FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Having taken the time to digest how the millionaires and billionaires are taking great pleasure in showing each other their derrieres, a look at how the NBA lockout could impact the Miami Heat.
The kids: The odds of making an impact next season just decreased exponentially for 2010 second-round pick Dexter Pittman and 2011 first-round pick Norris Cole.
Pat Riley could joke all he wanted at last week's introduction of Cole about how he was going to play his younger players, but that was when the window was open for needed seasoning.
Yes, Mario Chalmers started as a Heat rookie in 2008-09, but that was after an intense summer of work with incoming coach Erik Spoelstra. The Heat tend to value their summers as much as any on-the-job training when it comes to young players.
While Pittman will be entering his second year, his knee injury this past February was a significant setback. With Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas already in place at center, the clock may already be ticking on Pittman, who has no guaranteed money on his 2011-12 contract.
With Cole, it could be as simple as biding one more season with Mike Bibby or a low-end, NBA-ready free-agent pick up such as Earl Watson.
The breakthrough: No matter when 2011-12 starts, the overriding theme will be LeBron James' pursuit of legitimacy through an NBA title.
But how valid would a championship be if it comes in the wake of a lockout-shortened season?
Phil Jackson took great pleasure in ensuing years in belittling the championship the San Antonio Spurs won in 1999 after a regular season shortened to 50 games.
Should James make his championship breakthrough in the wake of anything less than the typical 82-game marathon, figure on more than just Charles Barkley piling on.
As much as any player, perhaps even more, LeBron needs a complete schedule in order to complete and legitimize his quest.
The upside: Of course, if the schedule is reduced to 50 games, as it was in 1998-99, it could present the opportunity for veteran free agents to first cash in before cashing out.
While it might be difficult for higher-end talent to justify taking short money over a full season, with the Heat likely to again be in position to offer little more than minimal contracts, what if they only were going to collect on 60 percent of any salary anyway?
Could that entice the likes of Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Michael Redd, Jamal Crawford or other older free agents to put paycheck aside in favor of championship vision?
In that respect, a limited schedule could work in the Heat's favor, as it did with the signing of Terry Porter just before play resumed in 1999.
The sobering reality: The reality is no team would be hurt more by lost time than the Heat. The clock does not stop or reset with the contracts signed last summer by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. If 2011-12 is lost, so is that season on their contracts. Their packages do not roll over for another season.
That is significant, because not only would it rob the three of playing time while in their prime, but each also can opt out after the 2013-14 season. If there is no 2011-12, it would mean only two more seasons under complete Heat control to go for the elusive title that likely would serve as the glue to keep the trio together.
IN THE LANE
PARTY-ING SHOT: So, apparently, Erick Dampier wasn't partying with the enemy after all. In the wake of the Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA title June 12 at AmericanAirlines Arena, word was the Heat center had joined his former teammates on South Beach amid the Mavericks' championship revelry. It turns out Dampier called the team to say it not only wasn't the case, but that he had been on Brickell Avenue at the time in question, a fact the team corroborated with ESPN's Bruce Bowen, the former Heat defensive ace, who also was on Brickell at the time. This past week, Dampier told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram it was an insinuation that angered him. "It all started with a tweet," he said. "With all the pictures that were posted online, show me one picture where Erick Dampier was in it hanging out and partying with the Dallas Mavericks. Just show me one picture. They can't, because there's not one. You can't invent one and you can't find one." Dampier will be a free agent at the close of the lockout, with the Heat assuredly moving in another direction, but not for anything having to do with post-Finals carousing.
FINALS FOCUS: Amid his team's introduction of first-round pick Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings owner Gavin Maloof pointed to the NBA Finals as an example of the value of outside shooting. "I think what everybody realized throughout the playoffs and the Finals this year is that shooting beat defense," he told SI.com. "I know defense wins championships, but this year the Mavericks had all those shooters and Miami couldn't compete with them." Turns out the Mavericks had a darned impressive defense, as well.
BETWEEN THE EARS: While some have pointed to a sports psychologist as the best way for LeBron James to push past his Finals struggles, struggles earlier in the playoffs, particularly against the Heat, already have Boston Celtics forward Glen Davis, an impending free agent, heading in that direction. "I hired a sports psychologist to help you tap into the zone . . . as far as you miss a shot, you don't worry about that," Davis told a Portland, Ore., radio station. "You go to the other end and use that energy to do something else on defense . . . let it pass like a cloud. Clouds pass by you all the time and you don't worry about it. You've just got to keep going. That's what I've been concentrating on."
FADING MEMORY: Overlooked in the Cleveland Cavaliers' loss of LeBron was that the transaction actually was a sign-and-trade that netted the Cavs a pair of future first-round picks (as early as 2013), a pair of second-round picks and the right to swap first-rounds picks with the Heat next June (as if). Also, a product of going the sign-and-trade route was a $14.5 million trade exception that would expire July 11, 2011. With Cleveland unable to cash in with that exception prior to the lockout, the expectation is that exception will now be lost, although the league has not definitively ruled.
UH, SURE: Apparently everyone was a bit giddy in advance of the lockout. Upon introducing first-round pick Iman Shumpert, the guard out of Georgia Tech, New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni went as far as to say, "He has the athletic ability to guard a Derrick Rose or a Dwyane Wade or a LeBron James." As if Heat-Knicks needed any additional fodder. (Someone please pass that along to LeBron or Wade, since the Heat currently can't.)
THEN AGAIN: Jimmy Butler, the swingman out of Marquette taken by the Chicago Bulls with the final pick of first round, also has his sights on Wade and James. "I'm going to put in the work to be able to guard LeBron and Dwyane Wade and all those guys so the Bulls can get to that championship," Butler said upon his Bulls introduction. "I'm working on my outside shot, so I'm going to be able to knock that down. But I think the biggest thing is defense. I'm going to be a pest." Actually, Luol Deng was a pretty effective pest at times during those Eastern Conference finals.
7. The number first-round draft choice Brandon Knight will wear with the Detroit Pistons. Knight wore No. 11 at Pine Crest High School in Fort Lauderdale and No. 12 at Kentucky. No. 11 is retired in Detroit in honor of Isiah Thomas, with No. 12 worn by Will Bynum. Ben Gordon will switch from No. 7 to No. 8 next season for Detroit.