It was the summer of 1995 and the Miami Heat were in the news for all the right reasons. Pat Riley, one of the greatest architects in NBA history, had left the Big Apple and was taking over in Miami…my team. It was an exciting time, filled with promise and expectations on how Riley would remake the team toward title contention.
And then he traded away Glen Rice, my favorite player.
He used Rice as a chip to acquire Alonzo Mourning because it was the 90’s and everybody had a good center and you needed some kind of inside presence to contend with Michael Jordan (who had just thankfully “retired” for the first of three times). Plus, Riley had Kareem in Los Angeles, the sweaty Patrick Ewing in New York…getting Zo in a Heat uniform made sense.
But it still hurt.
The point is that as a Heat fan and Riley devotee, you learned very early on how to become desensitized to roster moves. You like Jamal Mashburn’s versatility? Gone, for Eddie Jones. You think Lamar Odom and Caron Butler are building blocks for the future. See ya, here comes the Shaq Express.
And one of the most essential tenets in Riley’s administration of the team is that you don’t put faith in draft picks. They’re unproven, they’re immature, and they need to time to develop. You want potential? Get used to losing. Riley is a man that is famous for saying, “there is winning, and there is misery.” You think a man like that is going to wait for some 19-year-old prospect to learn how to make the right rotation on defense? (Exhibit A: Michael Beasley)
Let’s look at some of the picks during Riley’s 19-year tenure with the Heat:
- Kurt Thomas, 1995 (Round 1, 10th pick)
- George Banks, 1995 (Round 2, 42nd pick)
- Charles Smith, 1997 (Round 1, 26th pick)
- Corey Brewer, 1998 (Round 2, 51st pick)
- Tim James, 1999 (Round 1, 25th pick)
- Rodney Buford, 1999 (Round 2, 53rd pick)
- Eddie House, 2000 (Round 2, 37th pick)
- Caron Butler, 2002 (Round 1, 10th pick)
- Dwyane Wade, 2003 (Round 1, 5th pick)
- Dorell Wright, 2004 (Round 1, 19th pick)
- Wayne Simien, 2005 (Round 1, 29th pick)
- Jason Smith, 2007 (Round 1, 20th pick)
- Michael Beasley, 2008 (Round 1, 2nd pick)
- Norris Cole, 2011 (Round 1, 28th pick)
There were others I could have listed, such notaries as Ernest Brown, Pape Sow, Matt Freije, Robert Dozier, etc., but I think you get the point. Not a lot to look forward to as a Miami fan. Years go by without a draft pick and you simply don’t care.
This year? Everyone’s making a big deal about Jabari Wiggins or Andrew Parker or something like that. In Miami, we’re trying to resign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and maybe throw in Carmelo Anthony as well. You keep your fifth pick, man, I’ll take my five Hall-of-Famers.
Clearly, there’ve been good selections. Thomas, House, Butler and Wright have all had solid, if unspectacular, careers. Cole could be the team’s point guard of the future and Wade is arguably one of the best shooting guards of all time. But the bad choices far outweigh the good ones and you’ve come to expect this Miami team can do more by trade or free agency.
And doesn’t that speak to the whole culture of the city as well? People (like James, Bosh, Allen, etc.) choose to live here. You have to get drafted (like the Army) to places like Minnesota, Cleveland, and Indiana because there’s a good chance you wouldn’t go there otherwise.
So, the draft takes place soon (I honestly had no idea it was this Thursday) and Miami actually has a pick in this year’s first round. There’s speculation that the pick could be a point guard to help smooth the possible departure of Mario Chalmers. But there’s also a rumor that the pick could be shipped to acquire an experienced veteran, one who already knows how to thrive in the NBA rather than having to wait a few years to – possibly, hopefully – reach that point. And that wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
After all, we’ve become rather desensitized to quite a few things (traffic, mosquitoes, hurricanes) here in South Florida. The NBA Draft just happens to be one of them.