A little less than two years after telling everyone who would listen that they would win “titles” (plural emphasized), the Miami Heat are on the brink of playoff elimination again. They trail the Boston Celtics three games to two in the Eastern Conference Finals. Short of winning two elimination games then winning four more against an even tougher foe in the Finals, the Heat’s season will again fall short of the goal.
Blame shouldn’t go to LeBron James, he was after all the league’s MVP. Blame shouldn’t go to Dwyane Wade, even if I still struggle to spell his first name right. Nor should fingers get pointed at Chris Bosh, injuries happen. Blame should be heaped high on Pat Riley, the Team President of the Heat. He built a formidable nucleus of a team but he forgot about the rest of the atom.
The Heat will spend 33 million dollars this year on players not named James, Bosh or Wade. Some of that money goes to players who are old (Udonis Haslem), frail (Mike Miller) or one dimensional (Joel Anthony). Some of the money goes to guys who don’t even deserve consideration for an NBA roster (Eddy Curry).
Seriously, Knicks fans, if you see Eddy Curry on someone’s roster, doesn’t it raise questions about the competency of the personnel decisionmaking? It’s enough to wonder if Isiah Thomas is doing mind meld tricks with one of his Knicks predecessors. If the Heat give Stephon Marbury a tryout this summer, then we know it’s true.
But seriously, 33 million to fill out a roster headed by three all stars. Let’s look at the other final four teams for a second. 33 million would cover the contracts of Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Marquis Daniels and leave 26 million for other amenities. 33 mil would cover the contracts of Dequan Cook, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and um, Derek Fisher, and leave plenty of scratch. 33 mil covers Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Gary Neal and leaves more than 30 million. It’s not that all of these players were available to the Heat, but many of them were and talent of this caliber definitely was.
Wade is 30, James and Bosh are 27; all three are still in their prime, but if this year ends short of a parade, the team should sense that the window of opportunity is beginning to close. If Miami is to win even one title, then they are going to need significantly better role players and the man at the top has a horrible track record in finding them.
Martin Johnson wrote a weekly NBA column for the New York Sun from 2003-’08, and for http://www.theroot.com from 2008-’10. His sportswriting has also appeared in the NY Times, Wall St. Journal and the Atlantic Monthly.