People already want to know how the Miami Heat will go from "Re-Heat" to "Three-Heat," something only three teams (L.A., Boston, and Chicago) have done. How will they keep the motivation at the same level it's been during the past three seasons? How do they circumvent salary cap restrictions enough to keep the supporting cast together another year? Can Wade's knees hold up through another vigorous and physical championship run? Though now is the time for rest and reflection on what the team has accomplished over the past three years, soon it will be time to grind again in search of that rare three-peat.
The theme seems to be that most of the players will take a well-deserved hiatus from basketball, at least that's what they are planning on now. LeBron stressed in postgame interviews that he would take a good break, but the next day he talked about how he misses the game already, so closing up shop for a few weeks might be easier said than done.
Dwyane Wade is another story. Doctors have recommended that he take off an entire month of basketball -- as in nothing, as in dude, read a book on the beaches of Aruba. The details pertaining to his knee injury have come out, and they are equal parts good news and amazing. The good news is he doesn't believe he will need surgery; the amazing news is the knee injury and the treatments he was getting during the playoffs would have any normal person laid up in bed for weeks rewatching Breaking Bad. While their summer of 2014 status has already been the topic of much conversation, the reality is there is still a championship defense to worry about first.
Luckily, most of the team's most important players are under contract through at least 2014, but Ray Allen can decide he is not among those players and not return. Allen has a player option that calls for a decision in the next week, a decision that might be more about years under contract and money than about where he wants to play. Allen can opt out and re-up with the Miami Heat for only a minor raise, but it would add a few more years onto his contract, making Miami his home for the rest of his career. Though that decision would be wise for his wallet and family stability, it would put even more stress on an already tight Miami Heat budget. Early word is no matter what, Ray wants to stay in Miami, and management and his teammates want him back; it's just a matter of how much he wants to sacrifice and how the team can wiggle around the salary cap restrictions at this point.
From ten-day contract to Heat fan favorite, Chris "Birdman" Anderson wasted no time making his Miami Heat history mark this season. When he was first added, little was expected, but by the end of the season, he became one of the more important pieces of the most talented team in the NBA. From day one, his hustle and carefree attitude helped him fit right in, something not easy in a locker room full of established players. Anderson is still owed a boatload of money from the Nuggets, so that might play a role in his taking lesser money to remain in a greater place, but then again it's not our money we are giving away here.
With an off-season under his belt, Birdman could find himself in an even bigger role next season, possibly even starting. Some of the better lineups in the playoffs included him teamed with LeBron in some fashion, complementing his style of play perfectly. The Heat can offer Birdman a contract similar to the ones Shane Battier and Ray Allen accepted the past two years, but will it be enough? He and the team have already checked "yes" on the "Do you like me more than a friend?" note, and one would think he would rather spend his last years contending than taking an extra few bucks from the Pelicans.
Mike Miller is under contract next season, but once again he has found his name and the word amnesty linked more times than he would prefer. The Heat can take his contract off the books (he still gets paid) if they decide to do so, but it won't be the easiest decision in the world. Miller provides a safety net for when Wade gets hurt, going from zero minutes to sudden starter in no time. Miller also provides an excellent option opposite Battier. As you saw in the finals, certain situations at times call more for one of the two.
Battier's shot was off, so the Heat plugged Miller right in, a sexy option to have on the fly. A lot can be said for what he brings to the locker room as well, being Udonis Haslem's college teammate and good friend, while raising no fuss when he doesn't play for months at a time. The reality might trump the loyalty and want here, but I think I speak for the majority of Heat fans when I say we hope to see Miller "let it fly" in 2014.
So those are your three biggest concerns entering the speedy NBA off-season, an off-season that will seem like nothing compared with the one after next season when the Big Three are free to do whatever they choose. No matter what happens to the bench, the core will be intact for the title defense, barring something completely unexpected (they aren't trading Bosh, people). The Heat do not own a draft pick in this week's NBA draft and don't have any money to spend beyond re-signing the people we have mentioned. If a guy like Birdman decides to leave, there will be someone begging to take his $3 million place on this team, because RINGS.
We are at the point where you just want to keep this thing together as long as possible, because it's something special and you need to not take it for granted. Next year is about making history and defending the throne the team has occupied for two-plus years. October is closer than you think.
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