Heat president Pat Riley spoke and Chris Bosh apparently listened.
Late Thursday night after the NBA Draft was nearing its conclusion, Riley met with reporters for the team’s final exit interview of its 2012 season. Among myriad topics covered by Riley, he offered his opinion on whether or not Bosh should play in the Olympics. While Riley didn’t forbid Bosh from playing for Team USA this summer in London, the Heat’s president let it be known he wanted Bosh to weigh his options carefully.
“Chris is still nursing an injury,” Riley said. “He had a significant abdominal injury. If we weren’t in the playoffs against Boston, he probably would not have played for another three or four weeks.
“He feels OK. Chris has represented his country already. That’s up to him.”
Less than 24 hours later, Bosh withdrew his name from consideration for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. Team USA meets in Las Vegas for training camp July 6-12. After consulting with doctors, Bosh determined the days between the end of the Finals and the start of Olympic training offered too tight a window for his still sore abdominal muscle.
Agent Henry Thomas, who represents both Bosh and Dwyane Wade, said on Friday that Bosh is upset about missing an opportunity to represent his country on the world’s stage but also must consider the possibility of a lingering injury that could affect next season. Bosh played center throughout the playoffs, and he’ll likely resume that role in some form next season. The rigors of playing the position weighed into his decision to miss the Olympics.
A precursor to the Heat’s 2010 free agent coup, the 2008 Beijing Games are where Bosh, Wade and LeBron James first formed a bond on the court. Four years later, James is the only member of the Heat’s Big 3 preparing to play in the 2012 London Games. Wade removed his name from the Olympic player pool Thursday after learning his left knee would require offseason surgery.
“[Wade] has played with a style over the years that might not be conducive to longevity,” Riley said. “He’s always on the floor, always above the rim. We want to make sure what’s ailing him will be corrected this summer.”
At age 30, Wade must “reinvent” his game this offseason, according to Riley. During his exit interview, Wade hinted at such a transformation when he revealed his plans to work with a shooting coach for the first time this summer. In addition to the shooting, Riley said Wade must also master other elements: “health, athletic, weight” and “conditioning.”
“He’s got to re-center everything, get himself aligned and healthy,” Riley said. “There isn’t anyone that’s played the game like him for nine years that hasn’t had some issues — knee surgeries, knee problems. He hasn’t had anything, aside from the shoulder separation, that’s really, really debilitating.”
While Bosh’s goal is to get plenty of rest this offseason and Wade’s plan is to refashion his approach, the Heat’s younger players will be focusing on the fundamentals of the Heat’s system in the Las Vegas summer league, which begins July 13. Rookie point guard Norris Cole and second-year center Dexter Pittman were robbed of the summer league last year because of the NBA lockout. Joining Cole and Pittman in Las Vegas will be former Mississippi State center Jarvis Varnado, who the Heat selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, as well as the team’s latest second-round selection, center Justin Hamilton of LSU.
Hamilton spoke with the reporters on a conference call Friday and joked that when he woke up Friday morning he “wasn’t sure the draft really happened.”
Hamilton has a busy summer. After Las Vagas, he is getting married and also possibly making preparations for a move to Europe. Riley said he might “stash” Hamilton overseas to get him in the Heat’s “pipeline” of big men. Hamilton’s mother is Croatian, so he’s been trying to secure duel citizenship to help the process.
Riley has more immediate plans for Varnado, the 6-9 big man with a 7-4 wingspan. Varnado is the NCAA career record holder for blocked shots (535).
“We’d like to bring back and we hope he might be more ready,” Riley said. “We will find out in the summer league. He may be somebody that would take up one of our roster spots. We want to see if he can play [center] for us.”
More pressing for Riley and the Heat is the status of sharpshooter Mike Miller, who finished the season with a variety of injuries including a bulging disc in his back. Miller is yet to make a decision on the future of his career and he was contemplating retirement immediately after the Finals.
The deadline to amnesty players is July 19 but Riley said on Thursday that the team was not “looking at amnestying anybody.”
“We want Mike or anybody hypothetically thought to be amnestied,” Riley said. “If Mike Miller — and I don’t want him to go through the same thing next year — could guarantee me a seventh game in the Finals, I’ll let him sit out all year.”
To round out the roster, the Heat is hoping to make a splash in free agency. Riley said he was targeting “five or six” veterans but the Heat only has the mini-mid-level exception ($3 million) and veteran-minimum contracts to offer. Ray Allen is one of the players the Heat hopes is interested.
“We’re encouraged we can talk to some players who may be willing to take a little bit less,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of cap room out there but not many teams that have a chance of winning a title.”