MIAMI (AP) — Pat Riley's plan to make the Miami Heat better in 2010 might start with signing Dwyane Wade in 2009.
The Heat president said Wednesday that the team has already broached the topic of getting Wade to extend his contract this summer, instead of waiting for the potentially blockbuster-filled offseason of 2010.
Riley called Wade's future in Miami “absolutely” the top priority for the Heat right now.
“We would love to get a commitment,” Riley said. “I mean, he's our franchise player. We've spent seven years together. We won a world championship with him. We love him to death. He's irreplaceable. … But we also understand that he has the right to wait.”
Wade is among several All-Stars who could be free agents next year.
Wade said earlier this week he hasn't spent much time thinking about his contract status, but has indicated repeatedly that he has no desire to leave Miami. He's part of an All-Star group – including LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant and others – who could find new homes after next season since he has the right to cancel the final year of his deal with the Heat and test free-agent waters.
But Riley's plan all along has been keeping salary space open for that critical summer to re-sign Wade, add another max-contract-worthy star to play alongside him, and retain other talent in order to lure free agents into looking at Miami. The Heat raised their win total by 28 from a year ago and took Atlanta to seven games in the first playoff round.
“It's on everybody's mind,” Riley said. “We want to build the very best team we can build here. We want Dwyane to be the centerpiece. We want to bring in players around him that complement him, that he can complement, that also complement other players. There's no doubt that we feel a need to do that.”
Part of that plan, Riley said, also includes Miami's young core – starting point guard Mario Chalmers, 3-point shootout champion Daequan Cook, and perhaps most importantly Michael Beasley, last year's No. 2 overall pick who played largely as a reserve this season and still emerged into Miami's second-leading scorer behind Wade.
Beasley is naturally a power forward, but the Heat will experiment this summer into putting him at the small forward position.
“He can play that spot,” Riley said. “There's no doubt.”
Riley said a big key for the Heat this offseason will be continuing the development of those three players, a task that will take place on the team's practice court and not in any summer league competition. Miami will not have an entry in Orlando summer league.
“Beas and Mario and Daequan are a big part of our future,” Riley said. “It's taken one year of losing to be able to garner two really good players and both of them are starting caliber players. And I would probably have envisioned Beasley starting all year long, but it wasn't going to happen in the beginning.”
Part of that reasoning, Riley said, was because Beasley didn't have a full summer to study the Heat system last year. Riley said that will change this year, with everything from on-court work to even time on the track – running hurdles and throwing shot puts, he quipped – awaiting the former Kansas State star.
“I'm a believer in Michael,” Riley said.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday that Beasley and Chalmers – both of whom were fined and banished from the NBA's rookie symposium last summer for breaking league rules – drew several small fines during this season for violating Heat policies.
Riley did not discuss those in detail, but said most of the problems were cleared up very early in the season.
“After that, they realized how much they valued their money,” Riley said.
Other highlights of Riley's nearly hourlong interview session included:
• He will consider making moves to acquire a first-round draft pick. Miami currently does not have a pick in the first round of next month's NBA draft.
• The Heat may go into next season with 13 players under contract, if that's what it takes to stay under the luxury-tax threshold.
• Even though longtime starting forward Udonis Haslem is entering the final year of his contract, Riley did not sound overly interested in trading the Miami native who's extremely popular among Heat fans. “You don't want to move Udonis,” Riley said.