Chris Bosh wants to pair with LeBron James, but is more likely to sign off on a scenario that lures James out of Cleveland to the Nets, Bulls or even Heat, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com Tuesday.
The problem is that the Cavs have the most attractive assets to entice the Raptors into such an arrangement, being able to offer Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon and Delonte West, who only has $500,000 of his $4.5 million contract guaranteed for next season. The sign-and-trade route would allow Toronto to come to grips with Bosh's seemingly inevitable departure while bringing back assets -- including possibly future draft picks -- in the deal.
But Bosh, who shares an agent with fellow free agent Dwyane Wade, would have to sign off on such an arrangement and remains decidedly unenthusiastic about joining James in Cleveland, the person familiar with the talks said.
"If LeBron went to New Jersey, he'd consider that," the person said of Bosh. "It's too late for New York. He wants to play with LeBron if LeBron leaves, but not necessarily in Cleveland."
The Bulls, who've targeted all three of the top free agents, have not spoken with Toronto officials about a sign-and-trade for Bosh, a person with knowledge of their strategy said. With $30.9 million in cap space after Rob Kurz and Chris Richard were waived, the Bulls are still one transaction away from fitting two straight max signings into their space. One way around that would be to sign-and-trade for one free agent and sign the other one, but it is difficult to imagine Bosh taking less money that Wade or LeBron -- or vice versa.
The Heat, meanwhile, essentially have to trade Michael Beasley to have room for two max free agents plus Wade -- and sources told CBSSports.com Tuesday Miami officials were continuing to work on pulling off such a coup. Wade's thoughts on the matter remain a mystery after he canceled a scheduled news conference with Alonzo Mourning in South Florida Tuesday morning.
UPDATED 2:18 p.m. ET: The Raptors have informed Bosh and his agent, Henry Thomas, that if Bosh wanted to go to Cleveland, the organization would explore how to help him get there. But while Cleveland's basketball assets are more attractive to the Raptors, the city itself doesn't do it for Bosh. If Bosh viewed Cleveland as an acceptable destination, the sign-and-trade talks would've progressed rapidly. As things stood Tuesday afternoon, according to a source involved in the discussions, they're at a stand-still.
UPDATED 3:46 p.m. ET: The Rockets, in Bosh's home state of Texas, also have some enticing assets to offer Toronto -- free-agent Luis Scola, Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza. Bosh has indicated in the past that the two Texas teams would be on his list of preferred destinations, but free-agent fever seems to have him focused on New Jersey, Miami and Chicago for now. As for the Heat, who'd want to dump Beasley, don't underestimate the value of a giant trade exception that they could convey to Toronto in a Bosh deal. Sources indicate that the February trade deadline will create a furious market for teams looking to get out from under contracts with the combination of playoff hopes being dashed and the looming labor crisis and/or new collective bargaining agreement, in which owners will be looking to take a punitive stance on player salaries.
"The market," another person involved in the free-agent chase said, "has come to a screeching halt."
While Bosh and Thomas -- who also represents Wade -- keep everyone waiting, sign-and-trade talks with more acceptable destinations have not gained any momentum, an executive involved in the process said.