The rest of the league may hate it, but Pat Riley sure loves when a plan comes together — especially when it’s well mastered. Not like the failed power play that recently backfired on Jason Kidd, but something more similar to the summer of 2010 heist that the Miami Heat pulled off.
Riley’s 2014 plot came into view way before the season began, however, it was not until his team failed to compete in the NBA Finals that their vision for the future truly took shape.
Things started with the announcement that Chris “Birdman” Andersen would be opting out of his contract, followed by LeBron James’ decision to do the same. Next came word that Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade were terminating their deals, and suddenly the Heat had a record $55 million in cap space.
To an outside eye, these moves signaled hope that organizations on the cusp could finally get their hands on the top player in the game.
Fans were watching their hometown teams make trades and stash draft picks all in preparation to clear enough room just to have a talk with James. Believe it or not, many owners and general managers were risking the depletion of their franchises although they actually know that there is no chance that the Chosen One would play for them. Yet they still move as if he could be split into little pieces and sprinkled on every team.
But on Biscayne Bay, the five opt-outs were seen as a way to retool the way Riley envisioned. This meant that their owner Micky Arison could afford to sign his stars to longer deals that spread their money out over the course of years, while key positions were filled. It’s as if they’re simply continuing to execute their theme of sacrifice, which falls in line with why the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman believes there are too many reasons for James to think about leaving:
“…between vacationing with Ray Allen and James Jones, meeting with his fellow Heat stars, and making a pointed statement about the Heat’s draft, he has made himself a co-pilot with Pat Riley in the Heat’s offseason… Too many have followed his lead in recent days for him to then up and lead elsewhere.”
Nevertheless, overt confidence shouldn’t be on the Heat’s mind, not even if the reports are true about the Big Three coming together to discuss their South Beach financial options.
The truth is, players can’t be inked to new deals until July 10, so there’s always the possibility that things can go south. Just ask Riley how that one-week wait worked out for him — in the summer of 2000 — when Tracy McGrady pulled the silent switch on his verbal agreement and signed on in Orlando.