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Where To From Here? Here.

It never really seems like it's over until, well, it's over.

The Heat's season ended Sunday with a loss to Atlanta in Game 7. The team went from planning to move on to Cleveland to face LeBron and Co. to heading back to Miami to face the reality that it's done.

WADE-Confused And it's been a long, long, long season. How long ago does that trip to Europe seem? I was there and it seemed like it was closer to seven years ago rather than seven months.

Again, I can't complain. It was a good ride.

It was a rewarding one. An at times disappointing one. But, overall, an encouraging one.

In reality, it played out the way it probably should have. The higher-seeded team with homecourt advantage beat the lower-seeded team that didn't have homecourt advantage.

There are some things Dwyane Wade can't overcome. Rookies. Roster limitations. Game 7s on the road. Joe Johnson nailing "40-foot threes" in his face. Zaza. A supporting cast that mostly fell flat.

But take nothing away from the remarkable season Wade had this season. Yes, LeBron James is the MVP and he deserves it. Any logical person can come to that conclusion.

But I still make the case that no player in the league is more important to his team per possession - on either end of the court - than Wade. The difference is in value. How much value is there in 43 victories, no matter how great of a season one had?

How much more is there in 66 wins and a 39-2 home record? That's the difference between Wade and James. Teammates. Hell, maybe just one teammate. Maybe just Mo Williams, who still has the ring Pat Riley gave him two years ago as a free agent the Heat desperately wanted to wed.

But it should be noted that Wade, although he finished third in the MVP voting behind James and Kobe Bryant, got more first-place votes than Bryant.

And that's about right, too.

Now, the question is this: Should the Heat break up this team around Wade again?

Wade has already gone through at least four roster makeovers since his rookie season - and three coaches. There were the Caron and Lamar years, when the Heat valued youth.

Then came the Shaq and 'Tione Walker years, when the Heat sold out to vets, bad attitudes and culture shock to win an NBA title.

Then came the purge season, when Shaq had to go and Shawn was initially romanced as a suitable Thumbs-UP sidekick to Wade on the wing. In reality, the Matrix was only a money man on an expiring deal that led to another deal.

Now, there's the Jermaine O'Neal, James Jones, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers collection of youth and role-playing veterans around Wade.

Count me in the minority, non-knee-jerkers who believe the team that ended the season - one that only had about eight weeks together - should be the same one that starts the next one. With one exception. Pat Riley has to bring in a veteran point guard if, for nothing else, to push Chalmers.

The kid hit a wall late in the season, and still kept his job because there was no one there to take it. What does it say about your point guard depth, when you look at Flip Murray with envy?

This is not a knock on Chalmers. The kid is going to be a solid NBA player for a long time. He has the swagger, hunger and drive. But he wasn't even a pure point guard when he arrived from Kansas.

He was taught the position in summer league last year. Remember?

But more than anything else, this team needs a veteran point guard that Wade trusts enough to give him room to breath. Part of Mario's development was stunted simply because Wade takes the ball and does his thing just about any time he feels like it.

And that's fine. This is Wade's team. But there are times when he simply needs to get off the ball and have someone else take over for a possession or six.

I like the talk about moving Michael Beasley to small forward. I think Jermaine O'Neal, if he commits to an offseason workout the way Wade did last summer, can come back and have a solid presence in the post. The idea of slotting James Jones and Daequan Cook off the bench is the right one (if one isn't dealt to address another need for an athletic backup center/power forward).

Unless there's a Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire available - and a subsequent GM willing to be suckered by Pat Riley again - give this team a shot, with a wee bit of tweaking.

Past bad moves are still haunting the Heat. Smush Parker was still on the cap this season. Mark Blount is still suffocating the payroll for another $8 million. The Dorell Wright Fund, bless his heart, will milk the Heat for $7 million over two years, including another next season.

At some point, these constant make-shift makeovers are going to catch up with D. Wade. How many times can he get used to new teammates? Develop this young nucleus around Wade. Don't destroy it.

This, after all, was a rebuilding job. Remember?

And as rebuilding jobs go, the Heat - going from an injury-riddled 15-win season to the playoffs - is ahead of schedule, all things considered.

Progress was achieved.

Taking the next step from here is going to require a bit of patience - and a veteran point guard.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)




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