MIAMI — Dwyane Wade slipped in the comment in his friendly, easy-going style.
But his words carried a foreboding message, even after the Miami Heat’s rollicking championship celebration Thursday night.
“I think people need to enjoy it a little bit, too,” Wade said before Game 7 about his union with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. “Vecause one day it won’t be here, and people are going to miss it. Let’s stop getting rid of it while it’s still here.”
He’s right. One day, James, Wade and Bosh won’t be on the Heat roster together, and because all three will be able to terminate their contracts with Miami after the 2013-14 season, the question becomes, when is that day?
Heat owner Micky Arison recently told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel that his concern next season is winning another championship, suggesting the Big 3 will play together again in 2013-14. But if the owner considers changing up things, he might entertain offers from other teams for Bosh. Trading James or Wade seems highly unlikely.
The Heat struggled at times in the postseason against teams with size and strength, and they might look to add for size and strength, even if that means dealing Bosh. The Heat’s third All-Star did not score a point in the 95-88 Game 7 victory Thursday in the NBA Finals vs. the San Antonio Spurs. He consistently was bettered by Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan over the past month.
This was a group put together to win championships, and they’ve won two in three years – and went to the Finals in all three. They have accomplished quite a bit, even if at times they didn’t look as sharp as expected.
“It says a lot about where we’re at now, the team that we are,” Wade said. “(In) 2010 our first year together, we tried to make it work. And we just weren’t a team that we needed to be to gut a Game 6 out, to win a game like that. To be in the championship three years in a row, to win two of those three, is unbelievable.
“Everybody can’t get to The Finals and win six in a row – like win six and not lose one like Michael Jordan. But we are excited about the future of this organization. We are still a good team. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we can stay competitive. And adding a guy like Ray Allen, adding a guy like Birdman (Chris Andersen), this organization doesn’t rest on trying to make sure that we can put ourselves in a position to have a trophy like this. So we’ll be back next year again, looking to do it again.”
James and Bosh will earn $19 million next season, and Wade is set to make $18.6 million. All three will make at least $20 million in 2014-15, and that puts some restrictions on what the Heat can do with the roster under the salary cap.
Next season, the league’s new luxury tax – which was agreed upon by players and owners in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement – kicks in, and it is a more punitive tax. Miami is looking at a nearly $37 million tax bill next season whereas in past seasons, it would have $18 million. Arison and Heat President Pat Riley undoubtedly will be concerned about that number.
While the Heat will look to improve the roster — they have to based on how the postseason played out, being taken to two Game 7’s — they do have players contractually locked in for next season.
Swingman Mike Miller is scheduled to make $6.2 million next season but could be cut with the amnesty clause, which allows teams to pay out a player’s salary but avoid it counting against the cap.
“One thing I’ve learned through 13 years of basketball is the business side of it, and I completely understand it,” Miller said during the Finals. “But I’ve got a lot of basketball left.”
Big men Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are under contract through 2014-15, and guard Norris Cole’s affordable rookie contract runs through at 2015-16. The Heat have a team option on the final year of guard Mario Chalmers’ $4 million contract for next season, another reasonable contract for Miami. Chalmers played well in three of the four Finals wins and helps add an extra dimension to the team.
Forward Shane Battier is signed through 2013-14, and guard Ray Allen and forwards James Jones and Rashard Lewis all have player options for next season. Allen told USA TODAY Sports he will make a decision on his future after the season, and Jones and Lewis indicated they will return.
The Heat also need to decide what they will do with Andersen: sign him in free agency in the offseason or look for an alternative. Right now, the Heat do not have a pick in June draft so any additions will be made through free agency or trades.
The turnaround in the NBA season is fast. The draft comes a week after the Finals, and free agency opens four days after that. When a news reporter asked James on Thursday about the future, he shot back, “Please don’t ask me about my offseason training right now.”
With James, Wade and Bosh, the Heat will be the favorites for a third consecutive title. But they won’t stand pat. Remember, after winning the title in 2012, they added Allen and then signed Andersen almost midway through this season.
“I mean, I have a few goals,” James said. “My goal, one of my first goals, is to continue to inspire the youth to want to play this game of basketball or to be better at whatever they do. Second thing for me is to continue to lead my teammates. Every single day in practice, every single day in film sessions, I know the grass isn’t always green and there’s going to be trials and tribulations.”
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