Standing Pat: Miami Heat's Quiet Offseason All Part of Pat Riley's Master Plan
As the 2009 NBA offseason winds down and training camp gets closer, we have seen plenty of NBA teams bolster their rosters through trades and free agent signings. It has been a busy offseason, with a lot of big names moving to different cities and a lot of teams adding the one piece they hope will put them over the top.
Championship contenders such as Cleveland, Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston, and San Antonio have all made big moves to strengthen their chances at a title run.
The Cavaliers traded for Shaquille O'Neal, the Magic traded for Vince Carter, the Lakers signed Ron Artest, the Celtics inked Rasheed Wallace, and San Antonio acquired Richard Jefferson.
With that in mind, it is clear that it will be that much harder to vie for a playoff spot in both the Eastern and Western Conference. While even the non-contending teams made upgrades, the Miami Heat have not tampered with their lineup the least bit. They are one of two teams (Utah Jazz) in the NBA that didn't add a veteran free agent in this year's offseason.
In addition to that, Miami has not signed either of their two second round draft picks, Patrick Beverley and Robert Dozier. The only thing the Heat have accomplished this offseason? Resigning their two backup centers, Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire, to one-year deals. Other than that minor move, the Miami Heat have been completely quiet.
Although the Heat were quiet in action, they certainly made some noise when it came to trade/free agent speculation.
Rumors started with free agent point guard Allen Iverson. The 10-time All-Star was linked to the Heat for weeks, before talks finally quieted down. Pat Riley was only willing to give Iverson a one-year deal worth the veterans minimum, which appears to be not nearly enough for Iverson.
As Iverson rumors faded, trade rumors started swirling. After the Utah Jazz resigned Paul Millsap, it is clear that forward Carlos Boozer is on his way out. And just like that, Miami was in the headlines for a possible deal that would send Dorrell Wright and Udonis Haslem to Utah in exchange for the disgruntled Boozer.
Boozer publicly expressed his desire to play for the Heat, stating how he has a great friendship with Heat superstar Dwyane Wade and has a home down in Miami. Rumors eventually died down when both Pat Riley and the Jazz publicly announced there was nothing going on.
Then came the most intense action of the summer when free agent Lamar Odom got his multi-year offer withdrawn from Jerry Buss and the Lakers. Riley and the Heat jumped on the opportunity and aggressively pursued the former Heat forward.
Not only did Riley pursue Odom, but Wade got in on the recruitment by using his Twitter account to express his desire to bring Odom back to Miami. He tweeted a message directed for LO, saying "Come back home. Come back to where it all started."
Weeks of speculation passed as Odom left everyone in limbo about his future. After LA withdrew their offer, ESPN reported that Miami and Odom were very close to reaching a deal.
The Heat's proposed offer was for five years and $34 million, which is Miami's entire mid-level exception, with the option to opt out after the fourth year. But, Odom decided to stay with the defending NBA Champions and chose the lure of championships over a South Beach reunion.
After Odom spurned Miami, many Heat fans considered the offseason a failure. Many critics and analysts said the Heat's offseason was lost, especially after the Heat's next biggest target, Jamal Tinsley, canceled a meeting with Miami (although, Tinsley remains in the mix as a potential back up point guard for the team).
But, is this Miami offseason really a failure or is this all part of Pat Riley's master plan?
The saying "patience is a virtue" really comes into play when regarding the Heat's offseason. The fact that Miami didn't use their mid-level exception on Odom combined with the fact that they didn't sign any free agents, means the Heat will have massive amounts of cap space in the highly anticipated 2010 offseason.
The Heat will have the second most salary cap room in the league next year if they go into training camp with their current roster.
And as it stands, it looks like Miami will go into next month's training camp with the roster they have now.
"I don't even know if we're going to add any free agents,'' Riley said. "I'm not looking to make a lateral move unless it was something I thought that could really help us. We're not looking to pick off a free agent for one year when we have players we want to play on our team.''
And that is something that doesn't upset Riley.
"I'm not going to let the negative vibe that we didn't do anything this summer get me down,'' he said. "You've got to have patience." He also added that he knew this year wasn't the Heat's year for a big offseason.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I made the point in June, this really wasn't going to be our year in the free agent market. I'm not going to do something foolhardy now that is going to hurt our chances to put a franchise player around another franchise player.''
So, why not trust the mastermind GM? The Hall of Fame Coach is a genius when it comes to constructing a winning roster. He has pulled through in the past and can pull through now, especially with so much on the line regarding Wade's future.
Everyone made such a big deal on how Wade went public with his displeasure with the Heat's offseason and how he wouldn't extend his contract until a proper supporting cast was placed around him that has the talent to be a contender.
Riley listened to Wade and pursued Lamar Odom fervently, which showed Miami's franchise player that they're committed to building a championship team around him. And since Wade's public frustration a month ago, he has quieted down and realized that Riley has a plan.
Wade has made it clear that he doesn't want people to misconstrue what he is saying. He reiterated that he loves Miami and that there is no bad beef between him and the team President. Riley's non-action this season is all part of his agenda.
Even though the Heat didn't land any marquee players, Riley accomplished something more significant: He gained Wade's trust. After Wade's public demands for help, Riley immediately got on the phones, and before we knew it the Heat were linked to Iverson, Boozer, and Odom.
Now, the Heat can focus on their current roster and look forward to the developments of second year players Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, as well as third year player Daequan Cook. In addition, Jermaine O'Neal has been working hard to get his knee back in shape and Riley has been impressed by his progress.
On an even more positive note, Miami will now have enough cap space, as it stands now, to sign another maximum salary free agent in next year's offseason, as well as sign an excellent supporting cast.
A Heat lineup that features Dwyane Wade, a second superstar such as Chris Bosh, and a much-improved Beasley and Chalmers would certainly propel the Heat into the likes of Cleveland, LA, Boston, and Orlando.
In addition to that, everyone seems to forget that the Heat have a team that posted 43 wins last year. And if a couple of games went different, they could have been a 50-win team. With the progression of their youngsters and another superb year from Wade, who's to say the 2009 Miami Heat aren't a 50-win team?
While it is true that the four teams that finished ahead of them in the East standings last season all improved their rosters, the Heat can still be very competitive with the roster they currently showcase.
Let's not forget that the Heat beat all the heavyweights in last year's regular season, including the Lakers, Magic, Cavs, Celtics, and Spurs.
Now that the majority of the offseason is over, one thing is clear: Riley's decision to stand Pat could be a blessing in disguise for the Miami Heat.
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