Hollinger's Team Forecast: Miami Heat

Originally Published: October 3, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Go to: Offseason moves | Biggest strength | Biggest weakness | Outlook

Wow. Just ... wow.

Rarely in the history of sports has anyone had the opportunity to say "Told ya so" louder and prouder than Pat Riley could this June.

In the wake of the team's Game 7 defeat to Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals a year earlier, the Heat team president's response was diametrically different from nearly everyone else's prescription, and it ended with the Heat winning its first-ever championship in dramatic fashion.

Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade
AP PhotoD-Wade and Shaq, NBA champs together.

Let's rewind first.

Most had seen the Heat fall just short against the Pistons and figured the obvious response would be to bring the same group back and make another run at it. Riley went the opposite direction, making a mammoth trade to bring in Jason Williams, Antoine Walker and James Posey while sending out two key performers from the year before, Eddie Jones and Damon Jones.

While it's true that Miami came very close in 2004-05, and probably would have beaten Detroit had Dwyane Wade been healthy for the final two games, Riley's glasses had less of a rose tint than most. He saw a team that had basically overachieved to get where they were -- both Joneses, for instance, played far better than expected, as did power forwards Udonis Haslem and Christian Laettner. Riley also saw that Shaquille O'Neal was unlikely to repeat his MVP-runner-up performance, and the team would need more talent around to make up for it.


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