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Art Garcia

Despite what the rumor mill says, Chris Bosh joining the Chicago Bulls is not a done deal.
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Bosh not set on Bulls; Dallas aims to lock up Nowitzki

Posted Jun 27 2010 7:45PM

Chris Bosh hasn't decided on signing with Chicago or any other team, his agent told on Sunday. A report out of New York said the soon-to-be Toronto free agent was leaning towards joining the Bulls, along with LeBron James.

"Completely untrue," Bosh's agent Henry Thomas told via email. "He hasn't decided anything."

James has apparently decided, according to various outlets, to host potential suitors in Ohio once free agency officially opens Thursday. In addition to meeting with Cleveland, the five outside hopefuls believed to be visiting LeBron on his turf are New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Dallas is working feverishly to get into that mix, a league source confirmed to Sunday. The Mavericks are hopelessly over the cap, unlike those other five teams, but that hasn't dampened the front office's enthusiasm for taking a swing at LeBron.

Mark Cuban's club does have its ducks in a row to be aggressive in free agency and the trade market, even with a luxury-tax payroll. Among the chips Cuban can leverage: Erick Dampier's full unguaranteed contact for $13 million next season, Caron Butler's expiring deal for $10.6 million, a promising young talent in Roddy Beaubois, draft picks and his own wallet.

But before the Mavericks seriously entertain thoughts of signing the most-coveted free agent in league history, they need to keep the best player in franchise history in the fold. Dallas officials are prepared for Dirk Nowitzki to opt out of his contract this week, forgoing $21.5 million next season.

Nowitzki would then be eligible to sign a new four-year deal with the Mavericks for up to $96 million. An extension of his current contract is also on the table, but team sources concede that Nowitzki opting out is inevitable.

The other overwhelming feeling within the organization is the Mavericks' franchise leading man won't be a full-fledged member of the star-studded Class of 2010. The former MVP is joining LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer and the rest of the most-anticipated free agent collection ever in name only.

If all goes according to Dallas' plan on Thursday, Nowitzki won't be wined and dined by anyone other than those representing the only franchise he's ever played for. Once a deal with Nowitzki is in place, the Mavericks can precede full bore in what is shaping up to be a summer of major retooling, with or without LeBron.

Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson said the sales pitch to Nowitzki will be concise and to the point.

"That we're committed to winning and winning it all," said Nelson, the principal force in scouting and engineering the draft-night trade for Nowitzki in 1998. "He already knows that.

"There's also a personal side in this being his home for the last 12 years. We don't have to lay that out for him. We've been in the same foxhole the last 12 years, and he knows all there is to know about this city and our franchise."

Nowitzki isn't without options, even if he's determined to negotiate exclusively with Dallas and forgo overtures from NBA ports with money to spend. He can sign new four-year deal for as much $96 million, securing the maximum amount available under the current terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

On the other hand, an extension of up to four years would go into effect next summer and would be subject to the new CBA. That could conceivably include rollbacks and lower max salaries. Signing a new deal now more than likely grandfathers Nowitzki into the current salary rules. (Nowitzki can sign with a new team for up to four years and $93 million.)

But Nowitzki doesn't have to max out. He could choose a more modest contract, by superstar standards, with the thought being it would help Cuban's bottom line and help strengthen the roster. Nowitzki and Cuban have forged a unique player-owner relationship over the last decade, and each remains committed to bringing a title to Dallas.

Perhaps Nowitzki decides to aid that quest not only through his play but with his next contract. Any financial flexibility Cuban can gain through whatever millions are saved on Nowitzki's contract, even for a team over the cap, will undoubtedly be used.

Nowitzki can also include a no-trade clause in his next contract. He's repeatedly said his preference is to finish his NBA career in Dallas and a no-trade provision would go a long way to assuring he never wears another uniform.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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