Pat Riley had plenty of interesting things to say when he addressed media in Miami on Thursday.
His best line was probably, "You don't find the first door and run out of it," referring to LeBron James' ability to opt out of his contract before July 1.
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Why didn't Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert think of that line in 2010? He could have pasted it in comic sans typeface across the front page of the team's website.
Actually, James didn't bolt through the first available door to escape the Cavs. He signed one contract extension, but did duck out the second time he got the chance after spending seven seasons in Cleveland.
Now with the ability to opt out of Miami this off-season, there really is no choice to make. James is not going anywhere this time.
Leaving makes no sense. Four years ago, James agreed to join forces with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Erik Spoelstra and Riley. Those guys helped James achieve the team success he craved.
You can argue that Wade and Bosh contributed far less than James did. OK, that's probably more fact than opinion. Or contend Miami got the benefit of injuries, suspicious calls, a weak Eastern Conference and a missed free throw by the Spurs in 2013. Still, four straight trips to the NBA Finals hadn't been done since the Celtics in the mid-1980s.
Just because the Heat was throttled by San Antonio this time around doesn't mean this is a lost cause. James owes it to his collaborators to stay in Miami at least another year.
"We need to retool. We don't need to rebuild," Riley said. And he's right.
Riley pointed out how after losing the 2013 Finals, San Antonio basically made one roster move, signing ex-Bull Marco Belinelli, and came back stronger.
The Spurs did have young guys who helped push things forward, mainly Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Patty Mills, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter were other incumbents who improved.
Miami doesn't have much room to grow from within. The one promising young guy on the roster is point guard Norris Cole, who figures to displace Mario Chalmers. Getting more from Michael Beasley or Greg Oden is a possibility, but Beasley may not stay and Oden's health is always going to be a question.
Overall, the Heat's roster has plenty of problems. Shane Battier has said he'll retire. Ray Allen turns 39 in July and is a free agent, Chris Andersen is about to turn 36 and was nearly invisible in the Finals. Even Rashard Lewis, who wandered out of the woods to stroke some 3-pointers in the playoffs, will be 35 by the start of next season.
Basically, Riley and the Heat will have to count on the willingness of helpful players to take low salaries. It's worked before and Miami can use the full midlevel exception this summer by renouncing most of their free agents. The Heat need to hit a few solid line drives with new additions this summer, but that's a reasonable quest.
The Power Trio opting out, taking roughly $7 million pay cuts and inviting Carmelo Anthony to grab a beach chair is a longshot. But James moving to Florida seemed to be a longshot a few months before it happened, so anything is possible.
For LeBron to leave now, where would he go, really? He's not headed to Chicago after his early interest in 2010 was met with shrugs from Derrick Rose. The Lakers have cap space, but are in rebuilding mode.
Whether James dreams about a triumphant return to Cleveland, only he knows. That might be something to think about next year. New York could be a possibility next summer, whether Anthony is still there or not.
For now, James clearly found a happier home in South Florida. One ugly loss in the Finals is no reason to catch the next yacht out of town.
Miami is looking vulnerable, pending those summer additions, which is why the Bulls are planning a full court pursuit of Anthony.
The time may be right to build a new Eastern power.
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