No matter how many plans the Miami Heat have about next season and the free agents they would like to sign this summer. Until LeBron James decides which team he plays for next, the Heat, like everyone else, seem to be stuck in waiting, unable to finalize any deal they have pending.
The Heat might come out of this free agency period bruised and battered. LeBron James opted out of his deal, leaving more than $40 million on the table, and Dwyane Wade, followed by Chris Bosh, did the same. The initial assumption was that all three of them were opting out so the Heat can re-sign them for less money, and have cap space to operate and improve the team. The whispers and rumors of the last week or so have been leading everyone to a very different conclusion.
James’ agent, Rich Paul, has been meeting or talking on the phone with several teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets. It seems it’s now going to be LeBron James who begins meetings with teams, which includes sitting down with Pat Riley. James has previously said that he doesn’t need to meet with Riley, because he knows what the Heat have to offer. Obviously, things have changed.
With James asking for a max contract, the Heat might be limited in how they approach the rest of their signings. Every move James makes, and the Wade-Bosh tandem adjusts accordingly. If everyone assumed it would be a combined effort to lower the wage bill for the Heat, things are quite different. James is asking for a max deal. Chris Bosh will probably be looking for $80 million over five years while Dwyane Wade might be looking to make around $55 million over the next for years.
The Heat have a number of free agents they would like to add and have been talking to: Luol Deng, Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza. Of the three, only Gasol is willing to make considerable sacrifices in terms of salary, but not if it’s playing on a Miami Heat team that doesn’t look anything like the group that won championships and reached NBA finals together. Both Deng and Ariza, veteran small forwards in this league, are looking for someone to pay them around $10 million a season.
But it doesn’t matter, at this point, how much any of them or other free agents the Heat might be talking to, would like to make. The Miami Heat are limited by the timing of James’ decision. With them fully hopeful and committed to bringing him, Wade and Chris Bosh back for a few more years, until the trio make their decision about where they’re going – staying together or breaking up, the Miami Heat can’t make a single decision, and eventually might get left behind by anyone of importance.