FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Miami Heat celebrated an anniversary Thursday. Well, they might have celebrated had there not been a lockout.
Sept. 1 in many ways is an annual reminder of where the franchise once stood and where it stands today, considering almost everything Heat can be categorized as pre-Riley or the franchise's modern era.
On Sept. 1, 1995, the Heat made the only trade to date with the New York Knicks in their 24 seasons, when they agreed to send a first-round pick previously acquired from the Atlanta Hawks and $1 million for the rights to name Pat Riley team president and coach.
The deal was more settlement than transaction, considering how Riley, while still under contract, had faxed in his resignation to the Knicks months earlier and subsequently had entered into discussions with Heat owner Micky Arison, who months earlier had assumed stewardship of the franchise.
Before Riley's arrival, the Heat, over the franchise's first seven seasons, had recorded just one winning season, advanced to the playoffs twice and had recorded a grand total of two playoff victories.
Since then there have been three berths in the conference finals, two trips to the NBA Finals, as well as the 2006 NBA championship. Over Riley's 16 years as the face of the franchise, there have been 13 winning seasons.
So, yes, the annual turning of the calendar to September should resonate, as should the irony that the franchise's only transaction with the Knicks essentially reversed the fortunes of a pair of franchises.
As for the trade itself, the Hawks' 1996 draft pick sent to the Knicks by the Heat turned into forward Walter McCarty, who managed to cobble together a 10-year career that never saw him average more than 9.6 points in any season, with a career 5.2 scoring average.
Surprisingly, despite entering their 24th season, the Heat's limited trade history with the Knicks is not unique. The Heat, in fact, have never completed a trade with the San Antonio Spurs. In addition to the Knicks, the Heat also have made only one trade apiece with Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards.
The irony is the Heat's lone transaction with their intrastate rivals also involved a coach, when Stan Van Gundy was released from his Heat consulting contract in exchange for Orlando second-round draft choices that ultimately resulted in picks (Stanko Barac and Darnell Jackson) who immediately were forwarded to other teams.
The anniversary of Riley's arrival, of course, also opens the issue of his departure. While the Heat snuck in the announcement of Nick Arison's promotion over Riley late on a mid-summer Friday afternoon, clearly the post-Riley era is no longer an abstract.
For now, expect Riley to last as long as the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh association. The three players have has many as five additional seasons left on their contracts, but there are escape clauses for each starting in the 2014 offseason. In many ways, Riley, 66, remains the glue to what was assembled last summer.
The transaction that delivered Riley from New York 16 years ago hardly was the cleanest in the franchise's 24 seasons, one negotiated as much through the league office as directly with the Knicks, amid allegations of tampering. But even with James, Bosh, Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway later added in deals, it arguably stands as perhaps the most significant.
IN THE LANE
CUBAN'S CLAIM: By now, Mark Cuban's backhand shot at the Heat coaching staff regarding the NBA Finals has been well-chronicled. "After Game 3 of the Miami series," the Dallas Mavericks owner told CNN's Piers Morgan, "our guys said, 'They aren't making any adjustments. We got 'em.' And so the confidence was through the roof." The Mavericks, of course, moved J.J. Barea into the starting lineup and Brian Cardinal into the rotation during the series, while the Heat's only changeup of note was starting Mario Chalmers at point guard ahead of Mike Bibby in the sixth and final game of the series (and then benching Bibby in favor of Eddie House). Fine. Advantage Rick Carlisle. But also don't overstate "adjustments" when it comes to the Heat's failure. Had LeBron James shown up late in any of the decisive games, all of Carlisle's work would have been window dressing. As with the coming season, it remains less for the Heat about adjustments than consistently getting the best of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
ANOTHER WORLD: If nothing else, the lack of Heat representation in the ongoing Americas and European Olympic qualifying tournaments only reinforces the reality that the Heat, under Pat Riley, rarely have adopted a foreign bent. That has left Canada center Joel Anthony as the lone Heat representative at the two tournaments. To his credit, Anthony played Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford to a near standoff Thursday, as the Canadians knocked off the Dominican Republic and essentially punched their ticket into the second round of the Americas tournament in Argentina. Anthony also had his moments in Canada's tournament opener against Tiago Splitter and Brazil. A victory in the quarterfinals would at least assure Anthony of another round of summer ball next year, in a last-chance Olympic qualifier. Canada would need to advance to the Americas championship game to earn a direct berth to the 2012 London Games.
SMOKE SCREEN: While Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce has denied reports of enduring an asthma attack during a recent tour in China, the reports of Michael Beasley dealing with his own asthma attack as Pierce's teammate during the exhibitions ring true in light of careerlong issues that had the forward utilizing an inhaler at times during his Heat tenure. Yes, they allow smoking in arenas in China and other international outposts. And apparently that makes for less-than-ideal playing conditions. If nothing else, it is just the latest example that smoke and Beasley are never a good mix. Just saying.
ON TOUR: Labor Day weekend is part of a labor of love by former Georgetown teammates Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo in South Africa as part of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders initiative. That had Mutombo discussing the relationship between the three. Asked by NBA.com about which stands as the best Hoyas center, Mutombo said himself and Mourning, a Heat executive, have to stand aside. "I think Alonzo and I have to give that credit to Patrick Ewing," the former shot-blocking center said. "He took us under his wing and showed us the way to success." Mutombo said the trip resonates with all three. "Who knew that when we came here in 1994 that we would be here now participating in a great initiative that was launched by the NBA and that it is still going on after all of these years?" he said of the initial trip by the three to Africa. "Who knew that the idea would result in the league, its teams and its players, contributing nearly two million dollars to communities in need around the world? So, I think we should all be very proud."
CALL OF DUTY: Bosh has taken his talents this weekend to Los Angeles for "Call of Duty" video-game events with other NBA players, including Kevin Love and Kevin Garnett. For Bosh, it could have somewhat of a playoff feel, considering how Garnett went on Dan Patrick's radio show and said he brings at least one element of his NBA game to his video play. "Trash talking is part of it," Garnett said.
1. Heat players who publicly acknowledged heading to a gun range this past week, which center Dexter Pittman tweeted as his Thursday activity, adding, "Man I'm a country boy."