LeBron James might have never even known it was happening.
While he was holed up in a Las Vegas gym hosting a basketball camp for top high school and college talent, the rest of the world was expecting a decision on where he'll play next season and beyond. The Heat and Cavaliers are still waiting. The entire league is tied up until James makes a decision, and James apparently doesn't know what he wants to do yet.
Ideally, James takes all the time he needs. Problem is, there's an unlikely source setting a hard deadline for his decision. When restricted free agent forward Chandler Parsons signed an offer sheet for a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks, it started a unofficial clock on James' announcement.
Parsons played his first three seasons with the Houston Rockets. Houston would probably love to retain the 25-year-old wing, but the team has also made no secret of the fact that it wants to add a star free agent. The catch here is that Houston only has three days to announce whether it will match the offer sheet to Parsons or let him go to Dallas. That clock started Thursday night, which means the Rockets will have until Sunday night to make their decision.
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And that puts the Rockets in a tough spot for their pursuit of James' best teammate: Chris Bosh. The Rockets have reportedly extended a max or near-max contract offer to Bosh while he awaits James' decision, and Bosh will take it if James decides to change teams. However, Houston won't have any cap space left for Bosh if it matches Parsons' contract -- they can go over the cap to retain Parsons, but not to sign Bosh. Thus, Bosh must sign first. They also only have three days to make necessary cap-clearing moves like trading Jeremy Lin and finalizing a deal with the Pelicans for Omer Asik to even put themselves in a position to sign Bosh.
In a perfect world, Houston wants James to announce he's going to Cleveland as soon as possible, preferably Friday. Then the Rockets would have time to work out the details on Bosh's contract offer. Once that's finished, Houston can match Parsons' offer sheet by using their right to go over the cap to retain their own free agents.
But what if James doesn't make a quick decision? Would Bosh bail on Miami before knowing James' intentions? Would the Rockets risk losing Parsons for nothing, just so they can maintain the hope of landing Bosh without knowing for sure whether he's coming? Would James really leave his friend twisting in the wind by delaying a decision past Sunday?
It's all coming to a head this weekend. Once it happens, James' massive gravitational pull will trigger a series of reactions around the league, as all other second-tier free agents look to the LeBron derby losers for big contracts. But Parsons' offer sheet also triggered him into action, at least if he wants to decide without having a negative impact on Bosh.
James may be the most powerful force in the game on and off the court. But he can thank Parsons and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for starting an unofficial countdown.