Dig Baton Rouge

The NBA’s Frozen Hot Stove

By Zachary Junda

How boring has this free agency period been for the NBA? Players could officially start negotiating contracts with other teams a week ago and yet the biggest transactions so far have been something along the lines of Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger going to Miami, Jodie Meeks signing with Detroit or Marcin Gortat re-signing with the Wiz. Of course, there are bigger names to be had and more blockbuster deals to be signed. You know the story by now: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James all opted out of their contracts and are contemplating their futures but none have made their move. So we’ve been stuck for a week now talking about what could happen instead of what’s actually happening.

Maybe we as basketball fans did something wrong. Maybe our incessant water cooler, #HOTSPORTZTAKES chatter about this summer’s free agency class put a karmic curse on this first week of free agency. We’ve been predicting and projecting for so long about where the marquee members of this 2014 free agency class will go, that maybe the basketball gods decided to curse these first few days of free agency with nothing more than rumors, whispers and deals that barely register on the Richter scale of sports news.

The NBA’s summer of 2014 is all about LeBron James. Then again so is the NBA’s fall, winter and spring. But this particular free agency period is stuck in neutral. Until LeBron makes a decision, his peers are left wondering about their own future employment. Why else would Chris Bosh not instantly pull the trigger on a four year, $88 million max deal from Houston? Why is Carmelo Anthony weighing his options between Chicago, the place that makes the most basketball sense for him, New York, the place that makes the most financial sense for him, or Los Angeles which is…well L.A. And why are you not not wrong for thinking that Dwyane Wade is currently stowed away in his house in Miami performing a ritual involving candles and chicken blood while praying to some deity that either A) LeBron resigns with the Heat or B) even if LeBron does leave, Wade can still get some team to pay him for what he was – the best 2-guard in the NBA, and not what he currently is – a 32-year-old man trapped with a 62-year-old man’s knees.

Maybe LeBron’s still weighing his options. He still hasn’t met with Miami after all. Or maybe he’s currently frozen in carbonite like Han Solo and physically can’t meet with teams yet. Either way the world’s waiting on him to make up his mind. Obviously he doesn’t care and he’s going to take as much time as he wants to make the best decision for him; but I think I speak for everyone when I say that the waiting around and the speculation on top of speculation is so tiresome that you can’t turn on SportsCenter these days without getting hit with the same stuff every 15 minutes.

Then, just like that, news of actual consequence broke Monday. Chris Broussard reported that Bosh is “seriously considering” Houston’s max offer after meeting with James this past weekend. A meeting that apparently put enough doubt in Bosh’s mind to make him start looking at his options. Doesn’t that mean…something? If Chris Bosh, a guy that loves living in Miami and is very close to LeBron is contemplating abandoning ship, shouldn’t that insinuate that James is taking his talents…somewhere not named Miami? And doesn’t Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert taking down a letter he wrote after LeBron left Cleveland kind of hint that maybe LeBron’s going back to Cleveland?

I’m not an NBA insider. You probably aren’t one either. But just look at the writing on the wall; aren’t the pieces starting to fit together a little too well right now? A close friend and teammate of LeBron James’ is reportedly contemplating leaving a place he loves. That news comes out the same day that James’ old boss, who used to hate him for spurning his team via The Decision, takes down essentially a breakup letter straight out of Taylor Swift’s playbook that had been on the Cavaliers’ website for four years? Things like that can’t be ignored. Whether you think LeBron’s coming back to Miami or not you can’t look at the recent developments and not think “hmm…”

Whenever LeBron finishes listening to all the teams that are schmoozing up to him and makes up his mind, that’s when the other free agency dominoes will fall. LeBron’s situation so far appears to be totally independent of Carmelo Anthony’s, but isn’t it weird that he, Anthony, hasn’t made up his mind yet either? He could be genuinely unsure of where he’s going next, or maybe he too is waiting to see where James is going. Bosh has probably been blowing up James’ phone trying to see if he’s made a decision. I’m guessing it’s not ideal to have $88 million just waiting for you, but you can’t take it until you definitively know what your buddy’s doing. It’s like Bosh is trying to take the last slice of a pizza that James bought but he’s not sure if LeBron wants it or not.

And Wade? Poor Dwyane Wade is stuck on an island. No one, not even Miami -Wade’s home for the past 11 seasons- is offering him what Anthony, Bosh and James are getting. Wade followed James and Bosh’s act and opted out of a guaranteed $41 million over the next two seasons thinking that the Big Three would all resign at a discounted deal. Now it’s looking like the two members of the ensemble with the most gas left in their tanks, Bosh and James, are about to set off on their own paths and Wade’ll have to scramble to find a new deal and maybe even a new team.

For now these thoughts are merely that: thoughts. Speculations that can’t be realized until LeBron James thaws out of his carbonite prison and chooses his next team. Hopefully his decision comes sooner rather than later because right now, the most exciting part of the NBA’s summer has been excruciatingly dull.

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