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Riley wouldn't guarantee a repeat, as he once famously did at a championship celebration while coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. The closest he came to a prediction this time came as he congratulated the Thunder organization.
"We hope to see them again," Riley said. "I'm sure that we will."
In Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have their two All-Stars locked up long term. Their difficulty will be in retaining fellow 23-and-under core pieces James Harden, the Sixth Man of the Year, and Serge Ibaka if they become free agents after next season. The new spending rules that came out of the lockout included a much steeper luxury tax system that could deter most teams -- especially a small-market one like Oklahoma City -- from wading too far over the salary-cap line in search of a contender.
The James-Durant matchup, together with all the attention the Heat already drew, gave the NBA one last triumph in a season that was already better than it expected. The lockout hardly hurt at all, with fans coming right back and tuning in even more for the 66-game season that began on Christmas with the Heat routing the Dallas Mavericks in a finals rematch.
The Mavericks never gave themselves a shot to get back, letting key pieces leave so they could save money for free agency that begins July 1. The Thunder have no such concerns, and they will join the Heat as the favorites to be playing in mid-June next year.
The teams delivered in their first finals matchup, drawing the finals' highest TV ratings since 2004 to watch James outduel Durant for the Larry O'Brien trophy and the title as best player in the game.
So, how about doing it again?
"This is one of the best finals, when you talk about matchups, when you talk about everyone tuning in and wanting to see, because these are two teams that in the summer everyone said they should be in the finals," Wade said. "We lived up to the billing. They're going to be around for a while, and we would love to be around just as long and just as much."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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