Pat Riley has proved to be the master of this summer’s free agency. The trick he pulled off landing all three of the prized free agents was a stroke of genius, but he isn’t done with his masterpiece.
No one knows this better than Pat Riley, and this is why the Heat President should consider bringing back Shaquille O’Neal.
So, it appears it may be time for the Diesel to make one last cruise down South Beach. This however won’t be just for show. We’re talking seriously. It is the perfect fit and the real opportunity for Riley to assemble a real championship team.
The 38 year-old Shaq can still play, albeit only for ten to fifteen minutes a game. He has proved in his aging years that, given the right circumstances and training staff (a la Phoenix Suns), Shaq can keep his body healthy and really contribute.
That wasn’t the case though when he departed Miami the first time around. Shaq left without much love, fingers were pointed at how out of shape he’d gotten, how injuries had fully eroded his game, and how he’d quit on the team.
While those accusations might have some merit, he clearly rediscovered both his health and his game in the desert.
This past season, while Shaq didn’t deliver on the promise to bring the king a ring, he was the Cleveland Cavalier’s second best player for most of the year.
So, it’s actually a no-brainer for Pat Riley.
Shaq has stated he will only play for a real contender. Miami needs him ,and Shaq’s contract won’t be much and can fit the now cap restricted Heat.
It all works. Shaq is familiar with the city, has proven he can play with Dwyane Wade (i.e.. See NBA Championship in 2006), and now has been a teammate of LeBron James.
The other big factor is Riley himself. The rumor out of south Florida is that the Heat’s current President will return to the bench. He’s handled Shaq before and would do it again, along with the three amigos now added to the mix, quite easily and seamlessly.
Riley brings credibility to the bench and that respect can keep Shaq in line. The 65-year-old Riley is a NBA Hall of Famer who started his pro playing career with the San Diego Rockets in 1967, and has a career coaching record of 1,210 —694. It seems he wants to coach the dream team he’s put together.
That team can include the Diesel. Shaq can give the Heat quality minutes in the playoffs where the team will really need him.
It is obvious that Miami will roll through the regular season with the three amigos running and gunning their way to the top.
Come the playoffs, where height actually matters Shaq will be invaluable. He can shore up their interior defense and be a big body with six fouls against the likes of Boston, Orlando, and most importantly the Lakers.
Put simply, the Heat can’t really match up that well with the Lakers and their height. Now, I’m sure you’re already cursing at the screen but it is true. The Heat don’t have the length to compete.
Let’s look at the matchups, and to paraphrase Pat Riley from the 1980s, a playoff series is always about matchups.
At guard, Kobe Bryant covers Wade and while that is a close one, the Heat surely don’t have the advantage. I’d give this one to the Lakers.
At small forward, Ron Artest can slow down LeBron James. Yes, slow down. Just slow down, not stop. Stay calm. Don’t get upset just yet. Artest proved it against Paul Pierce in this recent NBA Finals. And, while James is way beyond the player the Celtic is, Artest is big enough and somewhat quick enough to at least be a factor on the defensive side of the ball.
Sure, James wins this match up by a landslide, but unlike years past with only Kobe or Trevor Ariza or Luke Walton, on the floor, the Lakers have a body with some speed to play James.
At power forward, Bosh is a talent but Pau Gasol got the best of Bosh in the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal game and the Spaniard and Laker would handle him again in a Finals match up. Even if you want to say this is a push, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter,because where the Heat have nothing is the center position.
A healthy Andrew Bynum of the Lakers destroys the Heat, creates mis matches, foul problems, and double teams. That's right, Bynum could demand a double team with Kobe and Gasol on the floor. Scary.
So, the playoffs really would be scary for the Heat without Shaq. This is exactly where the Diesel would earn his money. Don’t expect much in the regular season from him and it won’t matter. As long as he is healthy, he gives Miami a real shot at the title.
Pat Riley is too brilliant to pass up this opportunity. Count on a Shaq Sequel in Miami coming soon to South Beach.