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Moving Closer to Free Agency as Clock Ticks Toward Thursday

With a spectacular convergence of talent and salary-cap space finally set to take place Thursday at 12:00 a.m., the mood across the various NBA cities varies as widely as do the options of their star free agents.

In Cleveland, things have turned bitter.

It now seems all but certain LeBron James will leave Cleveland in favor of the Miami Heat.

It has widely been expected that if James were to decide to leave the Cavaliers, a sign-and-trade would be the likely avenue. Doing so provides obvious mutual benefits between team and player. It would allow James to sign a six-year, $125.5 million contract instead of a five-year, $96.1 million deal. It would allow the Cavaliers to get something of value in return for the game’s best player, rather than losing him for nothing.

However, owner Dan Gilbert apparently has no intention of assisting its star player in leaving the state of Ohio. If James decides to leave, Cleveland management will simply let him walk – leaving that extra cash on the table and putting further strain on a potential rebuilding plan.

The Cavs appear surprisingly dead-set on making an alternate life as difficult as possible for LeBron, even at the expense of the health of the franchise. The team figures to have as much as $10.9 million of cap room if LeBron decides to leave. If the team were to instead work with James to construct a sign-and-trade, it could gain a trade exception of up to $16.6 million, access to a $5.7 million Mid-Level Exception, as well as a bevy of potential draft picks.

Why would they turn away the extra cap flexibility and draft picks? Out of spite? Because they are pouting? Apparently, Gilbert is more committed to his so-called principles than he is to the assets a sign-and-trade would create. Expect him to change his mind. 

In Toronto, a more constructive approach is being employed.

Bryan Colangelo has long since known his star free agent was unlikely to return. And he seems more than accommodating.

Bosh has provided his club a list of desired locations, though he has reportedly narrowed that list to just the Miami Heat. The Raptors will certainly attempt to engage in a sign-and-trade transaction in order to bring the franchise at least some measure of compensation.

The Raptors will undoubtedly try to acquire some combination of draft picks and/or young players in return for Bosh. They could ask for Michael Beasley and/or Mario Chalmers in any deal with the Heat, though Colangelo is more likely to seek only a huge helping of first and second round draft picks. A massive trade exception would also be created in the deal.

In Dallas, there’s a palpable state of panic.

Already faced with the prospect of losing its own star forward Dirk Nowitzki to free agency, Dallas held LeBron James as its primary, albeit unlikely, target. It’s not happening.

James was never a realistic target. But Mavs fans need not worry. Dirk’s decision to opt out of his contract is purely for his own peace of mind, nothing more. He’s not leaving Dallas. Dirk wants to lock in a long-term contract under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire after the upcoming season, because it is generally regarded to be significantly more favorable than any new agreement to come. So he needs to act now.

He has two choices. He can enter into a new four-year deal as a free agent, enabling him to make up to $96.2 million from Dallas. Or he can extend his existing contract for nearly equivalent money – up to $96.1 million over the next four years. The difference, however, is that – by rule – extensions do not actually take effect until the summer before the first extended season. Dirk still has one year left on his existing contract, which means his extension would take effect in the 2011 offseason. By then, the new collective bargaining agreement will (hopefully) already be in place, which would expose Nowitzki to potential after-the-fact reductions to his annual wage if league owners are successful in their attempts to lower the value of maximum salaries.

By opting out, he gets the peace of mind of having his entire contract fall under the terms of the current agreement. He gets the ability to include a no-trade clause in his contract, something he couldn’t include in an extension. And he gets an additional $178,978.95.

Dirk isn’t going anywhere. It’s all just minor contract stuff.

In Boston, confusion rules the day.

Paul Pierce’s decision to opt out of his contract comes as a bit of a shock. His name has scarcely been mentioned in the buildup to the summer of 2010 free agent bonanza because most rival executives believed that the Celtics would never allow its go-to scorer to walk.

Pierce’s decision to opt out of his contract could set of a nasty chain of events for the once mighty Celtics. If he walks, Ray Allen figures to follow, and the Celtics could go from an NBA Finalist to a largely irrelevant Eastern Conference bottom-dweller in a span of less than two months.

But that’s not happening. His opt-out is a simple matter of employing the very same logic as Dirk.

In Miami, there is unrestrained jubilation.

With every passing day, the likelihood of a Wade, James and Bosh trio seems more real. It now seems all but certain.

The Heat received a boost to that effort yesterday, when James Jones apparently agreed to a buyout that was $1 million below his $5.952 million partial guarantee, which would produce an additional $311,828 in cap savings. Beasley is all but certain to get moved, perhaps to Toronto as part of a Bosh sign-and-trade but more likely to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Assuming a taker can be identified for Chalmers, if it were to come to that, the Heat can now officially create the needed cap room to offer three full max contracts.

Hopes are high in South Florida. Expect unofficial agreements to be struck in the next few days and official announcements to be made by the end of next week.

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  1. Curtis
    June 30th, 2010 at 04:48 | #1

    I posted this in your previous post on Joel Anthony but it has relevance here with your mention of Beasley and Chalmers to Toronto, also I wanted your take on this:

    I have a theory about why the Heat made Anthony a qualifying offer.

    According to this article: http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AuvWj3ALbuneUj38V60NMcq8vLYF?slug=ys-boshwade062910

    The Raptors would want Beasley AND Chalmers in a sign and trade for Bosh. Anthony’s qualifying offer is about 200,000 more then Chalmers cap number. With the savings from the lowered James Jones buyout the surplus 300,000 from it covers the 100,000 short the Heat were for the three maxes and allows them to keep Joel over Chalmers. This also explains why Mario’s option was picked up, so he could be traded to the Raps. The Heat prefer Joel as a center to Chalmers as multiple free agents are available on the cheap such as Earl Watson, Steve Blake and Keyon Dooling. All the puzzle pieces fit in this scenario.

  2. jj
    June 30th, 2010 at 10:42 | #2

    Great job as always albert. Do you think we will hear anything by tomorrow morning this time? I cant take this anymore. The anticipation is driving me crazy. I hope we trade beas, chalmers, 2 or 3 first round picks,1 second round pick and cash for Bosh. Then the offseason is a success even if we don’t get lebron (we all can only wish he likes south beach), because we will still have a ton of cash left to build around 2 young super studs. The wade, bron, bosh thing seems to good to be true, so i don’t want to get my hopes up. But man that would be an UNSTOPPABLE DYNASTY. 6 TO 7 RINGS. IN RILEY I TRUST. Your thoughts, albert?

  3. lucas fb
    June 30th, 2010 at 10:43 | #3

    I think both Mario and Joel are keepers at this price, unless it’s a lock that Blake will take a vet minimum contract (which I don’t know, because he deserves more) only to win a ring and because of lack of Florida state income tax makes it less of a pay cut.

    A Big 4 of Wash+Bosh+Gay/JJ+Beastley is good enough for me. Then trade Haslem for Gortat. Get Bledsoe for picks. Get Jerome J for a 2nd round. Re-sign Dorell. And we’re set.

    You know ESPN and the whole media will try to make the Heat Lebron’s team, instead of Wade’s, and that would really make me sick. I don’t need the queen and her ego – stealing tapes which show he god dunked on, being a loser, playoffobia, not trusting and abandoning his teammate while the game is on, stupid and lame dances, etc.

  4. Heat-Struck
    June 30th, 2010 at 11:12 | #4

    @Curtis

    I also said the same thing last blog… I thought they knew they had Bosh in the bag, but would have to trade Chalmers along with Beasley to get it done.

    Heat-Struck :It’s too bad he doesn’t know how to do anything other than block shots!
    The Heat must be very confident that they’re getting Wade/Lebron/Bosh to be playing with fire like this. In that case, the Heat making this move could be viewed as a positive. I bet they already have a Beasley trade in the works, where the other team is also asking for Mario Chalmers.

  5. Pimpin Lincoln
    June 30th, 2010 at 11:34 | #5

    I like bosh a lot. But does bosh at 16 mil make sense? Meaning can we get near equal production from another player at a fraction of the price? To me lebron is like wade, they do things in the court that few can do. The win games by themselves and completely change how other teams have to play them. The drop off from lebron to the next small forward is large. You just can’t get another player like him. With bosh however, you have options. You can get amare, scola, and worst case scenario you can hope beasley improves and gives you better numbers. I personally think that as long as we get lebron, either getting bosh or splitting his salary between a group of good free agents the team will have equal success. The real key is lebron and wade.

  6. Heat-Struck
    June 30th, 2010 at 11:39 | #6

    @Pimpin Lincoln

    I’ve always said that the key to getting Lebron in Miami, is already having Wade and Bosh in place. If we can sign and trade our remaining salaries for Bosh, we instantly have enough money to offer Lebron his max. No one has to take a pay cut! I say yes, Bosh is worth the max, because of his youth, his clean health record, and his attraction to lure Lebron.

  7. Heat-Struck
  8. June 30th, 2010 at 12:29 | #8

    The source from which it is coming: http://twitter.com/lebatardshow

  9. Remote Heat fan
    June 30th, 2010 at 12:57 | #9

    I sincerely doubt LeBron would show up here if Bosh came in a sign and trade. There is no way he is going to look at Bosh making more than him. This has to be a straight signing.

  10. Heat-Struck
    June 30th, 2010 at 13:07 | #10

    @Remote Heat fan

    Bosh should get the most money he can get. Imagine how much publicity Wade/Lebron/Bosh are going to get if they all team up together. Out of those three players, Bosh will get the least amount of endorsments, while Wade and Lebron clean up on the market. Those three will make so much more money off the court than they would if they joined separate teams.

    The Cavs already said that they refuse to do any sign and trade with Lebron… because they want to make sure he loses $30 mil to play for another team. This would be the same scenario if the Bulls sign and traded for Bosh and then signed Lebron outright.

  11. Remote Heat fan
    June 30th, 2010 at 13:52 | #11

    @Heat-Struck

    I think you are missing the ego angle. Let’s put it this way . . . do you think Wade was upset at all that Jermaine was making $5 million more per year than he was? Ego is a VERY big consideration at this level.

  12. berkeley223
    June 30th, 2010 at 19:06 | #12

    Been reading your site for awhile Albert, and you are awesome. A great writer, off the charts depth of knowledge, and interesting posts every day. You should write sports professionally.

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