NBA Playoffs: The Heat Takes a First-Round Exit
It's the Heat's second straight first-round exit. In fact, the team hasn't taken a playoff series since it won the NBA championship four seasons ago. If anything positive can be gleaned from this year's early exit, it's that the Celtics exposed all of the Heat's warts. Miami has a lot of questions heading into what promises to be the most interesting off-season in franchise history. Here are three keys to the Heat's off-season:
1. Dwyane Wade Is the Key Master: In a summer that will feature some marquee free agents, no two are bigger than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But Wade is the key to the entire summer, life, the universe, and everything! Where he ends up will determine the face of the entire free agent market. And while the mainstream media would like to pump up this whole "Has Wade played his last game with the Heat?" angle, the fact remains that Miami has the best chance of signing him this summer. No other team will be able to offer Wade a bigger contract than Miami. And the Heat will basically control the free agent market because it has the largest cap space to play with, along with an owner who laughs at the face of luxury taxes like an evil supervillain. So when ESPN's Tim Legler says Wade is looking at his teammates in the locker room and saying, "Are these the guys that will get me back to the Finals?" what D-Wade is really saying is, "You're gone, you're gone, you're gone. You're cool. Just kidding, you're gone too."
2. The Michael Beasley Conundrum: Michael Beasley is quite possibly the greatest enigma since Nickelback's fame. More so, even. The kid has unlimited talent, a natural ability, a smooth jump shot, the ability to rebound, great defense, and has "20-10 career player" written all over him (this is probably literally true). Ye, he can't seem to put it all together. At times, he appears listless and unfocused. At others, he shows us a glimpse of his potential. And there's nothing funnier (or more cringeworthy) than seeing Dwyane Wade lose his shit with the kid. When the Bulls won the lottery two seasons ago and landed the first overall pick, the Heat had to "settle" for Beasley. But the guy was a beast coming out of college, a sure-fire star. Now the Heat has to wonder if it's gone as far as it will go with him. But he's still very young. He can break out at any moment. The Heat needs to keep Beasley until he blossoms, and fans need to show a little patience and give the kid a break. Unless, of course, D-Wade tells Riley to get rid of him. Then, yeah, screw that guy!
3. Who Will It Be?: Bottom line, the last two seasons have been all about the summer of 2010 for Pat Riley. This is what he's been waiting for. This is why we've had to endure a season and a half with Jermaine O'Neal and forcing ourselves to accept Rafer Alston. The Heat is the only team in the NBA that can sign two players to max contracts this summer. One will be Wade. The other? Well, this is where it gets nuts. And by nuts we mean, "MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!" LeBron is one player and, holy crapcakes, can you imagine that! The other possibilities: Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson, just to name a few. Time for Riles to goop up his hair and get all Gordon Gecko on our asses. Greed is good. Now go build us a dynasty, Riles! Start by re-signing Wade and maybe even buying him a gold-plated hovercraft with built-in bazookas. Whatever. It. Takes.