NBA AM: Miami HEAT Plan To Reload, Not Rebuild

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Pat Riley Sets Correct Tone for Miami Heading Into Summer

Four straight trips to the NBA Finals with two championship trophies added to the mantle in that time span. All NBA franchises would take this type of run without hesitation, but if you look around in some circles the popular narrative surrounding the Miami HEAT is one of doom and gloom.

Welcome to 2014, where perspective is often lost in knee-jerk reactions or the need to sensationalize.

HEAT president Pat Riley addressed some of those who may be jumping too far into the land of conclusions after Miami was thoroughly dismantled in this year’s Finals at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs

“If you bear with me, we need to have perspective on some things,” Riley said during his end of season presser. “I think everybody needs to get a grip – media, HEAT players, organization, all of our fans. You got to get a grip on greatness and on teams. I’ve been here for 45 years in the NBA and I’ve witnessed dynasties and great teams. This stuff is hard. You have to stay together if you’ve got the guts and you don’t find the first door and run out of it.

“This is four years into this [team’s] era. This team. Four Finals. It’s only been done three other times before. Two championships. From day one until the end it was like a Broadway show. We sort of ran out of steam. We need to retool. We don’t need to rebuild. We need to retool and that’s what we’re going to do. Everybody just get a grip. This has been a great run.”

However strong Miami’s recent run has been, the fact remains the team faces an overwhelming uncertainty heading into the summer. The trio of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James can all choose to opt out of their current deals and test the free agency market. Even if Wade elects to opt in and Bosh and James re-sign at a higher wage, the HEAT could have over $60 million of their payroll committed to the trio with only guard Norris Cole on a guaranteed deal.

Riley says the HEAT’s front office is ready to handle all possible scenarios and maintains his organization has more than enough flexibility to retool on the fly.

“We’re prepared,” Riley said. “It depends on whatever the scenario we’re presented with on July 1. We’ve got a lot of room for flexibility. There’s a tremendous amount of flexibility depending on what happens. We’re ready. Now, do I feel any pressure? No, I don’t feel any pressure at all. I’m going to do the best job I can do. I don’t think we have to recruit Chris, LeBron or Dwyane again. Four trips to the Finals, a great organization and two world championships. I’m not dropping championship rings on the table for those guys. They can drop their own, look at them and wear them with pride. On July 1 we’ll know what we have to do.

“We’ve still got a lot of flexibility. We’ve got a taxpayer mid-level exception. We’ve got two trade exceptions. We’ve got a first-round pick. We’ve got the [second-round] pick.”

Riley believes the loss in the Finals could ultimately spark a new urgency for his team moving forward. The veteran executive maintains that NBA history is littered with teams who have lost in the Finals that are propelled to reach new heights after the setback.

“This is time that you go home and take care of yourself and look at yourself,” Riley said. “What are you going to do to come back and make the team better? Because we have a tremendous opportunity here for long-term success.”

Is Joel Embiid A Potential Franchise Player or Damaged Goods?

Every year leading up to the NBA Draft, there’s one or two prospects on the mend due to injuries suffered during the workout phase. The latest name on the list is former Kansas standout Joel Embiid, a center, who most felt could have been the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft class.

However, Embiid is now on the shelf with surgery scheduled this week because of a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot. The big question mark on Embiid prior to the latest setback revolved around the big man’s back and whether it would become a chronic condition. After extensive testing, most of those worries started to subside, but the stress fracture has opened up a new series of doubts.

As Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy pointed out last night, the navicular bone is the same one that ultimately shortened Yao Ming’s career, so this won’t be an issue NBA executives take lightly in their draft evaluations.

Basketball Insiders also reached out to well respected sports surgeon Dr. Derek Ochiai for additional insight into the injury. According to Dr. Ochiai, who performs surgeries with the Nirschl Orthopaedic Center, Embiid’s  immense size makes the injury much more problematic than if he were a smaller guy who played point guard.

Embiid is just 20 years old and hasn’t been playing organized basketball for long. So the red flags about whether his frame will be able to handle the rigors of the NBA grind are legitimate. For now, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Embiid falls any lower than the fifth overall pick in the upcoming draft. But with 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden’s inability to stay healthy fresh on everyone’s mind, teams may choose to back off the emerging big man.