With Heat almost done, changes loom
There was Dorell Wright, who was the isolation defender on Pierce and did not have an opportunity to use the foul that the Heat had to give, and the other four bodies were Michael Beasley, Quentin Richardson, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers.
This is noteworthy for one major reason: There is a fairly strong chance that not a single one of those finishing five will be back with the Heat next fall when this soon-to-be-over series will be a distant, distasteful memory.
Yes, even Beasley -- the second overall pick of the 2008 draft.
What you may have missed on the eve of this series was Heat president Pat Riley's comment that he seeks to build a dynasty this summer, when Miami will have somewhere in the area of $24 million, as things stand now, to spend in free agency.
And as well as Dwyane Wade's supporting cast played Friday night in a gut-wrenching 100-98 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of their first-round series, it remains a supporting cast too anemic to be part of what Riley has planned for the future. Richardson, Wright and Haslem are on expiring contracts, and Chalmers' contract has a team option.
The expiring $23 million contract belonging to Jermaine O'Neal (who was benched for the final 17 minutes) also will come off Miami's cap, as will the contracts of Carlos Arroyo, James Jones, Yakhouba Diawara and Jamaal Magloire. (Joel Anthony has an $885,000 player option, and Daequan Cook is under contract for $2.1 million.)
So not only does Riley want to bring back Wade after he opts out of his contract prior to July 1, but Riley wants to bring in two superstuds to play alongside the superstar who sweated his way through two uniform jerseys while scoring 34 points on 14-for-26 shooting before sitting out the final 11.7 seconds with an injury to a left calf that had been cramping up on him throughout the fourth quarter.
But even if Riley is able to land one extremely heavy hitter in free agency (that list begins with LeBron James and continues with Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer), he isn't going to have enough room to get that second stud if he still has Beasley on the roster making $4.96 million.
And sources have told ESPN.com that Miami, fed up with Beasley's lack of devotion to defense and his steep learning curve in the maturity department, tried diligently to move Beasley before the trading deadline in February but found no takers willing to give up anything more than garbage.
So if Beasley can be moved before the draft for a player with only a partial guarantee for 2010-11, or if the Heat can arrange an uneven deal (in terms of salaries) and send him to an under-the-cap team in a trade that would be consummated after the league's one-week moratorium on player movement ends July 8, look for Riley to go for it.
Because despite Beasley's brief burst of offense -- four of his seven field goals came in a stretch of the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to help Miami battle back right when it appeared Boston was poised to pull away -- his body of work in this series, 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and his two years of incidents and inconsistency have made him expendable.
Yes, it would be difficult to tacitly admit Beasley was a mistake at No. 2, but major mistakes have been made there before (the name Darko comes to mind).
And yes, Riley is prideful.
But not so much so that he'd let a bad decision from 2008 get in the way of what he wants to build for 2011, 2012 and 2013. (There are some in the Heat organization who believe Riley will offer Wade and two other players the option of signing four-year contracts with opt-out clauses after three years).
"That's a tough question. It may be true, it may not," Beasley said beforehand when asked if he realized his future in Miami could be determined by this series.
"It could be. You are most definitely right. Will it be? Who knows? I haven't heard anything regarding this summer."
For those who may have forgotten, Beasley was the consolation prize in the draft that landed Derrick Rose in Chicago after the Bulls won the lottery. Riley was active in trying to move the No. 2 pick two Junes ago but ended up using it, and Beasley has been more of a headache that a help in the two seasons since.
"I'm a little smarter, I understand the game a little better, but I'm still the same guy," said Beasley, who insists his maturity level and his commitment to basketball have both improved since the birth 11 months ago of his daughter, Mikaiya. "I love my daughter to death, and the things I do reflect on me. I don't want her to be 5 years old and hear [her] daddy had a DUI. Everything I do, everything, I think about how it's going to affect her and what she's going to think when she's old enough to understand."
But it was during those 11 months that Beasley checked himself into a Houston rehabilitation facility, reportedly for substance abuse and psychological issues, after posting a series of curious messages on his Twitter account that led some to fear for his mental health.
The Celtics did not exploit him as much in Game 3, but there were several crucial possessions -- Pierce's third of his four 3-pointers came when Beasley failed to cover the shooter in the corner -- that helped make it possible for the game to come down to one final possession and Pierce's final shot.
All that's left for now is Sunday's Game 4, and if Miami gets swept, it could be bye-bye Beasley. Because when Riley talks of building a dynasty, Beasley's salary and Beasley's baggage might only get in the way of Riley's ultimate plan.
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