Miami reluctantly moving forward without LeBron James

Posted by Zach Tennen on September 01, 2014 · 7 mins read

LeBron James spurned his hometown fans in 2010 and went on his way to South Beach.  But apparently Miami was just a temporary stop for James to collect a couple rings.

Four years later, he stunned Pat Riley and the Heat organization by making a confident return to Cleveland.  But Dwyane Wade could sense James’ urge to return home after Miami’s lopsided loss in the 2014 NBA Finals.

“You can tell where someone’s heart is and what they’re thinking,” said D-Wade on LeBron’s decision to return to Cleveland.  ”Me as his friend, I just support him.  As crazy as that might sound, I’m supportive of my friends and doing what makes them happy.”

Wade and James have openly discussed their unbreakable friendship and James fleeing Miami will not change that.  The two are sure to remain close friends off the court.  However, they will be bigger enemies than ever before when they step on the court.

It would be a false statement to say Riley and Micky Arison were unaffected by this dramatic loss.  The team just lost one of the greatest players in the history of the game.  However, Riley and Arison remain optimistic about Miami’s future and have every right to feel that way.

“We’ve proven that we can do it and we’ll do it again,” Riley said of Miami’s current situation.

I don’t see any reason to doubt him.  As a player, coach, and president, Riley has been one of the NBA’s ultimate winners.  He is a five-time champion as a coach and a two-time champion as an executive.  Riley was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and has also been named one of the top ten coaches in NBA history.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have decided to stay in town and the Heat have locked up some appealing players going forward.  Two-time All-Star Luol Deng flipped places with James as he left Cleveland in free agency to go to South Beach.

Of course, Luol Deng will not fill in the shoes of LeBron James.  But he’s a hard worker - a forward of great size and defensive ability who averages 16 points and over six rebounds for his career.  Deng is kind of LeBron-light; assuming Bosh takes over the leading scoring duties, Deng can be a jack-of-all trades for Miami.

Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen, and Udonis Haslem have all re-signed as important role players.  ”Super Mario” has been an ideal fit alongside Wade and James in Miami’s last four years.  He fell victim to punching bag status on a number of occasions, however that has ultimately motivated him over the past few seasons to become a bit more well-rounded. His post-season from hell was a small sample size, albeit a crucial stretch, of a mostly solid career.

Chris Andersen has been Miami’s lone true center the last two years, which is a big reason Miami has struggled inside the paint. Birdman did much of the dirty work for the Heat and will continue to do so.  Andersen averaged less than 20 minutes per game the last two seasons but he makes his defensive presence and athleticism in the paint well-known.

Haslem, along with Wade, has been one of the franchise’s most loyal and dependable players on and off the court over the last decade.  Born in Miami, U.D. seemed destined to spend a respectable career in front of his fans in the American Airlines Arena.  Haslem has not been known as a special player, but he does what is asked of him — sets picks, plays physical inside, and spaces the court very well.

On top of that, Miami added a once prolific scorer in Danny Granger, who hopes to get his career back on track in Miami.  The 31-year-old is a former NBA All-Star.  Ever since he hit a wall of recurring injuries in 2012, Granger has not been the same player. He was a versatile stretch forward who could play both positions. It is highly unlikely Granger will rise back up to a star-like status but of nearly 26 points per game and 40 percent three-point shooting. However, Miami needs him to regain his health, composure, and confidence while showing flashes of the old Granger.

The Heat also agreed to terms with sharp-shooting big man Josh McRoberts. This was the one big signing that was supposed to benefit James the most.  But so be it; James is gone and Erik Spoelstra will likely utilize a hard-nosed McRoberts as the starting power forward.  McBob is a very solid role player who responds to his assignments.  He is very aggressive on the boards and his pure lefty stroke forces tall defenders away from the basket.

James was obviously the leader of the team and the organization desired his exemplary leadership.  After making the NBA Finals four straight years, Riley and Heat management did not exactly anticipate such a sudden departure from James.  The King himself spoke highly of the success he had in Miami directly after being defeated by the Spurs in the 2014 Finals.

“We have made the Finals every year (since I have arrived in Miami) and won twice,” James said.  “50 percent; I’ll take that all day.”

That statement alone may have led Miami fans to have a strong belief the King would stick around South Beach at least another year or two. But James is a unique person because the media is never really able to extract the full truth in terms of his beliefs.

It was widely assumed that Chris Bosh would move onto Houston if James decided to leave Miami.  However, LeBron’s departure actually gave Miami more flexibility to keep Bosh, and James staying in Miami was never exactly a sure thing with three All-Star caliber players expressing their desire to earn as much money as possible.

Because of Miami’s quick turnaround locking in Bosh and Wade, and surrounding them with several veteran pieces, there is still plenty of life in Miami.  Winning is part of Pat Riley’s nature; he wants to keep up his winning ways in South Beach. In a wide-open East, Miami remains largely in the playoff picture.