Only Mavs, Heat have met with Haywood

Like the rest of the basketball universe, Brendan Haywood will be tuned into LeBron James' one-hour special Thursday night on ESPN.

“We’ll see where King James is going,” Haywood said. “And then, after that, I feel everything is going to kick off.”

At which point Haywood’s free-agent path will finally come into clearer focus. Talking from his home in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, about an hour after Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade declared their union in Miami, Haywood wouldn’t limit his potential options once the James dust settles, but Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat appear to be the frontrunners for the 7-footer’s services.

Haywood said the Mavs and Heat are the only clubs that have come to his home in Charlotte, N.C., to meet face-to-face. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle visited Haywood at the start of the free agency period a week ago and Heat president Pat Riley met with Haywood last weekend. Haywood also dispelled the notion that he and Carlisle parted on rocky terms.

Haywood said both teams provide the opportunity to play with two superstars – albeit the Heat’s new dynamic duo is younger and will be together longer -- as well as a chance to contend for a title.

“Wade and Bosh is a great combination in Miami and that’s something you have to look at. But you know, I love playing with Jason Kidd and I love playing with Dirk [Nowitzki],” Haywood said. “Dirk is one of the coolest superstars ever, on and off the court. He hits big shots, he’s great in the locker room as far as making everybody feel like they’re a part of the team; not like he’s bigger than life. So, I love the chemistry with Kidd and Nowitzki just as well as Bosh and Wade, so who knows?”

Haywood’s plight is tied directly to James’ decision. If he joins Wade and Bosh in Miami, it would make it extremely difficult for the Heat to sign Haywood outright. But, if James goes elsewhere, Miami could offer an enticing, long-term financial deal with the opportunity to team with Bosh and Wade for years to come.

As a Bird-rights free agent, Haywood can receive an additional year and ultimately more money from the Mavs. Haywood made $6 million last year and his agent Andy Miller has called Haywood a top 10 center in the league who wants to be paid like one. That could push Haywood’s salary beyond $10 million annually, assuming Miami or another team with cap space is inclined to go that high.

A league source said the Mavs may be more in line with $8 million to $10 million. Haywood, who declined to get into salary figures, said he would like to complete a deal “sooner rather than later” so he can begin his offseason workout program with a clear mind.

“At the end of the day, I’m a starting center in this league and the market will shake all that stuff out,” Haywood said.