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Cleveland making run at Haslem


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Cleveland making run at Haslem


The Cavaliers are planning to meet with Udonis Haslem and have the cap space to offer him more than Miami can.




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The Cleveland Cavaliers missed out on top free agents Ray Allen and Michael Redd, so their immediate plans now include courting Heat free agent Udonis Haslem.


Sources indicate the Cavaliers are interested in setting up a meeting with Haslem to convince the third-year forward he can be part of the team's future, and they could be prepared to offer Haslem more than the five-year, $33 million deal the Heat can offer.


Word among players is that LeBron James has become a Haslem fan after watching him the past two years and playing with him in the Rookie Challenge games the past two All-Star weekends.


Having failed to lure Allen and Redd from their current teams, the Cavaliers and new general manager Danny Ferry need to provide James with reasons to stay in Cleveland past his current contract. Cleveland already has come to terms with free agent Admin Hughes, and signing a young, workhorse power forward such as Haslem could be another measure taken. With about $28 million of space under the salary cap, the Cavaliers can still afford to sign Haslem and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas after signing Hughes.


The Heat has been in negotiations with Haslem, meeting with the free agent the first day negotiations were allowed, but an agreement is still not in place, leaving the door open for a team such as the Cavaliers to pursue Haslem.


Haslem's agent, Jason Levien, wouldn't comment on negotiations.


Should Haslem, a restricted free agent, sign an offer sheet with the Cavaliers more than the amount the Heat can offer, it is believed the Heat would have to forfeit the use of its mid-level exception to match the deal (final word on that rule won't be official until the new collective bargaining agreement is completely written later this month).


That would put the Heat in a bind and give the team much less flexibility than once expected. Should the Heat sign Haslem under its terms, the team would have a starting power forward in place and still have its mid-level exception with which to sign at least one point guard and possibly another frontcourt addition.


If Haslem signs a larger offer sheet elsewhere, the Heat could choose not to match the offer, then likely would need to use all or most of its exception to sign a starting caliber power forward such as Donyell Marshall or Shareef Abdur-Rahim (the Nets remain in the lead to sign Abdur-Rahim). That likely would narrow the team's options for a point guard, with re-signing Damon Jones as its most reasonable option.


Haslem, who has indicated his desire to stay in Miami, still could sign with the Heat, overlooking the possibility of signing for more money elsewhere. But the longer the Heat waits to come to an agreement with Haslem, the greater the possibility Haslem could be drawn elsewhere.



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