The 2010 free agency situation is like a war zone. Not a battlefield, a war zone, with spies and subterfuge everywhere. Don't trust anyone, believe no hype, and watch for the decoy.
That said, Dwyane Wade has made some pretty striking comments lately about his future in Miami -- comments that both sparkle with good sense and signal a major shift in the landscape. From ESPN.com:
Don't forget, Miami has the most money to offer Wade, and has more than enough room to sign another max player. For the sake of sanity, let's ignore the three-max possibility here. The team still could sign someone else of note, making this more than a two-man squad. Erik Spoelstra is a very good coach, and there's always the possibility of Pat Riley taking over the nab another title. It also doesn't hurt that South Beach is the locale."It's going to be fit with me first," Wade said. "I've made that very clear. Do I want to leave? Nope. Mmm-hmm. I want to be in Miami. That's where it starts."
"I don't look at it as recruiting. I'll gauge and see if guys want to be [in Miami], who wants to be with me. It's about who can come to Miami, it's about who do you trust, who can fit the organization, who best fits you as a player, things of that nature."
There, that's why Wade staying in Miami makes sense. Except I've told you nothing new. Why now, is he boldly proclaiming his intent, if not to mislead everyone and end up in Sacramento? I have to think that all the noise, and controversy, surrounding LeBron James has something to do with it. Put simply, Wade is positioning himself as the anti-LeBron.
Barring a video game-like union of James and Wade in Miami, which was never going to happen, all along it's been a matter of bifurcating James and Wade teams. They are almost the two captains picking teams in this scenario, except they only get one choice (or none, if either goes to Chicago).
When we heard about the Super Summit, it seemed this would all be decided like a cabal, or international conspiracy. That was bad press. So was LeBron's willingness to court, as opposed to avoid, publicity. Being a free agent this summer was looking to be more and more of a burden, not a chance to set up a championship and change the league.
LeBron will be just fine. Wade would be, too, if he had seen fit to make himself more visible; it's notable that, for everyone insisting that James did nothing tacky, few have mentioned how little we've heard or seen of Wade until last night.
But what about some of the big men? Chris Bosh has had to deal with some negative coverage, or a semi-hostile press, over the years. Deserved or not, it's like not an experience he wants to go through again. The same goes for Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer.
Wade, then, becomes the wholesome, tidy, option. Unlike LeBron, he isn't abandoning his home team. To hear him tell it, he wants to stay, and just get the best help he can for his city. Certainly, joining the Heat wouldn't be the circus as any scenario involving LeBron. Wade has seemingly gone out of his way to create these conditions, and may now have it as a recruiting advantage (even as he says he doesn't "doesn't look at it as recruiting".) There would be fewer gigantic headlines, and less of a taint coming in.
There's also the question of expectations. LeBron is expected to win titles. His free agency is supposed to get him a championship team. Wade and friends will be assessed rationally; James, and his new buddy, are going to be under scrutiny like never before. Especially after these playoffs. Did one or both make the right choice? Are one or both actually as good as we thought? Is this team looking like the favorites?
I'm not calling Bosh, Stoudemire, and Boozer cowards, but again, given their pasts, I suspect all three would prefer to avoid that kind of pressure.
Wade has always seemed to play second fiddle to James, especially when it comes to this summer. But here, he can effectively position himself as different. Maybe he's not the same unprecedented talent, but he's close. And unlike James, he already has a ring, and zero questions about who he really is as an athlete.
LeBron is still LeBron. Wade, though, is being about hundred times more shrewd here. He may end up stealing the show this summer while making as little racket as possible.