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Rockets first team to meet with free agent Bosh

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Associated Press
7/1/2010 9:39:07 AM
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HOUSTON -- Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sure knows how to make a first impression.

Morey met with coveted free agent Chris Bosh in Dallas just after midnight Thursday, making a pitch to an available player at the exact moment free agency opened for the second straight year.

The Rockets are considered long shots to land the six-foot-10 Bosh, who has averaged a double-double in three of his seven seasons with Toronto. But Morey wanted to meet with Bosh anyway, envisioning a perfect complement to all-star centre Yao Ming, who said this week he'll pick up the player option on his contract and return to the Rockets next season.

"We put our best foot forward," Morey said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "We just want him to make the best decision for him and hopefully, it's Houston."

New York, Miami and Chicago are considered frontrunners to land Bosh, because they already have enough salary cap space cleared to offer a maximum contract. The Rockets would have to give up several assets in a sign-and-trade deal with Bosh's current team, Toronto, to make him a comparable offer and Morey said he's willing to take that risk.

"We think we're a deep team," Morey said, "and we think we can give up some good pieces and still be a great team."

Bosh put up career-highs of 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting last season. But he's never won a playoff series, and Morey said that he tried to sell Bosh on Houston's championship potential.

Houston went 42-40 without Yao last season.

"We feel like we'd be an elite team in the West (with Bosh), as good as anyone," Morey said. "We're a team ready to win. The core of players we had won more games than any team without a superstar, and now we're going to add Yao Ming. Adding Chris Bosh with Yao, I think we could be a 60-win team."

Yao sent Bosh a message on Twitter about an hour before the negotiating period for free agents opened. Yao said Tuesday that he'll be 100 per cent healthy for training camp after sitting out last season following foot surgery.

"Hey Chris, hopefully you'll play with us next season," Yao said. "I'll be healthy and I'd really look forward to playing together."

Last season, when the extent of Yao's injury was uncertain, Morey knocked on the door of Orlando centre Marcin Gortat just after midnight on the first day of free agency. Morey announced the initial meeting on his Facebook page and urged fans to leave notes for Gortat at an email address, but the 6-11 centre ended up staying with the Magic.

The Rockets signed free agent Trevor Ariza last summer when Ron Artest decided to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

Morey said this week the Rockets are well-positioned this summer to make a strong pitch to one of the big-name free agents available.

Yao's return was a pivotal selling point, Morey said, and on Wednesday, the Rockets extended qualifying offers to starting forward Luis Scola and backup point guard Kyle Lowry, both restricted free agents. Houston also picked up the team option to bring back forward Chuck Hayes next season.

Morey said Bosh was Houston's No. 1 target, and he had no meetings immediately scheduled with other free agents.

Chris Bosh (Photo: Fernando Medina/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Fernando Medina/Getty Images)
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