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Keeping the Faith: Miami Heat wants the fans, not the roster, back next year

Just about the only thing the Heat has been consistent with this season is how inconsistent the team has been from one game to the next. If you ask any Heat fan that has been following the Heat this year and 9 out of 10 would tell you that they weren’t too surprised at the loss at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the worse team in the Western Conference with 13 wins overall and only 4 road victories prior to facing the Heat. It didn’t matter that the Heat had put together a solid run just before and after the All-Star break, winning 5 straight games and losing the streak to a solid Dallas Mavericks team that had trouble putting away the Wade-less Heat until breaking away in the 4th quarter. The knee jerk reaction to that feel-good stretch is that maybe the Heat were finally turning a corner, that they just might be putting it all together. It makes for a nice headline but the reality is that this has been the same script all throughout the season. This is the same team that immediately before this streak had been on a 5 game losing streak with a healthy Dwyane Wade who lead the team in scoring in all of those games except against the Bulls. The same Wade that subsequently reminded the league that maybe if he had the same support system that Kobe and Lebron had he would be mentioned annually in MVP races, not just in an All-Star exhibition game. The same Wade who arguably was the MVP of the last Dream Team, playing the same versatile and dynamic brand of ball he played on Valentine’s Day. It was all on display in the biggest stage of all: free flowing, deft passing, moving constantly without the ball, darting into the passing lanes for easy steals for breakaway opportunities and subtly conducting the offense without necessarily forcing the action as he sometimes feels obligated to do when playing for the Heat. While it’s understandable that any NBA team will struggle without its superstar the fact of the matter is that the Heat struggle with or without him and it’s been that way the entire season. Come to think of it, it’s been that way for a long time now, certainly as long as Erik Spoelstra has been the coach of the Heat. So is the coaching staff to blame or is it the players? Is it the front office or a combination of all three? Perhaps it’s everybody’s fault (and maybe even Shaq for quitting on the team, setting up a domino chain of events that somehow caught Marcus Banks up and spit him back out). Or maybe it’s simply just a product of how this season has been treated by the organization with a promise of hope that the 2010 offseason will undoubtedly return the Heat to playoff glory. Don’t worry, they seem to say, it won’t be this current team. We can improve on them to make Wade happy, trust us. Even the new Heat videos imploring current season ticket holders to renew for next year carry this same trend. The topics of discussion in short bursts of interviews with Pat Riley and Mickey Arison are "Summer 2010", "The Infrastructure", "The Backbone" (ie. the Heat fans), "Michael Beasley", "The Value of Expiring Contracts", and "More Cap Room". Only one ("The Infrastructure") mentions a few current Heat players that either have rookie contracts or team options for next year like Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook. It’s clear that the organization is selling hope in all of the videos but what isn’t being said about the current state of affairs speaks volumes. So the roster may be good enough to squeak into this year’s playoffs but not good enough to be kept around next year to keep Wade and snag a max player to play alongside him. While the current team is slighted intentionally, Riley was seemingly patient enough to stick with his master plan and not send any of his players packing during the trade deadline. But most likely he didn’t get good enough offers or his team’s puzzling play sent potential trade partners looking away. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that the Heat’s roster next year will be drastically different. Let’s hope the All-Star version of Wade returns to lead the way.