Pat Riley

Southeast Notes: Riley, Hawks, Fox, Magic

Heat president Pat Riley was pleased with the development of several young players this season, telling reporters at his end-of-season press conference that he was especially impressed with the improvements of Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro.

“When we drafted Bam, we didn’t think Bam would be an All-Star this quick,” Riley said, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We saw a great athlete. We didn’t even know how great a person he was. When we found out the level of his character and his loyalty and being a teammate, that with his talent, we knew we had something special.”

Adebayo averaged 17.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in the playoffs, with the 23-year-old showing noticeable improvements on both ends of the floor this season. As for Herro, a fearless 20-year-old who just finished his rookie season, Riley had much of the same praise for his campaign.

“[He] grew through listening and he grew through the mentorship of Udonis Haslem, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic,” Riley said. “All of those guys and the ones that came at midseason — Andre [Iguodala] and Solomon [Hill] and Kelly [Olynyk] and Meyers [Leonard] — all of these veterans took him under their wing because they saw something special there

“He got better not just as a shooter, but as a shotmaker. He got better in handling the ball. I used to see him out here on the court with our coaches that were developing him putting him through a myriad of ball-handling drills against pressure, banging him with the heavy bag, making him go to the basket and knocking him down and making sure he concentrated on finishing.

“He’s a very, very efficient offensive player. He got better as a playmaker. His vision — he started to see other plays because he could take it to the rack. He’s a great kid. He works hard and we have somebody very special in him.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference today:

Pat Riley Talks Heat Future: “I Think We’ll Stay The Course”

Coming off an unprecedented season that ended with an NBA Finals loss to the Lakers in six games, the Heat enter the offseason with questions to answer but a promising outlook entering 2020/21.

Led by last summer’s prized acquisition of Jimmy Butler, Miami seems to be in a position to once again be competitive for a championship. In addition to Butler, the play of youngsters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, along with Bam Adebayo‘s breakout, helped the Heat ascend to the class of the Eastern Conference.

Team president Pat Riley indicated to reporters during a Zoom conference with reporters on Friday that the organization anticipates keeping most of the 2019/20 core intact, NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin writes.

“I think we’ll stay the course with our picks, stay the course with our young players,” Riley said. “We have decisions to make, obviously, with player contracts and free agents, and really do a deep dive into this season, myself and (coach Erik Spoelstra) and (GM) Andy (Elisburg) about how good we really are right now…flexibility with draft picks, free agency is coming next…and my thinking really hasn’t changed.”

However, there will be several key decisions for Miami involving free agents. The most prominent one involves veteran point guard Goran Dragic, whose injury-related absence for most of the NBA Finals noticeably impacted the Heat’s chances. In addition to Dragic,  Jae CrowderDerrick JonesMeyers LeonardSolomon Hill and de facto player/coach Udonis Haslem are also free agents.

Riley said the Heat value all of those players and will seek reunions where appropriate, including a possible extension of Adebayo.

“I really don’t want to get into any kind of discussions at this point about [an Adebayo extension,” Riley said. “I think all the hypotheticals out there about what people think is going to happen, that’s what they are. You all know our numbers. You know what the situation is, the free agents in ‘20 and ‘21. So when it comes to our players, we want to take care of them, and especially the ones that we really value.”

Heat Notes: Riley, Crowder, Dragic, Adebayo, Roster

Heat team president Pat Riley isn’t planning on making any major changes to the roster this offseason, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Speaking to the media on Friday, Riley said he’s committed to keeping his young core intact.

“I think we’ll stay the course with our (draft) picks, stay the course with our young players,” he said. “We have decisions to make, obviously, with player contracts and free agents, and really do a deep dive into this season, myself and [coach Erik Spoelstra] and [GM Andy Elisburg], about how good we really are right now.”

Riley addressed a number of topics, including the team’s free agents. Here are the highlights:

  • At the top of the team’s free agent list are Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic and Riley hinted he’d like to re-sign them. However, he also wants to preserve cap space to make a run at a top-level free agent next season. “It’s going to be a little bit dicey for us because of wanting that flexibility,” he said. “But if things can happen prior to that, I think we have to take care of our own, as much as we can.”
  • The tricky timing of a possible Bam Adebayo extension also weighs heavily on Riley’s mind. If Adebayo signs a rookie scale extension this offseason, it would eat significantly into the Heat’s cap space for next offseason. Riley could try to convince Adebayo to delay signing an extension until next offseason but Riley isn’t keen on doing that. “I’m not going to approach it that way,” Riley said. “I really don’t want to get into any kind of discussions at this point about it. … We value Bam Adebayo. He’s an All-Star. And he’s young. And he’s great. And we’re going to do what’s in his best interest.”
  • Even though the team made a surprising run to the Finals in Orlando, Riley isn’t sure the team as presently constituted can pull that off again. That could play into his personnel decisions. “We were in the Finals. Are we a finalist?” he said. “Can we get through the Eastern Conference next year with what’s happening in Philadelphia or what’s going to happen in Milwaukee or what’s going to happen in Brooklyn or Boston? We already know that Boston has got their team together and they got three first-round picks in the draft. Toronto, there’s a lot of very good teams. So yeah, that’s a question that I’ll kick around in my mind. I’ll talk to Spo about it.”

Southeast Notes: Collins, Magic, Wizards, Riley

After becoming a reliable three-point shooter during the 2019/20 season, stat-stuffing Hawks power forward John Collins is now focused on developing his play-making abilities during the extended 2020 offseason, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

“The next level is to start getting others involved and create more shots for myself or have the ability to do different things,” Collins reflected. “I’m working on guard stuff instead of the normal traditional big-man stuff.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • In a new mailbag, Josh Robbins of The Athletic examines the Magic‘s 2020 offseason, including the fate of Wesley Iwundu and which position 2019 first-rounder Chuma Okeke could slot into given the current roster.
  • Adding a rim protector and wing defender – perhaps through a trade or a free agency acquisition – are the top offseason priorities for the Wizards, as well as re-signing forward Davis Bertans, Fred Katz of The Athletic contends.
  • Heat team president Pat Riley will hold his first 2020 media presser this Friday afternoon, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).

NBA Agents Talk Offseason, Finances, Execs, More

NBA agents are generally in agreement that the 2020 offseason will be an unusual one due to the coronavirus pandemic and its ripple effect, but they don’t all agree on what exactly the offseason will look like.

Ben Standig, Mike Vorkunov, and other writers from The Athletic conducted a survey of 20 player agents to get their thoughts on the coming offseason and state of the NBA. And while some of those agents believe financial concerns will limit player movement this fall, others believe there will still be plenty of movement — even if it doesn’t happen in free agency.

“My fear is there will be a lot of teams and ownership groups that sit out free agency,” one agent said. “… In terms of player movement, I think there will be a lot. Not just signing guys. Nobody wants to pay the tax. Everybody is going to try to clear space for 2021. I can definitely see a sizeable amount of player movement. But not a lot of dollars spent.”

One agent who spoke to The Athletic suggested that some teams will be in cost-cutting mode and, for financial reasons, may move players they wouldn’t have traded in a normal year. However, another agent believes there will still be plenty of clubs willing to spend to compete for the postseason and for a title.

“Teams want to win and they’re going to spend to win,” the agent said. “Ultimately, as we saw with Denver, there’s a lot of teams within striking distance of contention and they’re not going to be cheap. The Clippers fired a coach with two years on his deal. We’re going to be fine.”

As for how many NBA franchises will be in legitimate financial peril during the coming year, one agent is skeptical that any will actually be in trouble.

“They’re going to blow so much smoke up our a– about how bad the business model is and everything like that, but Minnesota is going to sell for $1.5 billion and it’s the worst market, as far as basketball,” the agent said. “They sold 18 years ago for $88MM and they’re going to sell for $1.5 billion? You can’t tell (me) you have a bad business.

“There’s going be revenues that are greatly reduced, but I would say to any of these teams that feel like these businesses that they can’t pour cash into to carry it through this rough spot, they should sell. Because they have opportunities. We’ll find them a buyer in a month.”

Here are a few of the other most interesting takeaways from The Athletic’s agent survey:

  • Thunder point guard Chris Paul is the highest-profile player that most agents expected to be traded this offseason, while the Sixers are considered the team most in need of a major roster move. “Philly is at the point where it’s a make or break year for just about everybody,” one agent said.
  • Of the 19 agents who weighed in on the subject, 18 said they expect Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo to remain in Milwaukee beyond his current contract.
  • LaMelo Ball comfortably received the most votes as 2020’s most intriguing draft prospect, but he’s viewed as a somewhat risky investment. “I think he has such a high ceiling but the difference from his top to bottom is the biggest of anyone in the draft,” one agent said. Another offered the following assessment: “That could go really good or really bad.”
  • One agent said he has “never heard less enthusiasm” from teams that have high picks in this year’s draft.
  • One agent speculated that centers will be hit hardest by teams’ financial limitations this offseason, since clubs are focusing on players who can defend several positions. Another said that he thinks many clubs may prioritize veterans over young prospects, since cost-conscious teams may not want to use back-of-the-roster spots on guys who won’t play at all.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti easily received the most votes as the NBA’s “smartest” team executive, but Pat Riley of the Heat and Masai Ujiri of the Raptors got more votes when agents were asked which exec they’d want to hire if they were running a franchise.

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank Named Executive Of The Year

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2019/20 season, the league announced today in a press release.

Frank received 10 of 29 first-place votes for the award, which is voted on by a panel of team front office executives from around the league. He beat out Sam Presti of the Thunder and Pat Riley of the Heat, who finished second and third, respectively.

The criteria for the Executive of the Year award aren’t clearly defined, so some top vote-getters are recognized for the splashy or savvy roster moves they made within the last year, while others receive votes for an accumulation of the moves made in recent years that helped build their current rosters.

In Frank’s case, it’s safe to say he earned Executive of the Year honors for the job he did landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same night last July, instantly turning the Clippers into title contenders. The team also re-signed Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Rodney McGruder to new deals, and acquired Maurice Harkless and a first-round pick in a four-team deal during the free agent period last summer. Frank later flipped Harkless and a first-rounder to the Knicks for Marcus Morris.

Frank’s roster moves didn’t ultimately result in a deep playoff run for the Clippers, who were upset in the second round by the Nuggets. However, voting for the Executive of the Year award was completed prior to the NBA’s summer restart.

The full voting results for Executive of the Year can be found below. Teams’ heads of basketball operations were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.

  1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers (61 points)
  2. Sam Presti, Thunder (41)
  3. Pat Riley, Heat (39)
  4. Jon Horst, Bucks (27)
  5. Masai Ujiri, Raptors (20)
  6. Zach Kleiman, Grizzlies (16)
  7. Rob Pelinka, Lakers (14)
  8. Donn Nelson, Mavericks (8)
  9. Tim Connelly, Nuggets (7)
  10. Danny Ainge, Celtics (6)
  11. Bob Myers, Warriors (5)
  12. Jeff Weltman, Magic (5)
  13. David Griffin, Pelicans (5)
  14. James Jones, Suns (3)
  15. Ed Stefanski, Pistons (1)
  16. Dennis Lindsey, Jazz (1)
  17. Kevin Pritchard, Pacers (1)
  18. Sean Marks, Nets (1)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Notes: Butler, UD, Wade, Riley

Heat All-Star wing Jimmy Butler has emerged as the leader of a team two games away from the NBA Finals this season. His departures from his prior three teams painted a different picture of his personality.

In a revealing piece, ESPN’s Nick Friedell takes a look at Butler through the eyes of teammates, coaches, front office executives, and team owners past and present, navigating historic quotes that cover Jimmy’s debut in the league all the way through his current standing as one of its premiere players.

There’s more out of South Beach today:

  • Butler’s uniqueness as a team-first All-Star has made scoring a lesser priority for him. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel examines whether Butler can be a dominant scorer for the Heat, especially in the first halves of games, in the rest of the postseason.
  • Veteran Heat power forward Udonis Haslem credits the father of teammate Jae Crowder, Corey, with his 17-season NBA career. After going undrafted in 2002, Haslem headed to France, where he linked up with the elder Crowder as both played for French club Chalon-sur-Saône. After Haslem began dominating team practices, he found encouragement from Crowder to try again at the next level. “That’s when I told him, ‘You’ve got to get to the NBA,’” Corey Crowder said.
  • As Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald recaps, former Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade spoke on 790 The Ticket’s Tobin & Leroy Show about the Heat’s youth movement this season and the future of longtime Heat mastermind Pat Riley, who is 75. “I think [Riley’s] going to be around [well after this season],” Wade said. “His office is going to still be his office. Even if he’s not in that position, he’s still going to come into practice everyday. This is his life. This is what he loves. This is him. I don’t see him going anywhere.”

Heat Notes: Rebuild, Crowder, Nunn, Riley

Pat Riley‘s decision to pursue an accelerated rebuild over a “process” has allowed the Heat to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014, Brian Windhorst of writes.

Riley, as Windhorst notes, always approaches his job as team president in a highly competitive manner. The Heat typically don’t fixate on a slow process, rebuild or “tank.” Rather, the organization maintains a winning culture and mentality every season — regardless of the circumstances.

“You know me, I’m all about now,” Riley said earlier this season, as relayed by Windhorst. “We’re going to press on and we’re not going to stop.”

Riley acquired star forward Jimmy Butler in a four-way trade last summer, solidifying the team’s stance of competing for a title now. Miami has exceeded expectations thanks to the rapid improvements of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, along with the trade deadline acquisitions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. Thus, the club’s first trip to the conference finals in six seasons.

“Miami’s strategy is always to be as good as possible every season,” one league executive said told Windhorst. “They are studs at team building. But you have to acknowledge that strategy also led them to miss the playoffs in three of the last five years.” 

Here are some other notes out of Miami:

  • Jae Crowder has officially found his footing after being traded to the team earlier this year, a re-occurring theme in the 30-year-old’s professional career, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Crowder has been traded a total of six times since entering the league in 2012. “I look at it like this,” he said, “this is what keeps me going: You see a lot of guys who are being traded and they get waived once they get to the team. That’s never happened in my career. So once I’ve gotten traded, I’ve been able to sustain a role. I’ve been wanted. I feel like another team wants me. I just think that speaks of my work. I don’t look at it as bad thing. I don’t get frustrated with the process, because I feel like I’ve every team I went to, I’ve had a role to play.”
  • Winderman examines whether Kendrick Nunn‘s stock is in the rise in his latest “Ask Ira’ mailbag. Nunn, the runner-up for the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award, contracted COVID-19 this summer and struggled to get back into his old form during the restart, but the 25-year-old is also starting to find his footing as the back-up point guard behind Goran Dragic.
  • The Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry is set to add another chapter with the Heat and Celtics meeting in the conference finals, Windhorst writes in a separate story for ESPN. Both executives share a strong rivalry going back to their playing days, more recently with Riley’s Heat beating Ainge’s Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals and Ainge beating Riley in the race to sign Gordon Hayward in 2017.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Nunn, Riley, Leonard, Future

The Heat held their first team practice since March 10 on Friday, though veteran guard Goran Dragic revealed in a conference call this week that two players were missing: Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Miami, as Jackson writes, currently has two unidentified players recovering from COVID-19. Head coach Erik Spoelstra declined to comment on how many players attended Friday’s practice, only adding that the team had a “full gym” for the session.

“Hopefully Bam can come and K-Nunn and we can be a whole team and make some damage,” Dragic said. “Some guys are not here. We are eager, expecting them to come, hopefully to be healthy and we can all start practicing together.”

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr., who tested positive for coronavirus toward the end of June, has fully recovered and is with the team in Orlando, Jackson notes. Miami will look to build on its high-energy practice as it shifts its focus toward a July 22 scrimmage against Sacramento.

“We had a good workout, looked like a Miami Heat practice, had a bunch of extra energy to get out,” Spoelstra said. “Guys enjoyed being around each other. You could feel the genuine enthusiasm.”

There’s more out of Miami today:

  • Meyers Leonard appears to have fully recovered from an ankle injury sustained in early February, Jackson notes in the same story. Spoelstra mentioned that Leonard is a full go, is ready for contact, and is moving great. He’s averaged 6.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 20.1 minutes per game this year, shooting 43% from 3-point range.
  • Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg will remain in south Florida during the NBA’s resumed season, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Vice president of basketball operations Adam Simon traveled with the team to Disney, as league rules mandate that each team has at least one senior basketball executive on site.
  • Winderman examines in a separate story whether the team has enough assets to put together an attractive trade package instead of waiting for free agency in 2021. Miami has long been linked to stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo, both of whom are set to become free agents at the end of next season.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Jordan, Heat, Wizards

After the final two episodes of The Last Dance aired on Sunday, Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer writes that the second act of Michael Jordan‘s life in basketball has been “the polar opposite” of the first. While ESPN’s 10-part documentary series accurately portrayed Jordan as a wildly successful player on the court, he has been largely unsuccessful as a team owner since gaining control of the Hornets.

As Fowler acknowledges, a team owner doesn’t have nearly the same impact on night-to-night results as a star player would, but Jordan has been heavily involved in the Hornets’ personnel decisions. Since Jordan took over as the organization’s majority owner, Charlotte has just three winning seasons and hasn’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Fowler wonders if Jordan has any more appreciation for former Bulls GM Jerry Krause than he did during his playing days, since the current Hornets owner could have used his own version of Krause since arriving in Charlotte.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • There are teams in the NBA that wouldn’t be significantly affected if the NBA’s cap projection for 2020/21 (and potentially 2021/22) dips by a few million dollars. However, the Heat would feel the impact of such a change. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald examines how the NBA’s new financial reality could alter the club’s approach to free agency in 2020 and 2021.
  • Two sources close to Heat players praised the way the franchise has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra have both remained in constant contact with players and have advised them to put their health and families’ health first, Jackson writes. “Guys consistently have been getting attended to,” one source told The Herald.
  • Due to a positive trend in COVID-19 cases in D.C., Washington’s stay-at-home order may no longer extend through at least June 8, as previously anticipated. That could be good news for the Wizards, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who notes that the team is still waiting for government clearance to reopen its practice facility.