Miami Heat President Pat Riley continues to think big. The problem is so do his competitors.

  The latest power move by Riley was a Saturday summit at a Chicago hotel with free-agent forward Luol Deng. What made the overture alongside coach Erik Spoelstra so intriguing is that Deng earned $14.3 million this past season, with the Heat not in position to offer nearly that sum in free agency.

  The Heat's lack of free-agent flexibility already has seen the top available free-agent center (the Washington Wizards' Marcin Gortat) and best available free-agent point guard (the Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry) agree to re-sign with their teams since the July 1 start of NBA free agency.

  While Riley is seeking to bolster his roster, opponents are circling Riley's Big Three creation, with the free-agent status of LeBron James yet to be settled, and with the Houston Rockets poised to clear enough salary-cap space for a potential bid at Heat forward Chris Bosh.

   With James, Bosh and guard Dwyane Wade having yet to recommit to the Heat, Riley and Spoelstra remained away from the team as the Heat opened summer-league play with an 85-77 loss Saturday to the Boston Celtics on the practice court at the Amway Center.

   In addition to Deng, the Heat continue to be linked to a variety of lower-priced free agents, including New Orleans Pelicans 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow. Riley also met with this past week with Los Angeles Lakers free-agent center Pau Gasol.

   While the free-agency signing period opened this past Tuesday, teams cannot start to sign free agents until Thursday, although numerous players already have agreed to terms.

  The Heat have yet to lose any players in free agency from the team that lost 4-1 to the San Antonio Spurs in last month's NBA Finals, the Heat's fourth trip to the Finals in as many years.

    In addition to Riley remaining typically mum, none of the Heat's free-agent stars have offered social-media clues either of re-signing or potential departures, with James offering an Instagram post Saturday plugging the juice-bar chain that has a Miami franchise operated by his wife, Savannah.

   As Riley tried to add supporting talent to his three stars, the maneuvering by other teams includes attempts to clear the space to offer a maximum, $20 million-plus contract to James or Bosh.

   Such maneuvering also could allow the Heat to create additional space for a higher-end free-agent addition, with point guard Norris Cole perhaps at risk because of his $2 million charge against the salary cap. Cole is the lone player currently under guaranteed contract to the Heat.

   Several scouts and league officials at the Orlando summer league said there is little clarity about the intentions of both the Heat and the team's three stars. Although the Rockets are represented at the Orlando Pro Summer League, their top team officials are not present.

   Of a report of Bosh being poised to move to the Rockets, one league official said at the Amway Center, "that's what they'd like you to believe. I want to hear it from Bosh or his agent first."

   The consensus of league officials in Orlando is that the process will remain muddled until both James and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony settle their situations. Anthony already has had meetings with the Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Lakers. James has yet to meet with other teams, although his agent, Cleveland-based Rich Paul, has met with the Mavericks, Rockets, Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers.

    "Bosh isn't walking away from LeBron, I know that," an official from one team said. "If LeBron walks away . . . get back to me then."

   As for Deng, the Atlanta Hawks, Mavericks and Bulls are all viewed as being in stronger situations to lure his services, with greater salary-cap flexibility than the Heat.

iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat