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9 posts from May 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Heat's Draft Focus: Length, Maturity

Pat Riley is on the South Side of Chicago putting in plenty of work. Pondexter

No, the Heat president of basketball operations is not up there to intensify his recruiting efforts to retain Chicago native and Miami point guard Dwyane Wade.

That trip, we presume, will come a bit later.

And no, Riley hasn't spent the better part of this week in Chi-Town in to convince LeBron James to hold off on his search for real estate.

Instead, Riley and his staff of top front-office administrators have spent the past few days in Chicago taking a close look at prospects in the June 24 NBA Draft. The fact that Riley is putting in plenty of face time at the pre-draft combine is a signal of at least two things.

One, it could very well be a face-to-face feeling-out process with other club execs on sign-and-trades that could play out this summer.

And two, it shows that Pat is taking this year's draft pretty seriously. The Heat holds four picks - the No. 18 overall pick in the first round and three second rounders. That's potentially four trade chips. Or, better yet, four slots the Heat plans to fill on the 2010-11 roster through the draft.

Riles is typically reluctant to operate this way. The Heat hasn't had much success building through the draft when it hasn't been positioned in the lottery.

Jerome Jordan But this year looks like it will be different. We'll take a closer look at the Heat's draft philosophy in a story that will run in Sunday's Miami Herald. But for now, from all indications, it appears that Pat and the Heat have been aggressively scouting, interviewing and working out prospects that could be keepers.

One name that has already come out of the Chicago combine as a rumored target of Heat interest is University of Washington forward Quincy Pondexter, pictured above right. He's the prototypical scoring small forward who also is long enough to defend in the Heat's system.

Another name who has surfaced on Miami's potential draft radar is Tulsa's Jerome Jordan (pictured left), a 7-footer who has developed nicely in college and is among a number of big-man projects who could fall in the Heat's draft range. In this draft process, the Heat has placed a premium on two things: experience and length.

And with most of the team's available salary-cap space earmarked for free agency, the Heat likely will need to round out several roster spots with draft picks or minimum-salary veterans.

Unlike seasons past, this might finally be the year when circumstances dictate that Pat plant a draft pick or three on the end of his bench next season instead of somewhere across the Atlantic.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feeling Better 'Bout Heat?

Feeling a bit better about the Miami Heat these days? Celtics Heat Wade

You probably should. Judging by the way the Eastern Conference playoffs are playing out, there's plenty of reason to feel a bit better than you did when the Heat's season crashed and burned in Boston three weeks ago.

That same Celtics team that pushed past the Heat with a 4-1 series victory has since caused the so-called King's collapse in Cleveland and has the Magic in the midst of a disappearing act via a 2-0 deficit in the conference finals.

Now while it's still a bit too soon to jump to any conclusions, it's OK to leap to an assumption.

So here's one: the Heat probably isn't as far away from competing with the conference's elite in the East as it seemed not so long ago.

Boston's run through the playoffs - after finishing the second half of the season with a .500 record - has proved at least two things so far.

One, only a Kevin Garnett knee injury last season will have prevented the Celtics from making three straight trips to the NBA Finals when it's all said and done this season.

And two, Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. is the single greatest player the Celtics have faced over the past three seasons. And that includes the 2008 team that defeated Kobe Bryant in the Finals and the 2010 squad that humbled and humiliated two-time league MVP LeBron James in the previous round.

No, there are no moral victories when it comes to basketball at this level. You either have the talent, teamwork, coaching and execution to get it done. Or you don't.

And clearly, the Heat didn't have enough of those elements to get it done during its first-round series loss to Boston this season. But when factoring in how things have played out since then, there should be a bit more appreciation and perspective when it comes to what Wade is, has been and should continue to be.

He might never win an MVP. But it should be obvious that he is the hardest-working man in the NBA.

You could roll out a number of "ifs" in the aftermath of Miami's postseason demise.

If Jermaine O'Neal could have given the Heat more in the postseason than 1.1 point per million earned.

If Michael Beasley could have produced at the same rate during games as he pouted afterward.

Game5-second If Quentin Richardson's biggest contribution was something other than using his face to punch the heck out of Kevin Garnett's elbow to land that suspension for K.G.

If coach Erik Spoelstra would have just kept Yakhouba Diawara on the bench in that final regular season game. Instead Khoubs was allowed to express his frustration with the rotation by banking in that three-pointer that doomed the Heat into a first-round series against Boston instead of Atlanta.

If, if, if.

But you know what they ultimately say about "ifs." If if was a fifth of your favorite adult beverage, we'd all blow three times the legal limit if stopped on the drive home.

But here's one "if" that should be a sobering reality.

If Wade had just a bit more help - not even a major roster makeover around him, just a bit more help - what might have become of the Heat in that first-round series against clearly the best team in the East?

Perhaps the Heat would have held onto that 14-point third-quarter lead in Game 1 at Boston and returned home with a 1-1 series split.

Perhaps Wade would have relied more on a trusted and proven sidekick down the stretch in Game 3 instead of trying to do everything on a bad leg that eventually gave out moments before Paul Pierce's buzzer-beating jumper.

You saw what Wade was able to do in Game 4. So right there, not even two full quarters of basketball were the difference between the Heat being up 3-1 to being down by that much against the Boston bullies.

As it is, Wade averaged 33 points - his second-highest average in any postseason series, and shot his best playoff percentage against any opponent in the Boston series.

What I'm saying is, in hindsight, Miami played these Celtics as good - if not better - than any team they've faced so far in these playoffs.

So think about that as the Heat moves forward into this offseason makeover process.

As long as Wade re-signs as expected, Miami might not be a home run (Wade, plus two max free agents)  Riley-Lookingup away from getting back to a championship level.

Even if Pat Riley were to swing and miss at a free-agent priority or two (LeBron and Bosh or Amare), he could still hit a double (Felton/Bosh or Boozer/Johnson) and essentially erase the gap between the Heat and the so-called upper-echelon in the East.

Looking back about three weeks ago, you simply felt for Miami.

But looking forward, considering what's transpired since, there's reason to feel a bit better about the Heat.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

J-Will Assists on Shaq's Slam

A week that began with Sports Illustrated releasing a story in which Shaquille O'Neal slammed the Heat's Jason_williams professionalism and work ethic during the 2006 championship run ended with the point guard of that title team offering his own less-than-nostalgic assist.

The Heat has often come out on the short end when former Miami point guard Jason Williams is asked to compare his current Orlando Magic squad to the Heat's 2005-06 team that won a championship.

I had a chance to catch up with J-Will as he tries to grab another championship ring, this time with the Sunshine State's other NBA team. The feature story will run in Sunday's edition of the Miami Herald to advance the Orlando-Boston series.

As the Magic prepared for Game 1, J-Will explained what the main difference is between the teams. And his reasoning didn't differ too much from O'Neal, who questioned out loud in the S.I. article this week how the 2006 Heat ever won that title with its partying ways off the court.

"I didn't even know that was going to be a shot at the title," Williams said. "But I'll take it. D-Wade carried a lot of that slack."

With the Heat down 0-2 against Dallas in the Finals, it was Wade who stepped up and rescued Miami on the way to four straight victories by averaging nearly 40 points a game. Wade was named Finals MVP, and could be the only player remaining from that championship run when the 2010-11 season opens.

Williams believes his current Magic team is far deeper and much more focused than Miami's champion.

But it remains to be seen if the Magic has enough heart and the necessary finisher to complete the job.

"We weren't as focused when we won the championship in 2006," Williams said. "I can say that. I was there. I saw it. I was at the shootarounds, all the practices and stuff. Don't get me wrong. We got the job done. But here, with every little thing, we're so focused."

The irony of it is J-Will and Shaq were two of the bigger problems on that team when it came to attitude, J-Will&Pat work ethic and meeting Riley's demands for defense and conditioning. They were also big reasons why the Heat won. And Miami hasn't seen their level of production at center and point guard since they departed. But I remember hearing something about the two of them getting tossed out of practices, including an infamous session when Shaq supposedly refused to leave and charged after Riley before Alonzo Mourning stepped between them.

That's one of the many legends that came out of that season. Maybe it happened. Maybe it didn't. But there was always something going down with that team during the championship season and title defense that followed - and fizzled.

On one hand, there's so much talk out of AmericanAirlines Arena about the Heat culture, loyalty, honor and class. And then, on the other hand, some who were supposed to be part of all those things look back and toss molotov cocktails at that championship run.

It's almost as if that season needs to be featured as the next ESPN 30 for 30 documentary and directed by ChrisPerkinsEnterprises.

The more you learn from that magical 2006 season, the more it goes into one of two files. There are those who are forever fond of the memories. And others who seem to get too much pleasure out of essentially farting on the foundation of that success.

Williams is appreciative of winning a championship with Miami. He admits that. And he's a straight shooter about it. But he's even more thrilled with the opportunity he has to get another title as a Magic reserve.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Campaigning for Wade's Commitment

This certainly can't hurt. Wade-Star1

With Dwyane Wade shuttling from courtroom to courtroom between Chicago and Miami these days to deal with lawsuits and a divorce, the Heat guard could certainly use a bit of love these days.

And he's getting plenty of it now. Especially now that the Miami Heat officially launched its excessive campaign to retain Wade's services when he becomes a free agent in July.

The Heat produced a website, www.wewantwade.com,  as phase one of a marketing blitz that soon will extend to other massive flirtations designed to bring fans on board for this major recruiting pitch.

Wade said Thursday he was flattered by the team's out-of-character move to display such public affection. Keep in mind that it's usually not Pat Riley's style to go out of his way to publicize his players and coaches for league awards.

But Wade is clearly an exception. It was that way last season, when the team launched its MV3 campaign to push Wade for league MVP honors. And it's the case now, with Wade set to opt out of his contract and become one of the most sought-after free agents in NBA history on July 1.

That gives the Heat the next six weeks to show Wade in every way how much he's loved, needed, wanted and cared for here before other NBA cities such as Wade's hometown of Chicago can jump in and flirt with Miami's main man.

And here's why Wade is looking forward to this summer so much: He's never been in this position before. Yes, money and fame has a lot to do with this process. But just the simple aspect of recruiting is something Wade hasn't experiences before at a substantial level.

Wade's low test scores kept him from being highly recruited coming out of high school. He had three official campus visits. Marquette. Southern Illinois. DePaul. Even during the NBA Draft, Wade wasn't wooed as openly as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.

So this has to be a sweet situation for Wade, who repeatedly has said he would like to stay in Miami. 

The website and public display of affection from Pat Riley and Micky Arison and all the fans in South Florida - the website temporarily crashed Thursday when it reached between 200-300 hits per second - will go a long way.

Wade-Face But it doesn't take billboards and banners to impress Wade.

It'll take Bosh, Boozer or the postseason beast known as Amare Stoudemire in a Heat uniform.

Wade knows how Riley and Arison feel about him. He wants to see what they're able to put around him in terms of championship talent.

It's clear the Heat has the money, the mission and the public mantra to make Wade a happy man.

But it will take more than a Heisman-like campaign to earn Wade's long-term commitment.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Shaq Smackback

Shaquille O'Neal has done it again. Shaq-Wade-title

No, not help his team win yet another championship. That might not happen in Cleveland after all, with the Cavaliers and LeBron James unable to get a grip on the Celtics.

And no, Shaq didn't do anything to warrant consideration for another two- or three-year contract he insists he'll seek after his current deal expires next month.

What Shaq did yet again was take another snide shot at his former team, years removed from his time with said squad. In a Sports Illustrated cover story that hits the newsstands this week, O'Neal is quoted as saying he can't figure out how his 2005-06 Heat team managed to win a championship that season.

He suggests the team might have been defined as much by Tequila as talent, Patron as production and late nights on South Beach as much as long afternoons on the practice courts at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"I still don't know how we won that championship," O'Neal tells S.I. in a story that chronicles his adjustment from superstar status to supporting cast member. "F&*%ing partied every night in Miami."

Heat president Pat Riley, who took over as coach midway through that season, declined to respond Tuesday night to Shaq's senselessness.

While the revelation probably isn't shocking, considering the distractions that come with playing in this city, it should be a bit disturbing. Shaq didn't necessarily disrespect the Heat as much as he did himself by confirming that joke of a work ethic he's had throughout his career.

If you re-examine that Heat championship team, it's mostly a collection of castaways and characters that only Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders could appreciate.

I didn't cover that Heat team in 2005-06. I came the year after. I essentially caught the hangover that followed in 2006-07. My first game on the beat was that 42-point beatdown on ring ceremony night. Considering how that title defense fizzled, it's amazing how Riley and Dwyane Wade kept that squad together the year before.

Take nothing away from that Heat team. Guys came together, put aside egos just long enough and caught fire at just the right time to deliver the first title in franchise history. But even Riley has admitted in the aftermath that he compromised a piece of his soul - as well as mortgaged part of the franchise's immediate future - for that one shining moment that produced the ultimate bling.

And he'd do it again in a heartbeat - or as quick as you can say: "Bring Back Earl Barron."

During that season - particularly that postseason run - 15 Strong could do no wrong. And for the Heat's sake, you'd have to wish that Shaq was more fond of his time here than he's shown in recent years. You'd hope that the fans would appreciate what he provided during his three-plus seasons.

Heatmain_embedded_prod_affiliate_56 But to know Shaq is to know that he makes nostalgia impossible. Not only do bridges get burned on his way out of town, entire franchises get torched with some of his nonsense.

And I consider myself a Shaq fan. Always have been. Wade led that 2006 team to a title as MVP of the Finals against Dallas. But the Heat wouldn't have been a championship contender without Shaq. He legitimized the franchise on a national level that arguably no other player has. He energized and mobilized a Miami fan base in a way that hasn't been seen since. Be objective enough to admit that.

But his shots at Riley, the medical staff and some of his former teammates on the way out simply have been tasteless and classless. I mean, come on. What have Chris Quinn and Ron Culp ever done to hurt anybody?

Having said that, you have to wonder if that 2006 team will ever come back together for any anniversaries in the future. That season took a toll on a lot of folks.

Stan Van Gundy, who opened that season as coach before he was forced out/stepped down, has no use for the ring he was given and is still bitter about his experience that year.

Shaq and Wade both had marriages destroyed by seeds planted during that season.

Antoine Walker and Gary Payton both despised Riley on the way out.

Shandon and Derek Anderson haven't been seen since. And one didn't even bother to sign the commemorative basketball that is displayed in trophy cases in honor of each of the 15 on that team.

Wade, Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright are the lone players who remained with the team through this season, and there's a chance next season's team might only have one or none from that 2006 squad.

When you walk through the arena hallways and look at the floor-to-ceiling championship photos that cover the walls, it seems more like 14 years have passed rather than four. Shaq

But that doesn't mean it's cool to trash and tarnish what was accomplished. Especially when, despite any faults and factions that formed that season, the ultimate goal was reached.

At 7-1, 365 pounds and in the twilight of his career, you'd think Shaq would be a bigger man than this by now. Obviously, he's still got a lot of growing to do.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Line Forms at 36th & Biscayne

The number Heat president Pat Riley spat out last week caught many by surprise. Raja Bell

With the Heat perhaps in better shape heading into free agency than any team in the league, with a superstar in Dwyane Wade likely in tow, plus the flexibility to pursue as many as two more mega stars, we all know Miami will be in play for the top stars on the market.

But when Riley spoke during his season-ending news conference with the media, he took the panoramic view of the free agency snapshot.

"There are 210, 220 free agents," Riley said, clearly looking beyond the top-tier group that will include, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare' Stoudemire and Joe Johnson. "There's a lot out there. You can build your own team a lot of different ways."

Not only will Riley look to get the most for Micky Arison's money at the start of free agency, next season's Heat team will be defined just as much by what kind of bargain buys are had near the close of market.

And the minimum-salary prospects are already starting to form a line.

Raja Bell, a former Florida International standout and respected perimeter defensive stopper, marked his spot among those who will be lobbying Riley this summer. Bell, whose best days came during his stint as Phoenix's supposed Kobe stopper a few years ago, has bounced around in recent seasons. He last was with Golden State after he was dealt by Charlotte last season.

But Bell, who sustained a season-ending wrist injury, is healthy how and hoping to acquire a spot with the Heat. To that extent, he wants to follow in the footsteps of former FIU teammate Carlos Arroyo, who latched on with the Heat last season and finished the year as the starting point guard.

Bell took to the sports talk radio airwaves Monday, when he appeared on The Jorge Sedano Show on 790 The Ticket, and openly flirted with the Heat.

"Miami is my first choice," said Bell, an unrestricted free agent who spent the latter part of the season attending several Heat games after he was released by the Warriors. "Pat (Riley), if you can use my services, give me a call. I'm right around the corner, 36th and Biscayne, give me a call."

Quentin-standalone Bell would be almost the perfect fit in the Heat's rotation in the role of a relentless perimeter defender Riley as searched for since James Posey departed in free agency several seasons ago. Since then, there's been a stream of less-than-stellar candidates that have included Dorell Wright, Ricky Davis, Penny Hardaway, Luke Jackson, Daequan Cook, Dorell Wright, Jamario Moon, James Jones, Dorell Wright again and Quentin Richardson.

Plenty of names. Very few solid answers. Now, the Heat's roster is an empty canvass. Jobs are here to be had.

At best, Raja Bell is better and more consistent than any of those previous low-budget options. At worst, he's just as good as any in that lot. But none has the defensive swagger and reputation Bell has established in his career.

For now, Bell is simply an out-of-work free agent looking for a job, - somewhere among the middle-of-the-pack of 200-plus free agents Riley referred to the other day.

But Bell made it clear Monday. He's in one of two groups the Heat will deal with this summer. There are those Pat Riley will vehemently recruit.

And there are those like Bell, who will be recruiting Riley for a chance to latch onto something special in the MIA if things go according to Pat's summer plan.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Best Course For Beasley?

Want to get Heat fans talking, arguing - even cursing one another out - over a true hot-button issue? Beasley2 Beasley Beasley

It only takes two words: Michael Beasley.

You love him. You despise him. You question him. You are confused by him. You want more from him. You want him to be given more freedom by the Heat.

No matter what you feel about Beasley, there's no doubt that you feel something. With the Heat heading into the most critical offseason in franchise history, team president Pat Riley is at a proverbial crossroads when it comes to The Beasley Decision.

Do you trade Beasley, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft, in a deal to acquire help at point guard or center? Do you deal him simply to carve out more cap space to be in position to add two additional marquee players after re-signing Wade? Or do you keep Beasley because it's just too soon to abandon the promising but at times problematic prospect?

We examined the issue in an expansive Sunday Focus story in today's Miami Herald. While patience has paid off for some teams that had major expectations for previous No. 2 picks, just as many teams have come up empty in this crap shoot.

After talking throughout his second season about finding the player that dominated the nation in his lone college season, Beasley recently returned to Kansas State to remember what that player was like as he heads into offseason workouts. The Heat insists it still believes in Beasley and is OK with his rate of progress, but uncertainty abounds.

The pressing question is this: Will this Beasley-Heat marriage work? Or is it best to cut bait now and allow both sides to move on to perhaps more productive options? 

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Between Riley and Reality

Erik Spoelstra has 90 victories and two playoff appearances on his resume in two seasons as coach. Spo-frustrated

But he's now in the midst of a battle he has no shot at winning. When Pat Riley is the option on the other side - whether real or imagined - there is no scheme or game plan to overcome this obstacle.

There's no foul to give.

With Heat president Pat Riley leaving the door open to a possible return to the bench of a likely-to-be-largely-revamped roster, it effectively slams one shut in Spoelstra's face in the court of public opinion.

The stakes are high this summer for the Heat. Riley has rolled the ultimate dice with promises and vows to put together a "dynastic" product that will be on course to win titles for years to come.

Make not mistake. Pat has gone P.T. Barnum when it comes to the hype machine. He's selling sand to South Beach. He's selling visions of Bermuda to the man in a basement in Birmingham.

Riles is a master motivator, and an even better manipulator. There's a reason Chris Rock, in one of his best lines ever, said to forget about Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like with regards to civil rights leadership. When it comes to Rock's choice for leading black men to success, he's voting for Riley.

Who could argue with five championships?

But there comes a point when the hype machine has you scratching your head. By even suggesting that he'd consider coming back to coach the Heat - if a stud free agent issued such a condition - it effectively placed Spoelstra on the proverbial hot seat.

Don't get me wrong, Spo was going to be there regardless, just because of the pressure and expectations that come with next season's team.

But the path Riley is taking leads to a much quicker exile at the earliest sign of unrest, second-guessing or upheaval on Spoelstra's watch next season. That shakedown in the visitors locker room in Chicago when that losing streak hit five? It proved to be a turning point in the season for Spoelstra. But next season? Such a scene would certainly lead to employee turnover on the bench.

And the crazy thing about this situation is this: Riley would have handled the whole Beasley play-him-or-bench-him thing the same way as Spoelstra did - if not more harshly on the kid's behalf. And Riles probably wouldn't have caught a fraction of the Heat from the fanbase for doing so.

And it was only three years ago when that veteran team defending its title frustrated Riley so much that he kicked another sort of door open, blew out his knee in the process and took a sabatacal.

But Riley has clout. So much so that the Dos Equis dude has nothing on Pat. And that's why you wonder.

You wonder that, perhaps, maybe this was all part of the grand plan put in place when Riley stepped down after that 15-67 season two years ago. What we knew then was that Riley couldn't wait to get that "godforsaken" season over with so he could move full steam ahead into the exclusive job of creating this 2010 sea of opportunity.

If Riley ends up coaching next season, it's not too out of the realm of possibility to suggest that he set this potential return up some time ago - perhaps from the time he stepped away.

Perhaps Spoelstra was essentially given a two-year internship to gain experience amid low expectations and get the team through the housecleaning stages. Meanwhile, Riley works behind the scenes to clear cap space and also address some health issues. Keep in mind, Spoelstra's original contract was set to expire this summer, not next, right along with Riley's.

But then those budget/staff cuts came last summer. If what we're told was true, Spoelstra has this 2010-11 season on his contract as a result of the extension he was awarded to soften the blow administrative employees absorbed for accepting pay cuts amid the sluggish economy.

So here we are. Conspiracy theories have been concocted on much less.

And besides LeBron James, who among this group of potential free agents (other than Wade, but he's already here) has the clout to demand Riley to return to the bench BEFORE even giving Spoelstra a shot?

Think about it. LeBron is playing for Mike Brown right now. Amare is playing for Alvin Gentry. Bosh has played for Sam Mitchell and Jay Triano. Joe Johnson is playing for Mike Woodson.

With all due respect, we're not talking about much more - or less - than a bunch of Spoelstras here. Only Carlos Boozer (Jerry Sloan) could come in with any real argument about a coaching downgrade.

Riley-handsout But that's neither here nor there at this point. Riley has opened the door. And he has every right to do so if it means setting this franchise up in the best position possible.

Even if that fosters a perception that Riley would sell out his hand-picked successor and roll Spoelstra under a bus along the next planned parade route on Biscayne Boulevard. 

The reality, however, might be something completely different. "That's why we all love working for Pat," was the way Spoelstra put it a few days ago.

Juggling the two - perception and reality - is where Riley is at his best.

It's where Pat puts P.T. to shame.

One way or another, it's all part of the greatest show on earth.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Riley's In, Who's Next?

It wasn't a major move, but it was a big one, nonetheless. PatRiley

The first domino in the Heat's major offseason of bold moves fell Monday when team president Pat Riley confirmed he has reached an agreement with owner Micky Arison on a contract extension.

That means that Pat Riley will be under contract when he makes reservations for that extensive, expensive dinner meeting later this summer with the top free agents on the market. LeBron James. Chris Bosh. Amare' Stoudemire. You know the names.

While Riley's return was always expected - at least, he was staying on board through the summer - it was still a clear indication to the franchise, the fans and the summer free-agent crop that he is in this for at least the front end of the long haul.

Riley worked too hard, withstood too much turmoil, too many losses, too much aggravation over the past three years in the aftermath of that 2006 championship run to walk away with the Heat holding a stacked hand. No way was Riley turning down this opportunity to turn the franchise back into the talk of the league.

For any of these bold offseason changes to have any credibility, Riley had to be first to sign his name on the dotted line and extend his commitment.

That's done now. The biggest question at this point is whether Riley can somehow convince Dwyane Wade to do so next. Wade exited the season holding firm to his stance that he would take that "Wade-and-see" approach before signing off on that long-term deal with the Heat.

Wade-Riley He wants Riley to sign one or two of those marquee free agents to show that this team has the goods in hand before Wade lifts a finger to sign his contract. Wade wouldn't flat-out rule out signing first, but he clearly wants to see some action to get him leaning in that direction.

Step 1 in this process was complete Monday.

Step 2 remains to be seen. Riley gave his commitment. Now, he'll have to get the goods in tow so that Wade can gives his.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)


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