Why the Houston Rockets Need LeBron James to Make a Decision ASAP

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 5: LeBron James #6 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat looks on against the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals on June 5, 2014 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey may not be the only one awaiting LeBron James' decision, but his stake in it is more urgent than most.

That's because his organization is pursuing free agent Chris Bosh, James' teammate since 2010. 

According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, "If James does leave Miami, Chris Bosh's intention is to also leave the Heat, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Bosh has been speaking with the Houston Rockets, who are prepared to clear enough cap room to offer him a four-year, $88 million contract."

Sounds like a perfect Plan B for Bosh, but it's not quite that simple.

Morey can thank Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for that. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports, "Restricted free agent Chandler Parsons has signed an offer sheet from the Dallas Mavericks for a three-year deal worth in excess of $45 million."

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL  27: Wesley Matthews #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers reaches in on Chandler Parsons #25 of the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Per Stein: "The Rockets will have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday to match the offer or lose Parsons."

Should Morey's Rockets match that offer, they will no longer have the cap space to sign Bosh—unless, of course, they sign Bosh between now and 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday. Therein lies the need for James to act quickly.

The tight rope Houston walks is this: Winding up with both Parsons and Bosh requires Morey to sign Bosh before matching Parsons' offer. Once that offer is matched, the cap space allotted to Bosh goes away.

The Rockets are ambitiously aiming for a home run here.

As the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen notes, "If they can get Bosh, they would keep Parsons, too, a person with knowledge of their thinking said."

It seems unlikely that Bosh would agree to terms with Houston until he's completely certain James is leaving Miami (presumably for the Cleveland Cavaliers). So if James makes his decision between now and the deadline for matching Parsons' offer, that will create the clarity Bosh needs to say "yes' or "no" to Houston's deal.

As if that isn't complicated enough, the Rockets may in fact have additional orders of business in the interim—beyond trading Jeremy Lin to clear cap space.

Talk about a roster makeover.

All told, it's a steep price to pay for Bosh—both financially and in terms of personnel.

But Morey isn't the type to shy away from bold moves. He pulled the trigger on the deal that brought James Harden to Houston and signed All-Star center Dwight Howard a summer later. With Bosh having proved that he can succeed as a complementary star in Miami, bringing him aboard makes a lot of sense.

After Houston's first-round ouster to the Portland Trail Blazers, Morey vowed to make this team better.

Bosh would go a long way toward that title pursuit.

The 30-year-old Texas native averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds last season, but it was the evolution of his perimeter game that drew the most attention. Bosh made 33.9 percent of his 2.8 three-point attempts per game. That figure spiked to 40.5 percent during the postseason.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15: Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat looks to shoot against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A big man who can shoot does wonders for floor spacing, drawing larger defenders out of the paint and creating room in the post for Howard to operate, along with lanes to the basket for Harden.

Going after Bosh is a no-brainer for Houston. And it's not the first time it's tried to acquire him. Morey went to great lengths in 2010 to recruit Bosh, even making his way to Florida only to find out Bosh was instead in Dallas.

The problem now is that Houston doesn't have much time in which to operate. Even if it learned Bosh was returning to Miami, that would at least free Morey to pursue another free-agent addition or two before matching Parsons' offer.

That might not be the ideal scenario, but it would work.

The bottom line is that once it comes time to decide on Parsons, Houston will either have to say goodbye to those Bosh hopes or find itself in something of a lurch. Parsons' payday—once it officially arrives—will occupy Houston's cap space and close the door on signing any external talent of note (cap exceptions could still net smaller names).

Then there's the scenario in which Houston loses out on both Bosh and Parsons, and it isn't pretty.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey is swinging for the fences once again.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey is swinging for the fences once again.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Feigen explains:

If the Rockets do not land Bosh and choose to let Parsons leave, they could still carve out the cap room planned for Bosh and try to sign Parsons’ replacement into that space. They have been in talks with representatives of Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng and Paul Pierce, though the signings of Parsons and Gordon Hayward is expected to raise the market price for Deng and Ariza.

Deng and Ariza both have their merits, but neither offers the long-term upside that Parsons brings to the table. More to the point, coming away with a Plan B small forward pales in comparison to the ideal scenario in which Parsons is attained and Bosh is acquired.

So this isn't just an urgent situation—it's also a high-stakes situation.

It may very well determine whether Houston contends anytime soon.

And it all starts with LeBron.

One can certainly understand why Bosh is waiting him out. A return to Miami wouldn't be nearly as appealing without the best player on the planet around. The Heat—should they remain intact—would have the opportunity to make another run at a championship. There's familiarity in Miami, a proven commodity—all things Bosh can't leave behind without good reason.

James leaving first would be precisely such a reason.

Accordingly, Houston isn't just pining for a quick decision from James. It's hoping that decision involves an iconic return to Cleveland.

For entirely selfish—and perfectly understandable—reasons.


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