The sting of losing the NBA Finals was still very real Tuesday when the Heat met at AmericanAirlines Arena for one last time before scattering into the offseason.
Dwyane Wade declined to speak with reporters, perhaps a sign of his lingering frustration after losing to the Spurs in five games and underperforming on his sport’s biggest stage. LeBron James said he needed a vacation. Chris Bosh mused about how this past season was “a beast.”
Soon, though, the Heat’s Big 3 will have to finalize their futures beyond this season. The deadline for early termination options of players’ contracts is June 29, three days after the NBA Draft. Between now and then, the bones of the Heat’s plans for next season will begin to take shape behind the scenes.
Team president Pat Riley will pitch his vision for the Heat to Wade, Bosh and James in the coming days, and then it will be up to the Heat’s Big 3 to find a balance between money and giving themselves the best chance to reach the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year.
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All three players can opt out of their current contracts and become free agents. From there, they could re-sign with the Heat for less, more or test the open market. They could also simply choose to play under the same contracts for another season. Their decisions will then have a ripple effect not only through the rest of the Heat’s roster, but NBA free agency as a whole.
Ray Allen is also a free agent and is expected to base his decision on what his teammates decide. Chris Andersen has already opted out of his contract to become a free agent. Like the Big 3, Udonis Haslem has a player option on his contract.
There are many variables, but the bottom line is that less money for the Heat’s Big 3 would likely mean more talent around them for another run at the NBA Finals.
Specifically on taking less money, Bosh said he, James and Wade would “talk to Riles and hear his plan.”
“Business is business,” Bosh said. “This is about our futures, and we still have to take care of our families and everything and that’s extremely important to us, but at the same time you want to compete, so it’s a tool that both sides use, and I’m sure we’ll use it a lot and we’ll see where we get.”
James said he hasn’t even “begun to wrap my mind” around his future, but he did note that he wasn’t tired after the long season, and that he wanted to get right back to work. He told his wife, Savannah, on Tuesday morning that he was going to work out, “and she looked at me crazy.”
“I just want to win, and that’s all that matters to me,” James said.
If that’s the case, then Riley’s job might be a little easier this week, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra added that, “One of the toughest things to do in life is collaborate.”
Asked how much James would be involved in building the team for next season, Spoelstra quipped, “However he wants to be.”
“We have a great track record and we have a championship organization,” Spoelstra said. “That is our best-selling pitch.”
The Heat’s future likely will hinge on the Big 3 agreeing to do the same thing, whether simply opting in or restructuring their current contracts. A worst-case scenario for the Heat would be James, Wade and Bosh disagreeing on their futures. For example, there has already been speculation of Wade possibly accepting a new role, and coming off the bench similar to Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs. That might be too difficult of an adjustment.
“I think there is a conversation that will be had between the three of us,” James said. “I think that’s only right. I think we’ve earned that from each other, to have a conversation to see what could happen.
“Obviously, I don’t know right now what Dwyane is thinking. I don’t know what Chris is thinking right now … but we’ll see what happens.”