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Wade's New York leverage

Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat waits

Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat waits near the bench as Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics shoots three free throws during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. (April 27, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

After the Heat were eliminated by the Celtics on Tuesday, Dwyane Wade briefly addressed his impending free agency.

"I can't predict the future," Wade told reporters in Boston after the 96-86 loss in Game 5. "It's going to be a very important summer. It's going to be a busy summer. But right now I've got to get this [loss] out of my system first."

Since we already have free agency in our system, let's address it for him:

Wade joins Chris Bosh among the top shelf free agents potentially available this summer that are finished playing. That's one duo of many options Knicks fans are dreaming Donnie Walsh can produce with the $30M-plus in salary cap space. But it's probably the least likely.

MORE: NBA free agent rankings: Class of 2010

Last week to the Miami Herald, Wade said the opening other teams have to sign him this summer is "not a huge window at all; it's a small gap."

"You have to always keep your book open for your options and look at different things," he added. "But no, I'm not that open where I would go anywhere and would want to be almost anywhere."

That type of statement effectively eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers. Let's also remove any thought that Wade would go to his hometown of Chicago because it would mean cramming him into a backcourt with ball-dominant guard Derrick Rose, which makes absolutely no sense at all from anyone's point of view. The Bulls have an outstanding young player in Rose and should build with him rather than shove him aside to shoehorn in another hometown star. So there's no reason for Miami president Pat Riley to worry about the Bulls.

But what about the Knicks?

Wade said last week that free agency puts him "in the driver's seat" and it's talk like this that suggests he's using it more to have full control of the direction of the Miami Heat rather than consider making a move elsewhere. Wade's Heat will have enough cap space to add a second max contract even if they sign him to an extension. And that's why he said last week, "My biggest thing is to see what we do first."

The Heat are the Knicks' main competition when it comes to free agent bigs such as Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire or even Carlos Boozer. Actually, I would argue the Bulls, with Rose and athletic center Joakim Noah, might be more attractive to an all-star power forward than the Knicks empty roster.

But are the Knicks any kind of a threat to the Heat?

When it comes to Wade, they are. At least that's how Wade will likely play it for now and that immediately questions his true intentions. Of all the players who will try to use the Knicks to get what they want from their "home" teams -- include Stoudemire on that list -- Wade certainly has the most to gain.

"If you're talking about any one player that may have an agenda like that, I don't know if you can protect against it," Walsh told me a few weeks ago when we discussed this very issue.

The Knicks are desperate and could offer Wade the same opportunities they will offer LeBron James. But they wouldn't do it unless James was no longer an option.

All of the top free agents are referring to LeBron as The First Domino. Whatever he does will impact the rest of the group. If LeBron does get to July 1 without signing an extension in Cleveland, then everyone will wait to see what he does from there. If he thinks about New York, even a little, how could Wade, Bosh, et al not at least consider joining him? At least listen?

Remember, Wade is the one who perpetuates the idea that he and LeBron would be a good tandem. And if two of the game's best players -- let's go ahead say two of the NBA's top three players -- joined forces on the game's most visible stage at Madison Square Garden, it's impossible to quantify just how epic it would be.

OK, Fixers, now sing to yourself a little Soul II Soul: Back to life, back to reality . . .

If James signs with the Cavs before July 1, that would give Wade even more leverage over the Heat because he would immediately become the No. 1 free agent available. But it would certainly make New York less attractive for Wade unless, as we mentioned before, the Knicks could swing that aforementioned sign-and-trade of David Lee for Bosh and have Bosh be for the Knicks what Ray Allen was for the Celtics in 2007. 

But, again, Wade may prefer to have Bosh in South Beach and, therefore, it may be up to the Heat to outbid the Knicks to get him in a S&T. That, of course, is good news for Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, who may hold out to get the Knicks to ante up more than just Lee (Bill Walker or even Toney Douglas?) while attempting to get way more than just Michael Beasley (Joel Anthony and a future first rounder?) from Miami.

The Heat do have other options. Even if Stoudemire signs an extension with the Suns to avoid free agency, Carlos Boozer has long been rumored as eventually headed to Miami. Boozer and Wade would be a formidable 1-2 punch in the pick-and-roll.

And if James and Bosh wind up in New York, that would revive a great former rivalry between the Knicks and Heat.

Back to life, back to the present time

Back from a fantasty, yea-ah . . .

Meanwhile, Fixers, Cavs-Celtics begins Saturday in Cleveland. LeBron played with a padded sleeve over his right elbow in Game 5 win over the Bulls (even shot a free throw left handed). According to Cavs beat man Brian Windhorst, an MRI showed no structural damage. James described the injury as a tingling sensation and it sounded a lot like when Danilo Gallinari was experiencing the same issues with his shooting hand during the season after he fell into the Magic bench during a game in Orlando in December.

If this has any residual effects, especially if LeBron's shot isn't on (which hasn't been the case at all against the Bulls), how much does it even the playing field against the battle-tested C's . . . or perhaps tip the table?

Don't miss a minute of this series.

MORE: NBA free agent rankings: Class of 2010

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