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Archive for Friday, July 2, 2010

Time to put NBA free-agent pieces in place

July 2, 2010

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— Before leaving the United Center around noon Thursday after a surprise 90-minute meeting with Bulls officials, Dwyane Wade rolled down the window in the back of a black SUV, smiled and made a peace sign for the cameras. A D-Wave, if you will.

What a tease.

But if Wade takes seriously what he heard during the Bulls’ presentation and shows a little patience, the occasion doesn’t have to serve as just a photo op.

Ideally it can represent a picture-perfect opportunity for Wade to win a second NBA title in his hometown if LeBron James ultimately decides to stay in his, Cleveland.

If James comes to that conclusion after meeting with the Bulls and the Cavaliers on Saturday, it also would mean Wade can’t form a power trio with James and Chris Bosh in Miami, a merger that looks shakier with each Twitter news cycle.

At that point, Wade could be faced with a choice between pushing to pair with Bosh on the Heat or the Bulls — which is really no choice at all when weighing basketball factors.

The Heat want to trade the only two players they have under contract, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. The Bulls have an elite point guard in Derrick Rose and a budding All-Star in Joakim Noah. Yes, the Heat still could offer Wade an extra year and $30 million over the life of the contract, but playing for a legitimate NBA title contender in a city his sons know may be every bit as valuable to Wade.

Which of the two cores would be closer to a championship if the Wade-Bosh combo joined it?

Nobody strongly considered the Bulls signing Wade anything more than a fantasy because he has given every indication he intends to stay in Miami. One ESPN analyst even suggested Wade was scheduling trips to rival teams simply to slow down their pursuit of players also on the Heat’s radar. It reflects the widespread perception that the free-agent visits Wade planned with the Bulls, Nets and Knicks were viewed as little more than perfunctory gestures to keep the Heat honest.

Honestly, the Bulls signing Wade would be a bigger surprise than them signing James. Not more significant, just more surprising.

But getting Wade would help the Bulls and the city get over losing LeBron quicker than any other move.

It was an odd day full of irony. In Chicago, Wade, the guy who ripped the Bulls’ loyalty to former players, was considering an option that would give Heat fans every reason to question his. In Cleveland, James was hearing the pitch for New Jersey from a rapper, Jay-Z, whose hit song, “Empire State of Mind,” extols the virtues of New York.

Heat President Pat Riley was in Chicago meeting with Bosh to keep him away from the Bulls. Hours earlier, Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was trying to talk Wade into leaving Miami.

If the result of all these machinations is Wade stays in Miami, James returns to Cleveland, Joe Johnson takes the $119 million maximum offer from the Hawks and Amar’e Stoudemire remains with Suns, the NBA Summer of 2010 will be more overhyped than the ESPYs. Bosh seems to be only big name certain of moving.

The Bulls get their shot at Bosh today. The only thing we can guarantee about the meeting is that we will know how it went. If Bosh held on to rebounds the way he keeps secrets, nobody would want him.

As solid a Plan B, second-wave signing as David Lee may be, the reason for all this unprecedented attention paid to the NBA in July and the biggest moment of the post-Jordan era for the Bulls comes Saturday in Cleveland. It wouldn’t be the first time the Bulls have broken hearts in that city while in the company of an NBA icon.

All that rides on that meeting with James is the future of the Bulls franchise.

Wade’s may too, if he reads the free-agent landscape as well as he reads the floor.

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