Micky Arison's open letter to fans last night didn't mention Heat Lifer once. Loyalty has been replaced by need to evolve, as Pat Riley said, "One of the only things you can count on in life that is permanent is change."
From that stance, Arison suggests the keys to the organization will be handed from Pat Riley to his successor sooner than people expect. In 2013 Arison named Arnold W. Donald the CEO of Carnival after making it the world's largest cruise line. Ever the businessman, he knows the injection of new concepts and vitality into the system is an essential ingredient for enterprises to remain winners.
Perhaps Riley could be grooming Erik Spoelstra to manage the basketball operations of a franchise worth over a staggering $1 billion. Handling the duties of something that size requires knowledge that only experience brings. Spo has been notably absent in video clips of Heat players practicing in the gym, maybe because he's gradually learning the management side of basketball from the master himself (or perhaps Erik is having an extended honeymoon?).
The departure of long-time assistant coach David Fizdale for the Memphis Grizzlies broke the status quo in the Heat's coaching ranks. The grooming of Dan Craig as head coach for the record-setting Sioux Falls Skyforce indicates a change in leadership from Miami's sidelines could become real in a few seasons.
The resolution of Chris Bosh's situation seems close at hand so he has sufficient time to get into playing condition for the upcoming season. Per his letter, Arison fully expects Bosh to be ready to contribute on the court in 2016-17.
"I fully expect this team, from Pat Riley to Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, to our veterans Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Goran Dragic and Josh McRoberts, to our returning young core of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson, to the fresh faces joining the HEAT Family..."
The return of Bosh and Dragic, along with the young core having a full year's experience in the NBA under their belts, changes the odds of the Heat being a playoff team. Fresh faces, such as Derrick Williams, James Johnson and Willie Reed, are putting the work in to challenge returning players for significant minutes in the rotation.
Check out @DWXXIII, @IamJJ3 and @ShowtimeReed33 grinding today inside the practice facility! pic.twitter.com/wxmLrqaGO8— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) August 11, 2016
The loss of significant national TV coverage has given the Heat franchise a sense of urgency to remain relevant this season. The return of Bosh as a marketable and nationally-known name helps in that cause. Besides Bosh, Dion Waiters' days in Cleveland with LeBron James and in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook gives the team a player with national exposure, whether it be good or bad.
A starting five of Whiteside, Bosh, Winslow, Waiters and Dragic would likely win more than 37 games and reach the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Injuries happen and fatigue sets in during the course of the season, so players besides those named will get their fair share of minutes to prove they are starting material as time marches on. The Heat last season reached third-seed status in part because an end-of-the-bench player, Richardson, stepped up when called upon and snared a place in the rotation and spot starts.
The emphasis on change implies a mid-season trade is a distinct possibility. Riley is known for waiting to get players who want out of their current situation, i.e. someone who after the season starts is unhappy and practically demands a trade. Right now all the NBA teams are undefeated. Once the season begins and reality sets in and unexpected events happen, other teams may solicit Riley for help on terms favorable for the team.