Getting James, Wade, Bosh, Haslem and Andersen to take pay cuts significant enough to open a significant slot for Anthony undoubtedly will be complex. It would require reductions that could stretch into the tens of millions over the next few seasons. Sources say the Heat's plan is to sell the players they wish to keep on the long-term benefits of making such a sacrifice.
The Heat are in essence trying to emulate some of the longstanding policies employed by their current Finals opponent, as the Spurs have been able to keep Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili together for more than a decade -- while routinely strengthening the supporting cast around them -- because their three best players have been repeatedly willing to take pay cuts.
The Spurs' ability to keep the championship window open by selling their mainstays on such sacrifices has allowed Duncan and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to make it back to the game's biggest stage 15 years after San Antonio's first Finals appearance in 1999.
James will turn 30 in December, and Bosh, Wade and Anthony all are in their 30s and mindful of their advancing age.
James feels he needs to reduce his workload during the regular season, especially with Wade at a point in his career where knee problems are limiting him to fewer games. Wade missed 28 games during the regular season as part of a maintenance program aimed at keeping him as fresh as possible for the playoffs.
Pairing with Anthony, his close friend and a player who sports a similar skill set, is attractive to James. Anthony and the Heat's three stars have maintained a good relationship since they entered the league together in the 2003 draft class. There is a strong belief that the team concept Miami has forged since 2010 would allow them to learn to be effective all playing together.
Bosh already has indicated publicly on multiple occasions during the playoffs that, despite external suggestions that he could be tempted into moving on and restoring himself as a team's No. 1 option like he was in Toronto, he is determined to stay with the Heat into the future.
But James, as he has all season, sidestepped an attempt at Wednesday's off-day news conference to get him talking about his future, saying: "That's kind of like on the back burner right now."
James insisted he's more focused on "figuring out how I'm going to prioritize Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard and Duncan and Danny Green and Ginobili, Patty Mills and Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter and the list goes on and on. Matt Bonner, Gregg Popovich and [Spurs assistant] Ime Udoka and those kind of guys. [Free agency] is the last thing I'm thinking about right now."
As ESPN.com reported earlier Wednesday, Anthony must notify the Knicks by June 23 -- essentially one week before the start of free agency -- whether he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract. Sources say Knicks president Phil Jackson continues to urge Anthony to opt into next season's $23.3 million and put off unrestricted free agency for one more year.
Jackson's pitch to Anthony -- which sources say he has delivered more than once over the past month -- is founded upon the notion that the Knicks will have increased financial flexibility in the summer of 2015 to make their own run at James or sign another marquee free agent to pair with a re-signed Anthony.