The Miami Heat look at 2015-16 as a missed opportunity. They were one game away from a conference finals berth despite their roster being depleted by injuries, specifically to Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.
The two Miami big men were at the center of President Pat Riley's season-ending press conference Wednesday, as he spoke on the travails Bosh has faced and his hope to bring Whiteside back on a long-term deal.
"It's two years in a row. It definitely has hurt the team," Riley said of Bosh, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "But more so than anything, he's the one suffering."
Bosh, 32, missed Miami's final 29 regular-season games and its entire postseason run after being diagnosed with blood clots in his leg. It's the second straight campaign in which Bosh has dealt with blood clots, which can be life-threatening if not treated properly. Riley described finding out Bosh was dealing with a recurrence as a "haymaker."
Bosh has remained hopeful about a return to the court. However, his long-term prognosis is up in the air. Michael Wallace of ESPN.com reported Bosh and the Heat have been "at odds" over his medical condition for some time, with the All-Star forward pushing behind the scenes to get back on the floor. Riley said the organization is "encouraged" about finding a way for Bosh to return but was noncommittal overall.
With Bosh's future uncertain, Miami finding a way to retain Whiteside is vital. The 7-footer averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and an NBA-high 3.7 blocks per game this season. Even though his play is occasionally aloof and he has maturity issues, Whiteside anchors the Heat defense and is nearly impossible to replace for Miami.
"He's our No. 1 priority, period. Our No. 1 priority is Hassan Whiteside," Riley said, per Winderman.
Riley said the Heat plan to be in contact with Whiteside at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, the first minute teams are allowed to contact free agents.
The biggest issue here is money. With the NBA's new television deal kicking in, teams are going to be flush with cash. Max cap room will be bouncing around the league, and Whiteside is eligible for a salary starting at $23 million per season—assuming the NBA's cap projection of $92 million USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reported holds true. It may wind up even higher than that, which presents a problem of potentially handcuffing the Heat going forward.
Miami already has $48.2 million in guarantees for 2016-17, per Basketball Insiders. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng alone carry a combined cap hold of $43 million. That alone eliminates the Heat's ability to max Whiteside out. They're almost certainly going to have to renounce Deng and come to terms with Wade at a deal less than the max to get Whiteside back.
Riley's done a lot of great things as an executive, but this is far from a sure thing.
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