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Ira Winderman: Heat have a legacy issue; here’s a potential solution

MIAMI — The Miami Heat, to their enduring credit, are set in their ways. During the Pat Riley era, that largely has been a good thing.

So when a member of the team’s staff was asked this past week about how the team goes about determining which jerseys to retire, the answer was simple and to the point.

“Pat says that you know when you know.”

So far the Heat have known with Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Shaquille O’Neal.

The connective tissue is that all five were on a path to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame when honored, all five now enshrined in Springfield, Mass.

Next the criteria becomes a bit more complex, with the Jan. 19 retirement of the No. 40 of Udonis Haslem. Hustle Hall of Fame? Assuredly in the wake of his 20 seasons. Springfield? Not even a 0.00% chance according to Basketball Reference’s Hall of Fame probability model.

Fine. So you adjust the Heat bar to Hall of Fame or a championship or even multiple championships, with Haslem able to wear rings from 2006, ’12 and ’13 to Kaseya Center when he is honored.

All of which delivers us to the intersection of a pair of announcements over the past week, the first being Goran Dragic’s retirement from basketball, the second being the Orlando Magic choosing O’Neal as the first jersey that the franchise will retire.

To a degree, the two announcements are related, or better put, perhaps should become correlated.

While Dragic’s numbers with the Heat match up comparatively to those of Hardaway, and while unlike Hardaway, Dragic helped advance the Heat to an NBA Finals, Basketball Reference’s model gives Dragic less than a one-percent chance of making it to Springfield based on his NBA play. Granted, that could change if Dragic also is considered for his international success.

And, as we watched Dragic tormented by a foot injury in those 2020 NBA Finals in the Orlando pandemic bubble against the Los Angeles Lakers, no NBA championship.

Which brings us to the Magic’s announcement regarding the No. 32 of O’Neal, who surprisingly becomes the first player to have his number retired by a franchise only a year younger than the Heat.

The difference is the Magic years ago began their tribute process with an Orlando Magic Hall of Fame, which inducted O’Neal in 2015 and also has inducted those beyond the franchise’s playing realm.

And therein might lie the answer with Dragic and those worthy of tribute from the Heat’s 36 seasons, if not necessary tribune in the rafters.

With an update of Kaseya Center already in progress, a makeover that has included upgraded ancillary scoreboards this season and plans for a new center-hanging scoreboard next season, the timing would appear right for either some sort of Miami Dolphins-like Ring of Honor or a Heat Hall of Fame, something that does not have to be mutually exclusive of the retirement of jerseys.

A team Hall of Fame seemingly would offer the best of all worlds. It could be something as simple as what the Florida Panthers have in a concourse at their arena, or a stand-alone attraction, with all the typical Heat bells and whistles. (Can see it now, “The Canyon of Culture.”)

Such an approach not only would allow the Heat to address players such as Dragic, but perhaps, for the first time, offer greater recognition to the era before Riley’s arrival in 1995, when players such as Rony Seikaly, Glen Rice and Steve Smith helped build a foundation (perhaps also honoring Keith Askins, who was Udonis Haslem before Udonis Haslem was born).

In future years, some Heat decisions will be simple, with LeBron James’ No. 6 to be hoisted alongside the No. 3 of Wade and No. 1 of Bosh to complete that Big Three commemoration.

And with Basketball Reference’s model casting Jimmy Butler with a 73% chance of Naismith induction, it likely would not require a Heat championship for his No. 22 to eventually ascend, as well.

But a Heat Ring of Honor or team hall of fame would allow the Heat to also honor short-timers who created enduring Heat memories, such as Ray Allen, perhaps even Dan Majerle, Mario Chalmers or Shane Battier.

It also would create a landing spot for broadcasters such as Eric Reid, Jose Paneda, Mike Inglis, Jason Jackson, as well as front-office mainstays and enduring contributors, such as Ron Rothstein and Tony Fiorentino. It also could provide an alternative location for such current rafter tributes of Michael Jordan, Dan Marino and late long-time trainer Ron Culp.

Dragic’s contributions to the Heat over the years often were eye-opening, Perhaps in retirement he can open the Heat’s eyes to a better way to honor those who have contributed in significant ways to the franchise’s legacy.

IN THE LANE

CONTRASTING VIEW: Attempting to get Erik Spoelstra to discuss injury absences often turns into the most complex of verbal jousting, more often than not ending with some version of “we have enough” from the Heat coach. That is what made Wednesday’s postgame after the Heat’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers such a contrast. In the wake of the Heat winning in the absences of Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith, Lakers coach Darvin Ham lamented after the loss the absences of complementarity components to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, such as D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and former Heat guard Gabe Vincent. “When you’re dealing with different guys being in and out of the lineup that frequently, it’s damn-near impossible to find a rhythm,” Ham said. “That’s just being real. That’s no slight on anybody.” Then, after losing to the Butler-less Heat, Ham offered the argument that it is harder sometimes to be without role players, such as those the Lakers lacked. “If you lose one of your big dogs, you’re going to figure out how to try and manage without them,” Ham said. “And when you have your key role players, your key rotation players — this guy misses three or four, this guy misses three or four — and they’re happening one right after another, that’s what makes it difficult.”

VIVA! JAIME: Among the few NBA players of Mexican ancestry, Sacramento Kings guard Juan Toscano-Anderson is embracing the breakout of Heat guard Jaime Jaquez Jr., whose father’s family is from Mexico. “He’s a hell of a player,” Toscano-Anderson said of Jaquez to ESPN’s Andscape. “Mature player. He was NBA-ready, and Miami was the perfect place for him to go, based on their culture. I think him playing so well and being in the (Rookie of the Year) chase, it enhances the magnitude/impact. He has more face time, more coverage, more support. So, it’s different. The previous Mexican players have all been role players. He has the chance to be more than that.” The lone the native Mexican NBA players to have played in the NBA remain Eduardo Najera, Horacio Llamas and Gustavo Ayon.

PRECIOUS MOMENT: While an ancillary piece of the trade that sent OG Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors to the New York Knicks for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, the deal also could provide a lifeline for Heat 2020 first-round pick Precious Achiuwa. Never able to fully gain his footing in Toronto, Achiuwa finds himself in a mix where the Knicks are without Mitchell Robinson. Achiuwa, who played his prep ball at Our Savior Lutheran in The Bronx and at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark was a frequent visitor to Madison Square Garden when his brother God’sgift Achiuwa played for St. John’s between 2011 and 2014. “Me being able to play in the Garden and not just in the Garden, but also in front of my family and friends, means a lot to me,” Achiuwa said, according to the New York Post. “The New York style of basketball and everything that comes with it, being familiar with the city, with the people in the city, definitely played a huge role in my basketball journey.”

TEXT CHAIN: Having coached together with Team USA at last summer’s World Cup and about to do it again this coming summer at the Paris Olympics, Spoelstra, Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr have found themselves on a text chain that carried over into the NBA season. So when Lue’s Clippers landed James Harden to go with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Lue said the other two helped provide commiseration about coaching Big Three teams. “I was not giving advice,” Spoelstra said. “He knows what he’s doing. It was more about like you get one of those trades and one of these kinds of teams, there’s just a whole heck of a lot of noise. And that’s what we were talking about on that text chain. It’s fun to go through that experience, because it’s so uncomfortable and then everybody has no idea really what it takes, unless you’ve been in a locker room like that. And I think he’s really embraced that. Ty, he’s built for this kind of team and I think you’re seeing his leadership come through.”

NUMBER

2. Players in NBA history to have their jerseys retired by at least three franchises, with the Magic announcing the honor for Shaquille O’Neal this past week, after his jersey previously was retired by the Heat and Lakers. Wilt Chamberlain had his jersey retired by the Lakers, 76ers and Warriors. The NBA also has retired Bill Russell‘s No. 6 honorarily for all teams.