As the free-agent dominoes started to fall Friday and Kevin Durant began fielding meetings in the Hamptons on the East End of Long Island, one team remained uncomfortably in no-man's land: the Miami Heat.
Miami brought back free agent Hassan Whiteside with an agreement on a four-year, $98 million deal. League sources told CBS Sports that Whiteside wasn't as inclined to leave Miami for Dallas as had been advertised; those in his inner circle entered the negotiating period at 12:01 a.m. ET with a firm belief that Whiteside would stay with the Heat.
What the team will look like around him is very much in flux. Part of the Heat's pitch to prospective free agents -- including Kevin Durant -- is that Chris Bosh is progressing in his recovery from blood clots and that they expect him on the floor next season. That's more information than the Heat have divulged at any other juncture of Bosh's absence since the All-Star break.
Time and medical science will tell, but there's no prescription for the angst that exists for the second straight year in the Heat's negotiations with Dwyane Wade.
Wade had taken less money in 2010 when Pat Riley figured out a way to cram him, Bosh and LeBron James under what was then a puny salary cap. He was asked to do the same last summer as Miami tried to rejuvenate after James' departure; the two sides ultimately settled on a one-year, $20 million deal.
Wade, 34, was not only reliable last season, but brilliant at times. The fountain of youth has to run dry at some point, but consider this: If Evan Turner gets $70 million over four years in this marketplace, what is Dwyane Wade worth?
But Wade and the Heat are at an impasse again, and his free-agent suitors -- chiefly, the Mavericks and Spurs -- believe it's serious enough that they'll have a chance to pry him away from the only team he has ever known.
The wild card in this mix is Durant, who will meet last with Riley and the Heat in the Hamptons before reconvening with the Thunder, who got first crack at him on Thursday. Securing the agreement with Whiteside will be a boon to Riley's pitch, as will reports that Whiteside has agreed to take less if it means clearing space for Durant.
There is no better recruiter in basketball than Riley, a champion through-and-through who exudes the kind of class and confidence that will appeal to Durant. But with so much uncertainty surrounding Bosh and Wade, it's not clear exactly what Riles will be selling.
Would Durant be signing up with a healthy Bosh and happy Wade, in an attempt to resurrect the Big Three minus LeBron? Or is Riley selling patience, telling Durant to do his one-plus-one deal with an opt-out next summer and come to South Beach to take over Wade's Kingdom in 2017?
What Riley does not have the power to do is guarantee that Bosh will be on the floor all season; he's been sidelined with blood clots two seasons in a row. If it were to happen again, the Heat would have to wait one calendar year from his last game to be eligible for cap relief. That means if Bosh were to succumb again, the Heat would be powerless to replace him at the trade deadline or even next summer during free agency.
As always in free agency, there are a lot of moving parts -- never more than now with the cap spike bringing madness to the marketplace. Nobody expects Wade to actually leave the Heat. But if Riley sits down with Durant on Sunday without a commitment from the longtime face of his franchise, what is he really selling?