For 20 years, everybody has heard all about how the Heat treats its players like family. LeBron James mentioned that when he signed here; Amar’e Stoudemire said this week, unsolicited: “What you need is a family type atmosphere and truly it is” here.
The franchise has backed up those words with actions, everything from hiring former players for coaching and scouting and front office jobs, to consistently promoting from within (general manager Andy Elisburg started with the Heat as a public relations intern), to purchasing Tim Hardaway’s house when the IRS placed a lien on it in 2011.
For a few weeks in June, that reputation, that the Heat takes care of its own, threatened to crumble when Dwyane Wade and the team became embroiled in a contract dispute.
But the Heat’s subsequent actions with Wade --- and how it handled a difficult pregnancy for Goran Dragic’s wife --- reaffirm what players have been told about this organization for two decades under Pat Riley and Micky Arison. And that’s significant, not only because the Heat handled matters the right way, but anything less this summer would have damaged one of the franchise’s selling points in courting free agents.
In a few hours in June, Wade went from disappointed and seriously considering a move elsewhere to knowing how much he’s valued here.
“When you get the owner of the team [Arison] and the future owner of the team [Nick Arison] to come to sit at your table at your home and feel comfortable just sitting talking to them, it shows the relationship we built,” Wade said Tuesday.
“No agents around. No nothing. Just us three sitting there and reminiscing but also talking about the future. It means a lot, when they take their time to come and say, ‘Listen, we want you here. You’re a lifer and we want to do whatever it takes to make that happen.’
“I understand the business side as well. I understand as a player, I want certain things but I also understand the organization needs certain things. Us coming to a one-year [$20 million] agreement this year was the best for both sides. I never lost faith in the Heat family, ever. It’s a business. Things are said, but I never lost faith.”
The Wade issue drew headlines. This, though, unfolded in private:
Early this offseason, when Dragic’s wife Maja required hospitalization in Slovenia for 15 days, six months into her pregnancy, the Heat was in frequent contact, offering to help find a doctor or assist any way it could.
“[Erik Spoelstra], Pat, they were sending me messages checking on my wife,” Dragic said this week. “Pat called. They were real helpful. If I needed something they were here for me. Even D-Wade [emailed].”
After the baby was born healthy more than a month ago, the team sent a gift basket and Spoelstra bought and mailed a baby carriage and some clothes, Dragic said.
It arrived at the Dragic home in Slovenia this past week because “in Europe, with customs, it takes time,” Dragic said.
How touched was Dragic by all this? “It was unbelievable,” he said. “I never experienced anything like that. I was on a couple of teams in this league and in Europe, but here they do stuff differently.
“It’s a great feeling because you feel like a part of this great organization, part of this family where if you need something, you know they will be there for you.”
Chris Bosh, too, was moved when Spoelstra and Riley visited him at the hospital when he was diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs.
“I don’t know how many organizations where the GM and the coach on a game day would come to see you,” he said, noting Wade also visited. “Without being too mushy, coming to see me showed me how much we mean to each other. It’s always put to the test in difficult situations and they came through. It was pretty awesome.
“They sent gift baskets, flowers. Spo brought books. He tries to find something I never read or what he’s reading at the time. I thought I would be able to read them in the hospital but I was in too much pain.”
For the cynical, I should note that I learned of the Heat reaching out to Dragic during Maja’s pregnancy from a friend of Dragic, not from the Heat. So the team isn’t looking for publicity on this.
But in the wake of the Wade drama, preserving its pristine “family” image was vitally important for the Heat. After all, it would have been difficult to preach family in a room with Kevin Durant next summer if Wade had fled in anger or if your players didn’t consistently rave about the way they’re treated here.
### The Heat's starting five, which has never played together in a game, hasn't practiced together, yet, either, with Hassan Whiteside again sidelined Wednesday by a calf injury.
### Why was Jordan Phillips, who has Miami’s only sack this season, inactive against Buffalo? He said coaches told him it was performance-based, that “I’ve got to be better” and “I didn’t do what I needed to do in practice.” He said being inactive was somewhat shocking because “I’m supposed to have a big role on this team.”
### Joe Philbin says he will stick with struggling Jamil Douglas at right guard. So why can’t Billy Turner get on the field? Offensive line coach John Benton wants his linemen to block with the technique he teaches, and Turner hasn’t done it to Benton’s liking.
“[The issue] wasn’t my production,” Turner said. “Every coach wants things done with their technique. It’s much different than what I did in college, which was straight up power.”
### Miko Grimes, wife of Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, has been dropped from her on-air role on WQAM-560, after being charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence before Sunday’s Dolphins game.
The station declined to comment beyond saying she will no longer work there. WQAM hasn't determined a new weekend co-host for Omar Kelly.
### Though Brad Kaaya has improved his completion percentage from 58.5 in 2014 to 61.4 percent this season, offensive coordinator James Coley said this spring he wants it over 70 percent.
"I know he wants to get his completion percentage up so we can possess the ball a little bit better, especially on 3rd downs," Al Golden said today, of Kaaya. "That's really been a focus all week with him."
### Golden, asked today about UM's situation at safety with Deon Bush and Jamal Carter suspended for the first half Thursday against Cincinnati: "I think we're good there. We've been playing five all year, so, Rayshawn Jenkins has two interceptions already, Dallas (Crawford) has [played well], I think, every game, and then 'Quan Johnson. We'll have a rotation there, and we'll help those guys on special teams by alleviating some of that pressure. We're not going to change anything. We believe in those guys. All three of those guys are really smart. We'll be deeper in the second half certainly with Deon and Jamal coming back."
### UM's running back oral commitments for 2016 are off to blazing starts. Travis Homer is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, with 441 yards rushing, six rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Zack Moss is averaging 8.4 yards per carry, with 345 yards, six rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns.
FYI: Palmetto-based Florida quarterback Jack Allison, planning to arrive at UM in January, has thrown seven TDs and two picks.
MIAMI HERALD NEWS
Pleased to announce that two outstanding journalists --- Ethan J. Skolnick and Manny Navarro --- are joining The Herald's Miami Heat team. (I'll remain involved, as always).
Skolnick will write, report, columnize, blog and tweet about the Heat, with his work appearing regularly in The Herald’s print and digital editions.
It is a homecoming of sorts for Skolnick, who covered the Heat and the Dolphins during an earlier stint at The Herald, from 2000 to 2002.
Skolnick has since worked as a general columnist at the Sun-Sentinel, a Heat columnist at the Palm Beach Post and as a national NBA writer at Turner Sports/Bleacher Report.
Skolnick, who has 65,000 Twitter followers, has an afternoon-drive radio show on 790 The Ticket, which he co-hosts with another former Herald staffer, ESPN's Israel Gutierrez. Station management has said it's happy with the show but isn't ready to yet name them permanent hosts. Nielsen hasn't released ratings for the past two weeks, since Skolnick and Gutierrez started airing opposite WQAM's show, with Marc Hochman, Channing Crowder and Zach Krantz.
Manny, who I've had the pleasure of working with for more than a decade, will focus on the Heat but keep his hand in UM coverage, as well.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for a lot more Heat, Dolphins and Canes if you missed last night's post.