Last week, the NBA rumor mill went into high gear when word got out that LeBron James was opting out of the final two years of his Miami Heat contract and entering free agency. As many as 15 teams began to strategize on how to free up enough cap space while making their respective franchises most attractive to the game’s best player.
The maneuver by James was initially viewed as an ultimatum to the Heat front office in an effort to force them to upgrade their roster or possibly lose him. What most NBA “experts” believed at the time was that opting out was in essence an ultimatum to Heat management to upgrade the talent on the roster. For this maneuver to be truly effective, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade would also need to terminate their contracts in order to free up the needed cap space for Miami the funds to add depth to their roster.
The dismantling of the “Big Three” Heat by San Antonio in the NBA Finals was as much to do with the depth of the Spurs’ roster as much as the method of play. Simply put, San Antonio had more talent on their roster than Miami despite the fact the Heat trio may be the best threesome in the league.
During the time between LeBron James’ opting out and that of Wade and bosh, there was a lot of rumors abound that as many as 15 teams were positioning themselves to have the necessary cap space to bring James and either another prominent free agent (Carmelo Anthony) or trade acquisition (Kevin Love). Before the announcement that Wade and Bosh were opting out of their contracts, I saw James’ South Beach return as a 50-50 proposition. While that may still be the case, Heat President Pat Riley; with large roster vacancies and newly found cap space can add multiple role players to Miami’s roster or even put themselves in position to create a reconstituted “Big Three” or even create a “Big Four” by James/Wade/Bosh taking considerably less money to pay another prominent star (see Anthony).
The pending free agency of the South Beach “Big Three” now increases James’ return to far closer to 100%. There are still obstacles in James/Wade/Bosh returning. For starters, Miami may not bring in enough talent to convince James that the Heat is the preferred place to play. Secondly, Wade and/or Bosh may decline to take the needed pay cut to come back. Even though Wade is almost assured of coming back to Miami; mainly due to other teams’ not wanting to spend nearly as much as Miami can, Bosh could get a better offer elsewhere and decide to depart. If Bosh leaves, James may still return, as players like Carmelo Anthony could fill the void.
At the end of the day (or in this case end of free agency), I would find it a complete shock if LeBron James wears another jersey other than Miami’s. He has built his reputation as a winner with the Heat and their financial maneuverability this summer will likely give him the supporting case he needs and wants. For all the other NBA teams, this should not be a signal to wave the white flag, but merely a suggestion that mortgaging their respective futures to bring only James to town will likely end up setting themselves back several years.
Come the time November rolls around, look for the Miami Heat to be among the NBA contenders once gain. The look of the overall roster is likely to change; but the head of the Heat monster will still be donning number 6 for years to come.
Scott Duhaime is a New England Sports fan and former resident, transplanted to Ohio. Despite his new address, his passion for sports hasn’t diminished, but rather broadened to now cover the Cleveland sports scene. Scott’s sports commitment is best evidenced by his creation and continued contributions to Banner Day Boston and Banner Day Boston Radio .