Posted Feb 9 2010 10:27AM
The big event in Dallas on Sunday isn't one of those postseason high school All-America basketball showcases where teenagers are slobbered with attention, have their egos constantly inflated and hear sweet nothings whispered into their ears ... although for a half-dozen players in the NBA All-Star Game, it'll seem that way.
That's because this is more than just an All-Star weekend. This will be one big recruiting convention. At least behind the scenes. The full-court press will be applied to certain players. They'll be pulled aside, nudged, winked at, told how great they are and, above all, hear some serious sales pitches. And it won't be a shady character in sunglasses trying to seduce these players.
The recruiting will come from other players. Fellow All-Stars, actually.
With the biggest and most lucrative free-agent pool ever approaching this summer, don't think players won't discuss potential deals and dream matchups while in Dallas. Really: Wouldn't you love to be the miniature microphone on the locker room wall in the Eastern Conference dressing room, when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh -- all free to travel and sign elsewhere come July 1 -- gather for some informal chit-chat?
This wouldn't be the first time players spoke to each other about free agency. With texting and e-mail, nothing prevents them from exchanging thoughts and strategy. And several of these free agents were teammates last summer in Beijing for the Olympics, where they admitted to fantasizing about being on the same NBA team. There's no rule against players getting together and dreaming out loud.
There will be wish-you-were-here postcards mailed to Carlos Boozer, David Lee, Ray Allen and Manu Ginobili. They won't take part in any All-Star free-agent summits because they're not playing in the game and therefore are unlikely to be in Dallas. And while Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki will play in the game, they'll be excused from any discussions because nobody believes they'll opt out and sign anywhere except with the Lakers and Mavericks.
But several 1-on-1 talks could take place in backrooms and hallways. These are the most likely:
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. This would be the basketball equivalent of Steven Spielberg sipping tea with Oprah. Or Bill Gates talking with Warren Buffet. Or Jay-Z and Lil Wayne. Whatever. It doesn't get bigger than 'Bron and D-Wade and the potential for a present-day Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. West and Baylor never won anything together (Baylor retired before the great Laker team of 1971-72 won it all), but a Bron-Wade combo could revolutionize the league and energize a franchise. That franchise would have to be Miami, since the Cavaliers don't have cap room for Wade. Signing with the Heat would be more enticing for Bron than the Knicks, but the odds still favor him staying with the Cavs. And if Cleveland wins the championship in June, then Wade could offer all the key lime pie he wants. Won't matter.
Wade and Chris Bosh. Now this is a conversation that could last a few hours. Miami has cap room, a superstar and Michael Beasley. Wade will not-so-gently cite today's temperature in Miami and Toronto. Or if he really wants to be convincing, Wade could bring his championship ring to Dallas and polish it in front of Bosh. (Speaking of temperatures, that would be cold.) Bosh loves the cosmopolitan feel of Toronto, and the Raptors are jelling right now, but does that beat South Beach, a golf outing in February and the chance to be Wade's teammate?
Wade and Amar'e Stoudemire. If the talks with one big man don't work, thankfully there's another. The main order of business for Wade would be to get Stoudemire to opt-out of the $17 million the Suns owe him next season, because the temperature comparison wouldn't work with Amar'e.
Wade and Joe Johnson. The word is Johnson doesn't want the burden of being the best player on his team; that he'd prefer to be the No. 2 guy instead and quietly go about his business. Wade would be cool with that.
Derrick Rose and Wade. Rose could come hard with the "come home" pitch for Wade, born and raised in Chicago. Rose could also present this rotation: Rose, Wade, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng along with Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich (if both aren't traded next week).
Rose and Johnson. Rose would explain to Johnson how this Bulls backcourt would be good for 40 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds and five steals a night. They would be the offensive equivalent of Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier.
Kevin Durant and Bosh. Bosh is from Dallas and Oklahoma City brings him closer. And does KD really have to sell the Thunder hard? They're only the best up-and-coming team in the league. They just lack scoring in the post. Then they'd be contenders. Bosh could help with that.
Durant and Stoudemire. KD needs another big in the worst way, and free agency presents his best chance at getting one. The issue here is money and whether OKC would be willing to flirt with the luxury tax and if Stoudemire feels he won't get max money elsewhere. Nonetheless, when someone like Durant speaks and makes a sales pitch, he'll get an audience.
Chris Kaman and LeBron. Picture this: Bron being sold on the benefits of playing on the Clippers next to Kaman, Baron Davis, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and Al Thornton and being possibly coached by George Karl.
Wait. What's so funny about that?
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here.
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