Well, let the madness begin.
After a ten-day period that began with a Daryl Morey trip to Philadelphia to visit Kyle Lowry, followed by a brief courtship of Carmelo Anthony that fizzled about the time he got into his car to leave Americas Restaurant and head to the airport, the Houston Rockets now sit on the cusp of a dangerous game of dominoes.
It's a game whose arc is being controlled by two things: 1) LeBron James and 2) the Dallas Mavericks' three-year, $46 million offer sheet to Chandler Parsons.
Here's where we are on everything:
Right now, the desired outcome that the Rockets have played their hand into is as follows:
1. Sign free agent Chris Bosh to a four-year, $88 million maximum level contract 2. Retain Chandler Parsons via restricted free agency
Here are the things we know, either factually or from trusted sources:
1. Chandler Parsons will sign a three-year, $46 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks shortly after 11 p.m. tonight.
This was not entirely unexpected, as we knew the market for Parsons would become fairly robust once Anthony made his decision (Reportedly, he is returning to the Knicks for the maximum $129 million deal.) and once the Charlotte Hornets set the market for "above average small forwards" at a max level with their four-year, $63 million offer to Utah's Gordon Hayward. Once Parsons signs the Dallas offer sheet, the Rockets will have three days to match the offer or let Parsons go. The Rockets' salary cap hold for Parsons is a shade under $3 million (his qualifying offer), and would go to around $15 million upon matching the Dallas offer. Dallas currently has a cap hold of $15 million until/if the Rockets match.
2. Chris Bosh is sitting on a four-year, $88 million offer from the Rockets.
What comes around, goes around. Back in 2010, the first free agent Daryl Morey visited during the recruiting period was Bosh, who eventually wound up in Miami, and we know how that went. Now, four years later, Morey is approaching Bosh with a much tastier roster. However, some things need to happen for this to come to fruition. More on this in a moment.
3. LeBron James hasn't decided anything yet.
According to multiple reports, James left a meeting Wednesday afternoon with Pat Riley with no decision being made on his future. Reportedly, he plans to discuss his options with his family, which means he's either going back to Miami or returning to the city that was burning his jersey four years ago after he spurned them, Cleveland. While Riley was trying to hang onto the golden goose, the Cavaliers spent all day Wednesday clearing out space to offer James a max deal (trading Jarrett Jack) and working on moves to enhance James's potential supporting cast (Ray Allen, Mike Miller and -- GASP -- a possible trade for Kevin Love).
So what needs to happen in order for the Rockets to achieve the desired outcome, and in what order? Well, here you go:
1. LeBron James chooses to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
I can't even believe I'm typing that sentence after living through The Decision four years ago. If possible, having someone kidnap Cavs owner Dan Gilbert might not be a bad idea.
2. Complete trades to ship out Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin (and clear their nearly $17 million in cap space).
The Asik trade is already agreed to with the Pelicans, and the Rockets are getting a first-round pick for the big fella (top 3 protected on top end and 20 through 30 protected on the back end). Reportedly, the Rockets have a deal worked out with Philadelphia to trade Jeremy Lin if they need the cap space to sign Chris Bosh. In the end, if both moves are made, the Rockets will have gotten two years each from Asik and Lin for a total of $20 million in actual salary. Not bad.
3. Sign Bosh to the deal that's been offered to him. Reports are everywhere that, if James goes back to Cleveland, Bosh has decided to go to Houston. Of course, I made the argument earlier this week that Bosh should come to Houston independent of anything James decides. But we shall see.
4. Match the Mavericks' offer to Parsons before the three-day matching period expires. As much as Morey and the Rockets love Parsons, I'd be willing to bet that $15 million is more than they were prepared to pay him. They will swallow hard on cutting that check, but ultimately I think the role Parsons played in bringing Howard to Houston and the leadership he brings will be the deciding factors. By the way, Parsons and Howard have the same agent and under their deals could both opt out after 2016. So there's that.
So there you go. Three days from now, you could be looking at a starting five of James Harden, Parsons, Howard, Bosh and Patrick Beverley.
Or you could be looking at James Harden and Dwight Howard wondering why no other superstars want to come play with them.
I thought life was supposed to get easier with two superstars on this team.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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