The Ugly Truth
Before you shoot me down as being overly pessimistic, I am on record as saying that I believe Dwyane will re-sign with the Heat, and that all will be well in South Florida. But I believe it is important to be fair and objective and, particularly in light of all the questions I’ve been getting about it, to depict the alternate scenario. I will talk about it this once, and then leave it be. The Heat are a big part of my life, and I don’t like to think about it.
To fully comprehend the gravity of the impending Dwyane Wade decision is to understand the (lack of) alternatives should he decide to leave South Florida.
A number of NBA teams have cleared up cap space to recruit one, or possibly two, of the 2010 free agent megastars. The New York Knicks have cleared the decks, and are home to the center of the world. The New Jersey Nets have Jay Z and a new billionaire owner from Russia. The LA Clippers have cap space and the allure of SoCal. The Cleveland Cavaliers are LeBron’s hometown team and can pay him the most money. The Chicago Bulls have a truckload of cap space, and have the best core group of players under contract to build around.
Which brings us to the most intriguing team in the mix: our Miami Heat.
The Heat has burned the entire roster to the ground. It has pushed all of its chips into the middle of the poker table. We’re all in. We could hit the jackpot we’ve long been seeking and land two, or even three, maximum contract talents, or we could fall flat on our collective face.
The Heat currently has just Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley under contract. It has been long assumed that Wade would be back, and that his presence alone would be a major recruiting asset.
If Wade joins, Chris will follow, and maybe even LeBron.
But if Wade bolts, the Heat certainly doesn’t bring in Bosh or James. It would have to make an immediate about face, and turn its attention to other free agents, which doesn’t seem promising.
Joe Johnson is staying in Atlanta and Rudy Gay is staying in Memphis. Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are expected to re-sign with their incumbent teams as well. The Knicks are allegedly close with Amare Stoudemire and are turning their attention to Kyle Korver. The Nets have been hot on David Lee. The Clipps have been hot on Mike Miller. The Jazz remain interested in re-signing Carlos Boozer if they can’t find a better deal elsewhere. Ray Allen now has coach Doc and Paul to look forward to in Boston.
Tony Parker and Al Jefferson would be nice additions via trade, but I doubt the Spurs and Wolves would take back a bottle of clean air in return.
So who’s left?
How do you feel about a starting rotation that features Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer, Dorell Wright, Michael Beasley and Brendan Haywood?
I stare at the free agent landscape and I can’t seem to do much better. Can you?
Felton apparently has strong interest in the Heat, and the interest will be mutual in this P-D world. But he’s looking for a huge payday. He is reportedly seeking to do even better than the six-year, $42 million contract offer he foolishly declined from the Bobcats last season, at which time he opted to take his one-year $5.5 million qualifying offer to go from restricted free agent last summer to unrestricted free agent this summer. That equates to $7.2 million next year and an $8.4 million average – more than Jameer Nelson money.
Brewer, at shooting guard, is not a name pulled out of a hat; the Heat has shown an interest. He isn’t going to draw huge contract offers, but he is a hustle player who thrived in Jerry Sloan’s system, before being traded to Memphis last season. He’s the guy the Grizzlies picked up after the Heat declined to make Dorell available at the trade deadline. The 25-year old’s career statistics aren’t eye-opening, but he does all of the intangibles. He’s 6’7″, grabs rebounds, dives for loose balls, and hits the open mid-range jumper. He doesn’t have a score first mentality and he doesn’t have three-point range, so he’s not going light it up or space the floor. An experienced, defensive-minded guard like Brewer is hardly what a team lacking scoring punch needs but hey, he’s the best of what’s around.
Dorell needs no further introduction. He figures not to be highly sought after on the open market. The local kid might be willing to re-up if the money’s good.
Michael is under contract. He has no choice.
And then there’s Brendan Haywood. Haywood considers himself to be a top-10 NBA center despite his half-hearted effort, and his agent has stated that his goal is to get a free agent contract that would pay him accordingly. Using 2009/10 salaries, there were 14 NBA centers who made $10 million or more, including Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, Samuel Dalembert and Tyson Chandler. Haywood is not exactly one who strives for greatness. He may consider Miami in light of its overwhelming ability to overpay.
Don’t forget about the bench. How do you feel about another year of a hustling Udonis Haslem (at mid-level money once again) battling it out with a lost and delirious Beasley for minutes? How do you feel about Chalmers as your primary scorer off the bench?
How do you feel about Erik Spoelstra at the helm?
Is it a 10-win ball club?
As ridiculous as it sounds, I don’t see why it couldn’t be realistic.
Need I remind you that the Heat must, by league rules, spend up to at least 75% of the salary cap on its team roster? If not, the difference comes right out of Micky’s wallet and is funneled right into the players’ wallets.
Whatever the outcome, suffice it to say that Pat Riley’s strategy – the one all of South Florida ridiculed and blasted him for over the years as he allowed the roster to wither away in talent while he stood idly by – will have gone down in the annals of history as perhaps the single worst and most notorious failure in NBA, and perhaps even sports, history. In its ashes, Riley will undoubtedly bolt South Florida as fast as his Birkenstocks can take him, to the ire of former adorers, in favor of the greener pastures of Southern California, his legacy forever tarnished.
The single championship he brought to Miami during his 15-year tenure will be further scrutinized, in light of the fact that it may have left a decade, or perhaps more, of mediocrity in its wake.
His once-dismissed, utterly ridiculous reflections on the importance of the NBA Draft – no doubt forged by decades of failure – and potential contributions of disregarded international players will be brought to bear.
He will be remembered as much for his monstrocity on the right coast as for his celebrity on the left.
Has the fate of any sports franchise ever rested so exclusively in the hands of one athlete?
Dwyane Wade, with one decision, can tear this city apart.
Or he can make it an instant NBA champion.
Only time will tell.