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After Wade's departure, Riley commits to flexibility with young core

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Pat Riley made a series of moves to signal a new direction towards a younger team. Does Bosh get in the way?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Riley isn't much of a mourner.

Well, he apparently texted "SADDDDDDD!!!! SO saddddddd!" to the Miami Herald's Dan LeBatard after Dwyane Wade announced his intention to sign with the Chicago Bulls. And the degree to which Wade's exit was in Riley's mind from the beginning will be an unanswered question in Heat lore for years to come. (We have Stan Van Gundy's "resignation" as head coach in 2005-06 to "spend more time with his family" -- I don't think it was that orchestrated.)

But Riley moves quick. After LeBron James blindsided him two summers ago, he quickly moved to lock up Chris Bosh with a max contract, re-sign Dwyane Wade and add Luol Deng. Yesterday, with Wade's departure in the rear-view mirror, Riley again pounced with a series of moves.

He matched restricted free agent Tyler Johnson's offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets, bringing the young guard back to Miami. He signed promising young center Willie Reed to give Hassan Whiteside a proper backup (remember the Toronto playoff series after Whiteside went down?) He signed notorious Heat-killer Wayne Ellington and backup forward James Johnson. He traded for Luke Babbitt, who has a proven record as a sharpshooter.

Oh yeah, and he also re-signed Udonis Haslem to serve as a veteran mentor.

Taken together, these moves signal a new plan for Riley as he continues at the helm of this franchise. A younger, more athletic team. A team that keeps flexibility for next summer's free agent class. A team that should be fun to watch -- similar to the 2003-04 Heat team during Wade's rookie year, with Lamar Odom and Eddie Jones serving as veteran leaders to young players like Wade, Haslem and Caron Butler.

Of course, this new direction may not include Bosh, who has not played after the All-Star break for two consecutive seasons. The public standoff between Bosh and the team that bubbled to the surface during last season's playoffs may return as the buzz around the league. Would the Heat prefer to part ways with the two-time champion via a medical retirement, lifting the Heat of paying Bosh from one year after his last game played?

If Bosh plays even one game this year and again suffers blood clots mid-season, Miami's cap relief would be delayed another year. But then again, Riley may prefer to formally move on from The Big Three era and explore trading Bosh if he is healthy. Bosh and Whiteside have not seemed like a complementary front-court pairing, and Riley just signed Whiteside to a four-year, $98 million deal.

We'll have to wait and see how the Bosh situation resolves itself -- it could be messy, like the Heat/Wade breakup, but with the National Basketball Players Association against the team as added fodder. It could also be amicable, with Bosh announcing his retirement and becoming an executive with the Heat.

But with his plethora of signings, Riley has committed to a new way. Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson will take on more responsibility in their second years in the NBA. Goran Dragic, whose game never meshed with Wade, will run his type of a high-paced offense. The Heat are banking -- literally! -- on Whiteside to stay hungry after receiving his contract and put together just his second full, productive NBA season.

This Heat team may have more drama off the court next season. But on the court, it should be exciting to see a new core take charge.