Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
James is in an extremely powerful position. He is a player in his prime with the right to be an unrestricted free agent and the off-court financial independence to be flexible in his salary. This will allow him to exert his power in the construction of a roster.
Focused on legacy and building a brand that will allow him to increase his earnings in retirement like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, James may be willing to sacrifice some money in the short term in order to yield dividends in the future. Doing so would apply pressure to teammates to do the same.
However, James does not lack perspective. The defeat to the Spurs does not undo the success the Heat have had over the past four seasons. One of the tenets Heat president Pat Riley has sold to James — and one he’ll likely remind James of before his opt-out decision before the June 29 deadline — is the value of being on a team that gives you a broad window. The Heat have proven they can do that.
This roster, good enough to get the Heat here out of the weakened Eastern Conference, isn’t championship caliber.
Don’t believe it?
Consider that Spoelstra came into this game trying to pull multiple magic rabbits out of his hat.
Trick one was hoping Udonis Haslem could play the character card and will the Heat to victory. Well, Tim Duncan ate up Haslem on three consecutive trips in the third quarter.
Trick two involved having Michael Beasley active.
Trick three was benching Mario Chalmers and not even letting him be the first point guard off the bench. Chalmers, in a terrible playoffs funk, played himself out of the lineup and perhaps out of Miami.
The Heat was grasping but could offer no real answers.
Time to rebuild, Pat Riley.
This is just a sampling of the stuff floating around after the Spurs polished off the Miami Heat in what really should have been a sweep of the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat as we have known them over the past four years may be dead.
The only Heat player with guaranteed money next year is Norris Cole. Everyone else’s contract is either over, or it can be ended through player options or early terminations. So depending on what happens this summer, the dreaded Miami Heat could become the pre-LeBron middle-of-the-road Heat or worse.
It’s tempting to say it all starts with LeBron and what he’s going to do. But I think it all hinges on Dwyane Wade. He’s got $42 million on the table for the next two years, which could be the final two years of his career if his knee keeps getting worse.
Could he take a pay cut and help Miami by taking that $42 million, plus a little something extra as a thank you, spread out over four years? He could. Miami could give him that $12-$14 million a year over four years, a no-trade clause, and then in two years when his knee is totally crapped out, file an insurance claim and not be responsible for the money after Wade’s medically necessary retirement. This is the type of shady stuff that happens all the time in pro sports, so it wouldn’t shock me.
Or maybe it hinges on Chris Bosh? If Wade took the cut, it’d on Bosh to keep pace, but he’s in a little bit of a different boat. He’s 30 years-old and healthy. He’s re-imagining himself as an outside-in player who’ll take less of a pounding in an effort to extend his career. He’s not worth $42 million over two years, but he’s probably got a few years left in him after those two years are up, so the “spread the money out” thing I just described with Wade would just cost Bosh lots of money. I’m not sure Bosh would be on board with this much sacrifice. He’s already done it once.
LeBron could put pressure on everyone by being the first to sign for less. In the end, the LeBron James hype machine will make back whatever basketball money he sacrifices and then some. He could put up this magnanimous front without really sacrificing anything and put all the pressure on a couple of guys who can’t recoup their “sacrifice” by just signing a new endorsement deal with someone for the difference in lost salary.
Or LeBron could bolt. He could team up with Carmelo Anthony somewhere out West and throw that conference into a tizzy for a while. Either way, it’s going to be an interesting summer that could rearrange the standings in the East significantly…. maybe even further weaken it.
From a Celtics perspective, a return to glory could be hastened by Miami’s demise. Depending on what moves are made, the C’s could take advantage of a weakened East to move back into the playoffs sooner than expected. Free agents looking for success could start flocking to the East in an effort to find an easier path to the Finals. The Celtics, freshly rebuilt and boasting Rajon Rondo and other young talent (and perhaps a newly acquired franchise player) could become an attractive gathering point for that talent.
If this Finals loss creates a vacuum at the top of the conference, someone will have to fill it. It’s possible the Celtics could get pulled up in the process.
Page 2: Oh yeah… let’s give the Spurs some credit
I don’t want to make this all about Miami, even though as Celtics fans, we’re more concerned about how our team’s future is directly impacted by a team in our conference possibly getting blown up. Let’s give the Spurs some credit here.
What they did to Miami was just amazing. They ran one of the most impeccably unselfish offenses we’ve ever seen. They out-shined Miami in almost every way, getting series-changing performances from guys like Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and Danny Green.
And of course there’s Gregg Popovich, who amazingly pushes all the right buttons over and over again..
Congrats to the Spurs, one of the most amazing franchises this league has ever seen. Their sustained success and commitment to their core principles has been astounding. Yeah, it’s a little easier when you have Tim Duncan, but the way this team has built its roster is beyond amazing.
The rest of the links: