Wade was two years removed from winning the NBA’s scoring title; Bosh had just posted a 24-point, 10.8-rebound season average (yeah, believe it or not, Chris Bosh was actually a 22-10 guy); while James had just picked up his second straight Most Valuable Award trophy.
With such credentials, all three players were deserving of max contracts, but that wasn’t possible if they wanted to join forces. As a result, Riley had to do some serious recruitment work.
Getting Wade on board was pretty easy because he wanted to stick around in Miami and wasn’t having much luck getting out of the first round of the playoffs by himself; ditto for Bosh, so the pair wasn’t opposed to taking less money to be with a contender.
LeBron, on the other hand, repeatedly had the Cleveland Cavaliers atop the Eastern Conference, along with deep runs into the postseason. But the one thing that was missing from his list of accolades was a championship ring, which, Pat Riley so happened to have a few of, and that was the little trick he needed to seal the deal with the trio.
However, he won’t be going with the same tactic this time around.
“I don’t think we’ve got to recruit Chris, Dwyane or LeBron,” Riley said Thursday. “I’m not dropping rings on the table for those guys. They could drop their own.”
Instead, the Heat president will be imploring his stars to stick around and fight through the tough times after the San Antonio Spurs surgically picked them apart in five games during the 2014 NBA Finals
“This stuff [winning] is hard. And you’ve got to stay together, if you’ve got the guts,” Riles said.
“I think we need to have a perspective about things. Everyone needs to get a grip: media, Heat players, organization, all of our fans,” Riley said. “We’ve got to get a grip on greatness and on teams.
“We’re going to find out what we’re made of here. It’s not about options. It’s not about free agency. It’s not about anything.
“It’s about what we have built over four years here, and we have a chance to do something significant. But losing is just as much a part of it as winning, and when you’re a team you deal with it.”
To be fair, he does make a good point.
Four years into the project, the Miami Heat have made it to four straight Finals (only the third team in history to do so and the first since 1987) and they won in two of them.
Granted, it’s not quite the coup LeBron James had envisioned when he went on his “Not three, not four, not five” rant, but it’s still a success. Plus there’s still a great chance for one or two more, provided Wade can stay healthy and Miami can add some younger legs to the cause; so this summer isn’t the time to bail.
But with that said, calling the players gutless for not sticking around, or even considering their options, isn’t exactly fair – Especially when that’s exactly what he urged them to do back in 2010, and that hasn’t gone down well with some people.
— Dennis Manoloff (@dmansworld474) June 20, 2014
Pat Riley in a nutshell: “Nobody better do to us what we did to the Cavs a few years ago…” #MyLeBron
— Austin P. Friedman (@APF429) June 19, 2014
I agree with those who point out how hypocritical Riley is being. Then again, I’m also a proponent of “by all means necessary,” so all is fair in my book.
Nevertheless, no matter what impact his words have, the Big 3 have until the end of the month to decide their destination for the next year or so.
They could all opt into their respective contracts, take $20 million+ each and eat up the majority of the team’s salary cap room; meaning there wouldn’t be much money left to add a quality supporting cast. Conversely, they could opt out, go their separate ways and try their luck elsewhere. Or they could opt out and resign for less money to allow for optimum flexibility when pursuing help.
Chris Bosh insists the crew will stay together and he is willing to take a pay cut to make it happen; Dwyane Wade is unlikely to skip town but he says he hasn’t even given it much thought; and LeBron James has gone on vacation so he won’t make a decision to until he returns. In the mean time, Pat Riley has a few word of wisdom:
“Get a grip, everybody. That’s my message to everybody, and that’s my message to the players also.”