Chris Bosh and Heat owner Micky Arison. (Getty Images)

The end of Chris Bosh’s career with the Miami Heat has not gone as anyone could have planned when he signed a new contract extension two summers ago. A sad story that began with blood clot issues that put the All-Star forward’s career (and potentially life) in danger has morphed into a more familiar bad breakup between team and player.

[restrict]  Bosh has wanted to return to action this season, but the Heat and their doctors have not cleared him medically following several rounds of tests. He has admitted that his time with the team is over and that he will have to go elsewhere to continue his NBA career.

Unfortunately, NBA salary cap rules mean that giving Bosh that opportunity isn’t as simple as releasing him and letting him choose his next employer. If Bosh plays 25 games for another team in any season, his max salary will count against the Heat’s cap figure for the duration of the contract (which he gets anyway). That means the Miami front office will do whatever it can to keep Bosh out of action until the end of this season to free up room to lure free agents this summer.

As reported by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, that means Bosh is very likely to be released after March 1, when he will be ineligible to play in the 2017 NBA Playoffs:

The most likely course of action as of now in this murky, sad situation, per sources all around it: The Heat wait until after March 1 to waive Bosh so that he is not eligible to appear in the postseason for any team that signs him. At that point, Bosh’s mammoth salary would vanish from Miami’s cap sheet, freeing Riley to plop his rings in front of one or two stars this summer. […]

Bosh wants to play, and some team will absolutely sign him for the minimum — even if it’s just for this season. Bosh is still going to get all of his money from Miami, and suitors will try to coax him into signing through 2017-18. […]

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has more details on all of Miami’s choices and why they’ll have to wait until February to release him regardless of their eventual move. The takeaway is that there are no good choices for the Heat in this situation. Lowe rightfully notes that the Heat would still hate to get Bosh’s big salary back on the books for 2017-18 should he sign with another team and prove healthy enough to see action in 25 games. Yet that’s a reasonable risk given the importance of the 2017 offseason for a team used to reloading, not rebuilding.

Yet it’s difficult to read these reports without thinking that the Heat didn’t come upon that March 1 deadline by accident. Many teams do not play 25 regular season games after that date, including potential Bosh suitors such as the Los Angeles Clippers (22) and Cleveland Cavaliers (24). Given that any new team would have to get Bosh medically cleared and likely would opt not to play him on consecutive nights (or maybe even consecutive games), it’s hard to see how Bosh would reach 25 games this season. They would hold onto their cap space for at least one summer.

So, do the Heat just want to keep Bosh out of the playoffs to spite him? It’s a serious accusation that cannot be proven without further reports. What we do know is that this breakup has not been amicable. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in late September that Bosh hadn’t wanted to speak to Pat Riley for months, and it would be reasonable to assume that the Heat wish Bosh would listen to their doctors and retire for good. It’s possible that Miami would hold Bosh past the March deadline because they have his best interests at heart and want to save him from his competitive instincts, but there’s also a point at which looking after an employee becomes the worst kind of paternalism.

What’s clear is that this situation will not reach any kind of resolution until February at earliest and this next offseason at the latest. As long as Bosh wants to play and the Heat have to contend with the salary cap, their priorities will be too different to lead to a happy ending to this relationship. A star who once seemed immensely happy with this franchise now can’t wait to leave. The whole thing is a sad reminder that the NBA is more business than game. [/restrict]