Rashard Lewis (Mike Ehrmann/ Getty)The Miami Heat's championship proved that they're going to be around for a while. With one title in tow, no one will panic and break up the Big Three, or act as if the Heat are some kind of cesspool of debased morality that no respectable player would ever join. In fact, they're now only going to become more of a haven for older players looking to find another chance at a title.
Ray Allen's below-market deal with Miami was the first indication of this trend. Now, the Heat have signed forward Rashard Lewis to a one-year, veteran-minimum deal with a player option for a second season, as reported by Yahoo!'s own Marc Spears. It's the sort of low-risk move that could make the Heat even better next season.
Lewis hasn't made any real financial sacrifices here — he was bought out by the New Orleans Hornets following their trade with the Washington Wizards and stands to make at least $10 million this season. However, it's still telling that Lewis wanted to play for the Heat at such a low salary. They're a destination for older players, and that makes them especially dangerous moving forward.
The Heat wouldn't have won the title without important contributions from role players like Shane Battier and Mike Miller, but a fair assessment of their bench this past season would put it at below-average for a serious title contender. Few of those players were dependable over the course of the playoffs, and the Heat ultimately kept moving on because LeBron James is good enough to balance out all sorts of weakness. If the Heat keep adding vets to their roster year after year, they're only going to shore up weaknesses as they find capable players willing and able to fill those secondary and tertiary roles.
Lewis might not be that player — he's struggled with knee injuries of late and is no longer the shooter who earned a max-level contract from the Orlando Magic in 2007 (a ridiculous deal, but still within the realm of possibility at the time). However, he's the kind of guy who could be fine in a small role on a team with plenty of other capable scorers. In other words, he's exactly the variety of aging player the Heat should be able to attract with no problem for as long as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh represent a viable championship core.
The Heat looked like that team before their victory over the Thunder, but their rings will only establish themselves among the league's elite more firmly. As good as they were throughout June, it's likely that Miami will only get better. For a team with so much talent, small moves like this one could end up as the difference between being greatness and a legendary run.