Pat Riley has always been chasing those parades down Biscayne Boulevard.
When Riley arrived in Miami in the summer of 1995, he said he had visions of championship parades down Biscayne Boulevard. It was hard to believe that vision would ever become a reality, considering the Heat were just coming off a 32-50 season, and had only 2 playoff appearances in their first 7 seasons.
Rebuilding prolongs the chasing. Waiting for players to develop and mature is not something he has the patience for. Why wait for potential, when you can have certainty? How long must one delay himself from continuing the chase?
When LeBron James decided to leave for Ohio, Riley knew he had to do something to keep the Miami Heat from falling apart. Losing LeBron, and possibly Chris Bosh, would have been a crippling blow to the franchise. He would not dare fade into obscurity.
But he wouldn’t react for the sake of reacting. The Eastern Conference may have had the best player in the world switch teams, but it is still very weak.
While also being very much up for grabs.
And Pat Riley has always been chasing those parades down Biscayne Boulevard.
How do you attempt to compete with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls? Go get Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. How do you try and get by the New York Knicks? Try getting Dan Majerle and Jamal Mashburn.
But Riley was met with failure, yet he kept chasing that parade. Eddie Jones. Brian Grant. Anthony Mason. All brought in to get the Heat to that parade.
Then fate dealt a crushing blow, as Mourning would be sidelined with a kidney ailment that would limit him to 15 games in 2000-01. This would be the start of the dark period for the franchise, as they would miss the playoffs the next two years, as Hardaway was sent off, and Mourning would miss the entire 2002-03 season.
Because Mourning’s contract made it difficult for Riley to make any drastic changes, he was relegated to finding assets in the draft. In 2002, Caron Butler would be the first asset.
In 2003? Dwyane Wade.
But as the 2003-04 Heat were taking the top-seeded Indiana Pacers to 6 games of the Eastern Conference semifinals – after starting the season 0-7, then 5-15 – Riley saw another opportunity to strike while the iron was hot. Trading Butler, Grant, and Lamar Odom brought Riley his next great impact player: Shaquille O’Neal.
The chase was back on.
The 2005 Heat came within a game and a Wade injury of making it to the NBA Finals, but the lack of a third option also doomed them. The solution? A mega-trade that brought Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, and James Posey to Miami, as well as a return to coaching for Riley, as Miami would go on to win the championship in 2006.
But injuries and egos would derail the Heat, as Wade would miss the bulk of the 2007-08 season, while O’Neal and Riley clashed, forcing a trade to Phoenix. Riley would have to piece together different options, while waiting on his next big plan. Shawn Marion would turn into Jermaine O’Neal, as pieces started to fall into place.
Then the summer of 2010 saw the execution of that plan, and a champion was reborn.
Riley would get his parades. But he’ll never stop chasing.
We have arrived in the present, as Riley now has to plan again. His big puzzle piece has left him, but he’s dealt with big losses before. He just has to go find new pieces. Bringing Bosh back helps the cause, as does Wade being re-signed to a team friendly deal. Luol Deng would be Riley’s next move. A wing defender with shooting range, Deng provides the Heat with a third scorer who doesn’t need to score 25 points a night to be helpful.
On paper, this isn’t a championship contender. But in a weak Eastern Conference, what would stop Riley from trying to make it one? There’s always one more big move waiting to be made. In the NBA, a championship can be a player or two away.
Yes, the summer of 2016 could possibly have Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Anthony Davis available on the market, while Deng and Wade are signed with that in mind. But that’s two years away, and Riley has to deal with this year. Why not try and fight for another Finals appearance?
Pat Riley has always been chasing those parades down Biscayne Boulevard. What’s going to make him stop now? Because LeBron left and now the Heat have to go through him to achieve their goals? That just adds an obstacle for Riley to overcome in his continued chase.
And there’s nothing like the thrill of the chase.