For the 2nd time in three years, Pat Riley tried to play hardball with one of his superstars. And for the the 2nd time in three tears, that superstar, disgusted with the disrespect from the once charismatic Riley, darted from Miami.
In 2014, in what was possibly the most highly covered sequence of events in NBA offseason history, Riley had a slight falling out with James, and that may or may not have influenced his decision.
Riley questioned James’ resilience, and publicly stated that the best players in league history have never run away from their problems. Funny that he of all people was saying this, as his pitch to bring the King to South Beach in the summer of 2010 involved James “running away” from his problems, in a sense.
It escalated even further when he reportedly told LeBron in private that a return to Cleveland would be “the biggest mistake of his career”. James took both comments as disrespect, a common theme that would show itself once again two summers later.
And as soon as LeBron left, the disrespect of Wade began. Riley signed Chris Bosh, a glorified role player during Miami’s brief dynasty, to a max contract. If Bosh was getting the max, surely the most legendary player in the history of the franchise would be getting one.
The next summer, Goran Dragić’s max deal only assured that Wade would be receiving a contract in the $25-$27 million a year range, even though it’d only be a 2-3 year deal.
But then the summer of 2016 hit, and Riley once again put on his hard hat with his star player. And it backfired. Again.
Like Bosh two years before, center Hassan Whiteside was on the verge of leaving Miami, and demanded max money. And so someone who was an entirely different player with Wade off the floor got his money, but the man himself was still getting lowballed.
$10 million per year was the reported initial offering, and with the new inflated salary cap, that’s the ultimate form of disrespect. That’s Matthew Dellavadova money in today’s day and age.
The puzzling moves for Riley continued after that, when he reportedly was actively going after Kevin Durant without letting his star know. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider the history of presidents and their star players, this is a big no-no.
The Heat predictably struck out with KD, and it was only then that they increased their offer. But they still wouldn’t meet Wade’s demands of a 2 year $50 million contract, instead sticking with a 2 year $40 million offer sheet.
Though the two sides likely could’ve met in the middle, Wade had already had enough. His meetings with other teams were no longer just an attempt to gain leverage. He was looking to get out of Miami.
While the three-time champ is getting up there in years, he’s still without a doubt the Heat’s best player. The production of his teammates also improves drastically with Wade on the court as opposed to when he’s off it.
The dynasty that could’ve been is now in ruins, with the two main men leaving due to Riley’s incompetence.
The 2011-2014 Miami Heat had everything in place. A great coach, stars that loved playing together, and a quality supporting cast. But it ended abruptly when Pat Riley decided to put his foot down with LeBron James, and completely fell apart when he tried doing the same with Wade. While Riley is one of the best basketball minds in the business, his puzzling free agent tactics have come back to bite him. Again.