The NBA offseason has brought many changes to rosters, coaching staffs, and the list of championship contenders. As we draw closer to opening night, it’s time to move our focus from the potential impact of each offseason event and onto the broader issues that figure to define this season. The BDL 25 takes stock of, uh, 25 key storylines to get you up to speed on where the most fascinating teams, players, and people stand on the brink of 2016-17.
The saddest part about all this? Chris Bosh’s career outlook remains as hazy in the late summer of 2016 as it did in 2015. Because once you’ve included phrases like “blood clots,” “blood thinners” and “health fears,” you tend to hit a saturation point. Yes, we’ve learned quite a bit about Chris Bosh’s intentions, and his work in 2015-16 was All-Star caliber, but at some point this stopped being a story about basketball.
[Follow Dunks Don’t Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Chris Bosh, for months, has been trying to change that. You’ll recall that recently he released a series of videos documenting his hoped-for return to the court. That visual evidence ran hand in hand with a social and mainstream media blitz that also included his wife Adrienne discussing Bosh’s intentions to return to action in 2016-17 as if everything was back to normal.
As if this was still a basketball story.
Rather than preaching patience, as Heat executives both on record and off have in the months since both Bosh’s season-ending call in February of 2015 and his frighteningly similar follow-up in February of this year, Heat owner Micky Arison hopped on Twitter to wish his franchise player the best of luck in returning to camp.
In doing so, he became the first member of the Heat to acknowledge that Bosh will be joining the team in training camp, which will commence in the Bahamas (following player physicals) on Sept. 27:
— Micky Arison (@MickyArison) August 31, 2016
This stands in semi-opposition to Heat president Pat Riley’s declaration that Bosh’s status was “fluid” and that the big man remained an “X-factor” as the team stared down yet another offseason spent wondering about Chris Bosh’s place in the basketball world.
And, cynically, whether or not the Heat wants Chris Bosh to push his way back into active play.
You’ll recall that the Heat could work their way into all manner of insurance and NBA collective bargaining agreement-aided options regarding Bosh’s remaining contract with the team once the one-year anniversary of his last game (played on Feb. 9 of this year) hits. Bosh is owed over $23.7 million this season and over $52 million in two campaigns following, but the cost of doing business with Bosh (who signed a contract extension with the team in 2014) wouldn’t be the impetus.
Salary cap flexibility (again, cynically) would be.
All of which once again leaves the Heat with myriad options as the franchise attempts to delicately balance the best interest of their beloved long-time star with the (heretofore undeserved) image that they could be champing at the bit to ease Bosh into a medical retirement.
Any accusations regarding the latter would be quite unfair, despite Riley’s cautious words. And despite his history of doing whatever it takes to secure extra cap space – from declining to bid heavily for Dwyane Wade this year to Anthony Carter in 2003 to Alonzo Mourning in 1996.
Ira Winderman, at the Sun-Sentinel, wrapped up the latest in Miami’s attempts to balance the inherently knotty:
The Heat previously had indicated concern about Bosh either playing while on blood thinners, or the All-Star forward moving off anti-clotting medication to return to the court.
The NBA serves a consulting role within the league’s concussion policy, with the uniqueness of the Bosh case likely to eventually lend itself to league inspection as well, regardless of the Heat either signing off on a Bosh return or expressing reservations regarding Bosh.
“This is going to come to a head at some point,” a party familiar with the situation said of league involvement, prior to Arison’s Twitter post.
If anything, it’s almost miraculous that it hasn’t come to that point already.
It’s an odd word to use, but both the Heat and Bosh have been blessed in a way to have the confluence of a long offseason and the team’s middling Eastern Conference prospects allow for some buffer time. Once it became obvious that Kevin Durant wasn’t listing the Heat as a potential free agent destination and that Dwyane Wade (who signed with Chicago in July) wasn’t keen on a third-straight salary acquiescence, the Heat were again blessed in an odd way with another summer spent in purgatory.
The potential Bosh vs. Heat showdown could involve several different timestamps.
To start, there will be the pre-training camp physicals. Team doctors, working without influence from the basketball personnel side of the curtain, could sign off on the idea that recurring blood clot issues or the as-yet-untested plan to take prescribed blood thinners eight-to-10 hours before a scheduled game (with the presumption that the thinners would wear off prior to tipoff) is too risky to sign off on. Reasonable fears, all.
If the Heat do give the green light to Bosh’s return, his potential 10th game of the season could prove burdensome.
If Chris plays fewer than double-digit games in 2016-17, the Heat will have the option to knock his salary off the books via medical retirement either 60 days after his final game of 2016-17, or a year following that Feb. 9 2016 performance. The Heat and Bosh could talk a good game through camp, the exhibition season (preseason games do not count toward that game total) and the beginning of the season, but once Nov. 15 hits, things could get tricky.
Nasty-level tricky. Coming to a head, as it were.
We should remind that Chris Bosh will receive the whole of the three years and nearly $76 million owed to him, so it isn’t as if he’s fighting for his career just to take in the scrills. There is a genuine drive to play NBA basketball again in this instance, and the Heat have the unenviable task of looking out for their superstar’s best interests in terms of health while swearing up and down that any hesitation has nothing to do with clearing over $25 million from its cap in order to chase down free agents in 2017.
Outside of the presence of the frightening aspects regarding Chris Bosh’s health, this should be a win-win. Despite the sustained dip in rebounding that has been in place since he took to Miami in 2010, Bosh remains a fantastic player and franchise cornerstone even at age 32.
The Heat are looking out for his long-term future, and if the independent and team doctors align in their thinking, a good-to-go Chris Bosh would seemingly continue apace as an All-Star with Miami in 2016-17. Even as the team stares down its first season without Dwyane Wade since 2002-03, when Malik Allen and Brian Grant manned the team’s starting frontcourt.
Instead, in spite of Micky Arison mollifying any worries about Bosh’s training camp status with his tweet, to some the team is stuck looking like it wants Chris’ medical reports to return full of red ink and roadblocks. Which is a shame, because nobody has any reason to believe that the Heat want Chris Bosh to move on. Remember: Pat Riley is a competitor. The guy may have thought he could re-sign LeBron James this summer. Bosh’s salary, however dear, probably doesn’t look like much of a millstone to him.
There can’t help but be an eventual showdown. One can only hope, as Micky Arison’s tweet suggests, that the presumptive standoff will turn out to be uneventful.
This has to end well. Please.
– – – – – – –