The status of the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” remains in question as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each attempt to decide where they’ll play in 2014 and beyond.
James, a four-time league MVP and the cornerstone of Miami’s four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, plans to meet with team president Pat Riley “in the next few days,” ESPN reports. The meeting will occur amid reports several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, are in contention with the Heat to acquire his services. James reportedly plans to meet with "several teams" throughout the week, though he hasn't indicated when he plans to make a decision.
The 29-year-old opted out of the final years of his contract with the Heat July 1 to test the free agent market. James agent Rich Paul has affirmed his client will pursue nothing short of a maximum contract, a deal that would carry a price tag of at least $20.7 million per season, ESPN reports.
While Miami remains the favorite to sign James, the Cavaliers, the franchise that drafted him in 2003, have emerged as a frontrunner as well, Adrian Wojnarowski reports. League sources told Yahoo Sports James’ return to Cleveland is “something of a mission” to his agent, who reportedly encouraged the Cavaliers to make a strong play to acquire the star forward.
Like James, both Wade and Bosh chose to opt out of their respective contracts this offseason, a move that established each as an unrestricted free agent. Henry Thomas, who serves as agent to both men, remained adamant each man’s free agency is unique but reiterated their desire to play for a championship-caliber team.
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“They appreciate what they’ve done in Miami those four years together, and they want to make sure they have a chance to have that same success the next four [years],” Thomas told ESPN.com. “With Dwyane, he’s been there his entire career, so he’s in a unique situation. Chris has made it known how he’s felt about being in Miami these four years.”
For both members of the Heat's “Big Three” -- particularly Wade -- a return to Miami remains the most-likely outcome to this offseason. However, a rabid market for Bosh’s unique skills set has led to speculation he’ll leave the Heat in favor of a max contract offer from another franchise.
In particular, the Houston Rockets have expressed strong interest in signing Bosh to a long-term contract. One league source told ESPN the Rockets are “heavily engaged” in a pursuit of Bosh.
According to ESPN, the Rockets have increasingly shifted focus toward Bosh as their negotiations stalled with Carmelo Anthony, another marquee free agent. Recent reports suggest the Lakers and the New York knicks have emerged as frontrunners to sign Anthony.
Bosh plans to wait for James to choose his team before making a decision about his own future. However, James’ decision to meet with other teams and delay his decision has reportedly spurred Bosh to explore separate options as well. Sources told ESPN's Chris Broussard Bosh is seeking a four-year, $96 million max contract to leave Miami.
Given James’ demand for a maximum contract and a need to retool a depleted Heat roster, a return to Miami would likely require Bosh and Wade to sign for less money than they could command on the open market. However, the allure of winning a third NBA title in South Beach may be enough to keep the “Big Three” together.