After some crazy theorizing based off the friendship between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony earlier today, it seems the Heat have been plotting all along how to add a fourth superstar to their Big Three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James. A cursory plan has the Big Three opting out of their contracts to re-sign for significantly less in order to open up enough cap room to bring Anthony into the fold.
Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN reported today that even as the Heat look to come back from a 2-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, they’ve jointly been plotting to add LeBron’s friend and fellow 2003 draftee Anthony as a way of alleviating the strain on the current Big Three.
Sources told ESPN.com that Heat officials and the team’s leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.
The mere concept would require the star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to all opt out of their current contracts by the end of the month and likely take further salary reductions in new deals that start next season to give Miami the ability to offer Anthony a representative first-year salary. The Heat also are prevented from making any formal contact with Anthony until July 1 and can do so then only if he opts out of the final year of his current contract. Anthony has until June 23 to notify the Knicks of his intentions, according to sources.
But the success of the Heat’s 2010 free-agent bonanza has established them as the NBA’s undisputed destination franchise, with owner Micky Arison empowering big-thinking team president Pat Riley to attempt to pull off another coup in the market despite new collective bargaining agreement rules aimed at preventing it.
This summer, the entire Heat roster — save the early termination options for James, Bosh and Wade, player options for Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen and $2 million for Norris Cole — become free agents. If the Big Three opt out to re-sign, there could be in excess of $50 million in cap room, allowing Riley the flexibility to crunch the numbers in order to add Anthony at close to a max deal. James, especially, doesn’t need the money due to all his off-the-court ventures. Per Windhorst and Stein:
James’ off-court business is booming, thanks to a string of investments paying off massively and the prospect of new opportunities in endorsements and entertainment projects promising to expand his wealth significantly in coming years.
With cooperation from their stars and role players Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen, who also possess player options for next season, the Heat could open up in excess of $50 million in cap space this summer and have the most financial flexibility in the league. The only Heat player locked into place for next season is Norris Cole at a salary of $2 million, although Riley will have to contend with a handful of cap holds for pending free agents as well as their upcoming first-round pick (No. 26 overall) in the draft later this month.
Getting James, Wade, Bosh, Haslem and Andersen to take pay cuts significant enough to open a significant slot for Anthony undoubtedly will be complex. It would require reductions that could stretch into the tens of millions over the next few seasons. Sources say the Heat’s plan is to sell the players they wish to keep on the long-term benefits of making such a sacrifice.
There are a number of different obstacles standing in Miami’s way aside from the complexity of the pecuniary issues involved for the so-called “Big Four.” The biggest hinges on Melo’s decision to opt in or out of of the final year of his Knicks deal. The deadline for Anthony to make his decision comes a week before free agency starts in July, on June 23. He’ll have to notify the team if he’ll opt to take the $23.3 million next season and delay unrestricted free agency for another year — as Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson has urged him to consider more than once over the last month — or opt out and become a restricted free agent this summer with the ability to re-sign with the Knicks for a fifth year and $33 million more than any other team in the league.
Then there’s the fan backlash. Much like LeBron’s “Decision” in the summer of 2010, fans outside of Miami were aghast at the thought of collusion and the Big Three signing in Miami perhaps led to the more restrictive nature of 2011′s collective bargaining agreement, which —ironically, it appears — sought to create a more balanced league. Instead, it might have opened the floodgates for players to take less than max money for a chance at a title by aligning with other stars.
Parity had been the intended effect of the new CBA, but when stars team up like this and agree to take less than the max, it creates super teams like the Heat squad that’s appeared in the last four NBA Finals. Carmelo Anthony is turning 30 soon, as is James. Wade and Bosh are already in their 30′s and they understand the clock is ticking on their careers. This, in turn, has led to another master plan by Riley and Co. What this means for the league and the fans and the other 29 teams remains to be seen because we’re still a long way from the Big Four becoming a reality in Miami. In the meantime, we’ll all just sit and stew over the possibility the Heat might be getting even stronger this summer.
What do you think?
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