It's time to have a serious talk about the future of the Miami Heat organization — not between fans and the media, but within the organization. It's time for the Heat to plan for four years from now, not four months from now.
But most important, it's time for Pat Riley to stop shoveling and start building for the future, not just for next season. If he can't, he should bring in someone else who can. The Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones can't live forever off Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin's successes. And the Heat can't keep riding the highs of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James.
It's beginning to feel very Jerry Jones in Miami. It's time to ask some questions.
The Heat lost the more immediate battle when, in the name of remaining relevant and semicompetitive now, it made an enormous financial commitment to a roster full of short-term success-story players. Now the team has handcuffed itself long-term to a bunch of role players, leaving the Heat at the mercy of other teams if Miami is to have any chance of acquiring a true star.
This situation, of course, wasn't created by accident. It was intentional. Team president Pat Riley even has a name for the team's roster construction and bloated cap situation: "Plan B."
Plan B was meant to keep the Heat's head above water. Plan B was meant to give Heat fans something to cheer about another two weeks in April. Plan B was supposed to be a temporary strategy, a placeholder until something bigger and better came along when the Heat could trade in their Toyota for that Ferrari.
Plan B was a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Not only that, it was a short-term fix that everyone knew would just exacerbate the problem. Now a 2014 problem is, at the very least, a 2020 problem. Someone needs to plug the leak before 2020 turns into 2024.
Riley gave Tyler Johnson $40 million over the next two seasons. Riley gave Hassan Whiteside $53 million over the next two seasons. Riley committed $52 million to Dion Waiters after one decent season that ended with a bad ankle injury that caused him to miss nearly all of last year. Riley gave James Johnson $15 million for the next two seasons. Riley handcuffed himself to Kelly Olynyk until 2021.
Plan B was Riley's idea, and it's either time for him to flip his strategy to a more long-term effort or move to a different role in the front office. If he can't change his focus, this team needs someone with more patience to tear down the flawed house he's built since 2014 and rebuild the franchise from the foundation up.
None of Plan B was an accident, nor was it the only alternative to signing LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Heat fans aren't stupid. They would have understood the team taking a couple of seasons to restock the cupboards with assets while it acquired young talent with upside following the exhilarating, but depleting, LeBron years. Instead, the Heat has turned into the Miami Dolphins: living in the middle, with no help on the way in terms of elite talent. This is a squad made from a bunch of spare parts.
There are two ways to fix it: Keep pretending this current team is anything close to a contender, or wait it out and let Plan B die as it was always destined to do. Before Riley and the Heat decide to re-sign 30-year-old Wayne Ellington to yet another inflated contract, they should ask themselves which direction that contract would take them. We all know the answer to that question, so let's get real.
Enough is enough: The Heat needs to tear down what it has, piece by piece, and collect assets for the future so the team can be in a position to draft the next Wade or have the money to chase a Durant or LeBron when they become available, rather than giving yet another depressing press conference about how few options the team has right now.
It's time for the Heat and Riley to look themselves in the mirror and realize they've dug a big hole because of their own impatience. If Riley can't see the need to plan for the future, the Heat should find someone who can.
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