Bosh announces he will join Wade with Miami Heat

The Associated Press

7/8/2010 2:21:02 AM

MIAMI -- Chris Bosh is leaving Toronto for Miami, saying it's not about the money but about winning.

Ending months of speculation, the former Raptors forward announced Wednesday that he will sign with the Miami Heat, joining his good friend Dwyane Wade.

Both Wade and Bosh were part of this year's blockbuster free agent class that also includes LeBron James, who will announce his intentions on ESPN on Thursday night (TSN, 9 p.m. ET).

It had long been expected that Bosh would not return to Toronto, but Wednesday's announcement provided the confirmation.

In an interview with ESPN, Bosh said he wanted to land with a team that would compete for and NBA championship. In his seven years with Toronto, Bosh has only played in 11 playoff games.

"I think both Dwyane and I, we both wanted an opportunity where right away we would be competing," Bosh said. "We're ready to sacrifice a lot of things in order to do that. It's not about the money. It's not about anything else except for winning. I'm a winner. Dwyane's a winner. We're going to bring winning to Miami."

Bosh, 26, said leaving Toronto wasn't an easy decision.

"I've been there for seven years, it's pretty much my second home," Bosh said. "To leave that has been difficult, even throughout this whole process."

Still, Bosh seemed to be having fun as teams attempted to woo him, frequently posting his thoughts on Twitter.

"It's been an exciting time," he told ESPN. "It's been one of the biggest stories in sports. Just to be a part of that I felt that I had to enjoy it instead of maybe just trying to run away from everything. Instead of doing that, I embraced it."

While the Raptors have said they were preparing for life after Bosh, nobody from the team was saying much about Bosh's announcement Wednesday.

"I have nothing official from anyone," Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a text message to the AP.

A Raptors official said there would be no further comment from the team during the official signing moratorium, which ends Thursday.

The Raptors do have several sign-and-trade options from teams interested in acquiring Bosh, who averaged a career-best 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds last season for Toronto.

When asked about a reported sign-and-trade deal between Toronto and Cleveland, Bosh said he didn't know the details.

"I leave that for my agent," he said. "I really don't know the specifics in that conversation... I wasn't sure if LeBron was coming back and I wanted to leave that decision up to him. I wanted to choose the best situation for me and my family."

A sign-and-trade would mean more money for Bosh. The Raptors could give him a six-year, US$128-million contract but another team can only offer a five-year deal worth $96 million.

Bosh is the latest Raptors star to head south after Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady all left Toronto for other teams.

Wade said the fact that Bosh was coming made his decision to stay in Miami much easier.

"I'm so glad it's over," Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I had to do what was best for me. And I know I did that."

Bosh and Wade are friends, were Olympic teammates on the gold-medal team in Beijing, dined together at times during the free-agent interview process last week in Chicago and were part of that star-studded draft class in 2003 -- Bosh went fourth, Wade fifth.

Wade said when free agency began that he would likely only stay in Miami if the Heat lured either Bosh or James to south Florida.

Now they're waiting -- like the rest of the league -- to see what James will do.

Wade does not know what the terms of the next contract he'll sign with Miami will be, nor when he'll sign the paper. Bosh doesn't have terms of his next deal done either. It's all contingent on what James says Thursday night, and Wade insisted he knows nothing about what the two-time MVP will say or where he'll be saying it from.

"I won't speak to him again until he makes his decision," Wade said in the AP interview. "And when it's over, I will congratulate him. But I will be watching."

Either way, Wade is already thrilled with how free agency played out.

He, James and Bosh were the three kingpins of this long-hyped market, a trio of all-stars who came into the league together seven years ago and structured their last contracts just to hit the open market together this summer, the last under the current terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement.

They've talked often about playing together.

Now, the ball is clearly in King James' court.

Regardless of whether James comes to Miami, the Heat still have only four players currently in the picture for this coming season: Wade, Bosh, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. Miami is deeply in discussions with several free agents, including Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller, Raymond Felton and Udonis Haslem -- whom Wade has played with in all seven of his previous seasons.

Haslem and Bosh play the same position, and like Wade, are represented by the same agent, Henry Thomas. Bosh's arrival figures to make it more difficult for Haslem -- who has other offers -- to stay in Miami.

"UD is family to me," Wade said. "He's a brother of mine. I told him, 'I want you here.' But I'm not going to tell him to take a sacrifice and a pay cut to come play with me, because my sacrifice, my pay cut, it's a little different."

Quentin Richardson, Dorell Wright and Chris Quinn, all longtime Wade friends and teammates, also are high on the wish list.

"We'll see what the best thing is for us to win," Wade told the AP. "I'm going to make a lot of money, no matter what happens. I've been blessed. I'm not counting every dollar and every cent. Let's sit down, let's see what the best thing is for us for the long haul. This is about longevity. That's why I wanted to play with another superstar. That's why I wanted to build a team."

It's unclear whether Miami's acquisition of Bosh will come through a simple free-agent signing or a sign-and-trade deal with Toronto.

Bosh and Wade could formally become teammates as soon as Thursday, when the NBA moratorium on signing contracts expires. Under NBA rules, the Heat cannot confirm any contracts until 12:01 a.m. Thursday, although players are allowed to agree to deals before the signing window opens.

Miami came into the free-agent period with around $44 million of cap space, not including $16 million or so earmarked for Wade, thanks to years of avoiding just about any deal where money would have been committed for the 2010-11 season.

"We want to build a dynasty," Heat president Pat Riley had told fans entering free agency.

Bosh and Wade would be a pretty good start.

"We are engaged in free agent negotiations with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh," was the only statement from Riley on Wednesday. "We intend to enter into player contracts with Dwyane and Chris once the moratorium period has ended."

The expectation around the Heat for months -- for years, really -- was that Wade would have a flirtation with free agency, then return to Miami for a six-year contract that could have been worth around $125 million, maybe a bit more or less depending on what the salary cap number for the coming 2010-11 season is.

The 2006 NBA finals MVP fed that assumption, saying countless times that he wanted to stay in Miami if the roster were upgraded to a championship-contending level. That rather ambiguous caveat took a more exact shape in recent days, and the Heat were clearly on edge when Wade took two meetings with the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team.

"As much as I love Miami, I would have done myself no justice if I stayed here and no one came with me," Wade said. "My career's going to end in a couple years if that happens. I couldn't do that."

So he didn't. He tested the waters, talked to Chicago and New York and New Jersey.

In the end, the decision was brutally tough, tougher than Wade ever thought possible.

"It's over," Wade said in the AP interview. "It's not all over-over, but for me, it's over."