The Miami Heat will parade down 8th Street and Biscayne Boulevard on Monday, but if team president Pat Riley has his way, the Heat will get down to the business of defending its just-won NBA title sooner rather than later.
Keeping in mind the fact that LeBron James promised Heat fans "not one, not two, not three, not four" titles, the man in charge told the Miami Herald that his team has to beware of complacency setting in.
"Enjoy the golden glow for another week," Riley said. "But it can't be a party every night all offseason with someone slapping you on the back."
The Heat have had to defend a championship once before, and it did not go very well. In 2006-2007, the Heat opened the season by getting blown out on opening night in Chicago, then stumbled to a four-seed and a playoff berth. The Bulls swept the Heat in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, and within months, a disgruntled Shaquille O'Neal was traded to Phoenix and the Heat were starting over.
It's not likely that LeBron James will sour on the Heat the way O'Neal did, but Riley wants his players to continue improving over the summer.
"LeBron met with [Hakeem] Olajuwon last offseason to improve his game. Is he going to do something like that again this year? Is Wade going to do something about his health now that he’s 30? Maybe think of a different night-to-night approach?"
"Now our guys have to get better in the head, and they need to know how to handle and defend the championship, and win more," Riley concluded.
Riley is practicing what he preaches. "I'm past Thursday night,” he said. “It is over. We've got the draft coming up."
James and Chris Bosh will get a chance to work on their respective games while representing America in the Olympics this summer, but they might be without Wade in London. On Friday, he said he will get his left knee examined soon. The knee slowed him down at times during the season, and may require surgery.
"I've got to make a decision on what my knee needs and what's best, because my career and finishing my career strong is what's important to me," Wade said. "And I know, yeah, the Olympics are coming up. It's something I really want to do. But at the same time, if I have to make a big decision, if something has to happen surgery-wise, that will have to be a step I have to take. My loyalty and my commitment to Miami Heat basketball is the No. 1 thing."
Wade will undergo an MRI soon, and if he requires any procedure ("I think some kind of cleanup process might have to go on," he said), recovery could mean missing the Olympics.
But surgery also means Wade could be at full strength next season. "I want to make sure that I want to recover strong," Wade said.
The party continues Monday, but once the parade ends, the Heat's defense of its championship will begin.