MIAMI (WSVN) - MIAMI (AP) — There will be a new banner over Miami’s home floor next season. It’ll have a Heat logo and will be added to the rafters quietly, without any ceremony or sounds of fans cheering.
Eastern Conference champion banners don’t merit a Heat party.
Only NBA championship banners get the blowout celebrations, and the Heat will have to wait at least one more year to get another of those. It was a surprising run — from nearly getting bounced in the play-in tournament to making the NBA Finals — but it ended with Miami falling in the title series for the third time in its last three appearances.
Denver topped Miami 4-1 in the finals, giving the Nuggets their first title and making the Heat wait yet again for their fourth.
“We didn’t get the final win, but sometimes that’s true in sport and also in life — that you don’t always get what you want,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But there’s no regret from our side. Everybody, staff, players alike in the locker room put themselves out there and put themselves into the team, whatever was best for the team. And the tough pill to swallow is it just wasn’t good enough. We ran up against a team that was just better than us in this series.”
And with that, the goal is clear: Miami will be looking to make moves this summer. Big moves, probably.
As soon as Portland’s Damian Lillard mentioned on a recent podcast that he would consider Miami an acceptable trade destination — to be clear, there’s been no indication that the Trail Blazers actually will trade Lillard anywhere, and Lillard also said he expects to remain in Portland to start next season — the clamoring from Heat fans started coming in waves. The team that put together LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh 13 summers ago is always mentioned in potential moves for the biggest names that might be available every offseason. And Heat President Pat Riley starts every season with one goal: to win it all.
“I think we’ll be OK,” forward Jimmy Butler said. “That’s Coach Pat and Coach Spo’s job to put together another team, which I’m confident that they will do, and we’ll take it from there.”
It was a strange year. Miami’s longest winning streaks were four games. The Heat were the lowest-scoring team in the NBA during the regular season. They were actually outscored during the first 82 games. They lost the first play-in game, trailed late in the second one and were about three minutes from elimination, then won 13 playoff games — more than any No. 8 seed ever. They knocked out No. 1 overall seed Milwaukee in Round 1, eliminated longtime rival New York in Round 2 and nearly wasted a 3-0 series lead against Boston in the East finals before winning a Game 7 on the road.
In the finals, they just didn’t have enough — and tipped their caps to Denver.
“I think this is one of my favorite teams I’ve ever been a part of because we willed our way through ups and downs,” center Bam Adebayo said. “We willed our way through the things that people said we couldn’t do. So, for me, the future, I just take these lessons and I apply them to the next season. Whenever we go through adversity, I’m always going to look back and be like, ‘We’ve been through adversity before.’”
As always, changes can be expected and there are roster decisions to make.
Gabe Vincent — who became Miami’s starting point guard — is about to become a free agent. So is shooting guard Max Strus, a full-time postseason starter in each of Miami’s last two playoff runs. Both made $1.8 million this season; they can now reasonably say they’ve earned big raises even after enduring some struggles in the finals.
Midseason acquisitions Kevin Love and Cody Zeller are free agents as well and it’s likely that Miami will try to keep one or both. Victor Oladipo has a player option for about $9.5 million and is expected to opt in, especially because he’s going to need some time to recover from a torn patellar tendon.
“I think the biggest part about that was the fun we had together, this group, after we picked up Kevin Love and Cody Zeller,” Strus said. “It was just unique how we all came together and enjoyed this run together and just had fun. … But we came up short. It’s going to be a lesson that we’ve all learned, and we’ll be better for our careers going forward.”
The one player who surely is not coming back is Udonis Haslem.
Miami’s captain is retiring after 20 seasons. He’s the only player to have been part of all six of Miami’s appearances in the NBA Finals, and the Heat already have announced that his No. 40 will be retired – likely in a ceremony next season.
“I have no regrets,” Haslem said. “I’m completely fulfilled. … They gave me a final season that I’ll never, ever forget.”
He intends to remain with the organization in a still-to-be-determined role. His game-night attire will change. His message will not.
“Winning a championship will be the hardest thing you ever do,” Haslem said. “People only talk about the parade and holding up the trophy. They don’t talk about the journey, the sleepless nights, the frustration, the tears, the pain. They don’t talk about that.”
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.