Chris Bosh wants to return to the NBA hardwood. Badly. He believes he can find a way to manage the potentially life-threatening (if untreated) blood clotting issue that has ended his last two seasons early.
Bosh will not return to the NBA court in Miami this fall, however. Miami Heat doctors said Friday Bosh failed his team physical, that tests revealed the blood clotting issue has not gone away and showed up in his blood work. They will not clear him to play.
The two sides are at an impasse.
And it leaves the Heat with a quandary — if Bosh doesn’t want to retire, the team has no good options.
Let’s go over the potential ways this can play out.
1. Chris Bosh chooses to retire. This is likely the option the Heat would prefer. It’s also not happening. Here is what Bosh said on Instagram Friday night.
“Little setbacks happen but that doesn’t change my intentions and what I want to accomplish.”
Or, look at what Bosh said in his recent self-directed video about the process of his return:
“If a doctor tells me, ‘Hey that’s it and this is how that is,’ and I don’t buy that. I have the right to disagree with you. I know inside me I have a lot talent and a lot of ability. I have it. I know I have it. It wasn’t a matter of if I play again, it was when.”
Bosh will not go quietly into that good night. He wants to get back on an NBA court, and he is not giving up that dream.
2. The Heat let Chris Bosh play. This also is not happening (despite the fact that the Heat would be a much better team with him; without Bosh it’s hard to picture the Heat in the playoffs). After the latest failed physical, with another sign of the blood clotting issue that ended his last two seasons, Miami is not going to risk putting him on the court. Bosh and his doctors will likely sit down and try to convince the Heat to let him play, but for reasons ranging from concern for his health to liability, the Heat are not going down that road. This is rather simple in one sense: If Bosh is healthy enough to play the Heat should play him, but clearly the Heat don’t believe he is physically ready.
3. The Heat trade Bosh. This comes up in my Twitter timeline every time we write about Bosh, as if this is some easy fantasy league swap. Here’s the problem: it takes two to tango. What team is so desperate as to give up quality assets so they can take on the three-years, $75.8 million remaining on a contract of a player who may never be cleared by the league to play? And even if he is cleared may not be able to finish seasons? What other team’s doctors are going to say the Heat doctors were flat-out wrong? Even if a team did step up, the NBA has to approve every trade and if it and its doctors think some team is ignoring serious medical issues just to land an All-Star level player, are they going to let the trade go through? Not if the league’s doctors think Bosh is risking his life to play. To put it kindly, the trade option seems highly unlikely.
4. The Heat and Bosh agree to a buyout and he becomes a free agent. This is unlikely from the Heat’s persepective because it is a severe salary cap hit. Remember, Bosh is owed $23.8 million this season and that number just goes up the next two. For argument’s sake, let’s say Bosh agrees to a buyout where he only gets half of the $75 million guaranteed he has coming (and there’s no reason for Bosh to do that), that is still an $11.9 million anchor on the Heat cap this season, and about $13 million each of the next two years. That will hurt their ability to land other free agents and rebuild this team. Miami isn’t going this route (unless Bosh agrees to a ridiculous buyout just to get away from Miami).
5. The Heat waive Bosh then in February apply to have his salary wiped off the books. This is what I think the Heat want to do (they could leave him on the roster until February then waive him, too), but this route also could leave the Heat with a massive salary on the books if Bosh does play eventually. One thing to be clear about here — Bosh would still get paid his full $75.8 million whether he plays or not. Miami still would write the checks, but if the league gets this ruling Bosh would come off the team’s official books, and that salary would not count against the salary cap.
Former Nets executive and now writer for The Vertical at Yahoo Sports Bobby Marks explained this option better than I could:
The Heat would waive Bosh, and on Feb. 9, 2017, apply to have his salary excluded because league rules stipulate that a team must wait one year from the date of the player’s last game. The determination on whether Bosh has suffered a career-ending illness will be made by a physician designated by the NBA and the players association and will not occur until Bosh has been waived and Miami applies to have the salary removed.
As noted above, I believe this is the Heat’s preferred course of action. But here’s the catch — and it’s a massive one for Miami:
If Bosh eventually returns from his career-threatening injury, the salary will be included back on the Heat’s salary cap. There is, however, a grace period of 25 games after the player returns to determine if he’s healthy enough to continue.
If Bosh does eventually return and play more than 25 games, Bosh’s entire salary goes back on the Heat’s books. All $75.8 million of it. Considering Bosh’s sincere determination to play again, can Miami take that risk?
My best guess is that the NBA, and likely the players’ union as well, will step in and help negotiate a solution that works for everyone. Maybe. If they can find a compromise. But if Bosh is unflinchingly determined to play and finds a doctor that backs his plan (and there are a lot of doctors out there with varied opinions), while team/league doctors are convinced it would be a life-and-death health risk to allow him back on a court (and to put up with the grueling NBA grind of travel and games), there will be no easy answers. For the Heat or Bosh.