Wade, Bosh to Heat, Boozer to Bulls; James up

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

The domi­noes started fall­ing quickly Wed­nes­day in the NBA’s sum­mer free agent splash:

Dwyane Wade de­cided early in the morn­ing that he would re­turn to the Mi­ami Heat.

Chris Bosh, a tal­ented, young for­ward, soon agreed to join Wade in Mi­ami.

Car­los Boozer, a re­lent­less power for­ward, made a deal with the Chicago Bulls.

Ray Allen, a sharp-shooter guard, re-upped with the Bos­ton Celtics.

Now comes the biggest of all: LeBron James.

James will an­nounce his de­ci­sion in a one-hour ESPN prime­time spe­cial at 8 p.m. And he won’t make fans wait the en­tire hour to

Con­tin­ued from C shuf­fle team caps. An ESPN ex­ec­u­tive says James will an­nounce his plans within the first 10 min­utes of the show, which has been called “The De­ci­sion.’’

Norby Wil­liamson, the cable net­work’s vice pres­i­dent of pro­duc­tion, says sports­caster Jim Gray will han­dle the in­tro­duc­tion, an­nounce­ment and ques­tions. Wil­liamson says Gray was hand-picked by James’ team, who ap­proached the net­work last week about the spe­cial.

The show will take place at the Boys & Girls Club of Green­wich, Conn., which should make Cava­liers fans plenty ner­vous be­cause, up un­til now, James has done just about ev­ery­thing in his life ei­ther in Cleve­land or his home­town of Akron, Ohio.

Cleve­land and Mi­ami are con­sid­ered the fa­vorites for James’ ser­vices, but Chicago, New York and New Jersey in­sist they are still in the run­ning.

Mi­ami and Chicago got an un­ex­pected boost late Wed­nes­day with word that the NBA salary cap will be higher than ex­pected for the 2010-11 sea­son — $58 mil­lion in­stead of $56 mil­lion.

That means the Heat and Bulls can prob­a­bly af­ford to give out an­other max­i­mum con­tract, even af­ter Wade and Bosh picked Mi­ami and Boozer agreed to an $80 mil­lion, fiveyear deal with Chicago.

“We still hope to get LeBron to join us,’’ said Wade, who was tempted to jump to his home­town Chicago team.

James av­er­aged 29.7 points for Cleve­land last sea­son, Dwyane Wade was tempted to go home and play for Chicago, but stayed in Mi­ami. ‘We still hope to get LeBron to join us,’ he said. Wade av­er­aged 26.6 points for Mi­ami and Bosh av­er­aged ca­reer-bests of 24.0 points and 10.8 re­bounds for Toronto.

“I ex­pect us to com­pete for a cham­pi­onship,” Bosh said. “I think both Dwyane and I, we both wanted an op­por­tu­nity where right away we would be com­pet­ing. We’re ready to sac­ri­fice a lot of things in or­der to do that.”

The Heat still have only four play­ers in the pic­ture for this com­ing sea­son: Wade, Bosh, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. Mi­ami is in dis­cus­sions with sev­eral free agents, in­clud­ing Bren­dan Hay­wood, Mike Miller, Ray­mond Fel­ton Chris Bosh left Toronto to join Dwyane Wade in Mi­ami be­cause, he said, he wants to play for a ti­tle im­me­di­ately. and Udo­nis Haslem — whom Wade has played with in all seven of his pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

The Bulls are thrilled to land Boozer. He av­er­aged 19.5 points and 11.2 re­bounds last sea­son for Utah. His ar­rival gives the Bulls a for­mi­da­ble pair in the front­court with Joakim Noah, not to men­tion a good pickand-roll part­ner for All-Star point guard Der­rick Rose.

Chicago sources pointed out they still have enough left in the bank for James.

Allen, who turns 35 this month, agreed to a two-year, $20 mil­lion con­tract to re­turn to the Celtics and give it one last go with Kevin Gar­nett and Paul Pierce.

LeBron James

Wil­fredo Lee

Nathan Denette

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