While Marc Spears is reporting that Greg Oden is “strongly leaning” towards taking the one-year $8.9 million qualifying offer from Portland and just becoming a free agent next summer, there is another team who could go out and snatch up the oft-injured big man. When you roll an entire season with a list of centers that miraculously tops out at Joel Anthony, taking a chance on a talent like Oden isn’t a big risk. Sure, he’s a risk individually. But for the Miami Heat, it’s moves like this that could turn them into a potential dynasty, and if it doesn’t work out, it might not do much harm. Oden has a huge doctor’s appointment this week to check in on his progress – which seems to be coming along fine, but then again, what else are they going to say? If all signs are positive, he could be cleared for contact. Because of their cap situation, the best Miami can do is offer the mid-level exception, which is around $5 million. That doesn’t sound like much compared to nearly $9 million. But if he wants security (more years on the deal), the Heat could be the way to go (you have to think Oden is one more huge injury away from perhaps never getting another shot at a long-term deal). For the Heat, this is an obvious attraction. Nene is not coming, not unless they want to break up the Big Three with a sign-n-trade. Samuel Dalembert (who somehow seems to always land big deals) has been rumored to be settling down in South Beach, but the Kings are so far under the minimum salary hold (they must spend at least $17 million) that there’s a very good chance they bring him back, and it sounds like the next best guy on their list is Kwame Brown. We can see why Pat Riley is intrigued … A few people checked out our 2011 free agent tracker and asked “Where is Vince Carter?” Well, technically he’s not a free agent yet, even though everyone assumes he’ll eventually get there. That’s because his $18 million salary is only partially guaranteed. If the Suns waive him within three days of the official start of free agency, he’s only owed $4 million. Easy decision right? The Suns agree, and sources say they will cut the former All-Star almost immediately once the floodgates are opened. So who do you think became the bigger disappointment in that massive trade last December: Carter in Phoenix, or Hedo Turkoglu back in Orlando? Meanwhile, management is still holding out hope Steve Nash retires as a Sun. Umm, does anyone truly believe this? Better yet, does anyone want to believe this? … Reports from other centers bound to get considerably overpaid: Tyson Chandler plans to meet with Golden State, Houston and New Jersey this week. That money better be sweet because those are some long falls from the defending NBA champs. Chandler says he expects he’ll be on a different team by the time training camp starts. We believe he’ll get some desperate suitor throwing insane cash at him. We also believe a little bit of this is a game from Chandler to get the Mavs to sweat, and ultimately, to spend … We know the Bulls are lusting after Arron Afflalo, and while he’s at the top of their Christmas list, you can move Jamal Crawford up to 1B. Afflalo probably wouldn’t find his way to the Windy City without a sign-n-trade, and while they might have a shot to land Crawford through a straight signature, the Bulls are prepared to offer packages revolving around Ronnie Brewer and a few others (we’re guessing Taj Gibson) to get one of the two. We put the Bulls on our list of the top five places we expect to see Crawford ending up at this season. But we’re not sure there’s anyone in that organization who’d rather have him over Afflalo … Shane Battier has narrowed his list of teams down to Memphis, Miami, Indiana and Toronto. He apparently wants to play with a contender. Shouldn’t that cut the teams down even more? … Chase Tapley‘s 25 points and two late free throws helped San Diego State upset No. 22 Cal 64-63 while UNLV was smoked by Wichita State, 89-70. Creighton won as well, and Baylor ran away from Northwestern by nearly 30 as they outscored the Wildcats by a ridiculous 46-12 in the paint … And what Stephon Marbury said to J.R. Smith recently to help the transition in China: “I spoke with J. R. and I told him to make himself completely vulnerable to love: embrace the culture. You’ve got to acclimate yourself to something different, you’ve got to grow into it — and then you get this stillness and calmness about yourself.” Who would’ve thought we’d ever see the day when Marbury would be giving Smith advice about stuff like this? … We’re out like VC.
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