News Column

Miami Heat Due for Roster Makeover

June 17, 2014

By Jeff Zillgitt, jzillgit@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

If LeBron James stays in Miami, he will likely have a new roster around him next season. (file photo)
If LeBron James stays in Miami, he will likely have a new roster around him next season. (file photo)

Now the NBA's offcourt games begin.

Let's start with one right now.

Did LeBron James say it with Cleveland at the end of the Cavaliers' 2009-10 season or with Miami at the end of the Heat's 2013-14 season?

A) "I didn't play this season wondering about what I was going to do in the offseason."

B) "Obviously right now, (the offseason is) not even what I'm thinking about."

A) "I'll approach this summer with the right mind-set. Me and my team will approach it the right way."

B) "I will deal with my summer when I get to that point. Me and my team will sit down and deal with it."

A) "I'm going to continue to get better throughout the offseason like I always do and I'll come back a better player next season."

B) "I'm going to stay positive and use this as another opportunity to get better next year."

A) "I love the city of course."

B) "I love (city in which team plays)."

Choice A is Cleveland, Choice B Miami, and the statements made four years apart mirror each other in striking ways.

It would be unwise to read between the lines, especially after Miami's one-sided Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. There definitely are important messages to discern when James talks.

James once told me he is used to people parsing his words and trying to find meaning or answers in the words that were unspoken.

Just because what he said now is similar to four years ago, it doesn't mean James is leaving Miami. They are different situations.

The Cavaliers failed to win a title despite year after year of trying to put together a roster that could. The Heat went to four consecutive Finals and won two championships. Miami also is well-managed with continuity and stability surpassed by maybe only the Spurs.

There are some similarities. The Cavaliers didn't have enough support for James, and it was obvious the Heat didn't either, despite having two other All-Stars (Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) on the team.

"Obviously we would need to get better from every facet, every position," James said.

Heat President Pat Riley knows that, and when he talks to James about the future, he needs to show James how he will put together a team that is filled with, in James words, "high-basketball IQ guys" and "high-energy guys" who "fit into the system."

So would any executive who plans on trying to sign James.

James doesn't have to terminate his contract and become a free agent this summer. He could remain with the Heat for at least one more season, see how they add around him and go through this again a year from now.

But if James leaves Miami this season, the Heat face major changes. Though Bosh likes living and playing in Miami, a breakup of the Big Three could prompt Miami to make long-term decisions and possibly trade Bosh for draft picks and younger players.

The Heat also could try to build around Wade and Bosh, but that still would require younger players and more talent. Miami has the Nos. 26 and 55 picks in the draft. They need to hit on the 26th pick, and they do not have a first-round pick in 2015.

No matter what happens, they need to look differently next season with or without James.

Original headline: Heat due for roster makeover



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