Bosh looking for more than playoff cameos
There's two numbers that represent what Chris Bosh wants in free agency.
The first digit represents the playoff games that Dallas Lincoln High won in his senior season, when he led a 40-0 team to a mythical national title. The second represents the total number of playoff wins he's been part of in the eight years that followed, counting both college and the NBA, even including two victories in the NIT.
"It's been a long time since he had that championship feeling," said Bosh's agent, Henry Thomas. "He wants that."
Here's his chance.
When free agency starts Thursday, Bosh knows the money will be coming, perhaps a US$95-million deal if he joins a new team, maybe $125 million if he stays with the Toronto Raptors. His decision — stay or go, and if go, then go where? — will hinge on just one thing, that being where will he have the best chance of winning a title.
"My only priority," Bosh said, "is winning."
The Raptors want him, though general manager Bryan Colangelo acknowledged this week that the team believes Bosh is gone. He's as coveted as his Olympic teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, possibly might even team up with one or both of them. The Knicks, the Heat, the Bulls, depending on who you ask, they're all the favourites to be Bosh's next team.
No one knows for certain. In an interview with The Associated Press, Bosh insisted he doesn't know, either.
"Honestly, I'm ready to get this thing over with," Bosh told The AP earlier this week. "When the time is right, I want to start aggressively negotiating with everybody and talk to everybody, to get this thing over with. Because you know, it's been a four-year thing now and people have been talking about it for at least two years. We're well past it. I'm well past it. It's time to get it over with."
And at 12:07 a.m. Wednesday, less than 24 hours to the official start to Free Agent Mania, Bosh posted a clear sign of his excitement on his Twitter feed.
"After all these years … Just 24 hrs left … Wow. I'm getting anxious," Bosh wrote.
He's quietly put up massive numbers since jumping to the NBA after one season at Georgia Tech.
Bosh is one of only three players — Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are the others — with at least 10,000 points, 4,500 rebounds and 600 blocked shots over the last seven seasons. He's averaged a double-double in three of his seven years, and coming off a season where he put up career-highs of 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting.
"It's been great to see him grow as a player," said Bosh's college coach, Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt. "The Chris Bosh I know has never been about his personal numbers. He only cares about winning. Whomever gets this kid is going to get a great one."
At times, it's almost like Bosh is a forgotten great one.
Bosh came into the NBA as part of that bonanza class in 2003, with James going No. 1, Carmelo Anthony No. 3, himself No. 4 and Wade No. 5.
James is a two-time MVP. Wade's an NBA champion and a finals MVP.
Bosh has been to the playoffs just twice, never winning a series.
And it's clearly grating on him, which is why just about everyone in the NBA expects he'll leave Toronto, though Bosh insists he'll listen to the Raptors and that they remain very much in his thought process.
"He's played the same number of years as Dwyane and LeBron," Thomas said. "The furthest he's gone is the first round of the playoffs. Never really been on a team that felt like they had a chance to win something. This is a kid that won a state championship on an undefeated team his senior year of high school in Dallas. He hasn't really been on a great team since."
Free agency should change that.
With a new close-cropped haircut (no more dreads) and perhaps a new outlook, Bosh was in Miami this past weekend, appearing at a charity golf tournament, spending time near the water, largely shutting himself off from the outside world — some calm before the free agent storm. It's already underway, of course, with plenty of speculation that Bosh already knows if he'll join Wade, James or both next season.
"I've been saying all along, anybody that says they know what's happening is nonsense," Colangelo said earlier this week on Toronto radio station The Fan 590. "There is all sorts of different things you could talk about, different pictures you could paint."
True, but the possibility is very real, as evidenced by Toronto's decision on draft night to take North Carolina's Ed Davis — who could slide into Bosh's lineup spot if the all-star leaves Canada this summer.
Should Bosh make that decision and choose to align with another star, Hewitt says he'll be fine sharing the work and the spotlight.
"A lot of guys get upset when they don't get their numbers," Hewitt said. "Chris only gets upset when we lose."
He's done too much of that for his liking.
Five NBA seasons with no playoffs, seven seasons with no championship, Bosh sounds like someone who's ready for a new beginning. If he eventually signs to play alongside either Wade or James, he'll probably be closer to a title with a few strokes of a pen than he ever was in Toronto.
Months of talking and years of thinking later, Bosh can't wait for the process to get going.
"I want the situation that will best make me happy," Bosh said. "That's what I've always said. There are a lot of teams that are going to come, including the Raptors. There's a lot of things I'm going to have to think about."