As Chris Bosh mentions, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a full four years since a 2009-10 season that allowed for free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh (among others who decided not to sign in Miami) to flaunt their wares at stop after free agent stop as they played for their incumbent teams. Bosh’s team from 2003 to 2010 was the Toronto Raptors, an outfit that made the playoffs twice under Bosh’s wingspan, but one that never really threatened the core of the Eastern Conference as James’ Cavaliers and Wade’s Heat did over that span.
All three decided to join Miami, infamously, after a free agent turn that seemed more well-suited for James’ preening (and oft-criticized and lampooned) antics than Bosh’s typically taciturn (if not endearingly goofy) manner. If he so chooses, Bosh (and Wade, and James) could opt out of their contracts next summer to head elsewhere. In an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in the days before yet another training camp that could precede yet another free agent turn in the summer of 2014, Bosh swore off any such distractions:
“Everybody wants to know what we’re going to do (after the season),” Bosh said. “Yeah, I get it. Everything depends on this season. If we win, cool. If we lose, that’s when it’s like `What if?’"
Bosh said he is better equipped to handle the attention than the last time he was in the situation. He was a free agent with the Toronto Raptors after 2010 season before joining the Heat. He said the key is keeping focus on the current season.
“You think about it but I’m mature enough to know that if I really start to think about it, I’m going to start playing bad,” Bosh said. “Things aren’t going to go right. I’m just going to enjoy today. I’m looking forward to having a big year this year. That’s all I think about. In Toronto, it kind of messed me up. I was thinking, `What is going to happen [in the offseason]? I started struggling and then I snapped back into basketball.”
Now, some could take Bosh’s comments and deduce that he mailed in his final year with the Raptors, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Bosh added 20 pounds of muscle before the season started, and roared out of the gate with a not-so-great Raptors team that made a big move to sign Hedo Turkoglu to a terrible contract the previous offseason. Chris led the NBA in rebounding for a spell, he was an All-Star, he won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award twice, and was on his way to carrying the Raptors to the playoffs when Antawn Jamison inadvertently smashed his face in during a game against Cleveland. With a bone broken in his face, Bosh sat out the final five games of the season (including the majority of the loss to the Cavaliers), as Toronto lost a tie-breaker with Chicago and a chance to sneak in with the eighth seed.
The power forward averaged career highs in points per game (24 a contest) and rebounds per contest (10.8) while setting career marks in Player Efficiency Rating, Offensive Rating, rebound rate, and True Shooting Percentage. All while rarely turning the ball over for a Raptors team that didn’t have many options in place to allow Bosh the chance to work in the face of single teams.
So, if Bosh’s handling of his free agent turn “kind of messed” him up, it certainly didn’t show on the court. Even if that’s cold comfort to Raptors fans, as they watch their kind of messed up (but getting better!) team try to make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons in 2013-14.
Bosh credits a stable family presence in Miami for the difference this time around. On top of that, it should be noted that the situations are completely dissimilar.
For one, the Heat are coming off two straight championships, as opposed to two straight playoff misses, as the Raptors were in the summer of 2010. Secondly, Bosh could be under contract with the Heat next season if he wants to, as the nearly $20.6 million he’s due in 2014-15 is a player option (technically, an “early-termination option,” if Bosh so chooses to use it to make more long term money). His 2015-16 contract for over $22 million is a full player option as well.
Though Bosh probably has more in his tank than his teammate Wade, the Heat will be more concerned about how to delicately handle the future of the often-banged up Miami legend (who, like Bosh and James, could opt out of his contract next summer) before considering Bosh. And that’s not even getting into LeBron’s Decision 2.0.
Things will be different this time around, whether Bosh splits for another team in July or re-signs to stay in Miami until 2019. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have to take a face-breaking Antawn Jamison elbow to the dome along the way, this time around.