The way Heat president Pat Riley tells the story, it wasn’t up to him to sign Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem to contracts in 2010.
The onus was on the Heat’s stars to make it work — just like it will be again in 2014 after Chris Bosh on Sunday joined LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in opting out of their contracts.
In the beginning, there were only James, Bosh, Wade, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony, said Riley.
“That’s what we started with, those five guys,” Riley said recently. “And then they said, ‘We’d like to get Mike Miller.’ They said that.
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“And we said, ‘OK, this is what it’s going to take.’ We had to trade [Michael Beasley].
“And then they said, ‘Oh, we want Udonis.’ Well, this is what it’s going to take, and they said, ‘fine.’ ”
And Wade convinced James and Bosh to take less money so the Heat could sign Haslem to a fair wage.
Here’s the point of the story, and here’s what makes Riley a great NBA executive but an even better motivational speaker and manipulator of emotions.
“So, they stepped up to the plate themselves,” Riley said.
In other words, since the beginning, financial sacrifices by the Heat’s players made it all happen — the four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, the two titles and, perhaps more importantly, all the fun and memories along the way.
“Sacrifice” has long been a buzzword for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, but, according to Riley, James, Wade and Bosh have been the puppeteers all along, the executive producers of their own box office smash.
That’s Riley’s pitch, in a nutshell, to keep this musical afloat.
“From Day One until the end, it was like a Broadway show,” Riley said. “It sort of ran out of steam. And we need to retool. We don’t need to rebuild. We need to retool. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Beginning right now, Riley hopes.
Bosh was the last of the Heat’s players with an early termination option on his contract to choose free agency. His agent, who is also the same agent representing Wade and Haslem, informed the Heat of that decision on Sunday afternoon, and that move set into motion the Heat’s next phase of offseason free agency.
Now the Heat must convince James, Wade and Bosh that not only sticking together is worth it, but also sticking together for less money is ultimately beneficial to their futures.
“Today we were notified of Chris’ intentions to opt out of his contract,” Riley said in a statement on Sunday. “Chris is one of the most versatile and dynamic big men in this league, and he has been an instrumental key to our championship success over the last four seasons.
“We look forward to meeting with Chris and his agent in the coming days to discuss keeping him in Miami for many years to come.”
Bosh said this season that he wants to retire in Miami, and that he would take less money to remain with the Heat. With all players opting out this week, it’s now only logical to assume that a master plan has been put into motion. For example, if Wade and Haslem wanted to insure themselves of the most money possible, they likely would have opted in.
Bosh was set to make $23 million next season and Wade was under contract for $22.5 million. James was on the books for $22.7 million next season.
Of course, if it all goes to pot, then everyone could leave — except Wade, of course. Riley doesn’t see that happening, no matter what.
“Dwyane is a Heat for life,” Riley said last week. “I would be very surprised, him especially — and I’m not saying this because I have any knowledge — but I would be very surprised that he would be anywhere else but in a Heat uniform next year.”
Free agency negotiations begin on Tuesday, and contracts can be signed beginning July 10. Between now and then, Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg will be putting together options for James, Wade and Bosh, and also free agents they might want to sign.
“On July 1, we’ll know what we have to do,” Riley said. “We’ve got a lot of room for flexibility, depending on what happens. And, so, we’re ready.”
With James, Wade, Bosh and Haslem all opting out, the Heat now has a record $55 million in cap space with which to tinker. How the Heat’s star players decide to split the pot is now the biggest question in NBA free agency this offseason. James will have the option to sign a five-year extension worth $130 million, and a report by Yahoo! Sports said James would seek a max deal.
That would leave Wade and Bosh with tough decisions to make.
“That a player wants to do something because he wants to give us flexibility to get a better player? Then that’s fine. That’s voluntary. We’re not asking them to do that,” Riley said. “They didn’t do that in 2010.”