Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Could Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka be targeting a former client from his days as a player agent?
The Lakers made a significant move over the weekend, buying out the contract of Luol Deng. The franchise now projects to have enough cap room in July 2019 to pursue any available free agent, including Golden State Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant.
The move also opened a roster spot for the 2018-19 squad. And quickly, talk that Chris Bosh could be a target for the Lakers circulated on Twitter.
The Lakers seem well stocked at guard and forward but are thin at center, with just one veteran (JaVale McGee) and two young prospects (Ivica Zubac and rookie Moritz Wagner). James may get minutes in the middle as well, as part of the Lakers’ version of the “Death Lineup,” but if there’s an area of uncertainty, it’s at center.
Wouldn’t a healthy Bosh be the perfect fit?
Bosh won two titles (2011-12 and 2012-13) alongside James in Miami with the Heat. A mobile 6’11”, Bosh would fit in today’s pace-and-space game as a stretch center.
“That would be the Lakers Show plus the Old-Man Show,” Bosh told Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports in August when asked if he and free agent Dwyane Wade could team up with James once again in Los Angeles.
Reed Saxon/Associated Press
Bosh hasn’t played in the league for over two years after being forced into premature retirement after suffering multiple blood clots, but he still craves a comeback.
“I’m going to give [playing] one more shot,” he said in an interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in March.
“I’m still trying to overcome that hump and trying to get something going. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Bosh told Rohrbach. “I know I can still play ball and be a 3-and-D guy for somebody out there.”
So, what’s the issue? The Lakers need a center, Bosh wants to play. He has a relationship with Pelinka, joining Landmark Sports in November of 2016 before the former agent changed careers.
The answer is a lot more complicated than simply agreeing to terms with Bosh and signing a contract.
Bosh left the league with $52.1 million left on his contract with the Heat. In June 2017, an NBA Fitness-to-Play Panel agreed with the Heat’s determination that Bosh should not play again, per Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.
Call it the “Chris Bosh Rule.”
Both the league and the players union want to establish a process to help determine “whether players with potentially life-threatening injuries, illnesses or other health conditions are medically able and medically fit to practice and play basketball in the NBA,” as written in the collective bargaining agreement.
The panel includes three physicians, one each assigned by the NBA and the NBA Players Association, and a third selected by the two appointees. In addition to a panel set up with experts on heart conditions, a second was created specifically to rule on issues related to blood clots and other blood conditions and disorders.
The latter ruled that it was unsafe for Bosh to continue. Subsequently, the Heat were allowed to remove his remaining salary from their books (although he is still receiving payment).
Should Bosh sign a contract with the Lakers as a player who previously was previously ruled unfit to play, enough time has elapsed that his case could be put forward for a second review by the panel.
That’s the hurdle Bosh would have to clear. The league put in these specific safeguards to prevent any potential on-court tragedies.
Bosh, via his physicians, would need to substantiate “there have been materially changed circumstances” since the panel’s initial determination, such as an improvement in his condition or the treatment options available.
Perhaps Bosh can satisfy those requirements. Maybe there’s an alternative treatment outside of blood thinners. It’s easy to speculate, and Bosh may even have experts willing to vouch for his safety.
Ultimately, the decision doesn’t lie in his hands or the Lakers, but the league itself.
Any fans theorizing that the Lakers underinvested at center because they knew they would cut Deng and that Bosh was available probably didn’t consider the Fitness-to-Play Panel.
Bosh, who was present multiple times throughout the season the Lakers’ facility, may have his heart in the right place, but both the NBA and NBPA want to make sure their players are safe.
They’ve placed a priority on the health of Bosh and his fellow athletes, and that’s a good thing.
The Lakers may be fine at center, they may be terrible. But in the end, it’s just basketball.
It may feel like life and death, but the stakes don’t compare to the importance of Bosh’s well-being.
Email Eric Pincus at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.