What a bizarre, bizarre free agency it has been, even in the wake of a summer that saw Dwight Howard claim he had received divine inspiration during a weekend retreat to Aspen steering him toward the Houston Rockets. When we last left off, the team had lost Kyle Lowry to the homecourt Raptors, lost serious momentum in the Carmelo Anthony chase, and put in a call to the agent of the game’s greatest player. Now it seems the Houston Rockets have fully turned their attention toward one Christopher Bosh, with sources indicating they had “intensified their pursuit” of the All-Star power forward. If you’re thinking this story seems vaguely familiar, your memory has served correct – the last go-around involved an iPad.
Initially, we must address the very real prospect of leaving these talks empty-handed altogether. Two points, the latter more irritating than the first. 1) Many of you have asked me or even suggested the team focus upon building its bench first before pursuing a star, possibly holding out until 2016 when Kevin Durant hits the market. Realize that if they want to keep Chandler Parsons or make use of their exceptions, this summer is literally it. The anticipated cap increases should comfortably absorb Dwight Howard and James Harden’s expected annual raises, but after that, any other real spending makes big room in the future prohibitive. 2) More frustrating is this false belief in the wake of the Finals that a supposed team of role-players is somehow a superior model of team-building in this post modern NBA. The thinking usually goes something like this, “I’m tired of star-chasing every summer. Didn’t we learn anything from the Finals? We need to build a good bench and develop our own players like the Spurs did.” If one can’t truly understand how superbly anomalous that Spurs team was, in the face of the last twenty years of modern NBA history, there’s little I can do to help.
I’m wary of giving in to hyperbole–(who am I kidding, I love hyperbole)–but leaving this summer empty-handed would be near catastrophic. The Rockets have recovered quite well from other natural disasters (see: “basketball reasons”), so even the worst catastrophe perhaps cannot be classified as such, but you get the gist. It would be a tough pill to swallow. Still, the spirit of the plan cannot be faulted – it simply made sense to cash in on this summer with so many of the top free agents hitting the market. And no doubt there are various contingencies yet to be enacted. A Kevin Love trade should not outright be ruled out. But the dream of building a really, really “super team” by adding a like-totally badass guy and also keeping Chandler Parsons would be gone. With Kyle Lowry gone, Carmelo Anthony likely having played us, and the real possibility this Bosh news is posturing, those odds have shot up dramatically. We never really had a chance with ‘Bron to begin with.
What to make of the notion that “had they thought they’d have a chance”, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki would have been Houston’s first targets in free agency, as claimed in the Stein piece? I don’t know. To be sure, Bosh is essentially the tailor-made fit for the Rockets’ outfit. But perhaps I’ve convinced myself too deeply of what Anthony’s tantalizing offensive abilities could bring to extract sincerity from that statement. Maybe its true. Maybe its saving face in the pursuit of a guy who is now your top target after he wasn’t. Who knows?
On that note, I don’t think I have to spell out the merits of a Bosh signing. If one were to envision a big man duo constructed in the heavens to bring good and justice to the world, it would look like Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. (Who are we kidding – it would be Shaq and Kevin Garnett. But that sounded good and I wanted to use it). Bosh would bring the floor-spacing, rim protection, pick and roll defense, and championship moxy that would allow Houston to realistically look the Thunder in the eye with their lineup. He’s the perfect fit and fills every hole this team had been missing. Though a part of me can’t help but feel underwhelmed by adding a role-player when I felt an alpha-dog was needed. Other parts of me know this team would have thrashed the Blazers with Bosh in tow.
What will happen? Anthony appears to have never been too interested. And this recent surge of news surrounding James seems a bit too calculated. Are we really to believe The King is going to tie his future to that dreadful Cavs team? Matt Moore had a great tweet yesterday that pretty much summed up the internet and free agency:
Watching when someone influential talks to multiple media members and the resulting leaks is like watching a herd of horses spook
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 7, 2014
And that’s how things have gone really, right from the get-go, with the narrative shifting drastically day to day upon each of these meetings. The agents for whomever, say Anthony, after each city, put in a call to everyone and that team shifts to the forefront. Anthony caroused late into the night with Bulls players, spent six hours with Rockets officials over steak dinner (when only two were expected) stepping aside to have a private chat with H&H; he left the Knicks meeting in sync with that management’s vision of the future (whatever that may be, god help them), and then felt very high on the Lakers (curiously after Knicks officials made it known they were weary of giving him the max). Only Dallas really never got its time in the sun and so at least for that, we can rejoice. Who likes anything good to happen to Dallas?
James is set to meet with Riley later this week and then the dominoes could fall. Would Chris Bosh, so amicably labeled as “Lebron James’ lap dop” by Stan Van Gundy four summers ago, really jump ship before James’ decision? I highly doubt it. But we’ll see. At this point, there’s no use even trying to guess what may happen.