LeBron Goes Home: Heat Begin To Pick Up The Pieces By Signing Four, Including Bosh
In "major victories" following LeBron James' decision on Friday to sign with the Cavaliers, the Heat yesterday finalized a two-year deal with F Luol Deng and "followed that up with new contracts" for G Mario Chalmers and F Chris Andersen, according to Joseph Goodman of the MIAMI HERALD. The moves give the Heat "four important free-agent signings since losing out" on James, with Chris Bosh on Friday night agreeing to a five-year deal worth $118M to return to the club. Bosh's return was a "dramatic turn" considering Friday's events, as he chose the Heat over the Rockets. Deng "isn’t expected to fill the shoes left by James," but he will "man the position James vacated." Heat President Pat Riley has "salvaged the Heat's roster nicely over the last three days by insuring a competitive product for next season." More importantly, Riley and Heat Senior VP/Basketball Operations & GM Andy Ellsburg have "kept their interests directed toward the future." With the Heat's "long-term blueprint coming together, it appears that Riley is positioning the Heat for the 2016 free-agency period" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/14).
PHONE A FRIEND: Goodman cited a source as saying that Riley and Heat Owner Micky Arison "learned of James' decision before everyone else with a phone call from James in the 'morning before the news was put out.'" James' agent, Klutch Sports Group Founder Rich Paul, "called Riley and Arison together, and then passed the line off to James, who informed his former employers that he was moving on." The Heat "absorbed the seismic news with class and dignity" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/13). In West Palm Beach, Jason Lieser noted while James called Riley and Arison "before publicizing his choice," the Cavaliers "found out with the rest of the public." James also notified Bosh and Heat G Dwyane Wade "prior to the announcement" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/12). In Orlando, Brian Schmitz wrote perhaps Arison's "private feelings are more caustic" after James' decision, but they are "better off being holstered, considering teams know full well the high-wire business of basketball" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/11).
FACTORS IN THE DECISION: CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore wrote Arison brought James' departure "on himself," as paying the luxury tax "may not have been financially smart but that's the price you pay for contention." Arison "chose to try and get by on a budget" during the '13-14 season without re-signing G Mike Miller, and "it cost him, big time" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/11). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto noted James was "upset when Miami won back-to-back titles in 2012-13, but CUT its payroll" from $82M to $80M in '13-14 "to save money on the luxury tax" While "coming home was the main attraction to signing with the Cavs, the actions of ownership in Miami also were a factor." James knows that Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert "will spend" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/13). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman noted for the Heat, there "were missteps, but only to the degree of quality basketball people being true to themselves: Micky Arison operating a business with the type of efficiency James seeks from his own enterprises; [Heat coach Erik] Spoelstra remaining as true to his core basketball beliefs as James does to his own; Riley being as passionate about sweat equity as James is to his own ethos" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/12). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote Heat fans "should not begrudge LeBron leaving." He is "going home." He "had the right." And James "does not leave the Heat as a failure by any stretch of the imagination." The "truth is, Riley and Miami did not do enough to keep him" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/12).
HOW WILL FAN BASE REACT? In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wondered how South Florida's "finicky fans" will react as the Heat are "no longer a marquee attraction." Local TV ratings on Sun Sports during the '10-11 season, the first that James, Wade and Bosh played together, "jumped" 99%. Last season they "ranked third in the NBA" behind the Thunder and Spurs. Likewise, home attendance "averaged above" 100% seating capacity the past four seasons, "peaking" at 102% in '12-13. The year before James arrived, the "average capacity" was 90.5%. Baker Street Advertising Senior VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman said that the "defection of their biggest star may cost the Heat some sponsorship dollars, but he doesn't foresee a major economic blow to the team or South Florida" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/13). In Miami, Douglas Hanks noted with James gone, the city's "reputation as a fair-weather sports town faces its latest test." As Marlins Park and Sun Life Stadium "struggled with weak attendance, AmericanAirlines Arena stood out as Miami's lone hub of fan loyalty." Even so, Miami "earned a national reputation for fans showing up late and leaving early (and famously being locked out when James foiled what seemed like a likely loss in a 2013 finals game)" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/11). In West Palm Beach, Dave George noted Heat tickets "are going to be a lot cheaper now, and postgame traffic will be a breeze" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/12).