MIAMI—Of all the words that nine members—for now—of the Miami Heat used Tuesday while addressing reporters, one sentence seemed most out of place, at least in the context of the conversation about their offseason intentions.
"We're patient people," Chris Bosh said.
Well, that differentiates them from just about everyone else.
But, when it comes to the plans of the Big Three, everyone else will need to be.
Because if anything newsworthy came out of this afternoon gab session—other than Dwyane Wade oddly, uncharacteristically skipping it—it was that we're not likely to get anything newsworthy for several days as it pertains to where the Heat's premier players will play next season. They're on their clock, not yours or mine, and they don't really care if anyone gets ticked off waiting for it to tick down.
Nor should they. They've earned this opportunity to carefully consider their options, decide what matters most and decide how much they're willing to sacrifice—personally, professionally, financially—to achieve it. After taking a bit less cash to collaborate initially, and delivering two championship in four seasons, they owe the Heat organization nothing but the fairest hearing. That is more than they owe the general public. That is less than they owe their families and each other.
"We'll do whatever is necessary," Erik Spoelstra said. "We feel we have a lot to offer as a first-class organization that's proven itself."
They do, and they have. But now they need to offer a vision and a path toward the future. That was the point of Bosh, Wade and LeBron James choosing this course in 2010, one that would grant them the leverage and flexibility they hold now, leverage and flexibility that James touted Tuesday as something "we all would like, and that's for any sport. And be able to control your future or your present." He can do that by opting out, which sounded like something he's seriously considering, even if he added that he "wasn't sure yet." Even if he does, that won't mean he's leaving, just looking—looking around at other teams, perhaps, or just looking for ways that he can help the Heat improve.
And they need to. James knows that, and he will certainly make that known. He took some blame Tuesday, as he did immediately following Game 5, speaking of "the disappointment in myself" for not doing more, whether as a player or a leader. "I've been fortunate enough to play in five Finals," he added. "On the other end, I've lost three of them. That doesn't sit well with me at all, to be in this position, being able to get to this point, and be under .500 and not be able to be successful in those games."
So he won't accept sitting still, even if he stays put. Will he? He was careful not to offer too many clues Tuesday, insisting something that will be greeted skeptically: that he really hadn't considered his future much at all. He said he planned to take his family away on vacation, after which he expected to be be more "clear-headed" about the next course of action. And, then, there will be a series of conversations. Conversations with family. Conversations with advisers. Conversations with Spoelstra, Pat Riley and ownership, even if James assured reporters that he already understood "what this team and this franchise brings to the table." And then, at some point, there will be the most critical chat of all—and perhaps, the most uncomfortable, if it requires one or more of the participants to consider a pay cut to reach collective goals.
"I think there's a conversation that will be had between the three of us," James said. "I think it's only right. I think we've earned that for each other to have a conversation about what could possibly happen. I don't know what Dwyane is thinking right now. I don't know what Chris is thinking right now. Guys are probably not thinking much of anything. They're trying to get to their destinations and then worry about that later. But we'll see what happens."
Actually, Bosh was fairly clear with his thoughts Tuesday, as he has been for some time. Even after what he called "the toughest season I've ever had," he was emphatic in expressing his desire to stay.
"I love working here," Bosh said. "If you love your job, that's what is most important. And we're competing. We have a chance every year."
Wade has generally seemed to enjoy himself, too, even if his health issues have worn on him. But he sacrificed the most the first time around, welcoming two other stars to the city he owned, and giving up bucks and shots in the bargain. He has $41.8 million coming over the next two seasons, a sum he wouldn't earn elsewhere, not at age 32, not after missing 28 games.
Would he be willing to extend, pushing his earnings out further? What if it meant the Heat could add a fourth, or even fifth, significant piece to flesh out the lineup or rotation, pieces that can lessen the burden on James when Wade misses time?
Perhaps not upon the request of Spoelstra, Riley and the Arisons.
But what if urged by James and Bosh?
Since joining forces in 2010, the Big Three have each experienced major change in their personal and professional lives, but they've come to communicate more openly with each other. "I think it's easier to get on the same page now," Bosh said. "Because we know each other. I didn't really know those guys. I didn't know LeBron and D back then, like that. We hung around each other, but not really. So we didn't really know each other. I think communication is so much easier, because we can get the kids together, we can go out together with the wives. We can do something, and we know how to talk to each other. And those things allow us to connect and feel each other out. Before, it was awkward."
They know each other, they know themselves, and they know what's most important to themselves and the most important people around them. James described himself as "more at ease" than during his first free-agent foray. "2010 was out of control. It was the craziest summer I've ever been a part of," James said. "I learned a lot from that summer."
He learned, in part, not to let this process become a circus during the season prior, which is why he set clear guidelines at the start of 2013-14 about which questions he would not answer and stuck to that script. And which is why, even with the season over, he wouldn't reveal his leaning Tuesday. He wasn't even consistent about what would most influence his decision.
First, he said it was winning.
"That's all that matters to me," James said.
A few minutes later...
"The decision comes down to me and family," James said. "That's going to be the number one priority is my family. If my family is happy, then I'm happy, I'm able to perform at a high level. So my family plays a huge part in it."
So, maybe we can just accept that it will be a little of everything.
While we wait.
And pounce on anything that might give away his decision.
Like this response to a question about whether he would recruit other players:
"I don't even know who the unrestricted, restricted, (early termination options) guys are. I haven't even dug into that," James said. "And for me, I don't even know if that's my position. I think that's what Riles is so great at. And obviously Spo is going to get into it, and seeing guys who can help us be better. Because every team in the NBA continues to get better every year, and we need to get better as well. We have some holes that need to be filled."
Those words will have to fill the hole for Heat fans until James fills it with real news.
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