Think you can predict the Heat’s offseason moves? Remember 2003 before answering

You think you know what will  happen with the Miami Heat in Thursday’s NBA draft and the free-agency period beyond?

Nobody knows. Nobody could.

There are too many moving parts in this process, especially with Pat Riley in charge of it.

Dwyane Wade and his son with Pat Riley after the Heat selected Wade with the No. 5 pick in the 2003 draft.
(File photo)

Look back to 2003, the year that Miami made its most successful first-round pick ever – Dwyane Wade. The followed happened that offseason, one seismic step after another, and the most astonishing news of all broke just days before the start of the regular season. Remember?

Well, here it all is, with the blockbuster headline buried near the bottom of the list, startling enough to make Wade wonder if he was even starting his career with a stable franchise.

  • Junior Dwyane Wade leads Marquette to the Final Four but the Golden Eagles get blown out by Kansas 94-61 by Kansas. Wade, who was married with a 1-year-old son at the time, said “I’m known for having a great season but I didn’t go out a winner, so it will be a tough decision.” Luckily for the Heat, he decides to leave college one year early and enter the draft.
  • Wade works out in June for at least nine teams, including Miami, which is coming off a 25-57 season and has the No. 5 overall pick.
  • Certain stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh come off the draft board before the Heat can act but Riley takes Wade and says “we feel like we have, contrary to what people might think and other than LeBron, one of the best players, if not the best player in the draft.”
  • The agent for Heat point guard Anthony Carter blows it by failing to inform the team that his player wants to exercise his option for the coming season. When the deadline passes without notification, Riley no longer is obligated to pay Carter his salary and the option on keeping him becomes the team’s instead. The Heat let Carter go and gain an additional $4 million to spend on free agents.
  • Riley speaks generally with reporters about the possibility of saving his money for the next offseason, when Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett might be available as free agents.
  • Riley makes a one-year offer to Alonzo Mourning, who missed the previous season with a kidney ailment, but is satisfied to let the greatest player in Heat history go. The New Jersey Nets sign Zo to a four-year deal and he says he is going because he is trying to get a ring and can’t wait for the Heat to get better.
  • Riley signs Elton Brand to a six-year offer sheet but the Los Angeles Clippers match the offer and keep the free agent.
  • Riley goes after the Clippers again, signing Lamar Odom to an offer sheet for six years and $65 million. This time the Clippers can’t match and Odom joins Miami.
  • Wade plays his first exhibition game in Puerto Rico against the Philadelphia 76ers and shows immediate promise with 18 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four blocked shots.
  • Wade signs his rookie contract for three years at $8.5 million with a team option for a fourth year.
  • Riley quits as Heat coach four days before the regular-season opener and names assistant Stan Van Gundy to replace him. Riley says he will remain as team president for the final two years of his 10-year Heat contract, adding “I feel the time is right because this team is headed in another direction. It’s turned around. It’s fresh. It needs another voice.” Riley is 58.
  • Miami goes 42-40 and makes the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Hornets in the first round, the season ends in the conference semifinals against Indiana.
  • Riley tears it all up and rebuilds the following summer, trading Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.


It couldn’t possibly be as dramatic as all that this offseason, right?

Well, I’m not predicting anything. Riley won’t let me or anybody else do that, and he likes it that way.

[Koepka and Berger make it two wins in a row for PB County high school products]

[LeBron may be 3-5 in NBA Finals but he’s a long way from being a loser]

[Thermodynamics of NHL life: Players on ice and coaches on hot seats]


Heat win streak and the mindset behind it suits me a lot better than limping to lottery

So the Miami Heat take an 11-game win streak to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. What’s the best thing that could happen now?

The obvious answer is make it a 12-game win streak. What, you allergic to winning?

The NBA, however, is a strange place at this time of year. Fans worry about their team wasting an opportunity at a lottery draft pick by stinking badly enough to miss the league’s wide postseason net but not going all the way to utterly rancid.

That’s where Miami is now at 22-30, a couple of games back of what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference if the season ended today, which it almost never does.

050804 spt Indianapolis, IN...Conseco Fieldhouse Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers..Second round of playoffs Game 2..Heat coach Stan Van Gundy talks with official Bill Spooner in the fourth quarter. Van Gundy drew a technical foul . Staff photo by Allen Eyestone
INDIANAPOLIS – Former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy in the process of drawing a technical foul from official Bill Spooner in the fourth quarter of a 2004 playoff loss to the Pacers. (Staff photo by Allen Eyestone)

You know they’re saying that the NBA draft pool is deeper and more talented than usual. They’re saying that qualifying for that final playoff spot doesn’t mean much once LeBron and the Cavs are finished messing you up in the opening round. They’re saying all kinds of things, but through it all I say win as many games as you can, period.

To do less is to fall short of the dedication level of the paying customers up in the stands, which no professional organization should ever do. And if being just a little bit good but not great is an unforgivable sin, then what’s the point of having half the teams that are in this league?

On this same week back in 2004 Miami was bumping along in a similar limbo. Stan Van Gundy has pushed the team to a 21-32 record but he was running out of ideas at the end of a five-game losing streak. There sat the Heat, outside the playoff picture and in the running for some top draftee names like Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor and Shaun Livingston.

So what happened? Some rookie named Dwyane Wade scored 27 points to help the Heat eke out a close win over a truly lousy Orlando team. Whatever. Then the Heat started putting together a few modest win streaks. Fine. Then, in March, they won seven in a row. Fun.

Before you know it, South Florida’s getting interested in getting tickets for a game again, because Miami is climbing past a bunch of dog teams to grab the conference’s No. 4 seed in the playoffs at 42-40.

The Heat beat New Orleans in a physically tough seven-game series to open the playoffs. That was really Wade’s coming-out party, and it continued with a second-round series that pushed Indiana to six games. This wasn’t the greatest thing ever to happen to the franchise, but it was entertaining, and it sure beat sinking to the bottom of the standings just to get a shot at some college kid who might not pan out anyway.

As it was, Miami took Dorell Wright, a solid player but not a star, with the 19th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Could have been a little better, but there were no guarantees, and Pat Riley has never much cared for the draft anyway.

He went out that summer and got Shaquille O’Neal instead, trading away a future first-round pick as part of a large package. The franchise’s first championship season wasn’t far away after that.

Dwight Howard, the raw, rebounding bull who went first overall in 2004 to that previously mentioned lousy Orlando team, is still looking for his first.

[Some warmed-over Super Bowl LI nuggets that still pack a punch]

[Lane Kiffin says FAU’s new QB is moving past old trouble]

[Palm Beach County’s spring training showcase is best in the state]

No telling what might happen when it comes to veterans moving around and teams manipulating contracts and league rules closing and opening loopholes. What we should know without much of a doubt is this.

Winning is good. It builds and maintains the proper mindset for an entire organization. It tells fans they are not fools. It recognizes that no one star coming out of the draft will bring a championship in one hearty swipe.

Anything else is just playing the lottery and, just as in real life, that’s not much of a plan.

The upside on Whiteside, just in case you think nothing’s going right with the Heat

(UPDATE: Dwyane Wade agreed to sign with the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night)

It may seem like Dwyane Wade is the Miami Heat’s ultimate answer to every question right now but Hassan Whiteside actually was the No. 1 priority on Pat Riley’s free-agency shopping list.

Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) battles for the ball against Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during first half NBA basketball playoff action in Toronto, Thursday, May 5, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) battles for the ball against Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during first half NBA basketball playoff action in Toronto, May 5, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

First offered. First to reach agreement. First to sign once NBA rules allow on Thursday. Hassan leads in all categories with a Heat team that may be on the verge of a major makeover, and of course none of that makes Wade feel as prized as he deserves to be.

So what exactly does Miami have in Hassan? A guy who just got a max-contract reward of $1.3 million for each of his 75 career NBA starts? A backup to Amar’e Stoudemire for big chunks of last season? Yeah, that’s young Whiteside.

Here’s where it really starts to get cool, though. Riley wanted Whiteside back here in the same way that he wanted Shaquille O’Neal to join Miami in 2004.

Remember the fuss when Shaq arrived at AmericanAirlines Arena for an introductory press conference? He rode up in an 18-wheeler, jumped out of the cab to cool down thousands of waiting fans with a water gun and went inside to entertain the media with his usual oversized promises of championship greatness.

That first season in Miami Shaq was pretty great. Averages of 22.9 points, 2.3 blocks and 10.4 rebounds per game and a league-leading .601 field-goal percentage. Dunks, dunks and more dunks for the Hall of Famer, who was 32 at the time.

Compare Whiteside’s 2015-16 numbers, though. He averaged 14.2 points, significantly less, but led the league in blocks with 3.7 per game and averaged 11.8 rebounds. Also, Hassan’s relatively raw offensive game produced a shooting percentage of .609, right behind DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard.

Not a bad starting point, and that’s all this is for Whiteside. Compare Hassan’s first postseason to that inaugural Shaq-Heat playoff run, too, remembering that an injury stopped Whiteside after just 10 games.

[Even when they’re going good, the Marlins are bound to confound]

[Buddy Ryan always loved a good feud, even when it involved Shula]

[My utterly bizarre day with boxing Hall of Famer Macho Camacho]

During the 2005 playoffs, which ended for Miami in an Eastern Conference final loss to Detroit, Shaq averaged 19.4 points, 1.5 blocks and 7.8 rebounds with a .558 field-goal percentage.

Hassan’s first postseason run was better in every way but scoring. He averaged 12.0 points, 2.8 blocks and 10.9 rebounds per game and his shooting percentage, aided by all those lob passes from Wade, rose to .681.

In the longer view, Shaq never blocked shots at Whiteside’s rate. O’Neal’s best season in that category was 3.5 per game as a 20-year-old Orlando Magic rookie. His career average over 19 NBA seasons was 2.3.

Not saying that Whiteside is Shaq, who in his second Heat season contributed mightily to an NBA championship, or that he will become Shaq, or anything of the sort.

While everybody’s frantic about possibly losing Wade, however, it helps a little to know what Miami is building around for the next four years. Whiteside is going to get better, and Riley is going to be building future free-agency pitches around the chance to play with the NBA’s premier big man.

Some things LeBron might be doing during the long break between playoff rounds

What is LeBron James doing now that he has all this time on his hands between a couple of playoff sweeps and the beginning of the Eastern Conference finals?

Driving his Kia around Cleveland, I would guess, because he is a man of the people. Well, that and the “Chosen1,” if you read his tattoo art.

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 06: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts to a call against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 6, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA – LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts to a call against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 6, 2016. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Of course, there are many other possibilities.

LeBron could be taking selfies in front of the sky-high mural of himself that hangs on the side of the Sherwin-Williams corporate headquarters building in downtown Cleveland. No time to waste, since the company has announced it will take the mural down in late June to temporarily replace it with one more appropriate for the arrival of the Republican National Convention.

Of course, if the Cavaliers fail to reach or win the NBA Finals, which begin on June 2, that LeBron mural probably comes down a lot sooner.

Hey, here’s another idea. LeBron could fly to Miami and work out with Dwyane Wade again. No, wait a minute, D-Wade is a little busy right now. How about a little fishing trip with Chris Bosh, who is done for the season. That wouldn’t cause much of a fuss, right?

Then there’s the chance to get started on his expected starring role in “Space Jam 2.” LeBron could run some lines with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, just to get a better understanding of the motivations behind their respective roles. Already LeBron has some of their cartoonish facial expressions down pat for the one or two drives each game when he doesn’t get a call. He does a mean Yosemite Sam, too.

Another idea for LeBron filling the unexpected down time by writing a job referral for David Blatt. The former Cavs coach interviewed for the Rockets’ head coaching vacancy this week. Just a few notes jotted down and passed along by King James might make all the difference in how that goes.

For now, though, it figures LeBron’s days would be best spent in the gym, shooting baskets, lifting weights, getting ready for the Heat or the Raptors.

He’s only 43 points shy of passing Shaquille O’Neal for No. 4 on the all-time playoff scoring list, you know. They’ll be talking about that on the TNT set when the time comes and it’s easy to guess what Shaq will say.

He’ll bring all four of his championship rings to the studio, line them up on the table and say something like, “Yeah, LeBron is a great player but this is the only math I care about. Four is greater than two.”

[QB Doughty well worth a seventh-round pick by Dolphins]

[Winslow and Richardson bring Heat rare boost from the NBA draft]

No amount of time off between playoff rounds could motivate LeBron for a big effort more than a dig like that. He doesn’t want rest. He wants respect, and more than a third-place finisher in the MVP voting gets.

This 8-0 start to the postseason is just LeBron getting all stretched out for some real exercise. Lame jokes submitted by a snarky blogger in a rival market can’t change that. Nothing can.


Ten years after 1st Heat title team, Wade and Haslem deserve their own nickname


The Big Three, a championship concept, came and went in Miami.

The Trusted Two, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, remain.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives past Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris (13) with the help of teammate Udonis Haslem, left, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
MIAMI – Dwyane Wade drives past Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris with the help of Heat teammate Udonis Haslem on April 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

This is the 10th anniversary season of the Heat’s original NBA title team. Dwyane and Udonis were there.

Young and tough and fearless, they helped to lift the franchise to the top of the league, the place where Pat Riley had been trying to get the Heat throughout a decade of wheeling and dealing and coaching and cajoling.

Old and tough and fearless, Dwyane and Udonis are back at it again, working to remind a fresh set of teammates what it will take to get past Charlotte in the first round, and trying to remind them that every night won’t be as easy as that Game 1 blowout on Sunday.

It would pay to listen to anything these guys have to say, and to mimic any kind of postseason mood they present. You can be certain that coach Erik Spoelstra does.

In 2006, Spo was 35, an assistant, a rapid climber in hopes of running his own team one day. He couldn’t have known that Riley soon would step away from coaching, or that LeBron James would be coming his way, or that 10 years could whistle past as quickly as these have.

Looking back, however, at that original Heat championship roster, the signs are all there, and they are fading fast.

Other than Wade and Haslem, the 2006 Heat player who stayed the longest in the league was Jason Kapono. He logged all of two minutes across that entire postseason and played his last NBA season in 2012 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Shaquille O’Neal, a new Hall of Famer, made it to 2011 and played with three teams after Miami.

Alonzo Mourning and Antoine Walker finished up in 2008, which was one season longer than Gary Payton.

[NFL draft is rarely enough to instantly transform a team like Miami]

[Most Heat teams with fewer than 50 wins have dead-ended in first round]

[Dolphins got A.J. Duhe with 13th pick and are feeling lucky again]

To many Heat fans in their 20’s, kids who grew up on the Big Three era, it might not be easy to remember that breakthrough 2006 Miami team at all. Why, even Justise Winslow, the 20-year-old rookie who played 27 minutes in his first NBA playoff game Sunday night, is probably pretty fuzzy on the details.

It happened, though, and it’s still happening for The Trusted Two, Wade as a starter and Haslem as a whatever-you-need-whenever-you-need-it.

Consequently, I’ll always appreciate their contributions just a little bit more, and the same goes for Stan Van Gundy, who started out coaching that 2006 Miami team before Riley stepped in and took over.

Stan is still grinding away in the NBA playoffs as coach of the Detroit Pistons. He’ll make LeBron and the Cavs work and in their opening-round series and it figures he’ll still be coaching for somebody somewhere another 10 years from now.

One last thought for the Heat marketing department. With all those White Hot 2016 playoff banners and T-shirts, might it be possible to slip in a few 10th-anniversary Heat championship references? Those guys were the first, and no major achievement ever means more than the first.

Most Heat teams with fewer than 50 wins have dead-ended in first round

Anything could happen with the Miami Heat in the playoffs. Franchise history suggests, however, that not much will.

I know, I know, you don’t want to hear this right now, not with the Southeast Division championship banner soon to be hung from the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena, and not with home-court advantage against Charlotte in the opening round.

A 48-34 record is pretty great, right, considering the Heat did it without Chris Bosh for a huge chunk of the regular season? That’s an 11-game improvement over last year.  Dwyane Wade got through it, too, without missing many games which means he won’t be limping into the playoffs this time.

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) gets blocked by Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first quarter on Sunday, April 10, 2016, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)
Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade met in lane by Orlando Magic’s Elfrid Payton on April 10, 2016, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)

The problem is, Miami teams with 50 or fewer wins haven’t previously shown themselves as strong enough to make any real noise in the postseason. One series victory and seven first-round losses, that’s the hard truth of it for Heat playoff teams in that category.

In other words, that showdown with LeBron and the Cavs that everybody wants is far from guaranteed.

Every season is different, of course. Every annual lineup of Eastern playoff teams is different based on their relative strengths and the overall depth of the conference.

There are no super teams in the East this time around, though, and that includes the Cavs. The No. 8 seed, Detroit, finished six games above .500. It’s a tight pack overall, which suggests a tough slog for the Heat or any of their rivals, from the opening series on.

Look at the meat of the order, the No. 3 through No. 6 seeds in the East. All four teams finished with the same 48-34 record. As for Miami’s opening assignment, the Heat the the Hornets split four games during the regular season. If there’s an edge here, it’s tiebreaker-thin.

Putting a more positive spin on the thing, nobody’s going to care about regular-season records once the playoffs begin. It will be a matter of which teams get hot at the right time, and which stars come up with big buckets or big stops in the closing seconds of numerous tight games.

Open the net a bit wider and there’s a 52-30 Heat team, roughly as successful as this one in the regular season, that went on to the NBA title. That was 10 years ago, with Wade and Shaquille O’Neal and with mighty Alonzo Mourning coming off the bench, and it changed the way the world looked at this franchise forever.

That group was locked up 2-2 with Chicago in the opening round and in danger of flaming out like so many others. It’s a fine line, all right, when all the lousy teams have already been eliminated and all the easy wins removed from the schedule.

[Dolphins got A.J. Duhe with 13th overall pick and they’re feeling lucky again]

[Simplest early measure to tell if Dolphins hired the right coach]

[Mario Williams is still better than Olivier Vernon at any price]

So take this for what it’s worth. Miami is due for a scrap in the opening round. Appreciate the opportunity. Try not to look ahead. Even if this goes well and the Heat earn a later meeting with LeBron, there’s a long and potentially frustrating fight between here and there.

Nobody wants to say that out loud, but you can beat that Wade and Udonis Haslem will begin to shout it in the locker room now that the long hard push for home-court advantage in the first round is completed.


Results of Miami playoff teams with 50 or fewer regular-season wins

Yr         Record     Coach           Result

2010     47-35       Spoelstra       Lost 1st rd (Boston in 5)

2009     43-39       Spoelstra       Lost 1st rd (Atlanta in 7)

2007     44-38       Riley               Lost 1st rd (Swept by Chicago)

2004     42-20       Van Gundy   Lost 2nd rd (Pacers in 6)

2001     50-32       Riley               Lost 1st rd (Swept by Charlotte)

1996     42-40       Riley               Lost 1st rd (Swept by Chicago)

1994     42-40       Loughery       Lost 1st rd (Atlanta in 5)

1992     38-44       Loughery       Lost 1st rd (Swept by Chicago)

(Note – The NBA champion Miami team of 2011-12 Heat won 46 regular-season games in a scheduled shortened by a lockout)

If a short-timer like Shaq gets his Heat jersey retired, why not cornerstones like Rice and Seikaly?



If the Miami Heat are retiring Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey, as announced on Tuesday, you know what that means.

One day they’ll be raising LeBron James’ No. 6 to the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena, too. Whether that becomes a warm and fuzzy moment for anybody really doesn’t matter. It has to happen, because Pat Riley is determined to give all-time credit to Miami’s all-time talents. It is a strength of his that puts the game above the gossip.

CHICAGO - MAY 4: Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Miami Heat shoots against the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2006 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 4, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2006 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHICAGO – Shaquille O’Neal of the Miami Heat shoots against the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2006 NBA Playoffs at Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Now I’m not convinced that Shaq deserves so warm a hug from a franchise that he slimed pretty liberally on his way out the door in 2008.

He only spent 3 ½ seasons in Miami and played for three more teams after that while skidding to the end of his career. Commitment to the Heat’s brand of basketball was never the commitment for Shaq that it was for, say, Alonzo Mourning. Shaq’s commitment has always been to Shaq, the supersized persona, the great entertainer, the brilliant manager of so many marketable assets.

It all starts, however, with Shaq’s transformative impact on the game. He was a load physically and a bull mentally, commanding as much respect in the lane as anyone since Wilt Chamberlain has. In 2006, at the age of 33, Shaq still had enough to average 18.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in the long playoff run that earned Miami its first NBA title. Dwyane Wade was the reason the Heat finished the job but they wouldn’t have gotten within realistic range of a championship without Shaq.

Wade’s jersey will eventually be retired, though they really ought to hang about three of his up there, one in white, another in red and another in black. That would reflect his multiplied importance to this organization, and the three NBA titles he has won with the Heat.

Chris Bosh will be honored somewhere down the road, too, just like Zo and Tim Hardaway before him.

Is Shaq still really a part of that royal family? Doesn’t seem to matter to Heat ownership. Michael Jordan’s number is retired at AmericanAirlines and he’s related to this franchise by NBA bloodlines alone.

More than worrying about Shaq, though, it would be nice to pay more attention to Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly, two Heat greats who might be getting higher priorities if they had played for Riley.

Rice averaged 19.3 points per game during his six Miami seasons. That’s No. 4 in franchise history, right behind LeBron, Dwyane and Shaq. What’s more, Rice drove the Heat into the playoffs for the first time, back when he carried a far greater load than any of the Big Three did individually during Miami’s later championship run.

Seikaly, meanwhile, holds a special place in franchise history because he was there from the start. Miami took the Syracuse center in the first round of the Heat’s inaugural draft in 1988 and received in return six seasons of overachievement.

Seikaly averaged a double-double during his time in Miami – 15.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. Nobody, not even Shaq, averaged as many rebounds in a Heat uniform. Seikaly blocked a ton of shots, too, coming in third in franchise history behind Zo and Shaq at 1.4 per game.

Now maybe I’m too liberal with my view of which numbers should be retired, but no more so than Riley is in honoring Shaq.

Maybe we’ll be in agreement one day in retiring Udonis Haslem’s number. It’s not always about stats when it comes to identifying a franchise’s most valued members. Udonis is the soul of the Heat, a gritty force from Miami, of Miami and for Miami.

Shaq, he was just a traveling star, and LeBron a manipulator of rosters and of minds. Both came to Miami to get what they wanted, championship rings, and both left when it was convenient to them.

Here’s hoping Dwyane Wade can recapture the fun and the finish of his rookie season

What do you want for Dwyane Wade this season, understanding that there aren’t many seasons left?

Oh, sure, a fourth NBA title would work just fine for the franchise’s most enduring star, but that’s not happening. Pretty tough figuring out how to get one win right now, much less a string of playoff series wins, even in the relatively weak East.

What, then, is realistic to hope for right now, in his 12th season in the league and in his 34th year on the planet?

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19: Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade #3 talk during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and Dwyane  talk during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2016. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

I’m looking back at Dwyane’s rookie season, all the way back in 2003-04. It makes a pretty nice bookend for a discussion like this and in a few ways it kind of looks familiar.

Miami was bumping along at the season’s midpoint with no real reason to think a division title was coming and no guarantee of making the playoffs at all. It felt like a transition period, even with some pretty talented players on the team, just as it is today.

There was no 10-time all-star like Chris Bosh, but 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom was a pretty smooth operator for a guy in his fifth pro season. Odom averaged 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game that year. (Bosh scores a little more, rebounds a little less and brings the bonus of good three-point shooting).

Eddie Jones was a veteran guard who made a ton of three-balls for Miami, third-most in the league, during Wade’s rookie season. There was no defensive monster in the middle like Hassan Whiteside, but that 2003-04 Heat team had a scrappy rookie named Udonis Haslem, who put up numbers like rookie Justise Winslow does now. Brian Grant played good defense and grabbed rebounds, too, in the basic manner of Luol Deng today.

Then there was Wade. He had none of the polish as a rookie but so much raw energy and such a head for the game. The numbers aren’t as different as you might think.

As a rookie he averaged 16.2 points per game, shot 47 percent from the field and contributed 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Jump ahead to this season and Wade is averaging around 18 points per game. His shooting percentage isn’t any better than it was in that debut season and his assists are pretty much the same. The steals are down just a bit.

Anyway, with Pat Riley looking on from the office and leaving the coaching to Stan Van Gundy, Miami finished 42-40 in Wade’s rookie season. That was good for a No. 4 playoff seed in the relatively weak Eastern Conference.

Next came a seven-game win over the New Orleans Hornets in the opening round, with Wade hitting a 10-foot runner with 1.3 seconds remaining to make his first career playoff game a winner.

Then there was a match with top-seeded Indiana in the conference semifinals. That didn’t go so well. The Pacers won it in six. Still, Wade led the Heat in scoring in the series with 21 points per game and kept it interesting.

It was enough to get Riley busy again, trading away Odom and Grant and Caron Butler to get Shaquille O’Neal and start ramping up for a title run. Who knows what Riley might be working on this offseason to reel in a big free agent as a supplement for Bosh and Wade?

[Something to remember about concussions, from an ex-NFL player who has trouble remembering]

[It’s not true that Joe Philbin never called plays during his Packer days]

[Mark Richt wasn’t that far behind another of Nick Saban’s championship teams]

So that’s my most optimistic picture of what could happen for Wade this year, a mid-range playoff seed, a first-round series win and a rumble of an effort in the Eastern semifinals that ultimately falls short.

Not entirely realistic, perhaps, the way Miami is playing and the way the roster has been shredded of late. Wade’s shoulder problems are a part of that. Get some guys back from injuries and it can get better, though how much better than 42-40 is just a guess.

If you see a deeper run in the playoffs, it’s probably just a little of that Dwyane Wade love bubbling up. He’s done so much for the Heat. To think of it slowing down or even stopping is more than most of us are in the mood to do.