Heat’s Pat Riley Talks Butler, Injuries, Herro, Rozier, More

Player availability – or lack thereof – was a focus for Pat Riley during the Heat president’s annual end-of-season press conference, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Riley repeatedly brought up the fact that Miami needs to have its best players available more often and made it clear that figuring out how to improve on that front will be a goal this offseason.

“That’s a deep dive for us this summer, player availability,” Riley said. “We must change some things but we aren’t going to rip anything apart.”

Riley’s most noteworthy comments on the subject came when he was asked about the possibility of a contract extension for Jimmy Butler. The star swingman is expected to look to tack on another year to his current deal, which runs through 2024/25 with a player option for ’25/26. But Riley said the team has yet to internally discuss that possibility and wouldn’t commit to giving Butler a new contract if he asks for one, pointing out that the front office doesn’t need to make that decision before 2025.

“It’s a big decision on our part to commit those kinds of resources, unless you have someone who is going to be available every night,” Riley said (Twitter link via Jackson), adding that Butler’s availability was “discussed thoroughly” a year ago with his agent. The 34-year-old hasn’t appeared in more than 64 regular season games in a single season during his five years in Miami and was unavailable for the playoffs this spring due to an MCL sprain.

Amid recent speculation that Butler’s days in Miami could be numbered, Riley offered an even more eyebrow-raising quote when asked about the six-time All-Star’s claim that the Celtics and Knicks would “be at home” if he had been able to play in the postseason. Riley admitted he didn’t know whether Butler was “trolling” or serious, but suggested he shouldn’t have said anything either way.

“If you’re not on the court playing against Boston or on the court playing against the New York Knicks, you should keep your mouth shut on the criticism of those teams,” Riley said (Twitter link via Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald).

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Asked if Miami would consider trading Butler if their other non-Bam Adebayo assets aren’t enough to acquire a star player, Riley said no, adding that the goal isn’t necessarily to add a third star. “There are a possibility a lot of things are on the table,” Riley said, per Jackson. “It’s not about getting another star. You get another star, your bench gets weaker.”
  • Riley was noncommittal when asked if the Heat would like to cut payroll this summer, acknowledging that the team will have to look at the “collateral damage” of operating over the first or second tax apron. However, he stressed that he doesn’t anticipate major changes and that the organization “is not about rebuilding.” “We’ve got a really good group of guys,” he said. “The No. 1 issue is player availability and having your guys healthy to play every night. We have to wrap our arms around that notion. When I talk to (Heat owners) Micky (Arison) and Nick (Arison), they understand this.”
  • Riley doesn’t necessarily agree with Udonis Haslem‘s opinion that Tyler Herro would be better off as a sixth man, noting that Haslem – a Heat employee – probably shouldn’t have shared that take on an ESPN broadcast. “Tyler is a starter,” Riley said, according to Jackson. “Is (coming off the bench) something you are going to ask a player one day? That’s where a coach has a job to do. … Whether it be (Herro or someone else), he may. Whatever is in the best interests of the team. We won’t know until we have everybody available.”
  • Addressing the neck injury that sidelined Terry Rozier for the playoffs, Riley said it shouldn’t be a long-term issue and added that the veteran guard was “everything I expected” after arriving in Miami from Charlotte. “It’s a process; it takes time. He said he feels good,” Riley said. “When you’re dealing with a spine, you’re not going to mess around with it. It’s going to heal. Doctors convinced us and him that in time it will heal and go away.”
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