SALT LAKE CITY -- Perhaps we're all missing the point.
Amid the dearth of desirable destinations and myriad machinations required for a sign-and-trade this coming offseason, perhaps this isn't about LeBron James going anywhere.
Perhaps we're reading this all wrong. Perhaps the James/free-agency permutation is about getting someone to come to Miami.
Previously, it was Dwyane Wade serving as Pat Riley's operative, planting the Olympic seeds that eventually would deliver James and Chris Bosh alongside in 2010 free-agency. While Riley couldn't actively recruit in advance, the limitations on players are practically nonexistent and heretofore unenforced.
So flash forward to the Heat's next makeover, one that certainly doesn't have to come this summer or even next, based on the rolling opt-outs for James, Wade and Bosh during the 2014 and '15 offseasons.
Should Wade merely ride out his current contract until its natural 2016 expiration, he would get the $42 million due over the next two seasons and certainly could therefore be more amenable to taking far less at that point, rather than restructuring in advance.
Similarly, Bosh actually would make more in the next two seasons by not opting out, albeit without the security of a long-term deal.
But in 2016, Wade, at 34, would be facing a lower-end reality with his salary, Bosh would be 32 after years of undersized banging and LeBron, to a degree, might at the point be where Wade was in July 2010, recognizing the benefits of working as part of a No. 1-1A collaboration.
Oh, and 2016, of course, also is when Kevin Durant can hit free agency, when the Heat's salary slate could be zeroed out just as easily as it could this coming offseason.
No, the Heat never are going to be confused with the New York Knicks, constantly pushing the focus to future offseasons, the type of eternal hope that already has the Knicks' targeting Kevin Love in 2015, Durant in 2016, all the while possibly to lose Carmelo Anthony along the way.
But for all the ESPN-driven discussion of LeBron being in position to name his destination whenever he opts for free agency, be it this summer, in 2015 or the 2016 natural expiration of the six-year contract he signed in July 2010, moving on alters the legacy.
It was one thing for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to make his move from the Bucks to Lakers. Every player is entitled to a get-out-of-jail-free card from Milwaukee or Cleveland or other NBA hinterlands.
But keep moving, as Shaquille O'Neal did, and the narrative changes. That's when you come to be viewed as chasing titles. It lessens the legacy.
Instead, James has the opportunity to lure the talent to him. Champions long have evolved. The Celtics did. The Lakers did. The handoff, without the takeoff, is a time-honored tradition among star players.
As the July 1 start of free agency (or actually James' June opt-out deadline) draws closer, the speculation is where LeBron might land.
Perhaps it instead should be who he might entice.
If a Dwyane Wade can lure a LeBron James, who knows what LeBron could land.
Yes, the Heat had nothing but cap space in 2010, spending years in advance plotting for that moment. But does anyone think Pat Riley, with that sinister smile of his, ever is done scheming?
Wednesday at Staples Center, Riley sat alongside the original wolf of Wall Street, Michael Douglas. Doubt his ability to manipulate the market at your own risk.
In the Lane
THE FLIP SIDE: While a LeBron James return to the Cleveland Cavaliers never looked more remote than at the moment, with this past week's dismissal of Chris Grant as general manager, the move actually could trigger changes that might make the Cavs more appealing in free agency. Foremost, the odds of James playing again for Mike Brown were remote, based on the previous failings of that collaboration, as well as what Erik Spoelstra has provided with the Heat. But with Grant out, it makes it more likely that Brown is next. That, in turn, allows Cleveland to clear the slate for a more appealing sideline presence or perhaps even a you-sign/you-pick-the-coach scenario. With the right lottery pick (Joel Embiid?) and the right replacement coach (John Calipari?), Cleveland can find itself in a better place this offseason, provided Brown keeps the losses coming (which might just be the very reason why he's still employed).
THE LOOK: What Doc Rivers saw Wednesday from the Heat is something he saw from his Boston Celtics, and something he hopes to eventually see from his Los Angeles Clippers. "Teams like the Heat, San Antonio, they have the ultimate trust in each other, in their systems, in their rotations," said Rivers, in his first season as Clippers coach. "They very rarely make a mistake. As a matter of fact, you can tell when they make a mistake because they look at each other like they want to kill each other. And we're still in the middle of that." Hmm, who knew that those LeBron-to-Mario Chalmers glares actually were being used as teaching points elsewhere?
JOEL WAITS: The journey to the bottom of the standings has not been accompanied by playing time for former Heat center Joel Anthony. After being given seven minutes of action in his Jan. 21 return to AmericanAirlines Arena, Anthony played a total of 11 minutes since for the Boston Celtics going into the weekend, with two rebounds and no points. "Obviously it takes time," Anthony told the Boston Herald, "but I have enough experience where I should be able to get acclimated pretty well. They're helping me get up to speed. It's a process like anything, seeing how things are run over here and adapting to my new surroundings."
SPEAKING OF: Former Heat center Earl Barron has signed to play for Al Moutahed Tripoli in Lebanon, after a deal earlier this season in China with Qingdao never panned out. Barron finished last season with the Knicks, following the retirement of Rasheed Wallace. Then there's former Heat center Jarvis Varnado, who amid a rough patch this season has been selected as a D-League All-Star. During a January tryout with the Philadelphia 76ers, Varnado sustained a hip strain, with that spot instead going to Heat summer-league teammate Dewayne Dedmon. Varnado, who is playing for the Iowa Energy, leads the D-League at 4.8 blocked shots per game.
QUIET TIME: After two games against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a three-week span, at least the Heat's James will now get some quiet time when it comes to the questions about what his friend Carmelo Anthony could potentially do as a free agent this summer. James last weekend left it at, "I'm a good friend of his, but I don't know what his mind is saying or what's going through his mind. He loves to play basketball, and just like the rest of us, he wants to win. That's the No. 1 thing: When you do something for your whole life, you want to win at it and work at it. You don't want it to be easy, but you want an opportunity to win."
(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services