Barry Jackson

Unfortunate NBA rule makes Heat root against Bosh

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks about Chris Bosh

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra taks about Chris Bosh during media day on Sept. 26, 2016.
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Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra taks about Chris Bosh during media day on Sept. 26, 2016.

Chris Bosh, who plans to try to play again but doesn’t know when, has a new agent but no illusions of ever playing for Miami again.

And here’s a perverse problem: The labor agreement is written in such a way that Miami now must root against Bosh being cleared to make a comeback elsewhere.

Bosh is expected to come off Miami’s cap soon after Feb. 9, which would eliminate hits of $25.3 million next season and $26.8 million in 2018-19, though he would still be paid everything he’s owed, partly from insurance.

The cap-hit removal will become definite if a doctor selected by the league and union determine, as expected, that his condition is career-threatening or severe enough to put him at risk if he plays.

Because Bosh accepts that he will not be playing in Miami, and because the Heat isn’t comfortable clearing him medically, he is unlikely to fight this, knowing such a proclamation from a doctor does not prohibit him from playing again, if another team surprisingly clears him after three clotting episodes.

So let’s fast forward to this scenario: A) The Heat uses the $42 million in cap space it’s projected to have next summer, after Bosh is removed from the cap and B) Bosh returns with another team in 2017-18. (This season would not be especially likely.)

Once he plays in his 25th game with another team, his salary cap hit goes back on Miami’s cap. So then what?

The good news: Larry Coon and Nate Duncan tell me that even if Miami is capped out at the time, it would not be required to shave $25.3 million off its team payroll (and get back under the cap) after Bosh plays his 25th game for another team.

The bad news: As Coon and Duncan explain, if the Heat is already capped out at that point, that would result in a $65 million luxury tax bill for Miami, unless the Heat frantically shed tons of salary in trades.

But a Bosh comeback of 25 games or more next season would limit the Heat’s flexibility for the 2018-19 season, when Bosh – playing for another team – would be on Miami’s cap for nearly $27 million. That would potentially preclude Miami from having much, if any, cap space that 2018 offseason.

So a Bosh comeback next season (which the odds are against) could hurt the Heat in two different ways – with the luxury tax next season and with cap flexibility the following year.

It’s unfortunate that cap rules are written in a way that Miami must root against Bosh. That’s a flaw in the labor agreement.

• If the relief is granted before February’s trade deadline (good chance), the Heat could acquire quality players to fill some of the $23.7 million in 2016-17 cap space that will be created by Bosh’s removal from the cap.

“If you look at some of the contracts that went out,” Heat president Pat Riley said in July, “on Dec. 15 [when free agents can be traded, Heat general manager] Andy Elisburg and I are going to be getting a lot of calls from teams about how to get rid of those deals.”

Barring an unexpected Bosh comeback this season, Miami wouldn’t need to rush to fill that space before the trade deadline.

Bosh, incidentally, hired Los Angeles-based Rob Pelinka to represent him, replacing Henry Thomas (Dwyane Wade’s agent). Pelinka represents Kobe Bryant and Heat players Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams, among others.

Bosh has been traveled around the world recently while keeping in touch with several Heat players, including Udonis Haslem and Josh Richardson. Haslem said they never discuss his basketball future. Richardson told me last week -- and told a few other reporters this week -- that Bosh remains a mentor for him.

• With the Heat retiring Shaquille O'Neal's jersey on Dec. 22, TNT - which employs O'Neal as a studio analyst - added the Heat-Lakers game to its schedule that night and dropped a Boston-Indiana game. Tipoff for that Thursday night Heat game has been shifted from 7:30 to 8 p.m.

For my Wednesday afternoon post with lots of newsy Dolphins nuggets, please click here. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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