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As Pat Riley ages, the Heat players need to prove they belong on future teams

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Only eight regular-season games and post-season ones remain to show if resigning the current crop was a mistake or not.

NBA: Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

So far the Miami Heat players and coaches haven’t felt any pressure to outperform their contracts, but that may change in the next few weeks and months, as preparations for next season begin.

Waiting for a championship years down the road may have worked for Pat Riley in his New York Knicks days, but the coming changes to the NBA in the next few years, and Riley’s age, don’t allow for the patience of a multi-year process.

Miami’s current cap space and future financial constraints limit maneuverability in signing top-tier talent from the free-agent pool, unless the Heat management decides a more radical approach is called for.

In 2010 the Heat had Dwyane Wade to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but today how many players in the NBA would sacrifice their future earnings to join Josh Richardson?

A big issue coming up lies in the huge monetization of sports betting in the NBA, that might give another spike in the salary cap a few years from now.

The NBA has already started the process with greater transparency on referees with its Last 2 Minute Report, but Larry Gibbs notes head coaches may face even more scrutiny.

”[Tanking] will spark a huge concern should the NBA become a legal partner in the gambling business. For that means players are not potentially giving 100 percent (a.k.a. tanking), drawing a major suspicion toward a wagering bias.

”Even more under the microscope will be NBA head coaches, who can change their lineup for each game. Some teams will sit starters with mysterious ailments, in the hopes of giving them less of a chance to win. And for good teams, surprise non-starters in March and April will be playing to give the regular starters rest before the playoffs.”

The NBA, the Heat, and its management will be watching whether a 39-35 team will coast to an eighth-place seed and first-round elimination, or provide some signs of fight as the season winds down.