Erik Spoelstra understands the question. He’s heard it before. The Heat are 11-16. They have the NBA’s highest payroll—a whopping $158 million. They lack a true superstar. The draft pick situation isn’t great. What exactly is Miami doing? … Miami? Under Pat Riley, a Heat coach or executive since 1995, the team has relentlessly pursued winning. Under Spoelstra, the Heat head coach since 2008, the team has never tanked.
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“This is what pro sports is supposed to be about,” Spoelstra told The Crossover. “Competing every night. To try to win. Not the opposite. Obviously not every year you are going to have a realistic chance to compete for a title. Since I have been here, working for Pat, from day 1, that has always been the directive. For me, that brings great clarity. Keep the main thing the main thing. And everything else is just b —- t.”
The Heat argument for the Riley Way is that it’s worked. Since 1995, Miami has missed the playoffs just five times. They have been under .500 four times. Riley’s willingness to gamble—Shaquille O’Neal, for example, who was in the back half of his career and coming off a difficult final season with the Lakers when the Heat acquired him in 2004—has paid off. The culture that Riley and Spoelstra have built has appealed to marquee free agents—like LeBron James and Chris Bosh, in 2010. “Do the history on it,” Spoelstra said. “What franchises have had the most enduring sustainable success over the last 24 years? We’re up there with the top three or four. The teams that constantly tank, I don’t know where they are. It would make for a pretty good discussion. But if you are hardwired to find a way to get it done without any excuses, you will find different pathways. There’s no one way to do it.”
These moves have put Miami in a tough position, with a bloated payroll, a flawed roster and no true star to lead it. For a more educated perspective, The Crossover asked a veteran NBA executive for an evaluation of the Heat roster. “It’s going to be hard for them to really improve this team dramatically,” said the exec. “The one piece that people really like is Josh Richardson. But they would only trade him for a star—and I don’t see another player like that becoming available. They have some bad contracts in Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. If you add James Johnson and Waiters, that’s two more. They paid guys based on a productive season and have not got that same production out of them. That rarely happens to Pat.”
“Pat has always been able to find a way to get a star player, or go get players to be competitive, and it just hasn’t happened the last couple years. He just took risks on guys that panned out for a year, kept them and it hasn’t panned out. This group has been together for three years, and they have started slow every year. They hoped to start fast this year. They can recover and make the playoffs. But they are floating in that space that nobody wants to be in. You have to respect the Heat for always trying to compete and always trying to win. Players want to go to a place that is in the playoffs. When you have the cap room, you can sell a culture that is about winning and not losing. They have not built a winning culture. Players respect Miami and what they are. They have a great coach in Spoelstra—they win more than they should. This roster, with other coaches, with the injuries they have, they would be borderline tanking. But they don’t have flexibility or assets, and that’s a real problem.”
Ira Winderman: Pat Riley addresses where Heat stand on the trade market: “I’m not looking. I’m listening… But you have to be part of what’s going on in the conversation in the NBA.” Admits Heat have been average for 3 years. Says challenge is to get to 3, 4, 5 in East.
Tim Reynolds: Pat Riley just spoke to us for about 30 minutes. Raved about Hassan, says he wants Dwyane to play three more years … and didn’t sound like someone active in the trade market.
Anthony Chiang: The Heat is helping renovate the Coconut Grove home of 93-year-old Army veteran James Sands today. Pat Riley and Burnie are here. pic.twitter.com/IAoHrgpb1o
Shandel Richardson: Riles putting in work, gloves and all pic.twitter.com/8yQ3EEHRK3
One of the best excerpts that Lowe and Thomsen discussed was a story from Pat Riley about James subtly asking for the Hall of Famer to replace young Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. If you don’t remember the context, this rumored rift between LeBron and Spoelstra started when the Heat began the season just 9-8 in 2010. During a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 27 of that year, LeBron was seen bumping into Spoelstra going into at timeout after Dirk Nowitzki hit a jumper over Chris Bosh to put Dallas up by double-digits late in the third quarter. Here’s a quote from Lowe’s podcast, where Lowe is quoting a passage of Thomsen’s book that is spoken by Riley.
Pat Riley: ‘[I] asked how things were progressing. They just said, “We’re not feeling it, or something like that.” We talked about the typical things we have to do, have patience, all that stuff. And I remember LeBron looking at me and he said, “Don’t you ever get the itch?” And I said, “The itch for what?” He said, “The itch to coach again.” I said, “No I don’t have the itch.”’
Ira Winderman: Heat executive Chet Kammerer, who turns 76 tomorrow, tells the Sun Sentinel he is stepping down from his role as Heat Vice President of Player Personnel, “This is always tough when you feel like it’s time to turn the reins over.” Will move to a role as a senior adviser.
Just a few weeks after Sixers president of basketball operations Colangelo resigned when it was learned his wife used fake Twitter accounts to discuss team business and criticize players, the Heat’s president was asked if he has his own Twitter burner account. “I still have this kind of phone that flips,” Pat Riley said holding up a tape recorder following Thursday’s NBA draft. “Is that what a burner phone looks like? I don’t have any. I’ve tweeted one time. I do have a Twitter account. Only because I need to follow a lot of people like you, which is very interesting. I actually get alerts on all you guys. But I never tweeted out anything except one picture. My boss and his wife and myself and my wife and three championship trophies. I think it’s out there. I think I put it down as soon as I put it up.”
According to an official with a Western Conference team that has spoken to the Heat, Miami hasn’t been trying to acquire a first-round pick but seems to have interest in possibly acquiring a second-rounder.
One personnel move internally in recent days: Rich Fernando, an 11-year Heat official who worked closely with Erik Spoelstra, is joining the Philadelphia 76ers as director of coaching administration. His motives were as much personal as professional; his girlfriend was accepted into a residency program in the Northeast and the Heat graciously allowed him to pursue the opportunity.
The Heat drafted the greatest player in franchise history, Dwyane Wade, with the fifth overall pick in 2003 and they have won three NBA championships together since then. Just that pick alone is enough to remind Riley how valuable the draft could be when a team makes the right choice. “Pat likes veterans,” said Chet Kammerer, the Heat’s vice president of player personnel who leads the organization’s NBA draft scouting team, at the combine last week. “So if he has a chance and can get a veteran guy, he’s going to do it. I think he feels like you can’t just win with a bunch of young guys. You got to have some veteran players. But believe me, he and [general manager] Andy [Elisburg] last year, especially Andy kept saying: ‘Chet, we have to get a good pick this year. It’s really, really important we get a good pick.’”
The Heat currently don’t have a pick in this year’s June 21 draft, with their 2018 first-round selection going to the Suns — the first of two first-round picks owed from the 2015 acquisition of Dragic. Miami doesn’t own both of its picks in a draft until 2022. “The years we have a pick, to be honest, I think we all feel pressure,” Kammerer said. “We do. Part of it is, I think, we aren’t going to get that many swings up there and we have one. “If Pat was starting from scratch, I don’t think he would just want draft picks. He would want a combination. He would want free agents and a couple veterans. He thinks you need to have a balance on your roster of young players, a couple veterans and some guys that come in with some experience. So when he says [he’s not a draft pick guy], I think he’s referring to that he doesn’t just want a bunch of just draft picks and think we’re going to be good this year because we have these picks.”
What about the idea of Haslem becoming an assistant coach? He has said that doesn’t interest him. But he said when he retires, he would have interest in a Heat front office job. Former Heat players Alonzo Mourning, Shane Battier and Keith Askins all have jobs within the organization.
Altman thought back to a conversation he had with Heat general manager Andy Elisburg three or four weeks prior to the trade deadline, sources said. Elisburg made his way through the Cavs’ roster alphabetically, rattling off the names he could see the Heat making an offer for. When he got toward the back end of the Cavs’ roster — W is the fourth-to-last letter, after all — he said something to the effect of, “Yeah, and you have a 2-guard that we have a little bit of history with.” Altman told Elisburg at the time that he was contemplating a major overhaul, which could change Wade’s role on the team. Elisburg filed the information away, informing Heat president Pat Riley of the dialogue. On the morning of the trade deadline, at just past 9 a.m., Elisburg heard from Altman again. Would they want Wade back in a Miami uniform?
The Heat have repaired Wade’s messy divorce from the franchise in 2016, when he bolted when the Bulls offered more money. “It’s been great, but it’s been great the whole time we were together,” Elisburg said. “It was an incredible, magical time having Dwyane be a part of the Miami Heat. He’s been such a huge part of the history here. He’s the greatest player in the history of the franchise. Obviously, we’ve had lots of incredible players here who have had incredible seasons, including, obviously, LeBron, who won MVPs here. And Shaq [O’Neal]. And Zo [Alonzo Mourning]. “But if you look at the body of work over the period of time which Dwyane stuck with the franchise, I mean, it’s unquestioned he’s the greatest player in the history of the franchise. You’re just talking about just a special person and player. So, like all things when you’re together, you appreciate things and maybe you didn’t realize things until you see them more, and I think we both appreciate each other and the fact that we’re back together again.”
Q: You only played two seasons for the Heat and they traded you in 2004 for Shaquille O’Neal before they won their first title, yet you consistently have spoken about the Heat as if you spent an entire career with the team. Where does that come from? Caron Butler: “The seeds they planted in your life last forever. Micky Arison and the Arison family have been amazing to me and my family, still to this day. I saw him on Rodeo Drive All-Star Weekend and gave him a big hug. I saw Pat, as well. He still sends me text messages and we stay connected. Dwyane is godfather to my middle child, Ava. So we’ve got a connection that’s forever. It really is. It’s real family.”
When rookie big man Bam Adebayo asked Heat coach Erik Spoelstra if he could miss Saturday’s big game against the Pistons, he had a very good reason. But it still meant a lot to Adebayo that Spoelstra granted him permission to miss the contest to attend his great-grandmother’s funeral in North Carolina. “It shows it’s not just an organization here, it’s a family,” Adebayo said in advance of Monday’s game against the Suns. “My family is their family and I asked Spo and he said anything they could do to help. They sent condolence flowers. That was nice of them and I appreciated it. I thanked coach at shootaround for letting me go.”
Amid the team’s uneven play in recent weeks, Heat president Pat Riley said Sunday that this roster has all it needs to be successful. “We have everything we need,” Riley said at the team’s annual Family Festival at American Airlines Arena. “We have shot blocking. We got pick and roll bigs who can catch lobs. We’ve got pick and roll bigs who can catch layups. We’ve got shooters, defenders. We’ve got a lot of versatility. I think coach has done a great job of developing a system that’s for everybody. And so let’s get on with it.”
Asked if his expectation is that this team should finish higher than the eighth seed, Riley said: “I think we can go up the ladder. The teams between four and nine or 10 are like three or four games apart. A five-game winning streak can put you up in fourth. It’s great. It’s great. I wish we were up there and not having to fret out a lot of these games at night. [Saturday] night was a big win. Beating Philly [on Tuesday] was a big win. We’re not going to win all of our games going on out, but the teams that you have got to beat in this conference, beat them. Let’s just buckle up and enjoy this playoff ride. The crowds have been great. The games have been great. Very, very close games. Some games disappointing. It’s a typical NBA season.”
Riley reiterated he’s thrilled to have Dwyane Wade back. “He’s going to be the big deal,” Riley said. “He’s always been the big deal. I love the fact that he’s back. It’s like having a family member that went away for a year and a half. You didn’t know where they were. They were traveling around the world. It’s great to have them back and have Gaby [Wade’s wife Gabrielle Union] and his family back. It’s super.”
Asked about Wade’s presence, Riley cited his willingness to speak out on social issues. “He’s above and beyond from the standpoint of, I think he has matured from all of his experiences and his education and where he came from,” Riley said, speaking alongside his wife Chris. “I look at him as one of the most sophisticated players in being able to speak on issues, any issue, in the NBA. I hate to say this but he’s almost worldly. I think of myself and us as being worldly because we’ve been all over the place. Dwyane has something unique and special and I think he’s been heard very loud and clear on these issues.”
He also knew that he needed to circle back and connect with James again. The Cavaliers’ charter flight would be leaving soon for Atlanta, and he wanted one more face-to-face meeting. This time, he told James of the trades they were completing — and asked for his blessing to offer Wade the chance to return to Miami. Wade’s role would be minimized in Cleveland, and Altman wanted to afford him the respect of letting him return to his old team. Altman had called Heat GM Andy Elisburg with the Wade idea. He ran it past president Pat Riley. Sure, they told him. We’ll bring him home. Let us know.
Q: Some thought you’d run for office. You did some television. Now you’re with the Miami Heat front office. How is that? Shane Battier: “I’m enjoying my role. Once you’re in this game, it pulls you back. I love it. I had an opportunity in Miami, an organization I love, to be involved with a game that has been my entire career.”
The praise comes from the coach’s box, from the locker rooms, from opponents who have to contend with a relentless, disciplined Miami Heat team every night. There are no days off against Miami, just 48 physical minutes against a team that will do anything to win. “They are always prepared, they always play the right way and they are always defensively disciplined,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They are really tough.” The questions come from rival front offices, from executives conditioned to believe team-building is binary: Have a superstar and build around him, or tear down the roster until you get one. Yet here is Miami, superstar-less and binge-signing role players who can help the team compete for a playoff spot. “I respect [Heat president] Pat [Riley] and Spo [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] as much as any guys in the league,” said a rival team executive. “But what is the end game there? How do they make the jump from the middle of the pack to the top again? I just don’t see it.”
Spoelstra understands outside perception. Inside, though, there is only one thing that matters: winning. LeBron James defects? Win. Chris Bosh goes out with a career-ending health issue? Win. Start the season 11-30, as Miami did last season? Don’t tank — win. “It starts with every year that’s the expectation,” Spoelstra told Yahoo Sports. “That’s the hardest thing for people to wrap their minds around. Because there are a lot of years you could step back and say, that’s crazy, we have no chance. But that’s the standard that’s always set. From the first day of free agency to the first day of summer training to the first day of training camp, that’s been the expectation for 23 straight years. From there, we are trying to figure out how to make that a reality.”
The Heat see the value in winning, to building a culture, which is why they didn’t pack it in after last season’s 11-30 start. Miami missed the playoffs, but the winning habits formed during a 30-11 finish get super-glued to young players, lessons only learned through success. “People say the last two years the way we have done it is non-traditional or unconventional,” Spoelstra told Yahoo Sports. “I would say it is more by whatever means necessary is the way Coach Riley looks at it. Because for 23 years he has built championship-contending teams in different ways. Through the draft, through free agency through trade and then this summer, bringing a team back that we felt that we could build with and grow, from a group largely overlooked or outcasts.” Where many see bad contracts, the Heat see flexibility. Yes, Miami has spent its money, but few deals on the Heat’s books are considered untradeable, and the ever-proactive Riley is a bold risk-taker, willing to take chances, willing to bet that a winning culture and a South Beach lifestyle are enough to retain anyone who wears a Miami uniform.
Despite standing one player shy of being able to dress the maximum of 13 players on game nights, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday there are no plans for a roster move. With forward Okaro White sidelined until at least midseason due to Thursday’s foot surgery, Spoelstra had left the door open for a possible shuffle, with the Heat holding the exclusive NBA right to three players on their developmental-league affiliate, the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce.
A week after Dwyane Wade compared his final season alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat to a “bad marriage,” former Heat guard Ray Allen seconded that notion, casting additional question upon the team’s approach to 2013-14. “It certainly was tough on all of us as players,” Allen said of the Heat’s failed bid for a third consecutive championship. “Organizationally, I don’t think they ever adjusted. Most of the guys, having gone to so many Finals, me being an older player, having played a lot of basketball the last five, six years, organizationally and coaching wise they didn’t adjust. We had the oldest team in the NBA, and on top of that, we had such a bad schedule. Every holiday we were away from home. Every situation we were in we were fighting to just stay above board, trying to figure out how to sleep or rest our bodies. We wore down, we were tired, and we were definitely tired at the end. We still were good, and we still made it to the Finals.”
Ray Allen: “With a team as old as we were, and with as much basketball as we’d played, we were still doing a million appearances, we still were having all the practices, and doing all the things that typically wear you down by the end of the year. Just being on your feet so much. The team didn’t learn how to manage our bodies better. When your players have played in June the last three or four years, by this time you have to figure out how get people off their feet. We don’t need to have a practice. We don’t need to have a shootaround. We just have to be mental. From those aspects, you wear yourself down long term.”
The NBA is permitting teams to put advertisement patches on their jerseys beginning this season, and South Florida-based Ultimate Software has won the competition to occupy that space on Heat jerseys, according to two league sources.
“We are extremely proud to have Ultimate Software as the first partner on the Miami Heat Jersey,” said John Vidalin, the Heat’s executive vice president/revenue officer. “This is truly a historic opportunity and we are thrilled that we will be partnering with a company based here in South Florida.” The ads will appear on the left shoulder of Heat jerseys during games.
Riley said he’s not sure that his roster isn’t already full, “I’m going to be adding another room mid-level guy who’s going to be fighting for 10 minutes?” Riley said the $4.3 million exception still would be spend on the right free agent, “But we have it in hand and I think that’s really good.”
Riley on possibly signing a player to a two-way contract soon, “I do think there is a possibility that this week or next week we might sign one.”
Pat Riley on returning his 2016-17 core, “We were all geeked, happy, really about the team that we put together.” On how it came together, “As soon as we found that Gordon was not going to be with us, we moved very quickly on all of them.”
Barry Jackson: Pat Riley announces Chris Bosh’s jersey number (1) will be retired. Classy.
Thursday, on an ESPN conference call previewing the network’s coverage of the draft, when asked about the Heat’s scant number of future draft picks because of previous deals, draft analyst Fran Fraschilla warned of not confusing safest pick with best available. “I think at 14, when you’re picking at 14, it’s my feeling that unless you have valued two players almost equally, that you’re best taking the best player possible, regardless of the position,” the former coach at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico said. “Even if they are stacked in the backcourt, let’s say, for example, I just think at 14, it’s not about — to me it’s not about safe or risk. It’s about who you value that you think long-term is going to be the best NBA player.”
Now, 22 years and four make overs later, Mourning, the organization’s vice president, is confident Riley will succeed once again as the Heat officially move on from the Big 3 era. “This is going to be even more special,” Mourning told the Palm Beach Post. “I think this is going to be even more special considering how it all fell apart,” Mourning continued, referencing the departures of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh’s health.
But Mourning is confident Riley will find the right combination for the Heat to be back near the top of the conference, regardless of the quality of the free agent class. And one reason is what he is witnessing this off season. “There’s enough out there to make it work,” he said. “It’s enough out there to get us back again. Listen, this team and the pieces that we have, the coaching staff, the culture that we have, the mentality of the guys coming here. … unseen before guys coming in this early this summer.
Here are Riley’s views on different subjects courtesy ESPN’s Arash Markazi’s twitter feed: On what will happen when they are talking about making a trade with each other: “It depends on who calls who first. If I call him first then he ain’t going to say anything. If he calls me first I’m going to say, ‘I know that I can make your team better. .. Let’s have a conversation, let’s forget about the cap ramifications and start talking player personal. … I got a treasure of players. ..’”
On the best way to make a deal: “Here’s what I believe, here’s what I learned from Jerry (West) and everybody that’s been in management is that if you go into any kind of a transaction and try to make a deal with a team it’s got to be fair. When it’s a fair deal and I really think it’s something that is going to help both teams, I will pay a nickel more. My daddy always told me ‘pay a nickel more,’ even though we didn’t have a nickel, ‘pay a nickel more for whatever it is you need.’ And I have an owner (Micky Arison) that will pay more than a nickel more. He’s got about 107 cruise ships out there.”
As assistant general manager Justin Zanik is preparing the franchise for the NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks continue to reach out to potential general manager candidates and plan to begin formal interviews on Monday, league sources told The Vertical. The Bucks were granted permission to speak with several more GM candidates late this week, including Portland Trail Blazers assistant GM Bill Branch, Miami Heat assistant GM Adam Simon and Detroit Pistons assistant GM Pat Garrity, league sources told The Vertical.
Manny Navarro: Can confirm two Woj reports: Willie Reed has told #Heat he will decline option for next season; Adam Simon will interview for #Bucks GM job
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Milwaukee has received permission to talk to two more GM candidates: Miami’s Adam Simon and Detroit’s Pat Garrity.
Pat Riley has both confirmed and clarified his contract status in the wake of an inquiry from the Sun Sentinel. The Heat confirmed the report in ESPN the Magazine that Riley a year ago agreed to a five-year extension to continue in his role as team president, which would keep him under contract through the 2020-21 season, when he will turn 76.
In that profile, it was mentioned that Riley’s agreement is “with the understanding that he can work anywhere, including his [Malibu] perch overlooking the Pacific.” However, when asked about that element of the agreement, with Riley’s long-standing ties to the Los Angeles area, where he both played with and coached for the Los Angeles Lakers, Riley clarified through a team spokesman that “he is not going anywhere for an extended period.” Riley has commuted between homes in Malibu and Miami, with the bulk of his time in South Florida since joining the Heat in September 1995.
Speaking on a Yahoo! podcast, Spoelstra was asked by long-time NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski about a potential future in leading a franchise. “Short answer would be, I’m a Pat Riley disciple, and, like I’ve said, he’s always pushed me and nurtured me for the next steps,” Spoelstra said during the interview recorded in Southern California. “So, yes, that I’d love to have that opportunity years down the line from the Arison family, because I believe in them so much as human beings. They’re such good people and family oriented.”
Speaking on a Yahoo! podcast, Spoelstra was asked by long-time NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski about a potential future in leading a franchise. “Short answer would be, I’m a Pat Riley disciple, and, like I’ve said, he’s always pushed me and nurtured me for the next steps,” Spoelstra said during the interview recorded in Southern California. “So, yes, that I’d love to have that opportunity years down the line from the Arison family, because I believe in them so much as human beings. They’re such good people and family oriented.” But Spoelstra, 46, also said that he is comfortable in his current role under owner Micky Arison and Heat CEO Nick Arison, confirming that he already has a seat in all organizational meetings with Riley and General Manager Andy Elisburg.
Anthony Chiang: Riley says new CBA is going to make it tough to sign free agent superstars away from teams. “We’re going to focus on our guys.”
Surya Fernandez: Pat Riley says he’s disappointed, “but I do love this team and I love what we built.”
Manny Navarro: Riley on D-League: “I believe in that immensely. Can’t wait for the day every team has a team within 100 miles from where they are.”
The Heat, once it purges Chris Bosh’s salary from its cap in the next couple of months, could have $39.5 million in cap space this summer, enough to sign a max player but not leaving much room for much else significant.
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.
Ethan J. Skolnick: Pat Pat Riley on his future: “I don’t know what else I would do.”
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December 18, 2018 | 6:28 pm EST Update
Dion Waiters returned to practice Tuesday with the Miami Heat for the first time since his January ankle surgery. Coach Erik Spoelstra was quick to caution that it was not a full-contact practice, with the team declining to make Waiters available for comment until he completes such a session.
Asked if Waiters could return before the turn of the calendar, Spoelstra again declined to offer a timetable. “I don’t know,” he said. “Basically, right now it’s day-by-day evaluations, but he’s doing a lot more on the court, which is good.”
Waiters has yet to play as a teammate of Dwayne Wade, who joined the Heat at February’s NBA trading deadline. “It’s very encouraging,” Wade said after Tuesday’s session. “I think [Tuesday] was the first day that we were on the same unit. He has so much talent. He’s one of the guys that playing against him, I’ve seen the talent that he has on both ends of the floor. Then, obviously, I watched him when he was here and he was healthy, and he played very well.”
Mike Trudell: Ingram and Rondo have both been recalled by the Lakers, after they practiced with the @SouthBayLakers. They’ll rejoin the Lakers when the team returns from the road trip that concludes tonight in Brooklyn.
Mike Trudell: Nets coach Kenny Atkinson on the Lakers and this matchup: “I don’t think we can line up with this team and outscore them. We have to get some stops. Our defense has to be an elite level for us to have a chance in this game.”
Chris Fedor: #Cavs will turn to Alec Burks to anchor the second unit tonight, as David Nwaba goes back into the starting lineup. They played their best three-game stretch with him as starter in late November.