This is the moment we’ve been so desperately awaiting for three long and painful years.
July 1. The official start to the 2010-11 NBA season.
And so begins the most highly anticipated free agency period in league history. With it comes the potential to reshape the NBA’s power structure for the next half decade.
The free agent class of 2010 is now official. It includes names such as: Amare Stoudemire, Brendan Haywood, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, David Lee, Dirk Nowitzski, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rudy Gay, and – for old times sake – Shaquille O’Neal.
Five teams enter the off-season with the necessary cap space to acquire a maximum contract free agent. All five of them have LeBron James at the top of their wish list and will meet with him in or near his home in Ohio, starting this morning.
Two teams figure to have enough for two maximum contract free agents. But only one – the Miami Heat – has a legitimate opportunity to clear the required cap space for three.
Speculation has run rampant. Stepehen A. Smith got our hearts racing on Tuesday when he oh so casually mentioned that Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh would each be signing free agent contracts to play in what is now Miami-Wade County. Dan Lebetard raised the bar yesterday when he suggested a deal to acquire Chris Bosh had already been structured. All of it sounds so intoxicating. Who doesn’t understand how the mere prospect of the Heat landing the trifecta should overtake the sports world?
Most of the speculation has been categorically denied by players and coaches alike. And for good reason. Teams were unable to officially talk to free agents, other than their own, until this moment.
But for those of you who have been waiting up until the stroke of midnight in the hopes of acquiring some life-altering news, go back to bed. Deals can now be struck, but nothing can be signed – and therefore nothing is official – until July 8. In fact, teams won’t even know exactly how much room they have to work with until the salary cap figure for the coming year is officially released on or about July 7.
So don’t expect the veil of secrecy to be lifted just yet. The last thing a general manager wants to do is broadcast a game plan and then, for whatever reason, have it blow up in his face. Nothing good can come of it. It enrages fans. It alienates potential second options. And it makes them look foolish.
Plan for another agonizing seven days. And hope for fewer.