For Riley, the waiting is the hardest part

"You take it on faith. You take it to the heart. The waiting, is the
hardest part."

There is no doubt, with the start of free agency more than seven weeks
off, Pat Riley can empathize with Tom Petty.

He is just hoping he doesn’t have to later commiserate with The

For as limited as Riley is before he can begin contacting free agents on July 1, the Miami Heat president last week said there, indeed, could be a harder part of the process.

He was referring to what the NBA calls its July moratorium.

With the NBA essentially needing to close its books on June 30 in order to come up with a definitive salary cap and luxury tax for the 2010-11 season, the league officially cuts off any transactions that are related to the impending salary cap. No trades. No free agent signings. Nothing beyond the signing of draft picks, who are on a fixed scale not impacted by the cap, and those agreeing to minimum-salary deals, which also are on a fixed scale.

According to the collective-bargaining agreement, "no player and team may enter into any oral or written agreement concerning terms and conditions of the player’s employment, or reduce any such agreement to writing in the form of a Uniform Player Contract or amendment, during the Moratorium Period."

This year’s moratorium runs from July 1 through July 7. It means if Riley reaches a verbal agreement with Chris Bosh at 12:01 a.m. July 1, he cannot make it binding until 12:01 a.m. July 8.

It could be worse. When the moratorium first was introduced in 2007, it ran for 11 days. Still, the first seven days of July only figure to add to the graying of the Heat president.

"The moratorium really is a very difficult thing to deal with," Riley said. "I don’t understand why they just don’t have free agency on July the eighth, the ninth. You sign a player at 12:01 midnight, he’s signed. Now there’s seven days he can change his mind."

Whether Riley can convince his pending acquisition to enter into protective custody is another issue. Apparently, a safe room already is under construction at AmericanAirlines Arena, as is a Carnival cruise to nowhere.

"I’m more fearful of that, getting a commitment and then having a guy change his mind, than anything else," Riley said.

It has happened before, as recently as last July, when the Portland Trail Blazers thought they had Hedo Turkoglu locked up, verbal commitment and all, until the Orlando Magic free-agent forward instead agreed to a sign-and-trade deal to the Toronto Raptors.,0,1344212.column

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