Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) passes past Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) and forward John Salmons (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 31, 2014 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami Heat superstar LeBron James hasn’t decided what he is going to do about the final two years on his contract with the team, but the speculation about what James wants and what teams are going to come after him has already hit high-gear.
Friday, Bleacher Report published a story that the Houston Rockets are “preparing an all-out push to land James when free agency opens on July 1, assuming James opts out, as expected. If the Rockets miss out on James, they will turn their full attention to Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh is also on the radar.”
Houston’s plan would join James with center Dwight Howard and dynamic shooting guard James Harden. It would be Houston’s version of the Big Three, with a bigger presence at the center position than Bosh.
However, Houston’s plan would be contingent on clearing out between $17 and $19 million in salary cap space before June 30. Houston, according to Bleacher Report, would trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, trade Donatas Motiejunas and Isaiah Canaan, waive player with non-guaranteed contracts, and decline a team option on Chandler Parsons.
It’s a big list of deals that would have to get done in 10 days for the Rockets to have a shot at James. LeBron, according to NBCSports.com, would also lose out on $14 million over four years or $45 million over 5 years if he were to sign with Houston, rather than the Heat.
The report on Houston comes a day after Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that James harbored some “bitterness” that team owner Micky Arison “put the brakes on spending over the past year.”
Part of the problem facing the Heat comes from the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the Heat violates the luxury tax this season, the team will incur a more punitive penalty because the Heat has violated the luxury tax for the last two seasons and would be considered a repeat offender.
Still, keeping LeBron in Miami is job number one for Arison and Heat president Pat Riley. If Arison can convince LeBron’s team that he’s committed to spending whatever necessary to keep quality players around James, then he is likely staying with the team he’s won two championships with.
But, Arison and Riley will have to pull off some moves and convince James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh of their master plan going forward to surround them with not only better players, but also better, younger players.
If James, Wade, and Bosh can be convinced to take team friendly deals in the short-term, the Heat could likely make major moves for a player like Carmelo Anthony or point guard Kyle Lowry. While Lowry wouldn’t come cheap, he’s a ready-made scorer, facilitator, and is a great defender at the point guard position.
In other words, he could shut down or at least be a big hindrance to guards like Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and others. Plus, he would lessen the burden on James to run the ball as a point forward through many games. The Heat and Lowry also have mutual interest, according to ESPN.com.
But, he, like Anthony, would require a pay cut from the Big Three.
The question for the Big Three is which one will be more important this time around, money, or the pursuit of more championships and a legacy like no other in NBA history.