The 2013 NBA draft was a day off for the reigning Miami Heat, but President of Basketball Operations Pat Riley is still on the job. Can he create "Showtime" in South Florida? He's already won three NBA championships, and counting. Can he strike gold again in the "Sunshine State"? He has the best player in the game and a host of straight-up ballers backing him up. The Heat are making some noise, and the rest of league is taking notice.
Back in the 1980s, Riley had a floor general in the name of Earvin Magic Johnson. Today he has LeBron James. Love him or hate him, LeBron is unstoppable when he puts his mind to it. We saw that in Games 6 and 7 in the finals. At 6'8" and 250 pounds, he runs like a small point guard and can jump out of the gym. He has developed his three-point shot, and when he uses it, he can finally hit the jumper.
Riley has the key player, and if he builds around him, he'll continue winning. Every championship team needs that leader. LeBron's upside is scary. I'm not saying he'll be the best ever when it's all said and done, as others have suggested. Michael Jordon has six rings, and former Boston Celtic great Bill Russell has 11. I think they'll have something to say about who's the best ever. Although, for the record, I think MJ is the best who ever played the game.
LeBron may be in that conversation when it's over, but right now he has back-to-back championships and the Heat have all the signs of three-peating. I'm not saying it's a cakewalk, but Riley has a roster that's pretty competitive, as we saw in the championship.
Dwyane Wade may not be the "Flash" of old, but when he turns it on, it's still pretty impressive. His Euro step is still one of the best around, and Wade came alive when Miami needed him and was a key factor in the last two games of the series. He has three rings with the Heat, and I'd say there's a good chance he'll get four before he retires.
The question with D-Wade is health. Are the knees in good enough shape? I think a season of rest will help him. He may not be an "every night" guy during the regular season, but he'll play most games. Riley should protect him. Go easy on him in training camp and practice. Preserve what's left of this great player.
The similarities between 1980s Los Angeles "Showtime" Lakers and "Showtime" in South Florida are alarming. Both cities are warm-weather locales, with stunning beaches and lots of sunshine. Both are highly desirable places for a lot people. If you can't have fun in LA or South Beach, you need to get your head checked. As a matter of full disclosure, I've lived in both areas and it's a fabulous experience.
Riley's new "Showtime" also has a core of role players, and everyone understands his responsibility. I know people want Chris Bosh to put up 20 points and 12 rebounds a night, but on a team like the Heat it's not that easy. When the first two options are LeBron and Wade, not much is left except for scraps. Bosh, like Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers, wants to shoot the ball. The good thing is that these guys are unselfish. They depend on LeBron and Wade to score, but after that, the third leading scorer could be any of the guys I mentioned.
Allen and Chris Andersen are coming back for another year. I think Miami needs to make a few changes, but Riley's the one with all the rings. The Heat are a good team, but "Showtime" in South Florida may need some slight tweaking. And I mean slight.
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert was a challenge for the Heat's big men. In the end it didn't matter, because the Pacers were sent home after losing the Eastern Conference Finals. But perhaps Miami took notice. Bosh, Anderson and Udonis Haslem can mix it up with big guys in the paint, but maybe another big can shore up the front line.
It wouldn't surprise me if Riley adjusts the roster a little bit. A lot of the guys on the bench didn't play in the series, and if they did, it was only for a few minutes. James Jones, Rashard Lewis and Joel Anthony may have to fight for roster sports next season. Juwan Howard didn't even suit up for the series but was on the roster. These are spots that can help solidify Miami's front line, if Riley wants to replace a few players. But be careful: Chemistry in the locker room is good and Riley can't afford to lose that.
Whatever he decides to do, Riley has created a party in South Florida, not that South Beach wasn't already a party. It's exciting, the weather is always nice and a lot of beautiful people live there. It's a destination for some, and Riley's "Showtime" in South Beach has only enhanced what was already there.
The town also has A-list celebrities in LeBron and Wade. It may not be LA, but it's the next best thing. With Kobe and the Lakers in transition, the Heat have become a hot property. LeBron is on what seems like every television commercial, Wade is dating a movie star in Gabrielle Union and Riley still looks good in Armani.
I realize a lot of people out there still hate LeBron because he left Cleveland. Some of the guys I hoop with on a regular basis continue to criticize LeBron, despite the fact that he's won back-to-back NBA championships. No one can change his or her mind, and many will continue to drink the Haterade. I get it. I don't like it, but I get it. Sort of.
And don't give me that crap about the San Antonio Spurs giving away the championship when they choked in Game 6 while ahead. The top teams can close the deal when everything is on the line. The Spurs couldn't do that.
I'll give props to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. They had a great series. Unfortunately for the Spurs, they couldn't hit key free throws at the end of the game and left the door open for the Heat. Coach Popovich made some debatable substitutions at the end of Game 6, but you can't totally blame him either.
The Heat must be given credit for taking the series in Game 6. That's what championship teams do. They know how to win when all the chips are on the table. It's something the Spurs' Danny Green, Gary Neal and Leonard will learn in due time. All are fantastic players, but they just need a little more seasoning.
Riley has taken a backseat as the Heat are bathing in championships. You don't see much of him. Occasionally, the cameras catch him sitting in the stands with everyone else. I like that. It shows he hasn't forgotten where he's come from. He's humble. That's a cool trait to have.
I'll admit, I bleed purple and gold with the Lakers on the West Coast, and I've been a Riley fan for many, many years. For those old enough to remember, Riley was a backup point guard for Los Angeles' 1972 NBA championship team and all the other playoff teams the Lakers had back in the '70s. Riley, with the mutton-chop sideburns, was a hustling backup guard with the talent to start when the Lakers needed him to. He played with the great Wilt Chamberlain and "The Logo," Jerry West. He's been there.
Riley knows what it's like to win. He experienced that as a player at the University of Kentucky and both as a player and coach with the Lakers. And now he's doing the same in Miami. Strap yourselves in, kids; it's going to be a fast and fun ride with Riley and the Heat. "Showtime" in South Florida is rolling!