|ESPN.com: NBA Training Camp 2009||[Print without images]|
|Although he is coming off the best season of his career, Wade would like to get some help in Miami.|
“There has been much hand-wringing locally that not enough was done to surround Wade with championship-caliber players, but those arguments are missing the bigger point. As are the New York Knicks, the Heat are biding their time until next summer, hanging onto their expiring contracts in order to drop far enough below the salary cap to add something major to the nucleus they've already established. And while one max guy would be nice, two max guys could make the Heat good enough for everyone to be reminded that Pat Riley owns the trademark to the term "three-peat." "If you were paying attention to all the people who were on top of the fact that we didn't make any moves, they don't know one thing about what our big-picture plan is," Riley told ESPN.com Saturday in a sit-down interview. "And I think anyone that really knows the NBA, knows the cap, knows the tax, knows 2010 and knows what we did since we traded Shaquille [O'Neal] -- that we were in an 18-month window, a very short rebuilding time." "So we're going to stay the course on our philosophy, and to answer your question -- Why didn't I make any moves? -- is because I didn't want to, and I wasn't going to unless I could make the move. Why would I want to take the assets I have and fast-track the process and trade those assets for contracts that are going to take us out 2-3 years? Lose those assets and have almost the same kind of team we have now? I'm not sure that would work. Keep the assets, keep the infrastructure, keep the picks and the flexibility," Riley said. Miami, New York and New Jersey are positioned to have the most cap room to spend on next summer's free-agent class. And while the Heat's best-case scenario would have them picking up two additional max players, the doomsday scenario would involve them losing Wade, perhaps as a result of his frustration at not being able to quickly rebuild a championship-caliber team in the years since Miami won the first title in franchise history. Wade has experienced the highest of highs (winning the Olympic gold medal with Team USA in Beijing in 2008) and lowest of lows (struggling throughout 2007 to return from shoulder and knee injuries, watching his team win 15 games just two seasons after being the champion, going through a bitter divorce from his former high school sweetheart) since that June night in 2006 when he was soaked with Champagne after winning the title over the Dallas Mavericks. Wade is 27 now, the age considered an NBA athlete's prime, and lists "wisdom" as the one character trait he has developed the most during his career. But when he speaks of free agency and says "it's kind of the unknown," he really is speaking only half the truth. He knows what the Heat's big-picture plans are, because he and Riley have spoken about them. He knows this season will be sacrificed to a certain degree to take the next step toward fulfilling those plans. And his wisdom is telling him to wait and see what kind of wizardry Riley can engineer next summer, which makes the non-events of this past summer that much easier to swallow. "I've got two heads: As a player you always want to not only see yourself get better, but see your team and teammates get better, so of course I want to see that," Wade said. "But it's a business, and on the business end I understand that we've put ourselves in position to be in a good position next summer. So it's kind of a catch-22." And so it will remain until next July. After that, Wade can stay or go. But if Wade stays, there's a big-picture plan that would create a beast. "To me, when it gets to these kinds of players, they have the pick of the litter and they will pick the best cities," Riley said. "The top players who want to move will say, 'I'm going to go here.' "The other teams that will have room but might not be in the most favorable place to play, that money will bring a lot of them there, too. But if the top players want to leave, and the perceived top cities have the room, you've got to show them the room. "It's like 'If you build it, they will come.' And if they want to leave, and you show them the room and they like the organization and they take a look at the opportunity to win -- all those things being equal, I think we've got a great opportunity to sign some of these guys," Riley said. We'll know whether that scheme was successful in the middle of a night two winters from now. If Wade and two other studs are sauntering off those team charter flights, stepping into the warm, fresh air of a late Miami night and putting their car roofs down, the plan will have been more than a dream -- and Wade will be secure in the wisdom that when June comes around, be it in 2011, 2012 and/or 2013, the Miami Heat will most likely still be playing ball. Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
So we're going to stay the course on our philosophy, and to answer your question -- Why didn't I make any moves? -- is because I didn't want to, and I wasn't going to unless I could make the move.” -- Heat president Pat Riley