News that Russell Westbrook will remain in a Thunder uniform for at least two seasons could remove some of the uncertainty from this season.
"Oklahoma City Thunder star guard Russell Westbrook has agreed to a three-year, $85 million-plus maximum contract renegotiation, league sources told The Vertical." "Westbrook, a five-time All-Star, and his agent, Thad Foucher of Wasserman Media Group, are planning to fly to Oklahoma City on Thursday morning, sign the deal and likely hold a news conference with Thunder ownership and executives, league sources told The Vertical."
"In the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook new deal could be instrumental in recruiting another elite free agent to the Thunder’s talented core next summer. Oklahoma native Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers will be a serious target for the Thunder, league sources told The Vertical."
When teams such as the Thunder and Spurs, who pride themselves on homegrown talent, become active in the free-agent market, perhaps another approach to create championship teams could be in order.
Names such as Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward, and Griffith have been thrown into the mix as possible targets for Pat Riley to pursue, but a couple of problems exist by chasing them.
- None of them carries the impact of a LeBron James
- The possibility of players becoming short-term rentals exists
- Chasing players leads to overpaying for them
- Adapting to the Heat culture could take longer than first believed, if it happens at all
The team this season doesn't have an All-NBA star, as a matter of fact 9 out of 10 players from the first and second teams are from the Western Conference. But the work ethic and hunger today's Heat players display bode well for the future.
Now that everyone is following the Pat Riley "Big 3" approach to championship building, perhaps he will outfox everyone by being a step ahead of them a doing things in a different way.
Establishing the best development program in the NBA may the way the Heat zigs while everyone else zags. Especially since Miami has a 2017 first-round draft pick to add to their young talent pool.
The key to the Heat's success lies in their staff of motivators such as Erik Spoelstra, Dan Craig, Juwan Howard, Chris Quinn, and Udonis Haslem. They don't get enough credit for how they are shaping the team into fighting units.
The Kevin Durant and Westbrook sagas may lead into an entirely new way of bringing a championship to Biscayne Blvd. One that is crafted in the gyms of Miami, one practice at a time.
Let the other teams overpay for talent; Heat culture will create its own future All-Stars during the summer of 2016.