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Meet the Heat

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"And all I gotta do is act naturally."
--- Richard Starkey

Ringo Starr just hit the Big Seven-Oh. We loved him when he was 24, we loved him when he was 34, we even loved him when he was 64. And we still love his Beatles, though the band really wasn't around too long. The memory of the Fab Four remains bright four decades after Ringo last jammed with John, Paul and George.

One of my earliest basketball clients, B.J. Armstrong, was the Ringo of his era. B.J. helped make the Chicago Bulls fab during the early 1990s. He was the point guard who kept the back beat, if not the backcourt beat. Of course, he got by with a little help from his friends: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant. Together, the quartet won three NBA titles -- and you know they don't come easy. B.J. is still one of the most beloved figures in NBA history: like Ringo, the embodiment of good cheer and the joy of performing.

Today, another client of mine, Mike Miller, announces his intention to sign a five year free-agent contract with the Miami Heat. Mike welcomes the chance to be the Ringo in a hot combo that already includes LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Providentially, this week the original Ringo and his All Starr Band have a gig just up I-95 in Hollywood, Florida.

For the last week, Mike's future has hinged on LeBron's. We talked to the Bulls, the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks showed tremendous interest: Coach Mike D'Antoni is clearly crazy about Mike's ability. Had the Cavaliers kept LeBron, Mike would have been a great fit for them, too. And, yes, the Clippers were a credible option. But LeBron was always the elephant in the room, just as Mike is now the octopus in the garden (so to speak).

With all the aces played in the free-agency deck, the Heat needed to fill out its hand with someone who could hold the insanely-talented vortex together. The Heat needed a Ringo, a shooting guard who would maintain the tempo and never miss a beat. Mike is that guy.

Over the past four seasons, he topped all starting shooting guards and small forwards in True Shooting percentage (.604). He also had the second-highest 3-point percentage (.418) and the fourth best field-goal percentage (.483). At 6'8", Mike is one of the purest shooters and most versatile players in the league.

On the night free-agency kicked in, Mike and I hung out in a room at the Beverly Wilshire with Pat Riley, Alonzo Mourning and others in the Miami brain trust. We held our own with them until 2:30 in the morning, and I can assure you that the moments were never dull. Enthusiasm is contagious, and Coach Riley a carrier. Had he not become coach of the Heat, he could have made millions by opening a chain of tanning salons in the Sunshine State. He's that good.

Pat had a vision for the team, a vision that he laid out with evangelical fervor. We left the room converted.

In the elevator, Mike told me that if Pat could pull off a James-Wade-Bosh trifecta, he'd be South Florida-bound. Well, The Heat is on, so, Mike Miller, Welcome to Miami.

Tomorrow, I'm buying him a set of drums.

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