MIAMI — LeBron James went first. Dwyane Wade followed a few days later. And then Chris Bosh made it a clean sweep. The Big 3, for now anyway, are free. And Pat Riley will soon have the chance to make the Miami Heat even better.
Bosh told the Heat on Sunday that he, like James and Wade, will be exercising the early termination option in his contract and forgoing the final two years on his Miami deal, making him a free agent. The move, which was not unexpected, gives the Heat a gigantic amount of financial flexibility to shop with when the free-agent window opened at midnight Tuesday.
Bosh's decision was the last domino that the Heat needed to fall in order to free up the biggest amount of money possible heading into free agency.
“Chris is one of the most versatile and dynamic big men in this league and he has been an instrumental key to our championship success over the last four seasons,” Riley, the Heat president, said in a statement released by the team. “We look forward to meeting with Chris and his agent in the coming days to discuss keeping him in Miami for many years to come.”
Riley expressed similar sentiments when James opted out a week earlier and Wade exercised his option Saturday.
“I like it here,” Bosh, who averaged 16.2 points this past season, told The Associated Press this month. “It's Miami. Enough said. People are dying to get here.”
Like James, Bosh could have made $20,590,000 this coming season and $22,112,500 in the 2015-16 season. Wwade was due to make slightly less in each of those years but, between those three and Udonis Haslem – who did not exercise a player option to make $4.6 million next season – that's about $66 million in salary that Miami could have been locked in to paying if the decisions went another way.
Instead, the thinking seems to be that, in order for the Heat to get better, players knew they needed to give Riley room to work.
“Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that's what we all would like,” James said earlier this offseason, shortly after the finals.
All three will be free to sign elsewhere but there's no indication yet that they'll even look at other clubs. And, if they agree to new deals with the Heat, the team would almost certainly have more than enough financial freedom to upgrade a team that has been to the NBA Finals in each of the last four seasons, winning two championships.
With the NBA's salary cap expected to be around $63.2 million for next season, the Heat will have tons of spending power, though much of that, they hope, will go right back to keeping James, Wade and Bosh together. The luxury tax threshold should be around $77 million next season and perhaps up to $81 million for the following year.
Reserve guard Norris Cole has a guaranteed contract for just over $2 million for next season and little-used center Justin Hamilton has a partially guaranteed deal that could wind up being worth $816,000. Everyone else from the team that lost to San Antonio in five games in this season's finals either will be a free agent or, in Shane Battier's case, has retired.
Among other key Heat free agents, Ray Allen has indicated he would think about returning, point guard Mario Chalmers is expected to listen to other teams but said late in the season that he enjoys Miami and forward Chris Andersen said he's prepared to play the waiting game.
Andersen said last week that he expects to hear what James, Wade and Bosh will do before Miami makes any decisions regarding the filling out of the roster.
“You know how it goes, man,” Andersen said. “Big money goes first.”