The Heat’s presence was felt Thursday, even with the franchise without a draft choice.
Shane Battier interviewed the league’s newest members, somehow refraining from his usual complex, multisyllabic words.
Tim Hardaway Jr., who spent his childhood sprinting around the Heat locker room while his father spewed venom about the Knicks … became a Knick.
The ESPN panelists couldn’t stop talking about LeBron James leaving for Cleveland in the summer of 2014, though James has said nothing to encourage such speculation.
Oh, and everyone was chasing the NBA’s gold standard, and not just by selecting college standouts and foreign projects who aren’t likely to contribute anytime soon.
No team chased quite like the Nets, who — late in the first round — reportedly consummated a major transaction with the rebuilding Celtics, acquiring veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to complement the existing, disappointing core of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
It was a move made with the present in mind, though one that probably would have produced better results in the past, when all three, and especially Pierce, were closer to their primes.
It was a move that, while it aligns five former All-Stars on the Nets, shouldn’t scare Heat fans all that much, certainly no more than the Bulls should Derrick Rose return at 80 percent, or the Pacers should they find some use (in the rotation or trade) for Danny Granger.
It shouldn’t scare them any more than the Lakers, who attempted this sort of All-Star patchwork last offseason, to disastrous results.
It shouldn’t scare them unless all the older Nets find their 2009 form.
Simply put, there’s nothing all that scary this offseason.
Start with Thursday’s draft, the weakest since 2006, if not 2000. Pat Riley gave up the first-rounder to Cleveland in the 2010 sign-and-trade for James, which worked out rather well. He gave up the second-rounder to Memphis to take Dexter Pittman’s contract off his hands, which freed up money Micky Arison can better deploy elsewhere.
He did trade into the second round, giving up a future second-rounder for raw, athletic swingman James Ennis, whom the Hawks had taken out of Long Beach State at No. 50. Ennis projects as camp competition, likely waiting his turn for playing time.
None of the true contenders did much more of note.
Oklahoma City — which reportedly, unsuccessfully, tried to move to the top spot — was the only playoff team to take anyone in the top 12. More teams appeared focused on next year’s draft — which is expected to be loaded at the top, starting with Andrew Wiggins — taking European fliers that won’t generate wins right away.
One of those teams was the 76ers, who traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans. That trade affected Miami, because it made Philadelphia less likely to make the playoffs next season, and the Heat will take possession of their protected first-round pick only if the Sixers reach the postseason.
What about free agency?
That starts July 1, but that’s little concern either, so long as Miami keeps its current cast, including Ray Allen and Chris Andersen. The list of premium free agents is modest, and Chris Paul now seems a lock to stay in Los Angeles to play for new Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Dwight Howard might move to Houston or Dallas, but both would be short of serious title threats. Josh Smith is an elite talent, but something’s always missing.
Well, the Nets deal will get attention.
But it won’t get Brooklyn to the NBA Finals.
Especially not if Riley’s right.
“I think there’s a possibility borne out of these last three years, where we may be approaching the best season that we’ve had together,” Riley said Wednesday on 790-AM in Miami.
That’s something that no team, not even the new-look Nets, can match.
The Heat can stay a step ahead, even if he stands pat.