NBA Free Agency: Battles for LeBron James and Chris Bosh Will Be Crucial

Al Dannity | Thu. Jul 01 2010, 02:07 pm

LeBron is King but where will he hold court? Who will be his ‘princes’? Al Dannity says the free agency battle will be intense but short

Where to for the big stars? Free agency began hours ago and right now all we can say with any certainty is that Dwayne Wade will stay in Miami. The Heat are serious about challenging and Pat Riley has a plan to bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami but getting both is going to be tough. Miami probably is the worst fit for LeBron, despite his great relationship with Dwayne Wade. The King and D-Wade are both phenomenal stars, the best of their generation, but they won’t get the best out of each other when paired up. I see Miami landing at least one big fish but the King won’t be sunning himself in South Beach.

Chicago, Dallas, and even Houston are in the mix for some of the bigger stars but all will wait to see where LeBron goes. Cleveland remains in the hunt but its hopes are fading fast. New Jersey will try to use LeBron’s friendship with Jay-Z, a partial owner of the Nets, and the influence of owner Mikhail Prokhorov to sway the King. The continued delay over the Nets move to Brooklyn however will mean they will miss out.

New York has a plan The Big Apple is normally home of Big Money but the New York Knicks have a plan to lure LeBron by offering him less than the $16.8 million a year he could get elsewhere. Right now the Knicks have enough cap space to sign two free agents and dumping Eddy Curry after next year would allow them to add a third in 2011. New York hasn’t phoned it in for two seasons just to tell its fans to keep waiting for a title. New York is going to offer LeBron, Bosh, and Johnson reduced contracts, of around $11.5 million a year, with the lure of getting a fourth big name on board a year from now. It’s a long shot but the Knicks are counting on being able to sell the potential increased marketability that comes with being in New York.

That won’t be enough to make up for the short-fall in salary but the chance to become legends might do the trick. The Knicks have just two NBA titles but everyone remembers Willis Reed. One title for the trio anywhere else would be a success; one championship in New York would mean immortality. It’s a long shot but one with a huge potential payoff.

Scramble for position The rest of the free agent class can be thankful to LeBron for one thing, he won’t keep them waiting long. The King has insisted on finishing up the process by Monday which should mean a host of teams will be battling it out for a broad array of talent. I expect the homes of Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson to become clear almost as soon as the King signs on the dotted line.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer should get snapped up quickly as well because power forwards are in short supply. Don’t be surprised if both stay at their current homes. The same goes for veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. Moving teams means leaving potentially $30m over the life of a contract on the table. That’s a steep price even for these multimillionaires.