Posted on: April 8, 2010 11:11 am
Edited on: April 8, 2010 7:59 pm
Chris Bosh is out for the rest of the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a facial fracture suffered on the other end of an inadvertent elbow. No, you are not the only one wondering if the All-Star power forward has played his last game in Toronto.
First of all, the Raptors will have a tough time making the playoffs without Bosh, so the remaining four games could be all that's left of their season. Of more concern is the fact that team executives I've spoken with recently continue to believe that Bosh is the most likely of the highly regarded free agents to change teams this summer.
Like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh signed his most recent extension with the intention of testing the unrestricted free agent market this summer; each has a player option for the 2010-11 season. All three turned have turned down extension offers since last summer, with Bosh the most recent prospective free agent to say no. The Raptors relayed an extension offer in January, and Bosh's position was that he wanted to play out the season and deal with the contract afterward.
Injury aside, Toronto's inability to make significant improvement this season despite the addition of free agent Hedo Turkoglu has frustrated Bosh to the point where people close to him believe he is the most motivated of the Big Three to seek a new address this summer. In all likelihood, the Raptors would try to accommodate his wishes via a sign-and-trade so they can avoid losing him and getting nothing in return.
It has been long speculated that Bosh, a Texas native, would seek a return to his home state. Conveniently, there are three teams located there, all of which might be enticed to explore a sign-and-trade. The Rockets are in desperate need of star power, the Spurs are aging, and the Mavericks are always game for splashy, big-ticket moves.
One thing's for sure: It's gotten a lot easier over the past 48 hours to imagine Bosh wearing another uniform next season.
As for the Raptors' battle for the eighth playoff spot in the East with Chicago, the Bulls got another break Thursday night -- also at the hands of the Cavs. LeBron James was inactive for Cleveland's game in Chicago, giving the Bulls a chance to move ahead of Toronto with four games to play for each team. The Raptors hold the tiebreaker and have the easier schedule: at Atlanta, at Detroit, and home to New York in addition to hosting the Bulls on Sunday. Chicago is at New Jersey Friday night and finishes the season against two playoff teams: home to Boston and at Charlotte.
Posted on: April 2, 2010 4:58 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 5:53 pm
Forget about Kobe Bryant joining the 2010 free-agent frenzy. The three-year, maximum extension he finally agreed to Friday with the Lakers put an end to that.
Instead of exercising his early termination option after the season, Bryant is signing up to finish his career in a Lakers uniform. With a $24.8 million salary next year, Bryant is eligible to make $27.4 million in 2011-12, $30 million in '12-'13 and $32.6 million in the final year of the extension.
This is splendid news -- and not only for Bryant and agent Rob Pelinka, who will get a nice chunk of that $90 million as a commission. It's splendid because it promises four more years of Lakers drama -- the annual questions about whether Phil Jackson will be back to win one more title, and what Kobe will do/think/say if Phil ever does decide to ride off into the sunset with Jeanie Buss and never look back.
It's also splendid because it may offer a glimpse into the decision LeBron James will have before him three months from now. Granted, they are at very different stages of their careers. But if Bryant just laid down the blueprint for LeBron -- hey, if they've given you everything you want, you might as well stay -- then there will be a handful of extremely disappointed general managers standing around with cap space and nothing to spend it on come July 1.
Bryant's extension offer has been on the table since July, when he decided not to exercise the first of two straight termination clauses. It was widely believed that he would follow that good-will gesture by quickly signing an extension, but it took months to finalize.
In addition to eliminating Bryant from a free-agent class that is expected to include James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others, his decision to commit to three more years with the Lakers suggests that Bryant believes Jackson will be back for at least one more year as coach. Jackson, 64, told NBA.com last week that he expects to be back, barring any surprises in his annual post-season physical. Jackson later backtracked, saying he wasn't leaning one way or the other. Bryant, it would appear, believes otherwise.
Bryant's decision will come as a surprise to several GMs I've spoken with recently who are in the planning stages for this summer's free-agent signing period. They had begun to expect Bryant to make himself available to the highest bidder -- that Bryant was the free agent everyone kept forgetting about. It was never assumed that Bryant wanted to leave L.A., but rather that uncertainty over Jackson's future might compel him to keep his options open.
With four titles and another one possible this June, what better options could there have been? Apparently, according to Kobe, none.
The last time I saw Bryant, he was walking toward the loading dock at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, sunglasses on and head hanging after a particularly humiliating loss to the Thunder. Minutes earlier, Bryant had gotten more of the rubbish he gets in every NBA city -- more of these comparisons to players who haven't won anything yet. It would stand to reason that Bryant put the LeBron comparisons to rest last June, when he hoisted his fourth championship trophy, and first without Shaq. James hasn't won any yet, and Bryant is within two of tying Michael Jordan, and yet all anyone can talk about is LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.
Bryant can take that; there is no denying James' talent and no telling how many titles he'll ultimately win if he puts himself in the right situation, starting this summer. But now Bryant supposedly has been passed in the NBA hierarchy by Kevin Durant, according to the great basketball publication Rolling Stone.
"Whoever said that is a little bit over their head with that one," Jackson said.
Asked that night in Oklahoma City if he "got caught up" in the head-to-head matchup with Durant, Bryant smiled and said, "That's a silly question." With nine turnovers in the loss, Bryant also was asked if the player defending him -- Thabo Sefolosha -- had become one of the better defenders in the league.
"Sure," Bryant said, with about $90 million worth of sarcasm.
Bryant could have joined the new generation chasing him in the chase for dollars this summer. On Friday, the best player of his generation decided to sit that one out. Let's compare the resumes in four years and see if he was right.
Posted on: November 11, 2009 7:28 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The King has spoken: No more 2010 talk for the rest of the season.
Our long national nightmare is over.
In a strange turn of events that could have -- some would say, should have -- taken place weeks, or even months ago, LeBron James announced Wednesday night that he will not answer any more questions about his impending free agency until after the season.
"Honestly, you know, this fee agency talk is getting old," LeBron said at the end of a seven-minute interview session with reporters before the Cavaliers played the Magic in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals. "You know, it’s getting old. I'm gonna stop; I think tonight will probably be the last time I answer any more free agent questions until the offseason. I think I owe it to my teammates, I owe it to myself. It’s just getting old."
For a player who carefully calculates every word he speaks publicly, this seemed like a spontaneous decision. It was only five days ago when James went to New York and soaked up the atmosphere provided by one of the teams unabashedly clearing salary cap space for him. As he always does when visiting the Big Apple, LeBron seemed to relish all the attention being on him. He entertained every question, carefully constructing every phrase in a way that only further stoked the speculation.
On Wednesday night, prior to Cleveland's first meeting with the Magic since losing to them in the conference finals, James entertained several questions about free agency. At one point, he even admitted that he and pal Dwyane Wade -- whose Heat host the Cavs Thursday night -- have talked privately about playing together. (In case you've been hiding under a rock, both LeBron and Wade can opt out of their contracts next summer and become unrestricted free agents.)
Then, when someone exceeded the "last question" limit that had been set by one of the Cavs' media relations people and asked James again about playing with Wade, he fidgeted nervously and made his no-2010-talk proclamation.
"I'm focusing on this season and this is going to be a really good season for us," James said. "I don’t want to have any more distractions to my teammates, to my organization, to my family. This will be the last time I answer a free agent question for the rest of the year."
Posted on: August 7, 2009 3:17 pm
LeBron James is often criticized for sitting on the fence when it comes to his intentions for 2010, when he currently has the ability to opt out of his contract and test the unrestricted free agent market. But there was no mistaking LBJ's position on Friday, when he said unequivocally that he will not sign an extension with Cleveland this summer in order to preserve that flexibility.
"I signed a contract in 2006 with an option," James said at an event in his native Akron, Ohio. "It would make no sense for me to sign that contract if I didn't keep my options open. I'll let you fill in the blanks."
So there you go. No filling in necessary.
No extension. The drama lives for another year. The LeBron-o-thon continues.
I can't blame LeBron, nor can I say I'm surprised. He will still have the ability to sign an extension with the Cavs after the 2009-10 season -- and before July 1, 2010 -- that would lock him in under the current salary scale and rules before the CBA takes an expected turn in favor of the owners in 2011. His best option financially, under the current collective bargaining agreement, is to re-sign with Cleveland or participate in a sign and trade because either scenario would get him a sixth year and bigger annual raises after the first year.
But given that we've already crunched the numbers and determined that LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh -- who have identical contracts -- would be leaving between $2.7 million and $5.2 million on the table over the next four years by foregoing an extension, LeBron's own words tell you everything you need to know about his intentions.
His words don't reveal whether he's staying or going. But they do tell you without a sliver of doubt that waiting to see how close he is to a championship in Cleveland is far more important to him than a few million dollars.
Cavs fans, I'm sorry to inform you that your King is going to hold court with your collective hearts for another year. That means another year of rampant speculation, attempted mind-reading, and hype.
Oh, and guess who visits Madison Square Garden in the first week of the 2009-10 regular season? His Highness faces the Knicks on Nov. 6.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:55 am
Yes, LeBron James was consulted about the Cavs' decision to go for broke and acquire Shaquille O'Neal. Yes, LeBron was all for it.
No, the blockbuster acquisition has no bearing on LeBron's decision on whether to sign an extension with Cleveland this summer, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
With two years left on the extension he signed in 2007 -- the last year, of course, with a player option -- James is eligible to sign as much as a four-year extension with Cleveland when the free-agent signing period begins next month. By doing so, he'd be forfeiting his right to decline the player option for the 2010-11 season. It's a tricky predicament. If league revenues decline by 5 percent next season -- half of commissioner David Stern's doomsday scenario of a 10 percent decline -- the salary cap for 2010-11 could go as low as $51 million, according to one team's internal projections. (The cap for this past season was $58.7 million.) With seven years of service in 2010, LeBron could max out at 30 percent of the cap as an unrestricted free agent. But 30 percent of the reduced cap is less than James' scheduled $17.1 million salary in 2010-11 (if he exercised the player option.) It's not supposed to work that way, but it's part of the new reality for everyone -- not just the NBA.
Without getting too complicated, the falling cap means that James would wind up with about $3.5 million more over the next five seasons by signing an extension with Cleveland this summer as opposed to opting out on July 1, 2010 and signing a new contract as an unrestricted free agent. In the grand scheme of what would be a $100 million-plus contract either way, $3.5 million is not a significant amount of "cheddar," as one team exec put it. But it's certainly worth thinking about, and it would be foolish to ignore the economic environment and its impact on LeBron's decision. At least you know that if LeBron doesn't re-sign this summer, it means he wants to wait and see what direction the Cavs take -- and he wants to do that badly enough to leave money on the table.
The bottom line is this: LeBron isn't making any decisions about his future until he sees how the Cavs perform this season. That means no extension this summer -- Shaq or no Shaq, $3.5 million or no $3.5 million. He could make that money up with one endorsement deal. And he'd rather win a championship than quibble over about 3 percent of his projected earnings.
"His whole thing is based on how they do this year, period," one rival exec said.
Which is another reason why trading for Shaq and going all-in for 2009-10 was a smart move by the Cavs -- for this season and beyond.
Posted on: June 5, 2009 2:23 pm
LOS ANGELES -- When Chris Bosh told the Toronto media that he has no plans to sign a contract extension this summer, the next logical question was: What about the other two musketeers?
In addition to LeBron James, the undisputed top potential free agent in the summer of 2010, Bosh and Dwyane Wade both signed three-year extensions in 2006 for the same reason: All three of them wanted the flexibilty to opt out in 2010 and score a maximum contract before the NBA's new labor agreement kicks in.
The only way their respective teams can avoid that calamity would be to persuade the players to sign contract extensions this summer. Henry Thomas, who represents both Bosh and Wade, told CBSSports.com in a phone interview Friday that Bosh's situation has no bearing on Wade's decision.
"[Wade] has the same contract, but they’re separate situations," Thomas said. "There’ll be a lot of things to evaluate for both of their respective situations. We’ll do it, and I’ll do it, independently."
Bosh's comments came Thursday at an event in Toronto where he was asked about his plans for the summer. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has made it known that his top priority this offseason is to sign Bosh to an extension, which would forestall his plans to opt out of his current contract next summer.
Wade has not committed either way to the idea of signing an extension this summer and has chosen his words carefully in discussing his future, saying that his plan all along was to give himself flexibility in the next two summers. Thomas said that unlike Wade, Bosh was ready to disclose his plans not to sign an extension because there has been more media speculation about his future than about Wade's.
"We did this contract in this way for a reason, and that reason was in part to have flexibility at the time that he is scheduled to have flexibility," Thomas said. "We'll see how it unfolds."
Posted on: December 21, 2008 12:06 am
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With ice packs adorning his legs and a box of protein drink in his hands, Dwyane Wade sat at his locker and deferred credit to his teammates for his 43-point night. Earlier, he'd deferred to his teammates on the floor, finding Daequan Cook for a clutch 3-pointer late in the Miami Heat's 106-103 victory over the Nets.
A frigid, icy New Jersey night awaiting him, Wade also was in no hurry to accelerate speculation about his plans for the free-agent summer of 2010. Even though everybody else is doing it.
A few nights ago in the hallways of this very arena, Utah's Carlos Boozer caused quite a stir when he said he has decided to decline his player option for the 2009-10 season and weigh his options. On Saturday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that LeBron James -- who has consistently fanned the flames of his impending free agency -- is considering signing an extension with the Cavaliers after the season. Such a move would signal James' contentment with the Cavs' plans to build him a championship team. It also would make July 1, 2010 -- when James has the right to decline his player option and become a free agent -- a moot point. A few weeks ago, James himself called that date "a very, very big day."
Wade, too, has a right to become a free agent in the summer of 2010, along with the likes of James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, and Paul Pierce. Unlike Boozer, whose player option comes a year early, Wade isn't ready to announce his intention to test the market. And unlike James, he isn't ready to say he'd consider re-signing with Miami next summer, either.
"I don’t know," Wade said. "I'm not concentrating on that right now. I'm not concentrating on my contract or talking contracts. I'm trying to help this team get to the playoffs and that’s all I'm worried about."
Like me, Wade didn't think Boozer's comment Wednesday night was anything controversial or surprising. Top-tier players with capable representation made sure they negotiated for the ability to sign a new contract -- with their current team or another one -- before the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011. With a new deal between owners and players coming, who knows if the money will be there in 2011 or '12? It probably won't.
"I think it’s just giving yourself flexibility," Wade said. "And I think [Boozer] just came out and said he’s going to use his flexibility come next summer. I don’t know how it’s perceived out there, but that’s all it is. He gave himself flexibility and he gets to use it."
On Saturday, James spoke for the first time about re-signing with Cleveland next summer rather than waiting until 2010.
"You play out this season of course; I will consider it," James told the Plain Dealer. "The direction we are headed is everything I expected and more."
I asked Wade if he'd heard about James' comments.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I'm sure he has a great opportunity in Cleveland, where he’s building a championship team. Just because you signed a three-year deal doesn't mean that you won't sign an extension beforehand."
James signed a three-year, $60 million extension with Cleveland in 2006, turning heads by turning down the team's five-year, $80 million. Wade did the same.
"The deal that was signed by everybody was just to give themselves flexibility and options," Wade said. "And he can sign a longer deal this summer and be in Cleveland a long, long time."
At some point, maybe Wade will be ready to say the same thing. Not yet. He is leading the league in scoring and having a season worthy of MVP consideration. On back-to-back nights, he scored 35 to topple the Lakers and equaled his season high with 43 to turn back the Nets.
But unlike the dominance he displayed at the Olympics, Wade's excellence comes on a team that has a long way to go before it can even talk playoffs, much less championships. In that respect, Wade's situation is most similar to Bosh's in Toronto. Both need to see how things play out before they commit to anything.
"I'm under pressure to do well and to see what decision I'm going to make," Bosh told me recently. "And the organization is under pressure to bring this team around. We want to win now."
So far, Wade is content to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk.