A: This, Heat fans, is what you'll be dealing with this week, this month, this summer, and (should LeBron continue on a year-to-year basis with the Heat) for months to come. If it's not rumors, it's reports of LeBron and Micky Arison have a slap fight while dining on Whoppers. Ah, welcome to the Summer (and possibly longer) of LeBron.
June 20, 2014
Q: I thought Pat Riley's tone Thursday was kind of paternal, like a father defending his children, but also challenging them and not being one iota scared of what they might have to say about it. Like, "This is the way it's gonna be and if you don't like it you can leave, but you'd be stupid to." I don't recall ever seeing Riley like this. It was clear he had pent up these feelings for a while. He knew exactly what he was going to say and how to answer every question. And yeah, he was pissed. I think his aim was to quash any seed of thought LeBron might have about leaving. And, to me, this is what has set Riley apart from LeBron's former team and probably any other team in the league: Riley has the [nerve] to tell LeBron how it's going to be and he has the "street cred" with what to back it up. LeBron respects him probably more than anyone in the league. -- Moshe.
A: He better. Because otherwise, it's a heck of a gambit by Riley. If LeBron stays (which I believe he will), Riley's position with the team will never be stronger. But if it didn't work and LeBron leaves, it's a heck of a lot more than an error in judgment. It's the end of an era as we know it. I also think it comes down to this: Riley would not be long for the Heat if LeBron leaves. I just don't think Riley would want to have to lead another major rebuild (just like he stepped aside coaching after the 15-67 season). So I think Thursday was Riley saying, "I still want to lead, and I still want to lead you, but you have to commit to my trust." So now we wait to see if an exhale can follow.
Q: I think if the Big Three opt out and re-sign for less money, the financial sacrifices should not be solely on the players. Great players like Carmelo Anthony are available and Micky Arison has to be willing to sacrifice as well, even if it means going over the tax. We need to take advantage of having the greatest player in the game by surrounding him with the best talent possible. If not, I fear the Heat organization will regret it. -- Mike, West Palm Beach.
A: I think it's important to clarify something here: If the Heat add another free agent to the current Big Three, it will be via cap space. And the only way to do that is to fall completely out of the tax. So if it is a Big Three-plus one approach in free agency (with Carmelo or Kyle Lowry or Pau Gasol), then the Heat will not be a tax team at all. The real question is if the Big Three return and the Heat add another player at the taxpayer mid-level and utilize their trade exceptions, would Arison then go deep, deep, deep into the tax with raises for Chris Andersen, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and perhaps even James Jones and Mario Chalmers, for services rendered during a pair of championships seasons?
Q: Hi Ira, why would the Heat trade away picks to Cleveland and Toronto to be able to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh to longer deals when they can just opt out and renegotiate? Can you please explain the logic? -- Brian, Tallahassee.
A: Because it allowed James and Bosh to get higher starting salaries. But you logic is sobering. For example, consider this harrowing possibility: If LeBron signs with the Cavaliers (not saying it's going to happen, just offering a hypothetical), the Cavaliers would still get the 2015 first-round pick the Heat owe them for the LeBron sign-and-trade deal from 2010. And without LeBron, the Heat's 2015 pick could have value. Talk about your ironies.
June 19, 2014
Q: Was it a mistake to use the amnesty provision on Mike Miller? Setting aside whether he could have helped against the Spurs, having the option to amnesty Dwyane Wade would have given the Heat more financial flexibility, or at least leverage in getting him to accept a pay cut. -- David.
A: Amnestying Wade would not have been realistic had the Miller move been bypassed, especially this summer, since you're still paying out the full salary, the $42 million he is due the next two seasons. That's a lot to pay a player not to play, especially when he could come back to play against you. And it's not as if Wade still isn't a quality contributor, certainly nothing less than Manu Ginobili, at minimum. Getting beyond salary, the question is Wade's role going forward. It's not as if he wasn't essential in getting past the Pacers. And it's not as if he's not essential to the Heat going forward. Sometimes we get too caught up in the money. Dwyane Wade is a very good NBA player who had a not-so-good two weeks against the Spurs. But keeping Miller would have made it easier on LeBron James and the rest of the roster on those nights when Wade wasn't available during the regular season. In the end, amnestying Miller might have been penny-foolish, since it gets LeBron to wonder about franchise frugality going forward. Remember, just a year ago, it was Pat Riley was who raving about how essential Miller was to the franchise. And for those late to the game, amnesty is a one-time allowance, which the Heat used last July on Miller. So it no longer is an option for the Heat with any player. What amnesty does (or in this case, did) is wipe out the salary-cap and luxury-tax hit, but you still must pay out the full salary to the player, minus a portion of what he might sign for elsewhere. Also, that player cannot return until his amnestied contract expires. Since Miller had two seasons on his Heat deal when amnestied last July, he cannot return to the Heat under any means until July 2015, at the earliest.
Q: Despite non-stop speculation about what LeBron is going to do, there is one scenario no one has mentioned: accepting a drastically lower salary, like $5 million or $10 million per year. Sort of like Mark Zuckerberg working for $1. LeBron has made hundreds of millions in salary, endorsements and his stake in Beats. -- D.S.
A: First, he'd run into plenty of resistance from his fellow players and the union, since it could pressure other stars to minimize their deals. It's one thing to step away from the maximum salary, another to be earning Spencer Hawes money. And for others who have asked, getting a piece of the team, any team, also is not allowed. It's interesting how after making the NBA Finals four consecutive years that so many are asking (demanding) Heat pay cuts. Based on the groundswell, Wade apparently is lucky he got paid at all after that 15-67 season.
Q: The Spurs lucked out with Tim Duncan, but since then they have not chased marquee names. Gregg Popovich values players with heart who accept his iron-fist rule of team play. He is similar to John Wooden who insisted his teams follow a strict team protocol, where individual success was not important, but effort was. The teams the Spurs easily beat had players with egos who thought the team revolved around them. -- Leonard, Aventura.
A: Look, it takes a certain type of player who willingly stays long-term in San Antonio, with no disrespect to the small-market atmosphere. So perhaps it goes hand in hand that a player who chooses to put roots down with the Spurs is the type of player with limited ego.