MIAMI – Pat Riley has this vision in which LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh finish their careers together with the Miami Heat, then get their numbers retired by the organization at the same time.
He’s already trying to figure out how to make it happen.
Make no mistake. The 2013 playoffs – and a chance for another championship – are foremost in Riley’s mind right now. But he’s always been a diligent long-range planner and the Heat president acknowledged that he, owner Micky Arison, CEO Nick Arison and senior vice president Andy Elisburg have already had talks about how Miami can keep the core of this team together for years to come.
“It’s doable in this tax economy but I’m going to leave that to Micky,” Riley said. “We’ve already had conversations, internal conversations, about it, Nick and Andy and myself and Micky. That will all be tackled after the season. We’ll start talking about that. But it is doable.’’
James, Wade and Bosh all can become free agents – if they choose – after the 2014 season. The Heat may be facing some significant luxury-tax bills in the coming years and that will be one of many factors that go into the shaping of the roster for 2014-15 and beyond.
However, what might happen down the road isn’t taking away from Riley’s desire for a third Heat title this year. If Miami goes back-to-back atop the NBA heap, it would mark the ninth time Riley was part of a championship team.
“It’s all about now,” Riley said. “It’s all about winning now. And when that time comes, we’ll deal with it.”
For an encore to the 2012 NBA title, Miami had the best regular season in franchise history, going 66-16. The Heat have home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs and has beaten the Milwaukee Bucks in the first two games of an Eastern Conference first-round series.
Wade said he, James and Bosh haven’t even discussed what might happen in 2014. They all discussed options for the much-ballyhooed free-agent frenzy of 2010 for some time before the plan became reality, though, this time, the chats can apparently wait.
“We haven’t had to cross that bridge yet,” Wade said. “When we start hearing about it in the media, or when we lose two games in a row next year, that’ll be the reason, it’s going to be something we have to deal with. We’ll deal with it fine when we get to that point. The conversation will be had. But it’s nothing you can control right now.”
One thing Wade is sure of: He intends to finish his career in Miami. He isn’t sure how much longer he wants to play, saying his body will eventually tell him when it’s time to stop.
However, Riley seems to have an idea for Wade: He’s floated the idea, more than once, of the 31-year-old Wade playing until he’s 40.
“I told him he’s crazy,” Wade said. “But he may be right.”
Riley said he wanted to build a dynasty when the Heat structured their finances in such a way to allow maximum flexibility – and maximum spending – when James, Bosh and Wade hit the market together in 2010. Hardly anyone outside of the Heat brain trust thought such a coup like landing all three stars could be pulled off.
And, given the financial realities that accompany the new collective bargaining agreement, especially the more punitive luxury tax for big-spending teams, few might think that the Heat will be able to retain all three.
“There’s going to have to be some strategic planning not only from that standpoint but personnel-wise over the next couple years to deal with it,” Riley said. “But, yes, when you have an opportunity to build a team like this – and, as I’ve said in the past, if you take a look at the four or five teams that endured over eight or nine or 10 years, they did it with the same players. It would be a shame if you couldn’t do that.”