Recent momentum has made it appear ever-likely that LeBron James and Chris Bosh will spurn the Miami Heat in free agency for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, respectively. Pat Riley, though, doesn’t seem worried – he’s confident the Big Three he assembled four years ago will ultimately return to South Beach.
Jeff Zilgitt and Sam Amick of USA TODAY report that the Heat’s Godfather is undeterred by the interest James and Bosh have in other destinations and remains confident they’ll re-sign with Miami.
This much is clear: Riley is confident James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will return, according to people who have had phone conversations with Riley in the last week. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversations.
Speculation that James will sign with the Cavaliers has ramped-up in the past 48 hours due to a combination of legitimately sourced intel and typical internet frenzy. Bosh, meanwhile, is said to be considering a maximum contract offer from the Rockets after it was previously reported that he’d prefer such a deal to staying with the Heat for a sizable pay-cut.
But Riley’s supposed confidence isn’t the only recent noise suggesting both players are more likely to re-up with Miami than the surface indicates. LeBron will meet with Riley and Heat representatives in Las Vegas as soon as today, and Bosh still wants to play with James for the Heat.
And though Miami’s agreements with Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger yesterday aren’t the huge free agency splashes for which it was hoping, both are ideal fits for the Heat from on-court and financial perspectives. And McRoberts not only accepted his new deal with a belief LeBron will be his teammate, but James was aware Riley and company were pursuing him, too.
No guarantees made, but Danny Granger/Josh McRoberts committed to Heat w/ strong belief LeBron James will be a teammate, sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 7, 2014
Heat strike deals with Josh McRoberts and, according to @WojYahooNBA, Danny Granger. LeBron, I’m told, was made aware of McRoberts pursuit
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 7, 2014
Of course, this is all conjecture until James or Bosh agrees with the Heat or another team. Their insistence – along with Wade’s – to be paid at market value or close to it while remaining in Miami has limited the flexibility Riley needs to add the caliber of players they supposedly want. McRoberts and Granger are nice complementary pieces, but hardly Luol Deng or Pau Gasol, let alone Carmelo Anthony.
The decision that James and Bosh have to make is whether or not each has a better chance to win at his potential destination than he does his previous one. It’s an choice easier for the latter – Bosh likely won’t leave the Heat if LeBron stays in South Beach. But the idea of playing with talented young players like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins might seem a better big-picture option for James, especially considering his family’s well-known affinity for nearby Akron.
Any team with LeBron will be a contender, but there’s differing levels of legitimacy to that distinction. Are McRoberts, Granger, and Miami’s realistic future additions enough for the Heat to be something close to championship favorites? And are Irving, Wiggins, and the Cavaliers currently good enough to be the same?
Those are the questions James is asking himself, and Riley is confident he’s surest of the former.
Will the Big Three re-sign with the Heat?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.