The date is July 8th, 2010, Lebron James and Chris Bosh have spearheaded the beginning of the player movement era and Pat Riley along with everybody else in South Beach are celebrating the new and improved Miami Heat.
Fast-forward two championship rings in four years later, Lebron has left to go back to Cleveland, Dwyane Wade has shown major signs of regression and Chris Bosh’s contract will soon expire, leaving Mr. Pat Riley in a hole with some major decisions to make. Within hours of Lebron’s departure, Riley quickly scrambles and re-signs Chris Bosh to a 5 year, $118 million contract extension.
After dominating the eastern conference for nearly half a decade, between the years of 2015-2019, the Miami Heat only made the playoffs one time.
Of course no one could have predicted blood clots forcing Chris Bosh into early retirement, or the departure and then semi-awkward reunion of Dwyane Wade or even the surprisingly quick rise and fall of Hassan Whiteside but critics don’t care.
The questions began to roll in. What’s next for the Heat? Is Eric Spoelstra on the hot seat? How long before Pat Riley calls it a career and rides off into the sunset? The pressure was on, but Pat Riley is no stranger to sticky situations.
After the conclusion of Dwyane Wade’s final NBA season that was widely known as “The Last Dance,” the Miami Heat walked into the 2019 offseason hard capped. In other words, they had zero money to spend in free agency. Did that scare Pat Riley? Absolutely not. Once again, he rose from the dead and made another franchise altering move. July 2nd, 2019, the Heat acquire Jimmy Butler in a 4 team trade involving the Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers. A move that some “experts” called overrated or insignificant, Pat Riley saw the impact and tenacity that a player like Butler could bring to South Beach. With a team full of a healthy mix of young hungry players and seasoned veterans, dropping in a star like Butler into the mix without giving up much in return would only prove to show positive results and positive they were.
At the time of the NBA season suspension, the Miami Heat sat 4th in the east with a 41-24 record, their best start since the 2012-2013 championship season. It’s good, yes, but when has Pat Riley ever settled for being just good? This is the same man that pushed for a trade to acquire Shaquille O’Neal to pair with Dwyane Wade and capture a championship. Riley understands that if he wants to see his team capture another ring before he retires, he’ll have to make one more move to put them over the top.
Let’s take a look into the future, summer of 2021 to be exact where there’s one big fish that everyone wants. That’s right, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Why on God’s green earth would Giannis leave Milwaukee? The same reason why almost every superstar who’s drafted to a small market team leaves the first chance they get. Public exposure. Giannis has put up monstrous numbers over the last couple years but still has to compete with guys like Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard for the best player in the world title. You can’t help but think that it’d be more widely recognized that he’s the best in the league with a more prominent fanbase. If the Bucks fail to capture a championship within these next two seasons that Giannis is still under contract, it would be expected that he would at least test the free agency waters. When that time comes, Pat Riley would be a fool to not pounce at the first opportunity
Everybody knows that you can never stop improving your team. Summer of 2021 could ultimately be Riley’s last chance to put together one last eastern conference powerhouse before he sails off into his next adventure.