Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 9:57 a.m.
All's fair in love, war, and NBA free agency. Hundreds of millions of dollars up in the air, along with countless NBA titles. Dwyane Wade is nothing if not competitive -- and ruthless.
Wade has long known that the Chicago Bulls are his primary competition in luring the other two big free agents -- LeBron James and Chris Bosh. His opening salvo came a few months ago, when he told the media that the Bulls gave shabby treatment to their greatest players, like LeBron's idol, Michael Jordan.
That may not be entirely true, but if LeBron had concerns on that score, it didn't help this past week when during his meeting with Bulls management, the team reportedly told him that his entourage would not get nearly the kind of all-access privileges it enjoys in Cleveland.
Wade's next shrewd move was to schedule his meeting with the Bulls so that it overlapped with Bosh's meeting. It may have given Wade the opportunity to sell Bosh on the idea of playing together. Bulls management may have assumed that Chicago would be the duo's destination -- an idea that gained momentum when Wade took a second meeting with the Bulls, after which his camp let leak that he was "leaning" toward signing a contract with Chicago.
Wade even gave an interview about how valuable was the time spent with his two kids in Chicago, where his ex-wife had custody. It sounded as though Wade was getting sentimental, putting family time ahead of his contract.
But the Bulls had room under the league's salary cap to pay only one free agent the maximum salary, while the other would have to take a pay cut. Would Wade take that pay cut to suit up for the Bulls? Or would Bosh?
We can imagine how the Bulls scrambled behind the scenes to find a way to make that work. Indeed, the idea of signing both Wade and Bosh may have been so dazzling a distraction that -- for one crucial, devastating moment -- the team kicked LeBron to the backburner.
And with that, Wade had proved to his friend in Cleveland that the Bulls' love was not true. Having proved his point, Wade told the Bulls to piss off, then leaked the report about his intention to re-sign with the Heat, along with Bosh. And before LeBron makes his final decision Thursday night in a one-hour special, Wade will make one last pitch for LeBron to join the Heat. That seems unlikely. Rather, the hometown Cavaliers now look like the favorite to re-sign their golden boy.
If Wade really did this all by design, then maybe basketball's not his true calling. He might make a damned fine politician.