Heat president Pat Riley said Friday he wants to keep the nucleus of this team together long-term, even with the luxury tax becoming far more onerous in 2014-15, but that the decision ultimately would be made by owner Micky Arison and Riley did not want to speculate what Arison would do.
After the new labor agreement was signed 17 months ago, Arison said that even with tax penalties increasing, “we can keep [the three stars] together” in the new deal, should LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide to stay here when they could exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts in the summer of 2014.
“It’s doable in this tax economy, but I’m going to leave it to Micky,” Riley said. “We’ve already had internal conversations. That will all be tackled after the season, but it’s doable.
“When you have an opportunity to build a team like this — if you take a look at the four or five teams that endured over eight or nine or 10 years — they did it with the same players. So it would be a shame if you couldn’t do that.
“I would love to see them all end their careers here at the same time and hang their numbers and become the godfathers to each other’s children and one big happy barbecue in the backyard somewhere. I’d love to see that, but I don’t know if that’s reality in today’s game.”
Keeping the three stars together long-term remains the strong internal sentiment, but Riley stopped short of saying that would definitely be the approach in the summer of 2014.
“I am going to defer that question to Micky, because it’s going to be a big decision,” he said. “What we sold these guys on when they came here was winning championships, and we’re going to do whatever we can to maintain the talent we have to win … and contend for championships.
“How that changes over the next couple years and what we do next summer will determine how he handles that in the future. It’s going to take some thought.”
Riley mentioned the Dodgers’ “extraordinary television contract. It’s going to take that kind of revenue … to be able to do something like that. But it is doable. There’s going to have to be some strategic planning over the next couple of years to deal with it.”
On keeping his stars when they can become free agents, Riley said: “I don’t believe we have to sell anybody on us anymore in 2014.”
If the Heat keeps all three stars beyond next season, it likely would need to surround them with players mostly on minimum contracts to avoid a huge tax bill. A big tax bill likely would await regardless in 2014-15, with Udonis Haslem signed for $4.6million and Joel Anthony for $3.8 million that season.
Riley addressed other issues in his first news conference since July:
• He said winning the championship last season “has freed up [James] to take it to another level. … The numbers show he’s more efficient, more confident.
“He just plays at a different level now. He’s a real leader. He manages the game at the end extremely well. Just an extraordinary player. This is going to be better than watching House of Cards with my wife for 15 hours, just to see him play in the first game [Sunday]. He has taken something from every single player he’s admired.”