MIAMI — Pat Riley once guaranteed his Los Angeles Lakers would win a second straight title. After they did so in 1988, Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put a towel over his coach’s face to make sure he wasn’t going to guarantee a third.
As it turned out, the Lakers fell short of getting there. But 25 years later, a Riley team will have another chance.
The Miami Heat, put together by team president Riley, won their second straight crown last Thursday, Now, they’ll head into next season seeking a three-peat, a term Riley actually has trademarked.
Guard Dwyane Wade didn’t guarantee Monday after the latest victory parade his Heat can reach that goal. But he sure didn’t mind putting it out there.
“Magic Johnson, he’s got five rings and he never won three in a row,” said Wade, referring to another star from those Riley Lakers teams. “So that shows how tough it is. But we’re going to throw our hat in the ring and see with what we come out with. We’re going to be back next year hungry again to try to continue to place ourselves in history. Winning back-to-back is special. Winning back-to-back-to-backs would be something out of this world.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But obviously this summer, once we start focusing back on the game of basketball, that’s going to be our goal. How do we come back and muster up enough to keep us focused, to keep us hungry throughout the season to get ourselves back in a position to win another championship?”
Considering what Wade went through this postseason, finding motivation shouldn’t be a problem for him. Wade played gallantly on a pair of wobbly knees.
Wade had his left knee drained last Wednesday, the day before the Heat faced the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. All he then did was score 23 points and grab 10 rebounds.
Throw in 37 points from Finals MVP LeBron James and the Heat won 95-88 for the team’s third title in eight years. Wade and forward Udonis Haslem are the only players who have been around for all of them.
In 2006, Wade dedicated the championship to center Alonzo Mourning and guard Gary Payton, a pair of longtime veterans who won their first rings. Wade last year said the title was for James, who hadn’t won one in his previous eight seasons and was wanted by Wade to “get the monkey off his back.’’
So who should be dedicated the 2013 Larry O’Brien Trophy?
“I’m going to take this one myself and be selfish for once,’’ Wade said at a victory rally Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena that followed the team’s parade through downtown Miami. “This one’s for me.’’
Wade said afterward he had decided awhile ago this one would be for him. But it seemed truly fitting after he had battled through his injuries.
“I feel that with those knees, he deserves this one,’’ Haslem said. “He can have it.’’
Wade had discussed his knee problems after Thursday’s clincher and did so more Monday. He talked about having an MRI before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana on his right knee, which had been hampered since March by a bone bruise.
Wade said his right knee hurt severely throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs, with the greatest pain being against the Pacers. He said he began to feel better in the Finals, but then in Game 6 he banged his left knee, which had been surgically repaired last summer, into Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. That led to both his knees hurting in Game 7, and the draining needed to be done.
“I understand not a lot of players are in the category of winning three championships, and I wanted to do it for a legacy that I’m building now,’’ Wade said of persevering and winning another ring.
Now, Wade will have a chance to get plenty of rest. He doesn’t expect he will need surgery during the offseason on either knee.
“(The Heat team doctor) told me to take a month off, and that’s what I’m going to do,’’ Wade said. “I’m going to take a solid month off and then I’m going to get back in the gym and work on my body before I even work on the basketball aspect of my game.’’
Whenever Wade picks up a ball again, James figures to long have returned to the gym. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was asked about James having said after Game 7 he needs to rest his body.
“He won’t rest very long,’’ Spoelstra said. “Physically, he doesn’t have that in his DNA. Probably the biggest thing will be the mental break from the grind. … But physically, we all know LeBron, he’ll be back doing something in the gym within 10 days. He can’t get away from it.’’
James wasn’t available Monday to the media, but he is expected to speak Tuesday. He did address fans, though, during the victory rally.
“It was an out-of-body experience,’’ James cracked about having lost his headband early in the fourth quarter in Game 6 of the Finals and not putting it back on the rest of the game. “Anyone who knows me, especially my teammates, when my headband comes off in a game, I lose all powers. I can’t dunk. I can’t shoot.’’
Everybody knows that wasn’t the case. James came up huge after losing his headband, leading the Heat to a come-from-behind win. And Monday his teammates jokingly threw a bunch of headbands at him while on stage.
James, Wade and center Chris Bosh all can opt out of their contracts next summer and become free agents. But Wade let it be known that members of the Big Three figure to get through next season before worrying about what might happen in 2014.
“Nothing has been discussed,’’ Wade said. “Right now, we’re just in a middle of this great, historic team and run. We’re enjoying it and you don’t want to see it come to an end. But you can’t think about the future, you got to live in the moment. And when that comes after next season, we have to sit down, we have to talk about our future, what direction they’re going in. Hopefully, we’re all going in the same direction. But we’ll do what we did in 2010 (before they joined forces in Miami). We’ll sit down as men, we’ll talk about it, and we’ll go from there.’’
Stay tuned to see if they’ll be talking about it as three-time champions.