What will happen with Chris Bosh now?
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported last week that the Miami Heat, Bosh and the league were close to finalizing negotiations that would free Miami from its remaining salary cap obligation to Bosh -- more than $52 million through the end of the 2018-19 season -- while Bosh would get all of his money and be free to sign with another team.
Bosh, of course, has missed most of the last two seasons and played in just 97 games since the start of the 2014-15 season after being diagnosed with blood clots -- a potentially fatal condition if the clots move into his lungs, as they did in early 2015, without immediate treatment. In addition, the normal treatment for clots -- blood thinners that help break up the clots -- obviously could create a potentially dangerous situation if Bosh was cut and bled while on the floor.
The Centers for Disease Control says a precise number is unknown, but it estimates that up to 900,000 people per year in the United States could be affected by deep vein thrombosis (DVE) and pulmonary embolism (PE).
The National Blood Clot Alliance estimates 274 people die every day from blood clots. It estimates between 100,000 and 300,000 deaths per year are due to clots, which it says is more than the total number of people who die annually from AIDS, breast cancer and car crashes combined. CDC says that a quarter of those who die from clots do so immediately; 10 to 30 percent die within a month of diagnosis. One-third of those diagnosed with DVT/PE have a recurrence of it within a decade.
The 33-year-old Bosh didn’t play at all this season after Miami’s team physicians flunked him on the team physical just before the start of training camp last October. Afterward, team president Pat Riley said that it was likely that Bosh had played his last game for the Heat.
Bosh has argued, strenuously, that he can play with the clots, citing several professional athletes in the NHL, tennis and other sports who have returned to action after being diagnosed with clots. Most notably, tennis superstar Serena Williams has returned to championship form after being diagnosed with clots in 2011. Throughout the offseason last summer, Bosh said that there were doctors who would vouch for his ability to continue playing. But after failing the Heat’s physical, Bosh didn’t push the matter, opting instead to work with the team and the league on a deal.
Under the rules of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement -- which will expire on July 1 when the new CBA, ratified last December by the league and the players’ union, and which will run through 2024 -- Bosh’s cap hit would have been reinstated to the Heat’s cap if he signed with another team before next season. That would, obviously, hamstring Miami’s ability to be aggressive in free agency. The Heat couldn’t feel comfortable going after someone -- anyone -- of significance this summer, knowing that at any moment, there could be more than $21 million added to their cap, and they’d be powerless to stop it.
Under the new CBA, though, the Heat will be absolved from carrying Bosh’s salary under new language in the CBA’s Section VII:
(2) The determination of whether a player has suffered a career- ending injury or illness shall be made by a physician selected jointly by the NBA and the Players Association or, upon agreement of the NBA and the Players Association, a Fitness to Play Panel established under Article XXII. A player shall be deemed to have suffered a career-ending injury or illness if it is determined (i) by a such physician or Fitness to Play Panel that the player has an injury or illness that (x) prevents him from playing skilled professional basketball at an NBA level for the duration of his career, or (y) substantially impairs his ability to play skilled professional basketball at an NBA level and is of such severity that continuing to play professional basketball at an NBA level would subject the player to medically unacceptable risk of suffering a life-threatening or permanently disabling injury or illness, or (ii) by such Fitness to Play Panel that the player has an injury or illness that would create a materially elevated risk of death for the player under the procedures set forth in Article XXII, Section 11.
But, once Bosh is freed up to sign elsewhere, will there be a market for him around the league?
"I don't see how medical people will want to sign off and clear him. Unless something has changed with his health recently … I don't know of a team that would want to take that type of a risk."
That is the exact question I posed to more than 20 teams over the weekend -- contenders, rebuilders, also-rans, up-and-comers -- across the NBA spectrum. Obviously, if there were no health concerns about Bosh, he’d have played in Miami this season. But the 11-time All-Star would have to prove that he can not just pass a physical, but isn’t a health and financial risk to a team that signs him.
The majority of front office people who gave their (anonymous, obviously) thoughts on Bosh believed that while there would be interest in him, it would be hard for any team to go after him because it would be so hard to find a doctor who would pass him on a physical.
“There will be interest, but the health risks outweigh the upside for most organizations,” one Western Conference executive said.
“There will surely be interest, but it may be hard to find a doctor that will clear him,” an Eastern Conference executive said.
“I don't see how medical people will want to sign off and clear him,” another Western executive said. “Unless something has changed with his health recently … I don't know of a team that would want to take that type of a risk. If something were to tragically happen, it's hard to recover form that. Very unfortunate.”
“There will be (interest) if his medical checks out ok, which seems doubtful at this point,” another Western Conference exec said.
There have been occasions where a team has waived a player physical, and times where a team has not been able to get insurance on a player -- as when the New York Knicks signed oft-injured forward Amar’e Stoudemire to a $100 million deal in 2010. Insurance generally pays about 80 percent of an NBA player’s contract in a given year if he’s got a long-term injury, with the team on the hook for the other 20 percent. But Bosh’s situation is a lot more foreboding than a player with a bad knee.
“Miami had about $50 million reasons for him to play and could not get a doctor to clear him,” another West executive said. “Very unlikely the answer will be different at a team with $0 million reasons for him to play.”
A healthy Bosh would help any team, and enhance just about every team that made the playoffs. But it’s hard to find anyone in a decision-making capacity around the league that believes he’s healthy enough to take the considerable gamble. And, forget the player: Bosh is very well-liked around the league. People want him to have a healthy, happy post-playing life, and want him to get to that life without complication.
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