Pat Riley came into this offseason with a plan. The plan was to get his three superstars to opt out of their current deals, which would have crippled the Miami Heat‘s salary cap, and get them to restructure their deals so that the team could have flexibility to get players who can continue to keep the Heat as title contenders for the long term.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are playing their roles, opting out of deals that would had paid them a combined $85 million over the next two seasons for the greater good of the team. We all thought that the Heat’s main Superman, LeBron James, would do the same, as he was the first one to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
But as reports coming out of Miami are saying, that is far from the case. Reports coming out on Monday reveal that James wants Miami to pay him a maximum deal that would be worth over $120 million over five years. I thought the sole purpose for LeBron opting out of his current deal was to take less money to allow the team to add quality role players around him. It’s not like LeBron is hurting for money.
But LeBron demanding the Heat to pay him the maximum salary stings the team in two ways. One, Riley was not betting on James demanding them to pay him the max salary, which screws up Riley’s plans to re-tool the team since the “big three” could be eating up the bulk of the team’s salary cap again. This is the quagmire Riley is finding himself in this season, having to balance getting what the Heat need with trying to make the King happy. And second, this could fracture his relationship with Wade and Bosh, since those two opting out of their lucrative deals to take less money to rebuild the team.
Now don’t get me wrong. If there is anyone who deserves a max deal it is James, as he has continued to play at an all-world level since coming into the league in 2003. But LeBron also needs to realize that the Heat do not have the cap space to pay him a max salary and pay his two running mates mini-max deals. The Heat need supporting players, and if James continues to demand a max contract from Miami, that is not happening.
LeBron deserves his money — no question about it. But if he wants to continue to chase after rings in South Beach, he needs to think about the Heat and not about himself.