“I feel wanted. That’s all I wanted”
This was the text from Isaiah Thomas to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders in response to his signing a four year, $27 million contract with the Phoenix Suns (via sign-and-trade with the Kings).
It came minutes after news broke of Chris Bosh signing a five year, $118 million max deal to return to Miami — a place Bosh has redefined his career and become very comfortable in — rather than sign a four year max deal with Houston, which would’ve almost immediately made the Rockets one of the favorites for the NBA Finals.
That, in turn, came hours after LeBron James eschewed the Heat for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers — a decision that he admitted was about more than basketball. It was a decision made for family and for reconciliation.
If the summer of 2010 was the summer of super teams, then the summer of 2014 is one of finding a home.
Sports fans, at least the vast majority of them, value titles over anything else. Championships, the presence and absence of them can define a player’s legacy.. However, those same people that demand we “Count the Ringz” when we discuss the all-time greats trashed the Heat for stacking the deck and chasing that ring that is so important.
This summer, LeBron and Bosh turned those opportunities down. First it was LeBron, who turned down what would’ve likely been the same team and have what appeared to be a fairly easy route through the Eastern Conference and back to the Finals. Once the LeBron domino fell, Bosh passed up on going to Houston and joining Dwight Howard, James Harden, and (likely) Chandler Parsons to return to an uncertain situation in Miami.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about free agency. Players value things differently, whether it’s the money, the opportunity to win, or the location, and that’s what makes this free agency so interesting. There’s clearly been a shift in mentality among these players, many of whom were free agents in 2010, in what they value. Part of that is because, for James and Bosh,a championship is no longer the utmost consideration.
However, for a player like Thomas, he just wanted to feel wanted. He could have likely waited it out and possibly gotten a big offer from the Rockets, who traded Jeremy Lin and are now in a bit of free agency purgatory after being rebuffed by Bosh and Carmelo, or the Heat, who are in need of a point guard and have cap space. Instead, he chose to go to Phoenix, a fun young team that could offer him a good contract to be a major part of a three guard rotation, but it was about more than a basketball fit, it was about a personal fit. He felt comfortable there and felt like they truly wanted to have him — something that was clearly not the case in Sacramento.
For Bosh, he didn’t need to chase a ring, but he was not going to be asked to take a pay cut to play for the Rockets. He passed on that chance to instead return to Miami where he’s likely to play out his career. It was a choice that had as much to do with life as it did with basketball, because.Bosh is comfortable in Miami.
With LeBron, comfort was the ultimate deciding factor. There isn’t a wrong basketball fit for the best player in the league. Putting him on any team gives them a hope of a championship, but this wasn’t about making the best basketball decision, it was about making the decision for his family that he felt most comfortable with. That place was Cleveland. That place was home.