If there was ever an example of how much leverage big stars on NBA teams have, the way this offseason is shaping out for the Miami Heat is it. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are keeping everyone in the franchise on their toes, as the trio are trying to decide whether or not to stay with the team and try and carry on the impressive run of the last four years or break it up.
The man it all hinges on is obviously LeBron James. He is the marquee player of this team. The one who turned them from just OK in 2010 to a championship team a year later, or a championship team in the making. While the Heat would love to keep Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it means a lot less if James doesn’t stay along with them. Obviously, James deciding to leave might also make the other two decide against staying as well.
Pat Riley, the team’s general manager, isn’t courting them like you do with most free agents. He says there’s nothing for him to start motivating and pushing them into the direction he wants. They have the title rings. They know where and how they won them. It goes without saying, that Riley thinks it’s quite possible to keep on winning and contending for titles with the trio, even if they don’t opt out and take a pay cut.
The Heat are more willing, according to Riley, this season to spend money. They have two trade exceptions to use, and a mid level exception they didn’t use to sign a meaningful free agent last season. There are rumors that LeBron James went into the offseason unhappy with owner Micky Arison and about how the Heat handled last season. It might be just someone trying to start up a vicious rumor, but you never actually know.
The Heat are waiting for white smoke. The trio, and pretty much everyone involved with the team, are disappointed and slightly more than stunned with how it all ended. Things looked great as they took care of the Pacers in the Eastern conference finals, but the final three games of the NBA finals were like a punch in the face. It’s not something you simply shake off after one or two days, even if this is a team with proven champions that had less riding on this specific trip.
There’s what we speculate and what we know. Pat Riley has a plan, according to him, for any scenario, although he believes that there’s no reason to break up a team that made four NBA finals in four years. Maybe the mental fatigue of it all overwhelmed some players, but considering how successful they’ve been over the last four years and the willingness of the front office to retool the team instead of rebuild, the choice should be easy.
It’s not just the Heat waiting for James and his two wingmen to decide. All the league will change if there’s another free agency bonanza to consider, with Bosh looking like not a bad consolation prize as well. LeBron James has the power to raise and destroy a franchise with one small decision, just like he did in the past. The Miami Heat are hoping he decides to stay this time.