyrie Irving have a good relationship with James. Both have referred to him over the past couple of months as a ''big brother,'' although Irving has denied that he was ever close to signing with LRMR to handle his marketing. His agent, Jeff Wechsler, handles all facets of his career.
Since the Cavs have maintained a good working relationship with Paul, no one expects any past problems to creep into the relationship with Thompson.
As for the destroyed relationship between James and Gilbert, Paul simply hopes one day it can be fixed.
''Hopefully LeBron and Dan can see eye-to-eye with each other as two men,'' Paul said, ''and try to move forward.''
Since they didn't address it in the draft, the Cavaliers will turn to free agency to fill their needs at shooting guard and small forward. Of course, free agency won't begin until after a new collective bargaining agreement is signed. That doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon.
Unrestricted free agents include Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Peja Stojakovic, Al Thornton, Shane Battier, Michael Redd, Jason Richardson, Jason Kapono and Andrei Kirilenko.
The Cavs think the available free agents are better stop-gap measures than anything they could've picked in this year's draft. Next year's draft, headlined by North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, is much deeper on the wings.
Irving, Thompson and the rest of this rookie class could end up waiting awhile before making their debut. Now that the draft has come and gone, labor negotiations will take center stage in the NBA. When they end is anybody's guess.
Executives around the league are bracing for a grueling battle. I haven't spoken to anyone who believes the season will begin before the end of the calendar year — if at all.
In preparation for the lockout, Cavs forward Samardo Samuels is leaving Cleveland for Los Angeles on July 1, since he won't be allowed into the Cavs' facility during a lockout. Samuels has been here most of the offseason working out at the facility.
The players union proposed a five-year deal last week in which the players would receive $500 million less in salary — or $100 million a year. Commissioner David Stern responded by calling the concession ''modest.''
It's clear at this point the owners are determined to cripple the players union, which is responding by bringing more and more players to negotiations. Players who never before paid much attention to union issues, such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andre Iguodala are now getting more active.
What does it all mean?
The owners and players, coming off one of their highest-rated seasons ever, are about to cripple their own sport — again.
The Minnesota Timberwolves can't seem to make it through a draft without making headlines. They did so again Thursday by drafting what seems to be an ineligible player.
The Timberwolves took Tanguy Ngombo from the Republic of Congo with the 57th pick Thursday night. DraftExpress.com reported that FIBA has documents showing Ngombo is 26 years old, not 21. If true, Ngombo would be too old to be drafted and would be considered a free agent.
The NFL has Chad Ochocinco. The NBA could soon have Metta World Peace.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest has filed a petition in an L.A. court to officially change his name to Metta World Peace. The court will consider the petition on Aug. 26.
Artest, of course, was the central figure in the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills a few years back. He also thanked his therapist after winning a championship and applied for a job at Circuit City during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls — so he could take advantage of the employee discounts.
''If he had called from his actual, real number, I probably wouldn't have picked up.'' — Pacers guard George Hill, who was traded on draft night from the San Antonio Spurs to Indiana. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Hill to break the news to him from a number Hill didn't recognize.