The biggest NBA domino has fallen with LeBron James’ lowercase decision to return to Cleveland.
That’s exactly what the Dallas Mavericks expected to happen when they made their decision to sign Houston Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to a three-year, $46 million offer sheet. The ripples of James’ departure from Miami are expected to cause Chris Bosh to head to Houston.
The Rockets have offered Bosh a max contract of $88 million over four years, but it’s impossible for Houston to sign him to that deal unless they let Parsons leave or pull off an extremely complicated sign-and-trade deal. That’s even if the Rockets get rid of every single player on the roster other than Dwight Howard and James Harden before the 11 p.m. CT deadline Sunday night to match the Mavs’ offer to Parsons.
Houston simply does not have the cap space to squeeze a max deal for Bosh along with the max deals for Howard and Harden with Parsons’ $2.9 million cap hold on the books.
Could the Rockets convince Bosh to sign for slightly less than the max? Sure, that’s possible, but Houston general manager Daryl Morey would still need to make several salary-dump deals to be in position to sign Bosh and keep Parsons.
And Rockets owner Leslie Alexander would have to agree to step into luxury-tax territory with four eight-figure salaries in the starting lineup and the rest of the roster to fill out.
The Rockets also could analyze their financial reality after Parsons refused to be patient and opt just to match his offer and keep last season’s 54-win core together without making a major addition.
Morey has earned a reputation for being one of the NBA’s smartest general managers, especially when it comes to manipulating the salary cap. The pressure is now on him like never before. The Rockets have a little more than two days to make decisions -- and maybe several deals -- that will have a massive impact on the franchise’s future.
All the Mavs can do is wait and continue working alternative scenarios if Houston puts a halt to Plan B.
At least this wait won’t take nearly as long as LeBron’s lowercase decision.