Tuesday / July 01 / 2014
Chasing That Pipe Dream
Rey Bulawan

Photo: Carmelo Anthony, left, tries to move around Paul George during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

MIAMI -- “That’s a pipe dream. But everybody thought 2010 was a pipe dream, too. I don’t harbor that thought. It’s a possibility, but that’s not what we’re thinking about today. That’s not where we’re headed.”

That's the gospel according to Pat Riley as quoted by the Florida Sun-Sentinel after the Heat president met with reporters to discuss, among other things, the possibility of obtaining Knicks free agent Carmelo Anthony.

The term 'pipe dream' originated in the near, middle and far East many years ago when smoking opium was legal. Back then, large water pipes were available at opium parlors where customers sat around, happily inhaled the poison and got into dream-like (doped-up) fantasies, a term that has been used loosely since the late 1800s.

But what was deemed impossible weeks ago may have a chance of becoming a reality soon.

Ethan Skolnick, the Heat's beat writer for Bleacher Report, wrote that a source within the Miami organization told him that Riley would like to outdo 2010, a dare that nobody doubts given Riley's proven track record as a builder and winner.

With his powers of persuasion, Riley can sell a freezer in Alaska and put any used car salesman to shame. But he can't do it alone and needs his best players to sacrifice a fat paycheck in lieu of a friendlier, more flexible salary cap.

Last week Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem opted out of their contracts. And when Chris Bosh joined the opt-out parade, Miami now has an NBA record $55 million in cap space.

The NBA has this thing called the cap hold, which is a projected salary for the next season. This applies to free agents with Bird rights and prevents their mother teams from simply signing free agents from other teams first before signing up their own where they could go beyond the projected salary cap.

Now, in order to get that $55 million cap space, Miami has to renounce their Bird rights on Wade,James and Bosh so they can sign a marquee free agent such as Anthony and then ink the Big 3 to contracts within next season's $63.2 million cap.

Photo: Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) high-fives Chris Bosh (1) after the Heat defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 101-97 in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Because the NBA prevents capped-out teams from signing free agents beyond their mid level exception Miami must execute this plan with care and avoid a repeat of the 1996 miscalculation involving Juwan Howard.

Yahoo sports reported that Lebron is seeking a max contract worth $130 million with Miami. If true, this is just another curveball in this free agency saga.

But when the Big 3 convened at a South Beach restaurant last week, it's hard to fathom them opting out just to make room for a middle of the pack talent such as Kyle Lowry, Trevor Ariza or perhaps a Marcin Gortat.

Given the money they're all passing up, conventional wisdom dictates that LeBron and company are pinning for a bigger star.

The Heat's greatest fear lies in another team's ability to swoop any players from Riley's nest, something that is entirely possible in a business where money always talks and where loyalty is sometimes overrated.

Put it this way: If you are offered an opportunity to work for a better company that gives you more money and a greater chance to succeed, wouldn't you leave in a huff?

People tend to forget that to these NBA players, basketball is a profession, which in a sense, is a job that is no different than what any normally employed person has.

The cards are in place for Riley and his staff to make the next move.. And he has to make it quick before losing ground.

That very foundation this Heat empire was built upon is shaken as the cornerstones have opted out.. But the Big 3 knows that they can come back stronger and better, this time, perhaps, in the form of a Big 4.

Going after that "pipe dream" has risks entailed. But the fantasy-like state that the Miami Heat will experience once the dust settles will be always worth the chase.

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