A few tweaks could put Heat over the top - NBC Sports

A few tweaks could put Heat over the top
This time, Riley will have time to fill the holes he couldn't last summer
Miami Heat president Pat Riley quickly added pieces to his big three of James, Wade and Bosh last summer, now he has to find additions that will make Miami a champion.
June 13, 2011, 6:06 pm

And that will make the difference between building a roster in 2010-11 and building a team in 2011-12.

Last summer, Riley simply added names to The Names.

It started shortly after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had The Celebration. Juwan Howard was watching, put in a call to his agent, David Falk, and said to get him there.

Falk called. Riley's roster was virtually empty at the time. Howard signed. Later it was agent Mark Bartelstein on behalf of Eddie House.

Then LeBron made a pitch for his buddy, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And Wade made a pair of pleas, for Jamaal Magloire and Carlos Arroyo. A bit later, Erick Dampier wrangled his way free in Charlotte and got his deal. Toward the end of the season Falk was back on the phone, this time on behalf of Mike Bibby.

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Riley, no doubt, created not only a Big Three, but, arguably, the NBA All-Mentor team.

A bench? A quality support system? Those are different stories.

And that's why this offseason, whenever it begins after the lockout, figures to offer a decidedly different look, one designed to have the Heat more up for the moment than the wilting witnessed this past week.

There will have to be shooting, but not one-dimensional shooting.

Erik Spoelstra opened the Finals by pushing James Jones out of his rotation and ended it by banishing Bibby to those same depths.

What is needed is what Riley had on his rosters when he was coaching, a 3-point specialist who also could defend, a Bruce Bowen, a Keith Askins, a Dan Majerle.

There also must be ambulatory rebounding. Because for all the height that Ilgauskas, Dampier and Magloire could provide, the rebounds that were one or more body length away simply were out of their grasp. So Spoelstra played none of them in the Finals, not for a single second.

But there also has to be a center who can catch and finish, because if opposing centers are going to double-team and trap James, then there has to be a big man capable of catching the ball on the move. Joel Anthony is not that player, scoring eight total points in the Finals despite starting all six games.

And there has to be a speed guard, because J.J. Barea is a speed guard, Derrick Rose is a speed guard, Rajon Rondo is a speed guard, and if the only option is to play James as the primary defender against such speed, then how can he not run out of steam when the playoff minutes mount?

Consider: The player who started the most games at point guard during the regular season for the Heat, Carlos Arroyo, finished the season at the end of the Celtics' bench. And the player who started the most games at center for the Heat during the regular season, Ilgauskas, ended the season in a suit, on the inactive list.

It reached the point where the Heat opened the playoffs with one set of starters at those spots (Ilgauskas and Bibby) and ended with a different set (Anthony and Mario Chalmers).

With Chalmers an impending free agent, it is possible the Heat return as few as five players from this NBA Finals roster: James, Wade, Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller.

Haslem and Miller, in fact, could find themselves on extended tryouts next season. Neither was able to fully gain his stride this season, with Haslem undergoing major foot surgery in November and Miller major thumb surgery during the preseason. It wasn't until deep into the playoffs that those two played together, let alone had a chance to work with James, Wade and Bosh.

The Heat's best lineup during the playoffs often was one with Haslem, Miller, James, Wade and Bosh. But that sample size was slim. What is needed now is the opportunity to see if that is a grouping that can endure.

And that is significant, with Haslem and Miller holding the only mid-range contracts on the roster, effectively making them the only serviceable trade chips. Considering neither starts, with Bosh, James and Wade filling their roles in the starting lineup, there could be question whether such cap slots could be better utilized on starters at center and point guard.

Then there is the overriding and perhaps overstated aspect brought to the forefront by the Finals:

Depth of talent vs. concentrated talent.

Even before the Mavericks celebrated at center court, Jeff Van Gundy was postulating about the possibilities of moving one of the Big Three.


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And you blow it up?

Recall, Riley got James, Wade and Bosh all to sign at a discount so they could come together. In salary-cap terms, each is somewhat of a bargain. That's an advantage you don't rashly wipe off the books.

Hold late leads in Game 2 and Game 4 of the Finals, and no one is questioning a single thing about Pat Riley's creation.

But because flaws were exposed, changes have to be made.

But those changes come at the back end of the rotation, the hasty moves made last summer by Riley that came up short.

And for all that was wrong with LeBron at the finish, for all the magic Wade could not conjure from 2006, for all the moments that Bosh could not stand up to Tyson Chandler, subtle could yet lead to superior.

Pat Riley is on the clock.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.


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