Would Goran Dragic and Whiteside, two players under contract with Miami for the next three seasons, walk into Riley’s office and talk to him about keeping the core of this team together beyond this season? “First of all, I’m a basketball player,” Dragic said. “I don’t make those kind of decisions. Pat, he knows his job really well. “Of course, we would like to stay together. You always have that doubt in your head – what would happen if we started playing [better] sooner or didn’t have so many injuries. This is part of sports, part of basketball. We’ll see what’s going to happen [this summer].”
Whiteside, meanwhile, said he would like to see what the team could do with Waiters healthy for a full season. Waiters has missed 12 games in a row because of a sprained left ankle and missed another 20 with a groin injury the first half of the season. “Obviously Pat didn’t trade any of us,” Whiteside said. “He wanted to see what this team can do.” “I think how we were in the second half of the season with Dion, we kind of mixed better as a team. We knew each other a lot better and we knew each other’s strengths a lot better. We know we can talk to each other eye to eye and face to face.”
Miami? Even at its lowest point, the Heat never considered scuttling the season. “That’s just not our style,” Spoelstra told The Vertical. “Look, I’m not naïve. I know that if it didn’t get better, [team president] Pat [Riley] might have had to do his job in a different way. I’m very aware of that. But there was never a discussion about not playing this guy, or games are not meaningful. That’s just not us.”
Riley, who always attends these events, couldn’t on Saturday because he was scouting the NCAA Tournament. “He’s doing what he does – looking for talent to make us better,” Chris Riley said.
Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau praised the Miami Heat for their “winning culture” and a high “standard of excellence,” saying both have contributed to perhaps the greatest turnaround in league history. “The thing you have to look at, they never really changed,” Thibodeau said before tonight’s game. “Even when they weren’t winning games they were still playing tough and smart and I think when you make the changes that they did. … when you lose a Dwyane Wade and what he meant to this organization and you add a lot of new players, it takes those players time to adjust and once they got it down they just took off.”
Submitting as evidence his own appointment to the Lakers’ coaching job in 1981, or half a lifetime ago, Riley said Magic’s skin color wasn’t the point. At least not the main one. “Welcome to the new seat, whichever seat you just got to sit down in, and to an immediate reaction on both sides of the fence,” he told The Vertical. “With me, it wasn’t as public. There was no internet for it to get picked up on but I heard it within the coaching profession: ‘He didn’t coach in high school, didn’t coach in college, wasn’t prepared. How could he get the most prestigious job in the NBA?’ ” Riley allowed the implicit recognition of the four Showtime championships that followed to marinate for a moment before adding, in a firmer tone: “To adamantly say Earvin is not qualified is nonsense. Like Jerry West, he’s a prodigal son of the Lakers.”
“That’s what happened with the Lakers. Dr. Buss hired West, who established a culture that brought 20 years of winning. West wasn’t afraid to bring in Phil Jackson, but then West left, Phil left, Phil came back, left again, wrote a book criticizing everyone.” In other words, the Lakers began to operate more like the Knicks. When Jerry Buss died in 2013, that left the franchise to the relatively faceless, feeble leadership of his son, Jim. Now Jeanie Buss has won, at least temporarily, an ownership power struggle with her brothers, Jim and Johnny, and she chose Magic. “To me, it’s a no-brainer that Earvin was given that position to capture the attention of the people in L.A. and to try to recapture that sense of continuity,” Riley said.
At his age, with his résumé, Riley could retire and spend the rest of his days steering a cart around a golf course by day and dining out in South Beach by night. He could rest on his collection of championship rings – one as a player, five as a coach and two more as an executive with LeBron – with no everlasting regrets. Well, one. “My biggest disappointment is not being able to win that title in New York, in ’94,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll think about it and it torments me.”
That is what has worked for Riley as the master of his universe in Miami, with the blessing of the owner, Micky Arison. “Since I came here, we’ve had the same owner, same president, two coaches, same support staff. We’ve got a bunch of guys working for us who played for us. Players come and go, great players. When LeBron left, that was the most shocking thing to me – not to say he was right or wrong – and the most shocking thing to the franchise. But our culture is the same. You have your up years and your down years, but what can’t change is the way you do things.”
“There was a lot of talk between Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley and whatever happened in that situation,” Williams said. “I mean I don’t know about anybody else, but I know for sure that Pat Riley is a man of his word. Every single word he told me was the truth and that’s what you need. I don’t think we have enough of that around this [league].”
While Williams didn’t complain publicly about his lack of playing time, the Heat front office knew he wasn’t happy just sitting on the bench. That’s why Williams used social media after he was released to express his appreciation to team president Pat Riley for the way he handled the situation, tweeting “Pat Riley is a man of his word. Ultimate respect.” “It was just mutual respect,” Williams said of his tweet regarding Riley. “I think we were both on the same page. It was never like, ‘I’m on this side of the fence, you’re on this side of the fence.’ I just think it was a mutual parting and I think that’s the best thing about it. He felt where I was coming from and I felt where he was coming from, and I think that was the best thing.”
And even though it didn’t go as he envisioned, Williams insists he didn’t leave Miami with any ill will toward the organization. “There was a lot of talk between Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley and whatever happened in that situation,” Williams said. “I mean I don’t know about anybody else, but I know for sure that Pat Riley is a man of his word. Every single word he told me was the truth and that’s what you need. I don’t think we have enough of that around this [league].”
The Miami HEAT announced today that they have hired former HEAT player and two-time NBA champion Shane Battier as the Director of Basketball Development & Analytics. His duties will include the development of analytics in evaluating all talent, including college, free agents and current Miami players.
“We believe Shane is an incredible example of our HEAT program, not only for the present, but also for the future,” said HEAT President Pat Riley. “He embodies everything that we are looking for in our players and staff. We feel he will help us tremendously with his experience and knowledge of the game. Shane is an out-of-the-box thinker and will bring a fresh expertise that can help us evolve as a franchise.”
But in a podcast with The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski this week, Wade admitted that Riley not calling him was the deciding factor. “I did feel at the end of the day it's Micky Arison's team but it's Pat's show,” Wade told Wojnarowski. “I love Pat and I know he loves me. The fact that we didn't talk, that hurt. That was my deciding factor when it came down to the end of the day and he didn't show he wanted me there. I know the Arison family loved me and wanted me there. I know Spo [coach Erik Spoelstra] wanted me there."
“At the end of the day, I didn't hear from the guy I needed to. I expressed this to him later. That right there hurt me. It showed me... it was time to remove myself from the situation.... It's a business. But I'm human as well. I was waiting for him to step up and meet me, call me, do something and it just never happened. That's not the Pat I know. You can find me quicker than anybody. You want to be wanted. Everyone wants to be wanted. I didn't feel like I was wanted from the person I wanted to be wanted from…. I was waiting for him to step up and meet me somewhere. Call me. Do something. It just never happened. That's not Pat. That's not the Pat I know.”
Wade admitted that he felt the Heat took him for granted. “I don't accept how they all played out,” he said. “Same way I did certain things, I felt they should have. Same year LeBron [James] left, they signed Chris [Bosh] to a max deal. I'm happy for Chris. OK, it’s my turn. That hurt me. I've spoken this to Pat. That really hurt me. That was the first moment where I felt I was taken for granted. I signed a shorter deal.” That deal ended up paying him $15 million in 2014-15, the first year after James left. “Then the next year,... Goran [Dragic] comes in,” Wade said. “They max Goran out. Same thing, one year deal.”
Wade was the latest to insist that he got out of the business of front office suggestions long ago. “When I was a young player in Miami and I was making my way up the ranks, I think they got me involved in certain things,’’ Wade said. “And then it started becoming very uncomfortable. When guys that you’re teammates of and they start talking about trades and all this stuff, and I just said, ‘You know what? Don’t involve me in it.’ “When it comes to obviously calling guys trying to help better your team and all those things, I’ve always been involved in that. But when it comes to decisions that have to be made on players and stuff like that, I don’t get paid to do that.’’
Anthony Chiang: Heat confirmed that Erik Spoelstra did receive a contract extension in the offseason.
The 6-foot-3 point guard has played some of his best ball in recent weeks, comfortable that Heat President Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison are committed to a turnaround. "That's why I signed with this team," he said. "If I didn't think like that, I would never have signed. I understand it's part of the business, but I have great confidence in this organization, in Pat, in Micky, in all of those guys, because the history speaks for itself."
HoopsHype: In an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Antoine Walker had some criticism for Pat Riley and the Heat for the way they handled the Dwyane Wade situation last summer: "I think the situation with Dwyane Wade rubbed a lot of superstars the wrong way, to let Dwyane Wade walk out the door. I think Dwyane Wade played excellent last year. I think he played good enough where he could have deserved a big-time contract. It was a no-brainer. He was healthy pretty much the whole season."
“I've kept in touch from everybody there besides Pat. From the owners on down,” Wade said. “It's nothing but respect, and I have no hard feelings. I understand what Pat is, he's a competitor. I've been knowing him for 13 years so I expect no different. “People might not believe me, but I have no hard feelings toward Pat. Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen, everything happens for a reason, so I'm fine.”
But Riley said a plan of “succession” is needed: “I think that's important. I want to make sure that Micky is comfortable with everything before I make that decision. We've had a discussion about that. And when you're 71 years old you have a right to talk about that with you boss. "I'm not going to leave this damn thing until we have the right people running it. I think I could right now and there would still be the right people running it. But I think we're one person short probably. The one that knows as much as that game out there as he does about this stuff right here."
But even after a contentious ending with O'Neal in 2008 that left the two sniping, Riley says at a moment such as this, with O'Neal about to be enshrined in Springfield, Mass., it is essential to appreciate the magnitude of the moment when O'Neal arrived in July 2004. "The seminal moment," Riley says, "to really make us really, really legitimate. He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy."
If the 71-year-old Riley can’t connect with someone like Whiteside, much less LeBron, does that mean it’s time? Are we looking at Pat Riley’s last stand? Well, if Whiteside bolts and Chris Bosh’s medical situation doesn’t get resolved, we’re looking at another Heat teardown — one that won’t be nearly as easy with Wade, astonishingly, turning 35 next January. That would be the perfect time for Riley to slide out the back door, head to the beach and disappear, Johnny Carson–style, with his nine rings. Of course, he’s still Pat Freaking Riley. Which means we can’t rule out Whiteside’s return, or a Blake Griffin trade, or even a certain 2014 MVP. Everything is in play. Everything.
And Riley, more than the other three, was an opportunist — he never stopped looking for a better situation or another advantage. Riley was blessed with Popovich’s attention to culture and Jackson’s savviness for aligning with special players, but really, the dude has been more Auerbachian than he’d ever admit. We remember Auerbach as an insane competitor who never stopped looking for the next edge. Sound familiar? Once upon a time, Riley despised Auerbach’s Celtics so much that, during one mid-’80s practice at Boston Garden, he asked his trainer to dump the Lakers’ water barrel because he actually feared Auerbach had tried to poison it. But Auerbach is the only other NBA executive in 70 years, dead or alive, who could have pulled off LeBron and Bosh in the summer of 2010. Nobody else had enough foresight or charisma. It’s two people and two people only.
"You have to understand, it is so much different in Miami than everywhere else," said Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who played seven years with James in Cleveland before joining him in Miami for a season. "Cleveland is part of the mainstream of the NBA. In Miami, there is one man in charge and that is Pat Riley and everyone falls into line from there. It's very simplified for you. There is one way to do things, his way."
A lover of practical jokes, Gilbert once wanted to dummy up a fake news release that the Cavs were signing Dennis Rodman to a 10-day contract and put it out on April Fools' Day; he was talked out of that one. After a playoff victory over the Washington Wizards 10 years ago, Gilbert had a remote-controlled fart machine installed under coach Mike Brown's seat. When Brown went up to the dais for the postgame news conference, Gilbert stood in the back and worked the controls. Brown was flummoxed -- although the microphones didn't pick up the sounds.
August 17, 2022 | 8:47 pm EDT Update
Tommy Beer: Stephen A Smith on SiriumXM w/ @Rick Kamla this afternoon when asked about potential Mitchell deal: “Utah didn’t want Julius Randle, from what I’m told. They don’t want him. The Knicks were willing to unload him. They want RJ Barrett. They want at least 6 1st-round picks.” pic.twitter.com/9Nn7DuwlZe
I knew if we could win Game 3 and go to 3-0, it was pretty much a wrap on the series. It was just a matter of whether [the series would be won] in Game 4 or a “gentleman’s sweep” in Game 5. Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, we got a stop, and I was just talking to myself: “Put ‘em to sleep. Put ‘em to sleep.” That was the conversation I was having with myself. Not with anyone else on the team or anyone else in the arena. Then, I had finished that layup underneath Jokic, and that was the thought that came out – just to do the sign. I didn’t say, “Night Night” at the time. I was just telling myself, “Put ‘em to sleep.” Fast forward to Game 5, when I made the last layup to go up five with 19 seconds left. That was the official, “Put them to sleep.” The camera didn’t get me on that one, but I actually said it. Fast forward to Memphis, Dallas and then Boston, and it kind of took on a life of its own.
NDP: How did it feel to break it out again in Boston and seal the Finals win? SC: It felt the best. The way that game went, it was an emotional rollercoaster. They came out just hitting every shot, and they were up double digits in the first four minutes. We slowly just crept back and then went on that 21-nothing run. When we came out in the third quarter, everyone was feeling it. Let’s just step on their throats, right now.
NDP: What’s it been like seeing athletes from sports all around the world doing the celebration? SC: It’s the best, ’cause some are taking it to new extremes that I would never feel comfortable doing in the league. But it’s dope to know how far the reach is. I’ve told people before, “I know there’s people that did the symbol before me.” But to know that you cemented a moment that’s on the biggest of stages, and people are inspired by it and want to have fun with whatever they’re doing with it — they’ve taken their own spin on it and have had some creativity with it.
August 17, 2022 | 7:21 pm EDT Update
CJ Holmes: Here’s all four of the Warriors’ long road trips this season: Oct. 29 – Nov 4: Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Orlando, New Orleans Dec. 13 – 27: Milwaukee, Indiana, Philadelphia, Toronto, New York, Brooklyn Jan 13 – 20: San Antonio, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Cleveland
Jason Dumas: Looks like a local artist in the LA area has painted a mural of JTA in Inglewood. It’ll be unveiled to the public tomorrow. I realized how impactful Juan was at the first Mexican-American to win an NBA Finals during the Warriors parade. Cool stuff. pic.twitter.com/rTPdj8Op4c
August 17, 2022 | 5:43 pm EDT Update
Marc Stein: The NBA’s new schedule has 55 baseball-style series in which the road team plays the same foe twice in a row without travel … up from 23 last season. Plus 33 instances on the schedule in which the road team stays in LA or New York to play both local teams on the same trip.