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With LeBron’s free agent decision looming, Heat try to appreciate what was accomplished

Jun 16, 2014, 1:05 AM EDT

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO – LeBron James was the best player on the floor in Game 5 of the Finals, and opened it with a blistering 17-point, six-rebound first quarter that briefly delayed what would become the inevitable — another blowout victory for the Spurs on the way to becoming the NBA champions.

“LeBron James is a great player,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said afterward. “He’s a great competitor. He’s a class act. And I know he’s feeling what we felt last year, and I don’t wish that on anybody. It’s tough. Most people never even have that feeling. Either the feeling of elation or the depression that goes with a loss. But he hangs it out there, and he’s still the best player on the planet.”

Being the best has its privileges — like getting to choose virtually anywhere in the league you want to play, for the maximum salary figure allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

The Heat were dismantled thoroughly in this series, and very soon, there is at least the possibility that they may be taken apart quite literally.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all able to opt out of the final years of their deals to become unrestricted free agents this summer, thereby concluding what has been a glory-filled journey together to four straight appearances in the NBA Finals.

But still stinging from a loss in the championship round after taking home titles in each of the last two seasons, LeBron wasn’t willing to even begin to consider that option.

“I haven’t even really thought about that just yet,” James said. “Not disappointed in any of my teammates, just wish we could have came through, played a better series, but obviously we ran up against a better team this year. Like I said, I haven’t even thought about it yet.”

With a player of his stature potentially changing the face of the league by choosing free agency, the questions kept coming — even though LeBron wasn’t going to answer them.

“I’m not even nowhere near at that point,” he said, when asked if the team had enough to come back and win as currently constructed. “You know, we went to four straight Finals in four years. We’re not discrediting what we were able to accomplish in these four years. We lost one, we won two, and we lost another one. I’ll take 50 percent in four years in championships any day.  Obviously, you want to win all of them, but that’s just the nature of the game. You win some; you lose some. You’ve just got to come back the next year and be better as an individual, as a team, and go from there. But I know me and D. Wade and C.B., not proud of the way we played. All three of us, that’s the last thing we’re thinking about is what’s going on this summer.”

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra echoed the sentiment of appreciating what was accomplished, even on a night where it would seem extremely difficult to do so.

“Even as painful as it feels right now, you have to have perspective,” Spoelstra said. “Even the team we’re playing against has never been to the Finals four straight years. You can’t be jaded enough not to appreciate that.”

Wade, perhaps more than James or Bosh, has the most intriguing choice. He looked physically like a shell of himself in these last two games, which could affect his value when it’s time to talk contract this summer. He reflected on the group’s journey, however, and similarly was able to talk up its relative success.

“I mean, we didn’t know what to expect when we decided to become teammates years ago,” Wade said. “We just knew that we felt as individuals that we could do it, that we could put our egos to the side and not care about the individual part of the game and become a great team and become two leaders of that team.”

“It’s been a hell of a ride in these four years,” he continued. “And when we decided to play together, we didn’t say, okay, let’s try for four years. We said let’s just play together and let’s see what happens.”

Those four years have now come to an end, and it’s decision time for everyone once again.

The odds are that James stays in Miami — he’ll opt out of the final year of his deal, and re-up with the team on a brand new one for five years on a max contract this summer. The stability of the Heat front office is the primary reason, and it’s what gives the team an advantage that is unmatched anywhere in the league, except (somewhat ironically) by these same Spurs that are the newly-crowned champs.

Pat Riley is as respected a team president as there is, and has a long-term track record of proven, sustained success. Spoelstra has emerged as one of the game’s top coaches, and his competency has him locked in at that position, further solidifying the Heat’s team vision — one that makes them the heavy favorites to retain LeBron’s services.

Once James commits, Wade and Bosh are likely to, as well. The years and dollars on those deals will be beyond interesting, because more than one if not all three will need to sign for less than the max in order to leave the team in a position to make the necessary upgrades to the roster.

But none of that has to be sorted out until July 1. And LeBron certainly wasn’t willing to get into it Sunday night.

“I will deal with my summer when I get to that point,” James said. “Me and my team will sit down and deal with it. I love Miami. My family loves it. But obviously right now, that’s not even what I’m thinking about.

“You guys are trying to find answers, but I’m not going to give you one,” he said. “I’m just not going to give it to you. I’ll deal with it when it gets to that point.”

  1. ranfan12 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:14 AM

    Interesting moves will be made this offseason, hopefully…

  2. stl333 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    I’m not convinced that Spoelstra is a top coach. Maybe I’m way off base, but with the big 3, I feel like they’d make the finals if my grandma was the bench boss.

    • apkyletexas - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:52 AM

      They tried just letting the players dominate the first year, and Dallas whipped them with better team play. It was coaching that carried them to two titles.

      • stoutfiles - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:36 AM

        Yes, Dallas and San Antonio whipped them with better team play, AKA better coaching. The Heat have never played as a team, they do what they want on offense and defensive and usually get away with it having superior talent.

    • nykfanwakemeupin2015 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      When the Heat are not up from fast break points that they usually get because of their defense they seemed to run heavy isolation around Lebron. Its never going to beat fundamental system basketball.

    • program33 - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      @stl333 – “I’m not convinced that Spoelstra is a top coach” That’s because you’re right. He’s not. However new player acquisition right after the second championship should have been a top priority. And a coach that has to make the tough decision of making Dwade a candidate for 6th man of the year. Also, despite his decent play last year Mario should have been traded along with one or two others. How do you coach a Lebron James? the easy answer is “you feed him players”. He will always go back to the point guard mentality of running and distributing the ball. He enjoys active players that will rebound, defend and run with at least 2 pure shooters. Having said all of that, San Antonio was and still is a tremendous ball club. It amazes me that they have not won more championships when you consider the core team and coach have been together so long. Flat out… a great team.

  3. bucrightoff - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:27 AM

    Bosh and Wade have to take a lot less to stay. Wade is a bench player now but that’s something Miami needs is more bench production. Study Ginobli and work on the 3 and he can do well in that role. But for $7-8 million a year, not $15 or more. Bosh just isn’t physical enough to deserve a max deal and is going to slid quickly so he needs to be real and take around $10-12 million.

    Going after Melo is also a mistake because he doesn’t help their bigger issues of no PG, little bench and lack of size. They need to sell LeBron that they have a real plan or he can definitely leave. He’s shown in the past he’s loyal only to himself.

    • sumkat - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:45 AM

      I don’t think they’ll get Melo, I just don’t think all of the big 3, and Melo will take THAT much less. Asking them to take 1-2 mil less is one thing, They would have to do about 6 short, Melo about 12

      That being said, if they had Melo, they could just use James as a point forward, and find a vet guard who is a plus defender to play the point spot.

    • rrhoe - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      I do not see either Wade or Bosh opting out,why would they–they not getting another max contract. I think Bosh can get a decent contract and for Wade pride and reality will be a serious wake up. And we all need to stop fooling ourselves,it is about the money.

      • stoutfiles - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:39 AM

        Yep. Wade and Bosh will not opt out and take the money. LeBron will probably leave not wanting to carry the team again for less than a max contract.

      • loungefly74 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:07 AM

        bingo. wade knows this is his last “big year of money”. Bosh will stay too because there is a ton of money for him as well. now…i could see Bosh leaving the year after…signing a huge contract with a small market team but this is all meaningless right now.

    • soopreme - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      bucrightoff. you make some good points but I don’t agree that melo would not help.
      If you get Melo he would fulfill the role that Wade was suppose to be doing but can’t do consistently anymore because he is broken.
      Getting melo will also allow wade to go to the bench and strengthen it.
      I agree with you that they need to get a point guard and some size and if I was Lebron I would opt out and I would tell Riley that until he upgrades this team (especially point guard) I am not signing squat.

      there is a few decent point guards out there that are unrestricted.
      Patty Mills
      Kyle Lowry
      Kirk Heinrich
      Rodney Stuckey
      DJ Augastine
      Darren Coliison
      Hell, I would even give Nate Robinson a shot.

  4. antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:31 AM

    Yeah, if you said in 2010 that the Heat would go to 4 straight finals, people would’ve scoffed and said, “Wade and James will never be able to play together – their games are too similar!” Either that or, “they have no rebounding or shotblocking, no way will they even go to 2 finals, much less 4.”

    So they should definitely be proud of this run they’re on. It’s quite an accomplishment for the type of team they have.

    • sumkat - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:46 AM

      I don’t recall anyone saying that they will never be able to play together. I do recall plenty of people saying they would win every title as long as they were together, once they did learn how to play together

      • antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:50 AM

        Well just do a quick google search around the time the Heat were 9-8 in their first season. If you didn’t hear that then you just weren’t paying attention.

      • eventhorizon04 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:59 AM

        The Heat’s Big 3 has been defined by overreaction, both positive and negative, from the start.

        Right after the Big 3 was formed, people predicted 4+ titles before they played a single game.

        After a rough start to the 2010 regular season, people proclaimed that the Big 3 were a bust because Wade and LeBron couldn’t play together.

        After the Big 3 got it together eventually and did well early in the playoffs, people predicted they’d blowout the Mavs in the Finals.

        Etc.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:01 AM

        @eventhorizon04 – and now people are talking about them to be done once again. But they’re probably going to be in the NBA finals for a 5th straight year.

      • bucrightoff - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:41 AM

        And if they don’t improve the roster they’ll only be making Finals, not winning them. East really isn’t getting better so they can probably do it but so what? Making it means nothing.

      • loungefly74 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:09 AM

        in the watered-down east…oh yeah, the heat can absolutely make it back to the finals.

  5. bills4 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:37 AM

    If the Heat played in the West, they may have only made it to 2 finals. The west is the beast. It is no surprise the Heat make it every year representing the East. The East is a joke!!

    • antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:03 AM

      Well I’ve been saying this all year, but there is only one team in the West that can beat Miami – and they just did.

      • kb2408 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:14 AM

        There are at least 3 teams in the West that could’ve beaten the Heat. The level of competition in the West is vastly superior to the East. Miami might have lost in the 1st rd to a Memphis, Golden St. or Dallas.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:32 AM

        No, not in 2014. Those teams aren’t good enough.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Jun 16, 2014 at 6:34 AM

      For the second straight year, the Heat had a better regular-season record against the West than against the East. Why should that change if they were in the West?

    • packergator - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      So how do you account for the West being better the previous two years and falling both times to the Heat? We’ll never know for sure so that discussion is a waste of time. How many Finals would the Bulls have been to if they had played in the West? I don’t hear anyone talk about that.

  6. getlow81 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:40 AM

    Quite frankly..Wade would be a bit of a business moron if he doesn’t opt in to the rest of his contract, there’s no chance he’d make that money back in FA. He’s lost a step a year the past couple seasons and his knee issues are wearing down the rest of his body at a heightened rate, all because of his meniscus surgery 10 years ago.

    As for James and Bosh, it could go either way with both of them. But I think LeBron is going to test FA, not that he’s going to necessarily leave Miami, but he might want to thoroughly look his options and sign another max deal wherever he decides. If he leaves, I think Bosh stays in Miami or goes to Dallas.

  7. kb2408 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:10 AM

    Can we now stop referring to Bosh, Wade and LBJ as the big 3? There is no big 3 anymore. At least not in Miami. More like the big one and two has beens. Bosh had the audacity to talk big before the game but then proceeded to play small.

    • rrhoe - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:53 AM

      I was thinking the very same thing,of ALL people,Bosh opened his mouth!!!

  8. lakerade - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    Making parallels with the 1980s NBA giants, the Heat can be compared to those Pistons at best, making the Finals consecutively a bunch but just coming away w two rings. The Spurs would be the 80s Lakers in terms of longevity of success, and the Lakers would be those 80s Celtics for their matching success but in a shorter window.

    • 1historian - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:40 AM

      Interesting,. but you lost me with “The Lakers would be those 80s Celtics”.

      ?

  9. floriojr - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    Lebron could have carried any of the playoff teams to the finals. He is that good. The Spurs were just too good as a team to be denied.

  10. seasickcecil - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    Anyone who thinks Lebron will opt in to play with a has been and never was needs to put down the bottle.

  11. anythingbutyanks - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    Won’t happen, but I would love to see LeBron head to Chicago, Bosh to Houston, and Wade to retirement.

  12. ravenswhat - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    How do you not leave at this point? Wade is clearly done. Bosh is never going to be a dominant force and the young guys aren’t effective. Good luck selling this future there Pat.

  13. cantonbound13 - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    Where are the cowards: leahachima, jimmyjohnson, fake canton, rodge???? Hey fake canton, how did your strategy of copying my name & posting fake comments go? As great as the Heat epic failure! Hahaha!!!

  14. sportsfan18 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    Lebron said in part…

    “I’ll take 50 percent in four years in championships any day. Obviously, you want to win all of them, but that’s just the nature of the game. You win some; you lose some.”

    Uh, that is NOT how MJ thought about things.

    MJ didn’t “want” to wind all of them (Finals appearances)… he HAD to win them all…

  15. jbeagles23 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    The heat won’t go after melo. IMO their big offseason acquisition other than lebron will be Kyle Lowry. I follow the raptors a lot and thought he would stay up here but once a player says to te media he’s going to test free agency most of the time it means they’re going to leave. I wouldn’t put it past Riley of making a run at lance either

  16. omniusprime - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Ha Ha Queen James choked and couldn’t win three in a row like Mike or Kobe. Queen James is the Ultimate Loser! So much for 5 titles for the Heatstroke, what pundit morons were telling us that nonsense years ago? Now we have to endure another disgusting chapter of moronic sports pundits yapping cluelessly about the Queen’s plans. I just hope that this degenerate loser never ends up a Laker.

    Kobe Bryant is Better than Queen James!

    • stoutfiles - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      I hate the Heat as much as the next person but LeBron played amazing. It’s not his fault they lost. Everyone else sucked, especially Wade.

  17. 1historian - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    It would be interesting to see Lebron stay with his original contract and see what Riley does to upgrade the team.

    Bosh and Wade are both damaged goods and will never get a better deal than what they’ve got now – they would both be nuts if they opted out.

    • rrhoe - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      LeBron,he speaks about legacy,if he means that then he needs to stay and trust that Pat Riley will fix this team. If he bolts for another “loaded” team his legacy that he speaks of will no doubt suffer.

  18. 1heatedtoombrayduh - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    Whether ANY or all of the big 3 come back.we had a hell of a run…We got beat by a great Spurs team and a great franchise/Organization..I have nothing but respect for Tim Duncan (one of the best PF (if not THE best) of all time) and crew…I tip my miami heat bucket hat to them lol…heres to Pat Riley constructing another solid nucleus for WHOEVER will be leading us next year

  19. campcouch - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    I couldn’t figure out Spo not using Oden. Bosh refuses to post up…or Spoelstra refused to use him in the paint. Why not stick the big guy in and see if he can alter a few shots or grab some boards. Ah well,draft time!

  20. tampajoey - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    When arrogant Lebron proclaimed “Not 1, Not 2, Not 3, Not 4, Not 5, Not 6, Not 7″…

    Turns out he was mostly right… “Not 3, Not 4, Not 5, Not 6, Not 7″

  21. jbeagles23 - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    Lebron didn’t whine once about this loss. He gave the spurs credit then was blasted about what he’s going to do. You know he’ll sit down with Riley and see what the next steps are. Every real nba fan will tell you lebron didn’t choke. He put up 30 and 10 and completely shut down Parker, and that’s more than any other player in he nba could do.

  22. jbeagles23 - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    And for all the people out there who said once his athleticism is gone he’s done, his shooting this year pretty much put an end to that

  23. dreamer5873 - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Spurs is only team in the NBA who could have beat the Heat. All this talk about how strong the West is and three teams from the west that could have beat the heat. STOP IT……PLEASE. THOSE OTHER TEAMS FROM THE WEST LACK THE SUBSTANCE OF A SPURS TEAM.

  24. Bryce - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Drop Chalmers and norris cole and go after Lowry and draft Shabazz Napier if available.

  25. wallabear - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    People keep comparing LeKing to MJ, but they are two completely different players from two completely different eras of the NBA. No player put forth more effort than LeKing in this series against the Spurs. Bosh-o-saurus was an utter and complete disappointment, as equally was D-Wade. As much as I have enjoyed Ray Allen these past two seasons in Miami, he simply gives away too many turnovers. Chalmers is uneffective. Birdman refuses to stay under the basket to contest all rebounds when he’s in the game. Spoelstra did a very poor job of coaching during this series. The Heat has now whimpered to just a flickering flame. What does 2014-15 foretell?

  26. eventhorizon04 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:55 AM

    *a couple of games per series

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