“Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…”
After Game 6 of the 2011 Finals those words were nothing more than bitter irony to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. They had just been had by the Dallas Mavericks and Lebron was forced to endure another year of jokes at his expense.
Most of these jokes were in spite of James’ decision to make the exodus to Miami in hopes of winning a championship and solidifying his status as one of the greatest ever to play the game.
Fast-forward to June 2012 and a lot has changed since then, and now James’ words seem prophetic. What also has become more apparent than ever is that players who are in search of reaching NBA glory must too make the pilgrimage to Miami.
This is all thanks to none other than Pat Riley.
LeBron’s season was pivotal to Miami’s championship, and nothing short of spectacular winning both MVP titles awarded for individual effort and managing a triple-double in a championship clinching game.
However, the underlying message of the Heat’s second championship in 9 years is the recipe in which Pat Riley has conjured to do it. Signing three of the arguablely best players in the league and surrounding them with veteran talent who are willing to take pay cuts to win a championship.
After masterminding one of the most unlikely moves in sports history, all the Miami General Manager could do last night was sit back, and take pleasure in knowing that his big investment produced the ultimate reward.
Last year this formula almost panned out for Riley, but at times the veterans such as Mike Bibby and Eddie House seemed more detrimental than anything.
After releasing the two and adding Shane Battier, the second year of the “new” Miami Heat seemed nearly flawless. While LeBron, Wade and Bosh, had great years as usual, but whenever they seemed flat, the veterans who took their pay cuts filled the gap by doing what they were assigned to do and then some.
Mentioned prior, Battier was the perfect example of the success of this system. He made the move to Miami for the 2011-2012 and in doing so made a $4 million dollar pay cut.
He was crucial for the Heat all season, and especially in the NBA finals. In the first three games he was unconscious from the three point arc, 14 for 17 from three, something that no one expected, and boosted Miami after their only loss in Game 1.
Another prime example that shined in the 2012 finals was none other than the battered, beaten, and bruised Mike Miller, who also took an over $4 million dollar pay cut between 2009 and his signing with the Heat in 2010.
It seemed that every possession of Game 5 Miller was in pain but that did not stop him from a performance for the ages. In 23 minutes of play he matched his playing time on the score sheet, and was 7-8 from the three-point line; had Lebron not played the way he did, Miller would be receiving much more praise than he already has been.
This wasn’t his first big performance of the 2012 playoffs either, in game 6 of the semifinals he was a huge spark which saved Miami from an upset courtesy of the Pacers which very well could have decimated Miami and left Pat Riley looking like a fool.
Now Riley is the genius, having his three top players signed until 2016, and Mario Chalmers signed until 2014. Even more-so when you realize that he has a template for negotiating contracts with veterans on their last legs, with the successes of Battier, and Miller.
The GM will be able to continue to flex his muscle in free agency this offseason with Eddy Curry, Juwan Howard, Dexter Pittman, and Ronny Turiaf expected to be wiped off the books for next season.
A few of the names that come to mind are, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Jamal Crawford. However, if Riley wants to put forth a team that would be unbeatable the most suitable move would be signing a veteran big man.
Roy Hibbert will be the prize Center for many teams this offseason, but he is way out of reach for the Heat. A more reasonable signing for Miami would be Marcus Camby. Bleecher Report has already stated that this would be an ideal move for the squad. The signing of a veteran center of Camby’s stature would provide an anchor in the middle for the Heat and truly would have an answer defensively at every position.
You thought the Heat were good now? Imagine them with a legitimate center.
If Riley is able to continue convincing veterans to take LeBron’s road to South Beach it will be a very painful sight for General Managers throughout the NBA, and in all honesty it won’t take much convincing when these players realize Miami is the best place to win a championship.
There are only a few teams in the NBA with the chips to play with Miami in the offseason, the Lakers and Mavericks come to mind. Both teams will be looking to decimate their rosters while keeping their cornerstones, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki respectively.
As for the Heat’s familiar foes in the Bulls and Celtics, only Chicago has a realistic chance of catching up to the Heat, but even that depends on Rose’s health, and getting Carlos Boozer out of a Bulls jersey. Boston will more than likely begin their rebuilding process around Rajon Rondo next season, especially if Allen makes the departure and Kevin Garnett calls it a career.
The reality however is that none of these teams are going to have the pull that Riley and the Heat have, already having a platform for success that will be very appealing for veterans looking for that one chance. There is seemingly no risk for a veteran in going to Miami. Their not rebuilding, the only question mark is at center, and most importantly they are the best team in the league.
Now you may be asking yourself, “What about Oklahoma City?”
Oklahoma City has proven that they have the ability to make it to the finals, but they also showed that they are not ready to compete against Miami. Whether that is a talent issue, or execution issue, is up for debate.
OKC also faces the daunting task of matching offers from teams seeking James Harden and Serge Ibaka, as both are restricted free agents this offseason.
Meanwhile in Miami, all the ingredients are set for another NBA dynasty in the making. Most people were begging for this day not to come, but now it has. Pat Riley has all the power of influence, and can present a very appealing offer to the veteran free agents of the NBA. He looked like a genius when he convinced Wade, Bosh, and James to join forces, and now it will seem like second nature when Pat puts the likes of some of the best veterans in a Miami jersey. He truly carved a platform for success that will test the might of every GM in the NBA for years to come.
The 2012 off-season for 29 teams will be full of hopes of winning big in free agency, but signing solid veterans and filling needs will be a sure thing for one team, and that one team is the Miami Heat.