Not long after Miami lost a pivotal Game 3 of the Finals on Tuesday, news started swirling about the Heat's next plot to dominate the basketball world.
According to espn.com, Miami is hoping to add New York's Carmelo Anthony to its roster of all-stars this summer. This isn't a new concept. Rumors of Anthony joining the Heat have been around for months.
But it does present more competition for the Bulls' plan of attack this summer, which is to convince Anthony to choose Chicago and a proposed lineup of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. If all goes well -- and it hasn't for Rose in the recent past -- the Bulls might be able to threaten Miami's four-year grip on the Eastern Conference.
New York basketball boss Phil Jackson will counter with this suggestion to Anthony: Stick with the Knicks for one more season and then invite LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and whoever else wants to join the party to sign with New York in 2015 when the Knicks will have ample cap room.
This alleged plan by the Heat is a little awkward, because Anthony was left out of the loop when the Power Trio plot was originally hatched during the 2006 World Championships. James, Wade and Bosh -- all members of the 2003 draft class -- signed contract extensions that included an opt-out clause in 2010. Coincidentally, or not, Heat president Pat Riley spent the ensuing years making sure he didn't sign anyone beyond 2010, creating as much cap space as possible. As we know now, the plan paid off in two NBA titles, with a third still in reach.
Only the participants know if Anthony was briefed on the original plan. He did not get a 2010 early termination option when he re-signed with Denver. After the Power Trio was launched in Miami, Anthony was left to force his way to a new team and he has won a single playoff series in three seasons with New York.
Now when it appears the Heat's run of success might hit a wall, Anthony's invitation may finally arrive in the mail. Or at least, that's how it's been presented.
So how would this even work? Well, Miami's Power Trio can opt out of their contracts this summer, just like Anthony. James, Bosh and Wade are scheduled to make around $20 million this season if they don't opt out.
Otherwise, Miami's payroll is relatively clear. The Heat will probably keep Norris Cole at $2.15 million (while letting Mario Chalmers walk). Chris Andersen is on the books for $1.5 million, which is a reasonable price.
The tough one is Udonis Haslem, who has a player option worth $4.6 million for next year. Haslem, 34, played a total of three minutes in the first three games of the Finals. Haslem took less money to stay with the Heat in 2010 and there's no way he would get $4.6 million from another team next season.
So would the Heat press Haslem to retire even though he's been a loyal participant going back to the 2006 title team? It would open more cap room if he stepped aside.
If Cole, Andersen and Haslem remain on the payroll, and the salary cap grows to $63 million, as expected, the Heat could split around $52 million between the Big Four. That means $13 million each; $14 million if Miami convinces Haslem to take one for the team.
That means a $7 million pay cut for James, Wade and Bosh. Anyone looking for reasons this won't happen could start there. One alternative would be to get rid of Bosh, but that doesn't seem likely.
The Bulls will need a convincing sales pitch to keep their Anthony dream alive, but compared to the salary he'd have to settle for in Miami, at least the Bulls could beat that. Rose's health is a huge obstacle, obviously, and the Bulls might encourage Anthony to wait around for USA Basketball training camp to begin, where Rose might be able to show signs of his old self.
The Bulls and Knicks will be stressing the longtime sports cliché, "Wouldn't you rather beat them than join them?" After watching the Heat coast through the East for four straight years, Anthony may not agree.
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