ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein report that the Miami Heat are preparing to pursue the free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony in the hope that their Big Three will become a foursome. On its face, this is astonishing news. The Heat’s biggest task of Summer 2014 figured to be keeping the Big Three intact — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt out of their contracts. But Pat Riley, who’s the best in the business, wants to add yet another All-Star to his mix.
Somehow, the notion of Carmelo teaming with LeBron and his Super Friends isn’t off-putting in the way that the formation of the Big Three seemed in the summer of 2010. That congregation, momentous as it was, was overshadowed by “The Decision” — the awful bit of television that served to make many among us go from liking LeBron to rooting against him in the space of 60 preening minutes.
But watching LeBron play with D-Wade and Bosh in the pursuit of championships wasn’t nearly as repellant as seeing Karl Malone and Gary Payton cling to the coattails of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Lakers in 2003-2004. The Heat actually fit together, albeit in an odd way. (Of the Big Three, none is a point guard or a center, which are supposed to be the most important positions, although Bosh can serve as a center and LeBron and Wade can handle the point.) The Heat have always seemed a team, albeit a top-heavy one, as opposed to a collection.
We can’t know if Carmelo will take his talents to you-know-where, but what’s remarkable is that the Heat are positioned to make room for all four. As Windhorst and Stein note, each of the Big Three would have to opt out and agree to take less money in new contracts with Miami, but they already proved — back in the summer of ’10 — they were willing to take less to accomplish more. If an NBA team is smart enough to leave sufficient cap room, it can do just about anything, financially speaking, that it wants.
Yes, Carmelo + LeBron + Wade + Bosh would seem an even greater case of overkill. A team that has reached four consecutive NBA finals can’t be said to need the most talented player on this summer’s market. But you know what? I’ve enjoyed watching the Heat these past four seasons. (Actually the past three. That first year I kept hoping they’d lose, which they did against Dallas in the finals.)
I hated “The Decision” and grew an instant dislike to LeBron, but I got over it. He and his famous pals play the game the right way. They pass and they guard and they act like they like one another, which is no small thing. (The aforementioned Lakers seemed to despise each other, and it showed in their finals collapse against Detroit.) It would be fascinating to see if Carmelo, who has become less selfless over time, would enhance the Miami mesh — or make a mess of Miami.