Posted Feb 23 2010 11:11AM
The latest from the 2010 free-agent summer of upheaval is that it may not be such an upheaval after all. Some stars suggest the seismic shifts being projected, or feared, will never materialize.
The spending spree almost certainly will take place as scheduled. Only now, players are suggesting that the years of anticipation, hype, analysis and trade talk will end with many of the biggest names staying exactly where they are.
Maybe the players think that because they're better able to survey the landscape this close to the July 1 start date for free agency. Maybe -- and let's not be naïve here -- it's because talking about wanting to put down permanent roots is the proper negotiating tactic and a smart way to keep hometown fans on their side. All very possible.
But no less an expert than Chris Bosh of the Raptors, one of the marquee names about four months away from hitting the market, said, "It can go either way. I think there's going to be a shift anyway because there's a lot of free agents in 2010. But the main guys that everybody talks about, I think it's a very strong possibility. When it comes down to it, that's where you're comfortable, that's where you're from. Well, technically. It's where you started your career. It's always a very important thing."
A very strong possibility exists that few will change addresses.
"Yeah, I think so," Bosh said. "Everybody's making so much hoopla about the whole thing and it probably won't even be that good. It's like a bad movie. You know what I mean? Everybody's, 'Oh, this is coming out, it's coming out.' And then it finally comes out and it's not what you thought it was."
The part about most of these guys spending an entire career in one place is not entirely accurate. For Bosh in Toronto, LeBron James in Cleveland, Dwyane Wade in Miami, Amar'e Stoudemire in Phoenix (if he opts out) -- yes, it's the only NBA home they've known. And in the case of James, a native of nearby Akron, Ohio, it's been the only home. But Atlanta is Joe Johnson's third stop. Utah is the second for Carlos Boozer.
Yet there was Boozer, as recently as a few days ago, saying it is "a great possibility" he will re-sign with the Jazz. Perhaps not as great for the Jazz, who went $32 million into Paul Millsap last summer. And, again, Boozer may be saying all the right things in the name of fan support and keeping the focus on Utah's continued charge up the standings.
Either way, all this is downplaying the image of 2010 as some great summer exodus. (Pressed on what it would take to ensure he stays in Salt Lake City, Boozer was not nearly as overflowing: "I don't know. We'll find out in July. I'm not going to think about that, worry about that. We've still got 20-something games, playoffs, and a whole lot of basketball left. I'll worry about that when the time is right.")
Deron Williams, his Jazz teammate, isn't too worried about it either, perhaps because he's not among the many about to hit the market. But mark him down as another skeptic. "I think it's going to be hard for a lot of guys," Williams said. "I think, really, a lot of guys are going to be stuck where they're at."
No one should be surprised if James re-ups in Cleveland and Wade stays in Miami, and those are the two players with the potential for a concussive double impact. Their signings would be monumental for the destination teams, obviously, and their departures would cripple the teams left behind. No one else could so lift and so ruin at the same time.
More stars staying put would put several teams in a difficult spot after spending years clearing money and begging patience from fans. The clubs could make a major trade with the huge advantage of absorbing contracts into the available cap space, not needing to send equal money in return. Or they could tell customers that the summer of 2011 will be a great time to go shopping, at least better than overpaying a free agent this July or August in a panic purchase.
The analysis and anticipation will continue. It's already increasing, now that the trade deadline has passed and the Knicks and Bulls, among others, have cleared more cap space.
Some players, though, continue to resist the temptation to declare the upcoming summer a season of upheaval.
"Overhyped situations," Bosh said, "never play out the way you think it would."
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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