When the clock strikes midnight on the East coast, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey will begin his public pursuit of prized free agent forward Chris Bosh, and try to convince him he can anchor the NBA's next great champion.
This supposed secret ranks up there with the chemical composition of water and the Statue of Liberty's location. What, you still did not know? That South Beach sun might have tanned you and fried your brain all at once.
July 1 marks the first time teams can contact the most talked-about group of eligible bachelors in sports history. Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and others will find suitors aplenty. They'll find a double figure number of squads willing to take the rose...and their laundry, their wildest wish list, and of course, their John Hancock.
If you failed to notice references to potential landing spots in the first three paragraphs, you're as blind as David Stern pretends to be. The build up to this would-be historic summer has been marked by more tampering than the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Stern does not need to wag his finger if he feigns ignorance. The New York Knicks know when and where to meet Chris Bosh days before free agency begins by sheer luck, right? No one in that front office has made overtures or offered blatant signals it wants James to play under the Madison Square Garden lights, right?
I don't see anything here. Do you?
Franchises have spent the last two years preparing for this moment, tiptoeing around the truths they will shout tonight.
We want LeBron! We want D-Wade! We want Bosh! We want Amar'e Stoudemire and Dirk Nowitzki and Carlos Boozer and David Lee, too!
Maybe the Knicks can send Donnie Walsh to the torch of America's most famous statue, where he can pull the final string that unveils Ms. Liberty's own James jersey. If you've seen Ghostbusters II, you know how smelly it gets under that toga. Given that she was clothed during the Grover Cleveland administration, she might welcome an apparel swap.
The Rockets, living in more of a realistic world than Peter Venkman , do not plan to woo James or Wade. They want to pair Bosh with Yao Ming and either Kevin Martin or Joe Johnson.
Bosh is Morey's first, second, third and fourth option. That might rank as a rare Houston advantage in this mad sweepstakes. If he wants to find a new significant other that's all about him, he should look no further than the Rockets.
All Morey needs to complete his sophisticated begging session is a boom box to blare Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Maybe he should also start a kickboxing school for good measure.
As I write this, nine fellow Rockets fans are trekking the south in a Toyota Tundra caravan, hoping the league office soon permits them to rediscover civilization. Their mission: deliver Morey to a meeting with one of Houston's "top free agent targets." That, of course, means Bosh.
Something caused the Rockets' brass to alter its pitch early this morning, and I have a feeling the unwelcome news might involve their dream roster addition.
Morey has spent much of his recent time in a behind the scenes capacity, crunching numbers and gathering statistical data he can use to persuade Bosh that the Rockets give him the best chance to win now.
In a Tuesday press conference convened to announce that Yao had opted in to the final year of his deal, Morey seemed to take a swipe at the Heat's plan to lure as many as three max players to Miami. That approach would force Pat Riley to fill out his roster with minimum salary leftovers.
Those teams, Morey seemed to say, do not win championships.
Even as rumors continue to suggest Bosh has not even considered the Rockets as a possibility, the team remains dogged in its pursuit. Houston does have a shot but not much of one.
That free-agent caravan may end up dropping off Morey at the intersection of Hopeless and More Hopeless streets. A team that has not hoisted a banner since the mid-90s should know that spot well.
I'm here to let Morey, dazed fans and other Houstonians in on a real secret. If Bosh does indeed spurn the Rockets, none of them should weep. Cancel the pity parties and those dreaded, manic-depressive "what's wrong with me" discussions.
Not much is wrong with the Rockets. A lot is wrong with Bosh. Morey will come at the Toronto Raptors forward armed with stats that might make a touted mathematics professor's head spin. Allow me to give you the one number that matters most. You don't need an MIT degree to understand it.
In seven NBA seasons, Bosh's resume boasts three playoff wins. Not three series. Three games. In the thinner-than-Kate-Moss Eastern Conference, his Raptors managed to beat the Orlando Magic once and the post-Finals New Jersey Nets twice.
And teams are lining up to give this guy a maximum contract?
Write it down. Live it. Know it. Educate yourself. The franchise that does earn the right to hand him a $96 million or $120 million deal (he gets the $120 million one if he re-signs with Toronto or departs via sign and trade) will regret it as soon as next season.
James and Wade have proven they can carry a championship-level load. Wade hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2006. Hoops execs and owners should only dole out max money for players who fit the above profile.
Bosh is a marvelous talent, an athlete with superb skill and sterling individual averages. He isn't, nor will he ever be, the player that leads a franchise to glory.
He sits closer to Pau Gasol than Tim Duncan or Shaquille O'Neal. Gasol can carry the Lakers on many nights because Kobe Bryant alleviates him of the pressure to carry them every night, as he tried to do unsuccessfully in Memphis.
The above truth should not be construed as an insult. Gasol already ranks as Hall of Fame material in my book. He has become the Lakers' indispensable championship key.
Maybe with the right team, the right mix of star power and a capable supporting cast, Bosh can become that. He's not on that level now.
I do realize that he started alongside the likes of Rafael Araujo , Pape Sow and Eric Williams. James, in the Cavaliers lone Finals sojourn, shared court time with Sasha Pavlovic . Jason Williams has a ring thanks to Wade's spectacular efforts in 2006.
Under Bosh's supposed leadership, the Raptors have been a relative constant—one of the league's five worst defensive teams, one of its most predictable outfits on the offensive end and a frequent Secaucus attendee.
Only in 2006-2007 did the Raptors manage to "overachieve " their way to 47 wins. That one season of hope earned Sam Mitchell Coach of the Year honors and Bryan Colangelo top executive honors.
Mitchell was fired in the 2008-2009 season, the day after Toronto lost by 30-something in Utah. The game was more of a blowout than the final score indicated.
Most see Bosh's career averages of 20 points, nine rebounds, and a block as evidence of his inside greatness. He ranks as Toronto's all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks, double-doubles and free throws made and attempted.
I would never argue against his talent. He has it in spades. I question his toughness, his resolve and whether his arrival in Houston would suddenly make the concerns surrounding Yao moot.
The Rockets are indeed on the right track. Owner Leslie Alexander spends money anytime Morey asks him to do so. He spent about $9 million in the 2009 NBA Draft to acquire three picks. Two of those became potential rotation fixtures Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger .
Morey found a potential All-Star in Aaron Brooks with the No. 26 pick. Instead of gutting the roster a la Walsh in New York, he has piled up assets, many of which might entice Colangelo once free agency begins.
The Knicks' cap space will not help the Raptors rebuild. The Rockets can offer athletes that would instantly make an impact in Toronto, plus some nifty draft selections.
If Colangelo can unearth gems the way Morey has, he could have the Raptors winning at a respectable clip in a year or two.
I like Bosh's personality. I do not want want him to hate me. He seems like a nice guy with a terrific sense of humor. A clever YouTube video in which he stumped for All-Star votes, however, had little to do with his team's wins and losses.
Bosh increases the Rockets' already-brimming talent level. Given the uncertainty surrounding Yao's ability to stay on the floor (five major injuries in five consecutive seasons), can Morey make any guarantees?
The sqaud won more than expected sans Yao because most of the core players wear hats as hard as titanium steel. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry, to whom the Rockets extended qualifying offers, cannot compete in a lower gear.
Shane Battier prepares for one defensive assignment like a dedicated high school student prepares for the SAT.
The roster, as constructed, will not soon win a title. It can, however, snag more than 50 victories and triumph in a round or two.
How much Bosh could change that trajectory remains to be seen.
Alexander yearns to make a big splash this summer because he knows how the casual Houston sports fan operates. Spectators come out in force to support a winner, or a squad projected to compete for a title. They respond to mediocrity with indifference and more mediocrity.
Have you seen Minute Maid Park lately? The Houston Astros have a lot of green fans. Or are those just empty seats?
Alexander wants to be viewed as one of the owners who went all-in to importune a star talent in a summer packed with them.
The fan caravan, which features members of the "Red Rowdies," speaks well of his willingness to spend what it takes. He will get good publicity from this stunt, even if the Rockets lose out on their target man.
He deserves it. Morey, too, merits praise for how he has reshaped the roster since it became apparent the Yao-Tracy McGrady experiment would never work as intended.
The interior options after Bosh, since Stoudemire does not seem to be one, decrease immediately in sex appeal.
Nothing says "2010-2011 Champions" quite like fetching Brad Miller. Sorry, Brad, I promise I don't hate you, either.
Miller can provide a veteran squad with 15-20 solid minutes of board work and a fantastic locker room presence. His acquisition would not have fans flocking back to the Toyota Center the way they filled The Summit/Compaq Center during the Hakeem Olajuwon years.
Bosh would create a buzz not heard here since 2004. We're still waiting, Tracy, for that special thing to happen. Maybe that special thing was your departure.
I like Bosh enough to give him a chance to star on a contender, but I wouldn't call him a panacea.
He cannot fix the broken but talented Rockets just by donning a uniform. When that clock strikes midnight and Stern removes his imaginary blindfold, Morey, and perhaps that throng of passionate, vociferous fans will want to head to wherever Bosh is to make a long-shot pitch.
If he somehow says "yes," and Morey's dream scenario plays out, I will applaud the effort and will give Bosh every chance to prove me wrong.
However, if he turns his back abruptly and says "yeah, whatever," as rumors suggest he will, the Rockets should do the same.
If Morey wants to know what he just lost out on, he should look up the Associated Press article in which Colangelo concedes Bosh will "likely leave ." That sounds to me like a GM determined to keep his marquee star.
Morey should also search for desperate songs recorded by Toronto fans that plead with him to stay. There aren't any.
Cleveland Cavalier followers penned a "please stay" ditty for James to the tune of "We Are the World." James has led the Cavs to consecutive 60-plus win campaigns, an NBA Finals berth , and scores of national television appearances.
They will lose everything if he signs elsewhere. There won't be a discernable "Life after LeBron."
Life after Bosh? The Raptors cannot fall further the bottom.