Since their recent NBA championship last month, the Miami Heat have gone from the “Big Three,” to the “Big Five” with last Wednesday’s signing of veteran guard Ray Allen (a future hall-of-famer) and forward Rashard Lewis (a former all-star). Allen rejected the Celtics two-year deal worth twelve million and accepted the Heat’s three-year deal of nine million. Similarly, Lewis was traded from Washington to New Orleans (who wrote him a 13.7 million dollar amnesty check to never play for the franchise), and then signed as a free agent by the Heat for two years worth 2.8 million. Although Allen and Lewis are near the end of their sixteen (Allen) and fourteen (Lewis) year NBA careers, the Heat are bringing back EVERY piece of their championship puzzle next season.
Barring any dramatic setback with Dwayne Wade (presently recovering from his knee surgery last week) and LeBron James (who is playing in the Summer Olympics), the Heat have a very legitimate chance to repeat as NBA champions. With Allen and Lewis both signed for multi-year deals a dynasty could be in the making and the NBA could have its first three-peat champion since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in 2002.
The move by the Heat is similar to what the 2003-04 Lakers did, who added Karl Malone and Gary Payton to their roster prior to the season. The two vets helped lead them to the NBA Finals before losing to the Detroit Pistons in five games. The Lakers that season had two great superstars in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The Heat in comparison have three quality superstars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Malone was in the final season of his nineteen year career and came up short on trying to win an NBA championship. Payton played three more seasons after his one with the Lakers and won his championship ring with the Miami Heat in 2006.
Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen likely will not start for the Heat this coming season as Mario Chalmers and, possibly, Shane Battier (if the Heat go small) will likely get the nod since they are a bit younger. If Eric Spoelstra thought his every move was dissected last season, he’ll be under the microscope even more with the addition of these two former all-stars. Anything less than a sixty-win season and an NBA championship will be disappointing to Heat fans in South Florida.
It’s encouraging to see professional athletes like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis accepting lesser roles and money to play for a championship team. And I’m not sure why players get a bad rap for taking less money to win these days. Why is it acceptable to stage a holdout and demand more money or a trade, but less acceptable to go to a good team for less money? Isn’t winning what it’s all about? With Allen already having one ring, look for his experience and leadership to help lead the Heat to another title run deep into June. If the Heat can stay injury free, I think the superstars in Miami are on the verge of a dynasty that we haven’t seen in, oh, about fifteen years or so.
By: Craig Emmert