Now that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have wrapped up two days of meetings aimed at ending world hunger and nuclear proliferation, the waiting game begins. So many options, so little time.
Wade and Bosh Chicago. James and Wade in Chicago. All three in Miami. Two of them in New Jersey or New York – no, no teams have been told they’re eliminated yet, sources said Saturday. Then there’s the safe, but reasonable prospect of James and Wade re-signing with their current teams, with Bosh joining one of them -- most likely Wade, I’m told, due to their strong friendship and co-representation.
While Wade, Bosh and James weigh their options, it’s clear that one piece of the puzzle that has been floated as a possibility this summer can absolutely be ruled out. That would be one of the teams in the LeBron-Wade hunt acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets in a trade, either as a complementary piece to one of those superstars or as a substitute.
“In absolute terms, there aren’t any possibilities of a summer trade [involving Anthony],” a person with direct knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Saturday. “That is laughable, laughable, laughable.”
“I mean, it’s laughable,” the person said. “Blasphemy. I don’t know what stronger term to come up with.”
How about a percentage chance?
“Zero chance,” the person said.
Anthony’s reaction to the Nuggets’ three-year, $65 million extension offer has been lukewarm, with the All-Star apparently wanting to see how the free-agent movement shakes out in the coming days. Anthony faces a decision similar to the one before him four years ago, when he opted for another year of guaranteed money at a time when James, Wade and Bosh chose a three-year deal that gave them – and us – the free-agent recruiting frenzy that we’re now witnessing.
During the NBA Finals, I asked Melo what he thought of the free-agent summer of 2010 and whether he’d want to be a part of such a circus next summer.
“I know it’s overwhelming for those guys,” Anthony said. “I’ve talked to Bron and I’ve talked to D-Wade more than I do with Bosh. I can hear it, that it’s overwhelming a little bit. I know I would be overwhelmed. But you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family and hopefully win championships.”
The Nuggets have until June 30, 2011 to get Melo to agree to the extension or he will become an unrestricted free agent at midnight that night. But two factors will exist 12 months from now that did not exist for free agents this time around. At best, there will be a new collective bargaining agreement in place that sources on both sides of the debate believe will be much less lucrative for the players. At worst, there will be a lockout. In view of both, Anthony might be best served by getting his money now.
But there’s another side of the same coin that Anthony should – and I believe, will – consider. What happens to the teams with enormous amounts of cap space that are not successful in luring James or Wade? Unless they overspend on lesser free agents, they will be able to roll the money over to next summer and offer Anthony all the things James and Wade turned down. Whether it’s New York, Miami or Chicago, Anthony would be positioned to arrive next summer as a conquering hero and formidable rival to James and Wade, wherever they wind up.
Anthony has always felt shunned in the discussion of the great players in the league, and this would be his chance to battle them for championships on turf that they decided wasn’t good enough for them. It’s a delicious possibility, if you ask me, and one that would solidify Anthony’s position as an elite talent. He’d get to where the black hat, play the villain, and play with the same kind of chip on his shoulder that fans in any of those cities would have after getting jilted by LeBron and D-Wade.
But evidently, this is a possibility we’ll have to wait 12 months to realize. It might be worth the wait, especially for teams that strike out on LeBron and Wade in the next few days.
Before looking ahead to next summer, teams in the LeBron-Wade hunt are lining up contingency plans as we speak.
The Bulls, who’ve met with Utah free agent Carlos Boozer, also squeezed in a productive meeting Friday with free-agent power forward David Lee, who met with the Timberwolves Saturday. Although the T-Wolves ate up a sizeable chunk of their $13 million cap space by signing Darko Milicic and 2008 second-round pick Nikola Pekovic, GM David Kahn continues to pursue avenues for enough space to accommodate Lee. The most obvious solution would be trading Al Jefferson, whom Kahn has been pushing for weeks.
Though Lee wanted to stay with the Knicks, New York’s pursuit of Bosh and its invitation to Amar’e Stoudemire to meet Monday have potentially soured the relationship, sources said. Depending on the order in which they do their transactions – and how many max free agents they sign – the Knicks still have the option of working out a sign-and-trade arrangement for Lee. (If they have to renounce his rights, that won’t work.) But that possibility can’t be broached until their pursuit of other free agents – and Lee’s decision on another team – are resolved.
Stoudemire arrived in New York Saturday, attended a Broadway show and planned to attend the Yankees-Blue Jays game Sunday at Yankee Stadium. He’s also had time to reach out to fellow All-Stars to gage their interest in coming to the Knicks – if Stoudemire and New York consummate the framework they’ve agreed to on a five-year, nearly $100 million deal. Sources confirmed that one such player the Knicks have inquired about is Spurs point guard Tony Parker. But as of the most recent inquiry, Spurs officials were still conveying that they weren’t interested in trading him.
Stoudemire is scheduled to sit down with the Knicks Monday, and by then there is expected to be more clarity over where the Big Three free agents are going. While the Knicks and Stoudemire have a broad agreement on contract terms, two people involved in the process cautioned that significant details remain to be discussed. Also, other free-agent developments could alter opinions of both sides as to whether New York is the best fit for Stoudemire.
Free-agent small forward Mike Miller, who shares the same agent as Joe Johnson, won’t be going to the Lakers unless it’s a sign-and-trade arrangement. L.A. used most of its mid-level exception to sign point guard Steve Blake to a four-year, $16 million contract. Miller, too, is waiting to see where James and Wade wind up, as both players have expressed interest in him coming with them. The Knicks have aggressively pursued Miller as a complementary lure for top free agents.