LAS VEGAS - For hours, the Miami Heat heard nothing.
It was the afternoon of July 11, the day that LeBron James announced to the world that he was leaving the Heat and returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. When the top half-dozen or so Heat executives got the disappointing word, they huddled in team president Pat Riley's office for about five minutes, then went into what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called "Jerry Maguire" mode.
Desperate to build a team, the Heat called every free agent on their lists.
And for three frustrating, uneasy, panicked hours, no one was calling back.
"A lot of uneasiness," Spoelstra said, recalling the mood and the scene. "We had no idea."
Then, finally, the phone rang. Chris Bosh dialed in from Ghana, saying he wanted to stay.
From there, what happened inside the offices at 601 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami over the next few days might best be described as a roster-salvaging project - and one that could have gone much, much worse from the Heat perspective.
Bosh stayed. Dwyane Wade stayed. Luol Deng was lured to Miami, as were Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, both of whom agreed to deals before James made his announcement about leaving the Heat.
Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers stayed, and Chris Andersen turned down overtures from other clubs - Cleveland included - before agreeing to re-sign as well.
When the dust eventually settled, Miami got two of its top three free-agent targets from other teams, those being Deng and McRoberts. James was gone, and Carmelo Anthony never got a chance to even contemplate a real offer from the Heat, a story that might have been different if the four-time NBA MVP had not waited so long to tell Miami that he was leaving.
So now, it can safely be said that Miami won't be terrible next year when it deals with Life After LeBron.
And in an Eastern Conference that looks wide-open, it could even be argued that the Heat have as good a chance as just about anyone else.
"We're still good," Bosh said. "There's a lot of teams really tooling up because it's kind of wide-open now. Nobody knows who's going to take it, pretty much. I think anybody can."
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