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Does Bosh hold the key?

7/3/2010

For the last two days there's been an intense focus on the courting of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

We've all covered, breathlessly, how teams are wooing James in Akron and Wade in Chicago.

LeBron and D-Wade have heard from rap mogul Jay-Z (part-owner of the Nets) and seen presentations from the Knicks promising them a future as a billionaire in the Big Apple. 'Bron has even held Heat president Pat Riley's championship rings (Wade already has one of his own).

Wade's second meeting last night with the Bulls combined with LeBron's meetings with the Bulls and Cavs in Cleveland today have the rumors flying at a fever pitch. And with the meetings coming to an end, both players are actively sorting out their options to determine their future and influence the path of the remaining free agents.

But both LeBron and Wade may be on hold, because it might be that for them to decide where they are going, first they need for Chris Bosh to decide what he wants to do.

All indications I’m receiving are that LeBron and Wade, respectively, each want to be paired with Bosh on whichever team they join, seeing the big man as an ideal complement on a contending team.

As we’ve reported, the three players are interested in playing together. But no team is currently in a position to sign all three without asking each player to take a pay cut. The Heat seem to have the best shot of clearing the cap space to give all three the max, but until they find a home for Michael Beasley, they just don't have the room to do it. So unless LeBron, Wade and/or Bosh takes a big pay cut, it's unlikely all three can play together. And in that case, Bosh's decision becomes even more critical, because he might be choosing between LeBron and Wade.

The pertinent questions regarding Bosh seem to be the following: Is he as committed to LeBron as LeBron is to him? Would he prefer to join Wade? Is he hoping it works out that all three of them can play together? Or will he go in a different direction, with teams like the Rockets and perhaps the Lakers interested in him? How critical is it to him that he get the largest possible contract, which can happen only if he stays in Toronto or leaves via sign-and-trade?

The Cavs, Bulls, Heat, Knicks and Nets are among the teams that have all been working to figure out how to acquire Bosh from the Raptors in a deal in which Toronto would sign-and-trade Bosh to Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, New York or New Jersey. But in the meantime, Bosh’s intentions remain unclear, as he’s been “hard to read,” according to one team executive.

Which way is Bosh leaning? The evidence at this point is mostly mixed and circumstantial. Bosh went to dinner on Thursday night in Chicago with Wade and afterward tweeted, "Just had dinner w @dwadeofficial. Great way to end day 1 of #freeagency although it feels like someone is missing." Many believe that the tweet referred to LeBron, but that’s only an educated guess.

If Bosh is insisting that he get a full max contract via a sign-and-trade, it might be that he’s holding up the whole process, especially as Toronto president Bryan Colangelo is taking a tough stance in trade discussions, demanding either a star player or cap space (via a trade exception) and draft picks. Colangelo is very reluctant to take back players like Bulls forward Luol Deng or Heat forward Michael Beasley as part of any deal, complicating sign-and-trade options. And as J.A. Adande reports, the Raptors are losing interest in a Bosh sign-and-trade, according to a source.

So while we focus on Wade, who appears to have Chicago and Miami in his sights, and LeBron, who seems to be considering Cleveland, Chicago and New Jersey, it’s another player who might hold the key.

What does CB4 want? What will he settle for? Find the answers to those questions and you may solve the free agent puzzle of 2010.