MIAMI — Chris Bosh wants to contend for a championship. Dwyane Wade wants some star-powered help.
The simplest solution, apparently, was for them to team up in Miami.
A person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Bosh decided to join the Heat and play alongside Wade, another All-Star free agent. Bosh told Wade it was “definite,” says the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because no contracts had been signed and no one authorized the person to reveal the decision publicly.
Still unclear, however, is this: Whether Miami’s acquisition of Bosh will come through a simple free-agent signing or a sign-and-trade deal with the Toronto Raptors.
ESPN first reported Bosh’s decision.
Bosh and Wade are friends, were Olympic teammates on the gold-medal team in Beijing, dined together at times during the free-agent interview process last week in Chicago and were part of that star-studded draft class in 2003 — Bosh went fourth, Wade fifth.
Now all eyes turn to the No. 1 pick in that class, LeBron James. The two-time MVP plans to say which team he’ll play for next on ESPN Thursday night.
Bosh, Wade and James have talked about playing together. If that plan is to be truly hatched, it would have to happen in Miami.
Henry Thomas, the agent for both Bosh and Wade, did not return calls or e-mails early Wednesday from the AP. Calls to Wade and two representatives for the 2006 NBA finals MVP also were not returned.
Bosh and Wade could formally become teammates as soon as Thursday, when the NBA moratorium on signing contracts expires. Under NBA rules, the Heat cannot confirm any contracts until 12:01 a.m. Thursday, although players are allowed to agree to deals before the signing window opens.
“I have nothing official from anyone,” Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a text message to the AP.
The Raptors do have several sign-and-trade options from teams interested in acquiring Bosh, who averaged career-bests of 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds last season for Toronto.
Wade said when free agency began that he would likely only stay in Miami if the Heat lured either Bosh or LeBron James to South Florida.
Miami came into the free-agent period with around $44 million of cap space, not including $16 million or so earmarked for Wade, thanks to years of avoiding just about any deal where money would have been committed for the 2010-11 season.
“We want to build a dynasty,” Heat president Pat Riley had told fans entering free agency.
Bosh and Wade would be a pretty good start.
The Heat lack the salary-cap space to give Bosh, Wade and James all the maximum amounts they would be entitled to receive in their next contracts, so what would likely happen — again, if the scenario came together — would be each player agreeing to take a bit less in base salary for 2010-11 than they could have made elsewhere.
Miami does have the room to give Bosh and Wade max deals, although would still have to do some bargain-shopping to fill its roster for the coming year. As of Wednesday morning, Miami had only Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers under contract for 2010-11.
The expectation around the Heat for months — for years, really — was that Wade would have a flirtation with free agency, then return to Miami for a six-year contract that could have been worth around $125 million, maybe a bit more or less depending on what the salary cap number for the coming 2010-11 season is.
Wade fed that assumption, saying countless times that he wanted to stay in Miami if the roster was upgraded to a championship-contending level. That rather ambiguous caveat took a more exact shape in recent days, and the Heat were clearly on edge when Wade took two meetings with the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team.
Days later, Wade will be apparently able to say he got what he wanted all along.