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Heat’s Major Problems Run Deeper Than Just LeBron’s Absence

LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to win championships with the Miami Heat in 2010. James joined the Heat along with Chris Bosh that off-season to join Dwyane Wade in Miami to form what was known as the ‘Big 3’.

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Getty Images

While the Miami Heat had already won a championship in 2006 defeating the Dallas Mavericks in 2006, the team wasn’t accustomed to winning like that consistently prior to the LeBron James era. With LeBron in Miami, the Heat made the NBA Finals four straight years and won it all twice. LeBron finally was able to crown himself a championship with the help of his close friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For four straight years, winning was easy for the Miami Heat. They didn’t really expect it to change, but it did happen this Summer, and yes it did start with LeBron James leaving the Heat, but the problem with the Heat is way deeper.

On July 11th, 2014, LeBron James made his decision to return back to the place he called home for most of his life. Miami Heat president Pat Riley was caught off guard by LeBron’s decision, and it quite frankly left him shocked.

“I went in with the notion that he was coming back. So I was selling it to players. I let him know that prior to free agency, that was the direction I was going. He never said to me, ‘Don’t do that.’ I don’t think I was misled. But I don’t think I was encouraged either. That’s business.”

Cleveland fans went crazy that the hero was back in town. Meanwhile Dwyane Wade understood LeBron’s decision to leave after four years in Miami, which you could debate were the best of their life.

“As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey,” Wade said in his statement. “In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal — to win championships and we succeeded. We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years. Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family. LeBron made the right decision for him and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots. As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions.”

Now that LeBron James left, you know Pat Riley had to act quickly and try to rebound from James’ departure the best he could. Earlier reports said that if LeBron James were to leave Miami, Chris Bosh was going to sign with the Houston Rockets, forming a ‘Big 3’ of James Harden, Dwight Howard, and of course Chris Bosh. It was shocking when Pat Riley announced that the Heat were finalizing a deal with Chris Bosh for five-years and 100 plus in millions of dollars. Bosh said he wouldn’t have been able to handle the pressure to succeed in Houston, which drew him away from the Rockets.

“I could see where people would think that’s an attractive site,” “They were trying to win right away. And I was really happy to be touted that I possibly could’ve been out there. But you know, that doesn’t guarantee anything, and I know that. All that guarantees is a bunch of pressure.”

“It’s incredibly difficult to win a championship,” Bosh said. “I know that, and I know it’s a whole process.”

The Heat were able to retain Chris Bosh, the next step was to attract new talent to the Heat and also to re-sign Dwyane Wade, one of the most loyal players in the NBA. Just four days after his departure, Riley retained the 2nd piece of the ‘Big 3’ by re-signing Dwyane Wade to a contract for 2-years and over 30 million dollars with a player option to stay with the Heat in his contract after the 2nd year is up. Wade of course was very happy to stay in South Beach.

“I am proud to have spent every single day of my career as a member of the Miami Heat and to have brought three championship titles to this great city,” Wade said in his statement on staying with the Heat. “I’ve been here through the good times and the hard times. I have confidence in the Miami Heat organization and the team they are building. To all the Heat fans, in Miami and around the world, I know you will continue to show support for our team.”

Pat Riley nailed down the Heat’s two best players, the next step was seeing what the open market was showing and seeing which Heat players he could have a chance at getting back. The Heat were un-able to get Carmelo Anthony, as Riley said that the Heat were to late to try to get in on the Anthony sweepstakes, as Anthony decided to re-sign with the New York Knicks.

“That dance card has already been punched,” Riley said. “We were a little bit late to that party.”

Two days prior re-signing Dwyane Wade, the team found their starting small forward for the 2014-2015, as they signed Luol Deng to a two-year deal. Deng had spent time with both the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, and Riley was very happy to get the veteran small forward in Miami for his rebound move after losing the best player in the world in LeBron James. Riley also acted shortly after the signing of Deng to re-sign both Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen, while adding power forward Josh McRoberts into the mix and former Indiana Pacers star Danny Granger as well.

The Heat’s roster was just about finished when Riley made some minor tweaks to it. Riley added in rookie small forward James Ennis, who shinned for the Heat during the NBA’s Summer League following the NBA Draft. The team also signed Andre Dawkins and Shannon Brown to help back up Dwyane Wade, while adding Shawne Williams at the forward spot. The Heat also added in Shabazz Napier, their 1st round pick in the 2014 Draft.

So the Heat ended up losing, LeBron James, James Jones, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Greg Oden, Toney Douglas, and Rashard Lewis. The team gained, Luol Deng, James Ennis, Josh McRoberts, Shabazz Napier, Danny Granger, Andre Dawkins, and Shawne Williams in the off-season. The Heat only had seven players returning from the 2013-2014 season, who were Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, Chris Bosh, and Justin Hamilton which caused some concern, but it didn’t look so bad in the Heat’s first game.

The Heat squared off versus their divisional foe in their first game, the Washington Wizards. Chris Bosh looked like a whole new player, as the Heat’s forward/center scored 26 points whole grabbing 15 rebounds in the win. It also looked like Norris Cole was a brand new player, as he earned the Heat’s starting point guard job over Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier. Cole scored 23 points and dished out 2 assists in the game. Oh, yeah, James Ennis also threw down a pretty sick dunk too, I mean it was the first real whoa dunk of the season.

It was a positive vibe in Miami after that game, but for some reason the team was un-able to repeat that success very much at all throughout the year, as injuries and the lack of depth they had at certian positions were really showing for the Heat. Players had to switch roles, and Norris Cole became so un-reliable that he would be shipped out in February. The lack of depth and injuries is what killed the most other then anything else though.

We all knew that Dwyane Wade would have some problems staying healthy, and that was something that the Heat couldn’t do this year. Without LeBron James to give his production and Wade’s at the same time when Wade can’t play was a luxury for the Heat. Wade’s increased effort showed that it was bad for him to rest all those games last season, as it seemed like there were times in games when Wade looked a stepped slow or wasn’t sure of what was going on at a certain type of situation.

Luol Deng, Chris Andersen, Udonis Halsem, Chris Bosh, Shabazz Napier, and Shawne Williams were a few of the Heat’s players that experienced injuries prior to the all-star break. Everything changes for the Heat in November. The Heat signed center Hassan Whiteside to a multi-year deal. Whiteside emerged into the player the Heat wanted Greg Oden to be, averaging nearly a double-double which included his 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 block game versus the Chicago Bulls on January 25th. The move also signaled Pat Riley to add more talent from the Heat’s Development League team, as Pat Riley would add Tyler Johnson and Henry Walker later in the year. Pat Riley also pulled off another big move during all that.

The Heat were getting ready for the NBA’s Trade Deadline while the team learned that the Suns were going to trade point guard Goran Dragic. Dragic’s preferred destinations included the Miami Heat, but the team still had to compete with the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers for Goran Dragic. Right before the deadline ended, Pat Riley had done it yet again. Goran Dragic was now a member of the Miami Heat after Riley sent two first rounders and Danny Granger to the Suns while dealing struggling players Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton, and Shawne Williams to the New Orleans Pelicans as apart of the three-team trade. Dragic was ecstatic to come to the Heat, and Pat Riley was feeling the same way about Dragic.

“My number 1 wish was to go to Miami, who I found out later had tried to get me a couple of years ago when I was in Houston. Miami offered everything. A great market, great players, their championship mentality. They always want to do well, and I think that it was a good fit for me. I was pushing for this situation, but I still didn’t know if the Suns were going to send me there. I was in a tough spot, but things worked out in the end.”

Pat Riley on the acquisition of Dragic:

“We are incredibly pleased to take another step in getting the Miami Heat back to real championship prominence with the acquisition of Goran Dragic,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “Goran is an All-NBA player, including the Most Improved Player last season, and we felt that once he became available, we would do all that we could to acquire him.”

The Heat’s lineup was projected to be one of the best in the entire NBA after the trade, as we could tell by their player efficiency ratings at the time period of the trade.

  • PG: Goran Dragic 88th
  • SG: Dwyane Wade 13th
  • SF: Luol Deng 86th
  • PF: Chris Bosh 40th (tied)
  • C: Hassan Whiteside 4th

It looked like the Heat were finally going to be able to take off an easily get a playoff spot now, but of course that didn’t happen. Their all-star Chris Bosh was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lungs, which has forced Bosh to miss the rest of the season. The loss of Bosh has proven to de-rail the Heat for sure, and Dwyane Wade provided the best he knew on Bosh’s situation when he was interviewed prior to the news about the blood clot came out.

“I don’t know if he was sick [in Haiti]. I’m not a doctor,” Wade said. “I just know he wasn’t feeling good. He wasn’t coughing or throwing up, but he just wasn’t feeling good. So I don’t know when it happened. It could have happened in New York.”

 

Dragic didn’t even know about Bosh’s condition until he was on the plane, headed to Miami when the news about Bosh broke.

“I was on the plane and I was texting with my wife and that’s when the news [was on] Twitter,” Dragic said. “I mean, first I talked with my brother, I said, ‘Is that true?’ I mean, we didn’t know. But then a couple of hours after that all the media was saying what kind of condition he is in. And at that moment, it’s tough because we wish him all the best to his family, and hopefully he recovers well and comes back even stronger.”

Well, Dragic seems to like the city and the team, which has been the goal of the team as Dragic does have the option to leave the Heat this Summer if he wants. Dragic has said he hopes that he can be here, and now he feels as though that Miami is his home.

I already feel different in Miami, and something clicked. After we beat the Suns, I spent time with one of my old coaches and other friends from Slovenia, who were in Miami all week for vacation. I had fun showing them inside the locker room. Then later that night, I had dinner with Zoki [Zoran Dragic] at Prime 112 on Miami Beach, and the manager of the restaurant welcomed us to Miami. D-Wade was there, too, and it was a great time. We were laughing together, happy from the win. He thanked me for having his back in the game.

At that moment, I really felt like Miami was home.

While Pat Riley might not have been able to get the results he wanted on the basketball court with the trade, it’s more important that Dragic is happy as a result of being here now. While the Heat aren’t playing winning basketball, Dragic is the key piece to their potential rise to a top team in the Eastern Conference again.

Keeping Dragic here is the key for Pat Riley, he can have the starting lineup done and try to acquire talent for a Heat bench that has been lacking depth all season, as the team maybe one of the worst benches in the entire NBA. One of the things that was a question mark about the Heat was the bench, but only Dwyane Wade’s health was questioned injury wise for the Heat which isn’t good. However, some players could have proven they could be worthy of a bench spot on next year’s Heat team, which promises to be way better.

James Ennis has showed signs of improvement in recent games, while Micheal Beasley, Tyler Johnson, and Henry Walker have also shown that they can be used effectivley on the bench. Chalmers has his struggles coming off the bench, while Zoran Dragic doesn’t get to play enough, and we all know that Udonis Haslem will for sure be on the team next season, and Chris Andersen has been a big key for the Heat this year, as the Heat have really struggled when him and Hassan Whiteside are both hurt, as the Heat really don’t have a true big man when they are out.

The Heat’s projected lineup for the 2015-2016 season, assuming they don’t trade anyone and sign Dragic, would be, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside. All the bench needs is to be fixed around, as Pat Riley will have to most likely play stay or go with several players on the Heat’s roster this Summer and perhaps throughout next season maybe even, but Pat Riley also has his eyes on 2016 free agency as well, as he is still fired up about failing to get LeBron James to stay in South Beach.

“It’s fired me up. I don’t like to get beat at anything. . . . This process didn’t take anything out of me other than this one notion… that [generational team] chain has been broken prematurely.”

The Heat aren’t totally out of it yet math wise, but the chances are slim to none they make the playoffs now, as Dwyane Wade basically said in his post game interview following the Heat’s 107-104 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night.

“Guys played for the team and fought to the end. I’m proud of every guy in here. They represented the ‪#‎Heat‬ the right way.”

“We have nothing to be ashamed of. Every guy came in and did what you expect them to do. They battled.”

“This is not a place I’m used to being at all.”

This season was a living nightmare for the Heat, but some good is looking to come out of it. The Heat could get a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft if they stay in the top ten as far as worst records in the league go. If they don’t, the pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat could have had their top ten spot for sure, but Pat Riley isn’t a fan of tanking if you haven’t heard by now, especially since he considers the Heat a winning organization, as Riley reveled that he doesn’t want to ever build from lottery picks.

“For me, it’s not through the draft, because lottery picks are living a life of misery. That season is miserable. And if you do three or four years in a row to get lottery picks, then I’m in an insane asylum. And the fans will be, too. So who wants to do that?”

Some good that also came out of this season seems to be that Goran Dragic wants to stay in Miami, and all Pat Riley has to do is get a contract into Goran’s hands that’s to his liking, and boom, Riley has a point guard to lead his team. If Deng leaves due to a player option in his contract, Riley could use the Heat’s projected lottery pick on a small forward, but expect him to be aggressive in trying to sign one of the many small forwards on the market this off-season.

It hasn’t been a kind season, but the Heat and their fans will have plenty to smile about in the future as there trust is in Pat Riley, and when has Pat Riley really ever let the Heat fans down with something they didn’t see coming?

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