Why It's Foolish to Read into Miami Heat Big 3 Free Agency Speculation

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

Mar 24, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (left) and teammate center Chris Bosh (right) during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 93-91.  Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Taking NBA players at their word is a dangerous proposition, least of all when they have every incentive to tell you exactly what you want to hear. That should caution any belief in Chris Bosh's claim that he and LeBron James will both remain with the Miami Heat next season.

So should common sense.

We can all take our guesses as to how Bosh knows about James' plans, but we should also know better. LeBron would be crazy to tell Bosh he's open to opting out this summer. In turn, Bosh would be crazy to tell the media anything that stands even a remote chance of creating the wrong kind of buzz.

The Heat—who've failed to catch up to the Indiana Pacers despite the latter's recent struggles—have enough of the wrong buzz. Can they reclaim their form? Have three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals worn this team out? Has the rest of the NBA simply caught on?

With Miami gearing up for another attempted run to the Finals, what else is Bosh going to say? Especially when constrained to "true or false" response per his interview on the The Dan Le Batard Show. Without the opportunity to say something generic like "We're just focused on right now," Bosh had few options.

"False" certainly wasn't one of them.

That doesn't mean he was lying—necessarily. But if James and/or Bosh decide to keep their options open this summer, we'll be reminded that minds can change. That's the diplomatic way of putting it. 

No one in Miami wants to hear the truth, and no one really knows what the truth is. When asked about his future in February, James conceded that he won't begin focusing on that future until after the season's over. And that's par for the course when dealing with talent of his stature. There's no need for James to make any commitments before he absolutely has to.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 14: Shane Battier #31 of the Miami Heat reacts to a play during a game against the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Arena on March 14, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading a
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

No need to count the Los Angeles Lakers out until he's heard their pitch.

Things change quickly in this league, and those who've followed James' career closely should know. His overstated promises to the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to haunt him, as did his playful guarantee to win a whole bunch of titles in Miami. The older, wiser LeBron has carefully avoided those kinds of sound bites.

And for good reason. The Heat are just as susceptible to implosion as any NBA phenomenon. Much as it seems that all the pieces are still in place, a serious injury to one of Dwyane Wade's knees could immediately change that. 

Even the failure to win another title could give James (and Bosh) some pause. Can Miami reload on the role-player front? With Shane Battier nearing futility and Michael Beasley playing the kind of defense he's always played, you have to wonder about this club's depth going forward.

Are Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole going to get any better? Does Udonis Haslem have another quality season left in him? Can Miami afford to keep Ray Allen's nearly 40-year-old defense on the floor?

You don't have to be a pessimist to ask those kinds of questions. You just have to be someone like LeBron James—a realist, a winner and a guy who had opt-out clauses built into his contract for a reason.

If the Big Three undergo some kind of diaspora this summer, it won't be their fault. James, Wade and Bosh have remained a fearsome trio, and they can continue contending if surrounded by the right pieces. But finding those pieces will become harder and harder. The reality of the salary cap places a ceiling on the organization's ability to import the right talent on a yearly basis.

Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

And the reality of the NBA is that there are other options for cheaply-had free agents. That's why the Los Angeles Clippers picked up Glen Davis and Danny Granger halfway through the season. Guys like Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are draws in their own rights.

It's also why Caron Butler went to the Oklahoma City Thunder after parting ways with the Milwaukee Bucks. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are unquestionably the next generation of talent magnets.

Playing for Phil Jackson's New York Knicks will look more and more intriguing as well, to say nothing of whatever becomes of all the Lakers' cap space. 

Joining up with Miami's Big Three isn't the only path to a championship, and aging veterans know it. Miami's appeal to ring-chasers hasn't been compromised—it's just found some competition. Without any guarantee the future will bring more Mike Millers, Shane Battiers and Ray Allens, we should fully expect James and Bosh to take wait-and-see approaches.

The New York Daily News' Frank Isola cited a source this March claiming Miami's brass "are not convinced that James will stay," and Bosh's most recent proclamation is unlikely to change their minds. 

Should James decide to stick around for another year, things may get even murkier. Is he just biding his time until the Knicks have cap space in 2015? That speculation has already begun, and it's sure to continue in the event James remains in Miami for the time being. 

If he remains in Miami.