Part 1 of a two-part series.
Yearning is a generally unproductive emotion.
Whether you’re yearning for more money, a stronger emotional connection or simpler times from your childhood, little is accomplished from yearning.
And that’s the emotion that impatient Heat fans must fight against this season.
The Heat is the only Eastern Conference playoff team that hasn’t added a skilled rotation player this offseason — heck, Miami didn’t acquire any new rotation players — and that has left many Heat fans yearning for Pat Riley to snag the next disgruntled star , to throw a harpoon to land a whale — a phrase that Riley likely regrets ever using.
Time for a reality check: There’s no new big star walking through the doors of FTX Arena, and it might be awhile before that changes.
The one who seemed most realistic as a potential pretrade deadline option, Portland’s Damian Lillard, threw cold water on that notion this week.
Lillard, guesting on The Dave Pasche Podcast, reiterated his happiness in Portland, even with the Blazers immersed in a semirebuild in which they’re trying to remain competitive.
“Yes, I do [plan on being a Blazer for life],” Lillard said. “I’ve had my share of people saying ‘Man, you got to get out of there! You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.’ But I’m the type of person that I’m never going to be marching to the beat of nobody else’s drum.
“I’m gonna always do what I feel like is in my best interest, and that I really feel in my heart. I’ve said this on many different occasions, they call it ‘He’s being loyal!’ and ‘Loyalty this, loyalty that’ and I’m like, I’m naturally a loyal person but I do have a level of loyalty to the organization, but this loyalty that they’re talking about is ultimately to who I am as a person. I’m being loyal to who I am and not getting beside myself because I’m somebody that, I believe what I believe.”
Perhaps Lillard changes his mind before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.
But it doesn’t sound like it.
“I think I can get it done,” Lillard said of winning a title. “Now, everybody else might say ‘There’s no way the Blazers will ever win. They need to do this, they need to do that.’ But that’s just not how I feel about the situation.
“I feel like we’ll have a chance to win, I feel like that moment is going to come, I feel like that opportunity is going to come. And that’s that.”
So what about Washington guard Bradley Beal, another Heat target in recent years? Don’t count on that, either, even though Beal told me three years ago that the Heat would appeal to him if he ever left Washington.
“Winning a championship here would mean the world to me,” Beal said in July after signing a five-year, $251 million contract. “That would mean more than leaving and playing with four other All-Stars. I firmly believe in my heart that I can win here.”
Beal requested and received the NBA’s only no-trade clause, but he has the ability to waive it to any team that appeals to him.
Perhaps Portland and Washington start 7-23 and Lillard or Beal asks out.
But here’s the point: The first three months of this Heat season can’t only be about yearning, about hoping and waiting for the next big thing.
Nor is it a realistic strategy to improve, even with everything appealing that Miami can offer.
Does the Heat need another star to push Miami past Boston and Milwaukee? Probably.
But you could be waiting awhile.
Heat fans became spoiled after three stars thing Miami and found a way here — LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler.
Since then, no star who has changed teams — Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell the latest — tried to force his way here. Brooklyn wouldn’t trade Durant, period, and Mitchell didn’t request a relocation to the Knicks or Heat. He reiterated this week how happy he is to now be in Cleveland.
At some point, probably before the February trade deadline, the Heat might need to add a helpful rotation piece instead of clinging to all its first-round draft inventory like a squirrel clenching acorns.
Now is not the time to do it, not for Jae Crowder, Myles Turner or Bojan Bogdanovic.
But at some point, if we get to January and the Heat looks clearly behind the Celtics and Bucks — and anybody else — it will be time to temporarily ditch the hoarding-picks-for-a-star strategy if there’s the opportunity to trade a first-rounder for a high-quality rotation piece.
So yearn if you wish. But the waiting for a star seems more wishful thinking than plausible strategy at this point.
If you’re going to yearn, yearn for Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo to return to their 2019 All-Star form. That seems more realistic, at this point, than hoping a star tries to force his team to trade him to Miami.
Coming Friday: Examining the Heat’s incentive for standing pat and the risks and rewards.
This story was originally published September 15, 2022 1:05 PM.