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After week of waiting, NBA picture may be changing

MIAMI (AP) — After a week, there are now real signs that the NBA's waiting game might soon be ending.

LeBron James has reportedly blinked.

Now Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh almost certainly are near the end of their free-agent roads as well.

ESPN's Chris Broussard, citing anonymous "independent sources," reported Tuesday night that James will announce his future NBA plans during a one-hour special on the network at 9 p.m. Thursday, with proceeds from ad revenue going to charity. Broussard said James' "representatives" contacted ESPN and asked for the unusual arrangement, which neither the network nor the two-time MVP's circle would confirm.

Still, that was the clearest indicator yet that what might go down as the most celebrated free-agent period in the history of sports — built entirely around the incessant speculation about James, Wade and Bosh — is nearing a dramatic end.

"It's either going to happen quickly," Bosh told The Associated Press on the eve of free agency, "or it's not."

It hasn't happened quickly.

But now that James has apparently circled a date on his calendar, things would figure to start moving that way. That would be fantastic news, not only for the team or teams that land the members of the NBA's juggernaut trio, but the 150 or so other free agents who are essentially hostages in this tete-a-tete between stars and suitors.

"I think, obviously, we know who the guys are who are the biggest free agents," said guard Chris Quinn, who ended last season with New Jersey before hitting the open market. "A lot depends on what they do. There's a lot of other players who are free agents who are looking for jobs and working hard and want to get on a good team and win."

Through Tuesday night, only one so-called marquee guy had picked a new team, Amare Stoudemire leaving Phoenix for the Knicks.

Even something like that didn't register a giant blip across the NBA.

Instead, the waiting game reigned. And by the time James' news broke Tuesday night, Stoudemire almost seemed like ancient history.

"Getting closer," is the cryptic message on James' website.

Unless it's the Heat, Cavaliers, Bulls, Knicks, Nets or Raptors, there seems to be almost a sense of ennui across the rest of the league when it comes to the sweepstakes involving James, Bosh and Wade.

It's certainly an unusual time: One corner of the league is waiting to see what the Big 3 will do, and the rest are just trying to improve their own teams.

"It's been going on for a year, guys," Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "It's kind of hard for me to pay attention this week."

Kind of hard for many teams not to, either.

"I'm tired of hearing about all that, to be honest with you," New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "It's overblown, and we've been talking about it for two years."

Monty, the end could be near.

Bosh said just before the July 1 start of freeagentmania that he was eager to get the process over with, even indicating that he could reveal his decision before Wade or James announced theirs. Which, now, almost makes sense, in that both Wade and James would like to have Bosh alongside them for years to come in Cleveland, Miami or some other NBA city.

His decision clearly affects both, which even the casual NBA observer surely has realized in recent days.

If Bosh picks Miami, it would immediately ensure that Wade takes the Heat offer of a six-year deal that could be worth around $127 million. If Bosh decides he wants to go to Cleveland and play with James, that might send Wade looking to play in Chicago. If Bosh picks a wild-card city — say Houston — both James and Wade would start recruiting someone else to team with, possibly each other.

And then there's the chance that they all could play together, a scenario that almost certainly could only happen in Miami.

"This summer," Wade said back in April, "is about sharing."

Sharing the spotlight, perhaps?

Agent Henry Thomas, who represents both Bosh and Wade, says his clients are "getting closer" — the exact wording James has on his website.

"We are all becoming weary!" Thomas wrote in an e-mail to The AP.

Wade didn't make any statements about free agency when he appeared at his youth basketball camp on Tuesday. James hasn't said much of anything in weeks, although nearly 200,000 people signed up for his newly launched Twitter feed on Tuesday.

"Hello World," is how James' first Tweet began.

The rest of the NBA might have preferred a "Hello, Unnamed Team That I Will Sign A Contract With" Tweet, though.

This much is known: Bosh, James and Wade have all talked about playing with each other. How those conversations went was a mystery, one that would figure to be solved soon enough.

"These guys are all talking to each other," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said this week, "so my feeling is they would all want to play with each other."

That's all anyone has at this point: A feeling.

"Predicting any of that," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, "is almost impossible."

With each day that passes, the anticipation grows. At least now, a summit is in sight.

"It's just a big summer in general for the NBA," Quinn said. "A lot of excitement for different teams and different players going different places."

Soon, the big picture will become much clearer.

___

AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this story.

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