Friday , Jan , 11 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Rumors Abound as Miami Heat Fizzle

Rumors Abound as Miami Heat Fizzle

It’s what happens when a team that was supposed to be good isn’t. And when you add the personalities of Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, then mix them all together with a South Beach stirrer and a hint of 2006 NBA Champions, you have yourself a juicy cocktail.

Throughout the Heat’s tumultuous season, there’s been a shortage of many things, but rumors haven’t been one of them.

Here are some thoughts on the biggest rumors sworming around South Florida.

Riles will step down as coach – again.

Are you surprised?

This is what Pat Riley does – he coaches a team when they’re on the cusp of competing for a championship, leaves them when they’re headed towards the lottery and comes back when they’re title-worthy again.

He did it in Los Angeles when he resigned as Lakers head coach after his aging team lost in the 1990 NBA Playoffs to the Phoenix Suns.

He did it in New York when he faxed in his resignation to the Knicks’ front office and headed to Miami.

Then he did it in Miami when he handed the team to up-and-comer Stan Van Gundy during a rebuilding year, then forced Stan out so he could coach a team with Shaq and Wade … allegedly.

But despite most people around the NBA saying Riley won’t even last as head coach until the All-Star Break, I disagree. Riley is going to at least finish out the season.

He has to. If not, he will forever be symbolized as the biggest quitter in NBA coaching history and everything that’s said about him with the leave of absences and the faxed resignations will be true.

Truth is, Riley would love to leave the Heat right now. One thing he said was that  he liked being in the front office because he didn’t have to deal with “the personalities.”

Right now, his team is just not listening to him. The motivational speeches, the talk about having the will to win and the grueling practices works for some people – like Alonzo Mourning. But others – like Wade and Shaq – don’t buy into that. Day after day, loss after loss, players tend to drone it out.

As for the future of Riley, I think he will finish coaching the Heat this season and then focus on his duties as team president for the remaining two years of his contract. He’s too old, has too much love for assistant coach Erik Spoelstra and he just doesn’t have the energy to go through any more losing seasons like this one.

Shaq is out the door

It was actually funny when Riles had to loudly deny the Heat’s interest in trading O’Neal after he left their five-game road trip to get treatment on his injured hip in Los Angeles.

The Heat are not going to trade Shaq. But it’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because there is no suitor out there that would take an aging center who is often injured, is a liablitiy on defense, is constantly in foul trouble and comes with a price tag of $20 million a year until 2010.

I think Shaq will end up restructuring his deal to free up cap space and give the Heat more flexibility so he can compete for a title before his career is over.

Right now, The Diesel is very unhappy in Miami. After they won the championship in 2006, while everyone was overjoyed and talking about bringing everybody back for another run, Shaq was talking about “reloading” because he knew that group couldn’t do it again. And at the moment, Shaq is very frustrated because he doesn’t believe Riley put the proper pieces around him to make the team successful.

When Shaq said during the championship run that Riley is the greatest coach he’d ever had, I think he was just trying to get back at Phil Jackson for the things he said about him in his book. Pat’s style of coaching is completely contradictory to Shaq’s approach to the game. Riles believes in working hard, giving 110 percent every night and mental toughness. Shaq – along with Phil – is a bit more strategic than that.

Dwyane not staying in Miami

Ever since Wade copied LeBron James by choosing to sign a three-year deal instead of the maximum five years, I’ve feared this day could come.

And when losing keeps happening, the doubt grows bigger and bigger.

The latest rumor is that Wade would end up in Chicago when his contract expires in 2010. The state of the Heat, along with the fact that Udonis Haslem’s Shaq’s and Riley’s contracts expire that same year, makes it a big possibility.

I don’t think there’s anything Wade would love more than to go back to his home state and play for the same team his idol – Michael Jordan – played for.

The primary focus for the Heat right now should be to keep Dwyane happy. Yes, he loves South Beach and he’s never said anything bad about playing here – in fact, when he signed the deal, he said he’s a Heat for life. But it’s amazing how much a player’s mentalitiy changes between winning and losing (look at Kobe Bryant).

Somehow, Riley and company need to turn this thing around within the next two years, or Wade will be gone in a Flash.

Possible trades

Everybody’s been waiting for that big Riley trade to turn the season around, and as the days keep passing and the losses keep piling up, you wonder if it will even happen at all. I think the reason it hasn’t happened yet is because the Heat don’t have many good pieces to offer.

             Udonis Haslem is one of the few intriguing players teams are looking at, and giving him up would definitely free up space. But Riley would want a big-time player in return, and he simply won’t get that.

          I’m surprised J-Will is still a Heat player with his expiring deal.

          Ricky Davis should be soon to go, as well.

          Opposing teams would definitely jump at the chance to pick up young players like Chris Quinn, Daequan Cook and Dorrell Wright, and if the Heat were in any way in it, I think Riles would make a move to acquire a big name. But at 8-28, it simply wouldn’t make any sense.

          Andre Miller was a possibility (not likely to happen) … Luke Ridnour was being shopped (too fat of a contract) … Mike Bibby and/or Ron Artest were potential suitors (Sacramento has laughed at everything the Heat has offered) … Looks like the next best thing would be the 2008 free agent market.