In case you haven’t heard, which I highly doubt considering it was almost as big a story as the World Cup, LeBron James is now a Cleveland Cavalier once again.
The King left the beautiful sunny shores of South Beach in order to go back to his hometown team and do what he couldn’t do in the first seven years of his NBA Career: win a championship.
While that does garner high praise considering the Cleveland hasn’t had much success for the generations upon generations, it was somewhat of a blind-side hit for the Miami Heat. Team President Pat Riley explained that he fully expected James to resign. Heck, during his pitch to the free agents, he was the players they would be playing alongside the best in there is in the business, because he “firmly believed it.”
Still, Riley did manage to do some wheeling and dealing in the open market a snagged a few good’ens.
Former Charlotte Hornets’ forward Josh McRoberts was brought in on a four-year $23million deal, NCAA championship winner Shabazz Napier was selected with a late first round pick in this year’s draft, then Luol Deng was brought in to help plug up the gigantic hole left by James.
Plus, he retained Chris Bosh, despite Houston coming in at the last minute and re-upped Dwyane Wade on a two-year, $32million deal – which was $8million less than he was originally scheduled to make. And so, with that group of players (plus a few other), Riley believes Miami can still compete.
Up to the Challenge
"We are up to the challenge," he said. "We're going to be as competitive as anybody, I think, in the Eastern Conference. I feel great, right now, today, making sure that we got Chris[Andersen] signed, got him under contract, and got D-Wade back and Udonis [Haslem] and the core of our foundation and we'll go from here."
To be fair to Riley, he is right. Miami will remain a competitive side out East. Although, the days of winning championship or going to the NBA Finals are over for now. The reason being that the Heat got severely weakened while the rest (or most) of the field got significantly stronger.
The Chicago Bulls signed Pau Gasol, in addition to drafting the offensively gifted Doug McDermott (he is nicknamed “Dougie McBuckets”- says it all doesn’t it?) and Nikola Mirotic who is a versatile powerforward. Despite losing Lance Stephenson, Indiana will also remain a powerhouse thanks to the strength of their defense which ranked second in opponents’ points allowed at just 92.3.
Meanwhile, young teams like the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards will be much better having gained some Playoff experience. Plus, Washington has added Paul Pierce, which will be huge in clutch/high pressure situations.
As for the Cavs, the acquisition of LeBron instantly thrusts them among the elite. Should they also add Kevin Love, then the Eastern Conference is Cleveland’s to lose for quite sometime.
So yes, the Miami Heat will continue to be competitive. But as far as actually winning goes, that’s very doubtful.