LeBron James' decision to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and into free agency doesn't necessarily indicate a desire to flee South Beach. If anything, it has put the onus back on team president and pomade enthusiast Pat Riley to grease the skids back to the NBA Finals by infusing the roster with fresh blood around the Big Three.
As Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick put it: "James has ripped off the band-aid, rather than pulling it off slowly. He's giving Riley a chance to squeeze on the necessary antibiotic, and heal what ails the Heat."
Riley, for his part, wasn't caught off guard by James' choice, which came nearly a week before the June 30 deadline. "We fully expected LeBron to opt-out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise," Riley said in a statement released on Tuesday:
As I said at the press conference last week, players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options.
The last four seasons have been historic and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra have led the Miami HEAT to one of the most unprecedented runs in the history of the NBA. We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together. At the moment, we are preparing for the opportunities in the Draft and Free Agency as we continue with our goal of winning NBA Championships.
Those championships won't be won anytime soon if James takes his talents elsewhere this summer. That seems unlikely at this point, though Riley will have his work cut out for him as he seeks to secure James' signature for the foreseeable future.
Here's what the Heat can do in the coming weeks to keep the face of the NBA in Biscayne Bay.