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Phil Jackson’s departure shows Hayward and Griffin Miami Heat culture matters

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LeBron James and Kevin Durant could not deliver championships without a championship culture

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin jersey sales would instantly put the Miami Heat merchandising powerhouse back into the top tier of apparel and souvenir sales next season. Nick Arison’s business instincts could make a difference maker in the scheme of building a team this off-season. The Arison’s purse strings may have a significant part in drawing marketable and visible talent to reward season ticket holders and jump start sales of Heat branded merchandise.

On the basketball front, Hayward’s track record shows, by himself. he’s incapable of bringing a championship trophy to the Utah Jazz. Griffin couldn’t deliver the goods for the Los Angeles Clippers. Both need the pedigree of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra to soak in the champagne of a winner’s locker room. The Knicks’ dismissal of Phil Jackson serves as a prime example that Heat’s superior culture matters.

LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Kevin Durant all needed the Miami Heat or Golden State Warriors, respectively, equally or more than the teams needed them to win a ring. Expecting Hayward to lead Miami to serious contention would be the same as believing Bosh alone would have moved the needle for the Heat back then.

In 2010 Pat Riley, with the draw of Dwyane Wade, lured two All-Stars to South Beach. Perhaps he’ll succeed again next week, because one star attracts another towards a common goal. Elite players recruit each other to create a total greater than the sum of its individual parts. This summer Miami’s advantage lies in the superiority of its cap space over other teams who also seek to upgrade their own rosters.

Pat Riley might see that Griffin, due to his size, was totally miscast as a forward by his AAU and NBA coaches. As an example, Giannis Antetokounmpo switched from the forward to the guard position with great success. Could the same happen with Griffin? Riley remembers coaching Magic Johnson as an unconventional tall guard during his career. Notably the pairing of Blake with Chris Paul never clicked in the post-season.

The Heat severely regressed from 2015-16 to the start of 2016-17, when they started with a miserable 11-30 record, featuring Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside as their top tandem. Only when Spoelstra shook up the lineup in the second 41 games by changing the supporting cast, starting with the speedy forward Okaro White, did the team find a winning combination.

Another major restructuring could be in works shortly to reach the next level. When Shaquille O’Neal joined Dwyane Wade, the team had 2 top-five lottery picks. In 2010 Miami had 3 top-five draft picks. If Griffin joins, the Heat again have 2 top-five picks, surrounded by a supporting cast of first-round players.

The Miami front office isn’t the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls, thank goodness. As Erik Spoelstra takes over supervising basketball operations from Pat Riley, this summer may be Riley’s finishing coup d’etat. Gregg Popovich runs the operations in San Antonio and Spo is poised to do the same in South Beach.

Bam Adebayo is a Spoelstra positionless type of player. From now on Miami’s roster will feature Erik’s unique preference of interchangeable parts, and Adebayo is his first step in that direction. As a parting gift, Riley may provide Spoelstra with Griffin and Hayward.

Or these rumors may be the same meaningless chatter of Durant landing in Miami last summer. Whatever, for Heat fans basketball is an obsession of fake and real news that continues 12 months a year.