Despite a few smaller signings yesterday, NBA free agency has basically hit a standstill. Players are waiting until they can get offered respectable figures, and teams are waiting to offer those figures until they know the big targets are off the market. The big targets of course being Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Anthony is currently traveling the country, fielding meetings with teams in order to find his best fit. James on the other hand, isn’t taking any meetings. He’s sitting at home while his agent discusses possibilities, but all signs are pointing towards King James re-signing with Miami.
So if he and the other two thirds of the Big Three really do plan on heading back to the Heat, why haven’t they done it yet?
Currently, not only are other teams not making offers to players like Chandler Parsons and Luol Deng due to hope that James will fall into their laps, but the Heat aren’t able to properly recruit until the franchise is actually figured out. Right now the Heat have essentially no one who will make an impact on the future of the team under contract other than Norris Cole. That means they have a lot of spots to fill and a lot up in the air. There’s no way, with absolutely no stability or indicators of success in place, for Pat Riley to properly recruit the sort of free agents that can improve this team if the Big Three do indeed return.
Take Spencer Hawes for example. Hawes is a solid big man, capable of contributing on both sides of the ball. He’s a far above-average shooter for a center, knocking down 41 percent from beyond the arc last season. He would be a really good addition to the Heat. He made $6.5 million last season, and he’s supposedly seeking $8 million. The Heat won’t have room for $8 million if they sign James, Bosh and Wade, but I’d be willing to wager that Hawes, like most players in the league, would take a bit less for an essentially guaranteed spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Another player that has been rumored for a trip to South Beach is Kyle Lowry. While I see that one as a bit more of a stretch, Lowry may be willing to vacate the good thing he’s got going in Toronto, even though he’s in talks for $11 million a year there, if it means he gets to play point guard for a team that’s going to be a finals contender. He’s a lot less likely to go to Miami if it means leading a fearsome charge with fastbreak weapons like Haslem and James Jones.
I could continue listing players, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea. No one is going to be willing to go to Miami for less unless there is a guarantee that the Big Three will return. And it doesn’t matter what they say verbally or the numbers that are circulating in some media outlets. Until the ink is dry on a new deal, no quality player is going to take a cut to play for the Heat. Players like Pau Gasol (who is reportedly asking $12 million) are likely going to get plenty of attention from other teams and want to sign soon.
Really, it’s back to an ego trip for any of those players to insist on taking maximum contracts. I won’t fault anyone for wanting to get paid as much as possible, but that has to come with the knowledge that, in a salary cap system, it’s going to be much harder to win. To think that they can have their money and the best team too is just unrealistic. The only hope for the Big Three is to sign soon, start recruiting players for pay cuts, and hope for the best. Otherwise, James, Wade and Bosh may just stall themselves out of contention.