For those of you who don't know, or don't live in the greater Miami area, Jonathan Zaslow is radio talk-show host on South Florida's #1 sports talk station, WAXY 790 ‘The Ticket'. While he roots for all the local sports teams, ‘Zas' is a die-hard Miami Heat fan and has been since their inaugural season. Every few weeks Zaslow takes the time to put a blog together for us at PIM, and here is his latest entry:
I imagine there is a countdown to July 1st somewhere, but I'm too lazy to figure out the days. Nonetheless, while everyone is waiting, there has been an overwhelming negative attitude surrounding Pat Riley's chances of building a winner. My question would be: WHY????
Now granted, Pat's recent comments about not wanting to build thru the draft and his disinterest in the foreign player (although he tried to clear that up some) make him sound archaic (2006 is a great example of how the draft helps you build your team based on value. When the Finals MVP is still on the rookie scale contract, it provides an incredible value.). Now of course, there have been a bunch of trades that were busts.
That's what happens when you're always willing to make a bold move. (I liken that to the Vince Carter dunk all over Alonzo Mourning a couple years back. When you're a big time shot blocker, sometimes you're going to funked on. Comes with the territory.) But based on what we've seen over the last 15 years, Pat Riley has always done an outstanding job in remaking this team. By my count, he's had to remake this team on four separate occasions. Let's take a look:
Reason: Team stinks
This was a rebuilding that took 1-year and a half. Trades for Alonzo Mourning the day before the regular season starts, and also trades for Tim Hardaway at the trade deadline. The next summer, thanks to the Juwan Howard blunder, he signs Dan Majerle and PJ Brown. Before the deadline in '97, he trades for Jamal Mashburn. Rebuilding done.
Reason: Three straight playoff losses to the lower seeded Knicks.
This one is tricky. You have to keep in mind that before Alonzo got sick that summer, he was expected to be the centerpiece of this team. This summer, Riley trades for Eddie Jones (sign and trade for the max) and Anthony Mason, and in a separate deal he trades for Brian Grant (sign and trade for the max). Zo getting sick coupled with Tim Hardaway being on his last leg, and you never really got to see this team. This also led to all the bitching and moaning about Eddie Jones making the max, and not being worth it. The truth is, this never would have been an issue with the fans had Eddie Jones not been thrust into the role of number 1 option. If Zo never got sick, no one would have cared about EJ's money. The proof: No one ever complained about Brian Grant making the exact same money. That team could have been pretty darn good.
Reason: Team misses playoffs (2002 and 2003) for the first time in Riley's career.
The rebuilding could actually be traced back to the draft in 2002 when Caron Butler dropped to Miami at number 10 overall. The 2003 draft brought Dwyane Wade. Anthony Carter's agent forgets to "opt-in", freeing up the money to sign Lamar Odom. Udonis Haslem is signed as an undrafted free agent after playing a year in France. This results in arguably the most beloved Heat team of all-time (and my personal favorite).
Reason: Shaq and Kobe hate each other.
This rebuilding process stretched into the summer of 2005. The Heat trade for Shaquille O'Neal and in 2005 they complete this process by trading for James Posey, Antoine Walker (sign and trade), and Jason Williams. The Shaq part of this was a no-brainer, but the multi-team trade in the summer of 2005 came out of nowhere. It resulted in a championship.
Each time that Pat Riley has tried to rebuild this team, he's done a pretty good job. Obviously his hands have been tied the last couple years while waiting for this summer. But now that it's here, I'm not sure why there is so much doubt as to whether or not Riley can go 5 for 5.