2007-08: HEAT move on from Championship Roster
Less than 18 months since winning the NBA title and following an injury-riddled season attempting to defend the throne, the 2007-08 season marked the farewell to most of the framework that had brought the Larry O’Brien trophy home.
Changes began in the offseason, when Jason Kopono, James Posey, Eddie Jones and Gary Payton all left the team via free agency. Meanwhile, Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien were sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the rights to Ricky Davis and Mark Blount on Oct. 24, days before the season began.
The roster was then filled out with the drafting of Ohio St. University sharpshooter Daequan Cook and the signings of Penny Hardaway, Joel Anthony and Smush Parker.
While changes began as simple roster moves, they soon morphed into injuries, with Dwyane Wade missing the first seven games of the season recovering from shoulder and knee surgeries and Alonzo Mourning went down in December with a torn patellar tendon and missed the rest of the season. With a total of 232 missed games from 15 players amassed over the course of the season, it was clear that luck wasn’t on Miami’s side. By the time the February trade deadline peeked over the horizon, the HEAT put the finishing touches on it’s ushering in of a new era. On Feb. 6, Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Phoenix Suns for four-time All-Star forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks.
Nobody, however, was missed more than Wade, as the HEAT went 1-6 during the opening seven games without him and never quite found their footing after that. But despite injuries hampering Wade into his worst season since his rookie year, he still made his fourth consecutive All-Star Game, where he started and scored 14 points before being shut down for the season on March 11 after undergoing shock wave therapy on his left knee. Udonis Haslem followed Wade to the inactive list ten days later, undergoing season-ending ankle surgery.
With so much inconsistency off the court, that didn’t stop the action on it, where the HEAT used 30 different starting lineups. On January 11, the NBA upheld a protest from the HEAT regarding a Dec. 19 game against the Atlanta Hawks, when O’Neal was incorrectly disqualified for having six fouls in the final minute of the game. The NBA ruled that due to the scoring error by Atlanta statisticians, the final 51.9 seconds of the three-point game would be replayed – the first such ruling since 1989. Unfortunately, though Miami recouped those precious seconds, it was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, as both teams went scoreless during the brief replay March 8.
The season wasn’t without its highlights, however. On April 7, head coach Pat Riley was selected to join the NBA Hall of Fame, headlining a class that included Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. Weeks later, Riley announced he would be stepping down as the HEAT’s head coach while staying on as team president, opening up the opportunity for assistant coach Erik Spoelstra to get his first head coaching opportunity.
With the season behind the HEAT, Wade began work with the United States Senior National Team for Beijing Olympics and Miami won the second pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, using the slot to select forward Michael Beasley from Kansas St. University.