Still, many people are seeing chaos in this free agency for Miami. They are seeing it because: (1) They want to, (2) Miami hasn't signed anyone yet, (3) the silence is scary, (4) the silence is being replaced by rampant speculation because the media will not abide silence, and (5) the Big Three breaking up puts more hope on the market for other teams. Those five things create the perception that Riley is working at a disadvantage with uncertainty about how much he has to spend. But that ignores something major:
This was all also so in 2010, the last time Riley pulled this off, before the championships and before building relationships and providing proof for these players. Riley didn't have firm numbers, and the Big Three also wanted Mike Miller and Haslem, so Riley worked with them and their discounts to make that so. But he needed to find out what Haslem and Miller needed first, so he could come back to James, Wade and Bosh with those figures. That's what he's doing now with Pau Gasol and Luol Deng -- finding out just how much they need, the same way he did it with Miller and Haslem back when things were actually uncertain.
Riley would be working with James and Bosh on this pre-championships, without knowing them, but not now? What sense does that make when you are running a billion-dollar corporation/partnership with these players? What is seen as a disadvantage in the noisy frenzy of the moment -- Riley doesn't know how much he has to spend! -- would be the kind of advantage craved by any of those other executives who have yet to secure even a meeting with James. Riley is the only basketball executive in the world who can call James, Wade and Bosh and ask, "It'll take about $7 million a year to get Gasol. OKC and the Spurs are offering $5 million. You guys want to make that work?"
All around the silent Heat a noisy media makes it sound as if things could be coming apart. But the ability to make that one phone call -- an ability available in this climate to one of the best closers in the history of sports leadership -- is all it takes to very quietly and very quickly put all this right back together.
This story also appears in the Miami Herald.