The last time LeBron James left a team, it didn’t turn out so well. The Miami Heat managed to bounce back better than some expected them to from his decision. This doesn’t look like a championship team anymore, but the Eastern conference is wide open, and it seems like under the circumstances, they did a pretty good job in bringing in some new faces while being able to keep things intact, even if it cost them too much money.
The Cleveland Cavaliers never really recovered from James leaving in 2010. They didn’t win a championship with him, but when James arrived in 2003, he was coming after five consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance. He was a breath of fresh air, and someone who revived a franchise that seemed to peak in the early 90’s and didn’t have a lot of hope going forward except for that lottery ball to fall their way.
James comes back in a similar position. Kyrie Irving and a handful of other moves and additions made by the Cavs since the first Decision didn’t pan out. Instead of gradually building slowly to become a playoff team and a force in the East, the Cavs got stuck in whirlwind of bad decisions that didn’t seem to be progressing the franchise anywhere. Now they have four number one draft picks who might play together in the same lineup. There’s more than one reason to smile again.
The Heat were never in that situation. This is a franchise that won a championship before James arrived, and didn’t need him saving it. He simply helped lift them from mediocrity into the upper echelon of the NBA, and two titles as well. Yet his departure, which some thought would cause a chain reaction that would force Pat Riley to start from scratch, hasn’t exactly devastated the foundations of this team, which despite the media perception doesn’t begin and end with the guy who was wearing #6 for four seasons.
So what are the expectations for the Heat? Realistically? Dwyane Wade will sign, and the Heat will find themselves with a team that’s go to guy is Chris Bosh, with Luol Deng as a reliable small forward who can plug in for plenty of minutes and contribute on both ends of the floor. There are still some depth issues, and no one is really happy about Mario Chalmers being the starting point guard again. Still, the Heat are a playoff team and more as long as injuries, something you can’t predict but can expect when you have a old team, don’t get in the way.
Things could have been a lot worse for the Heat. Time will tell if signing Chris Bosh to such a massive contract was a wise decision, or something that will cripple their cap space for years to come. Pat Riley wanted continuity. Retooling, not rebuilding, something he mentioned more than once. He got his wish. This is a Miami Heat team that’s different but with enough similarities to the previous version. It won’t be as flashy or good, but it’s far from the disastrous expectations some had for the day after LeBron James left.