Pat Riley

Southeast Notes: Riley, Heat Outlook, Bryant, Hornets

Heat president Pat Riley felt it was time to invest in his own roster after he failed to sign top-level free agents in recent years, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “Once we didn’t land Kevin Durant or didn’t land Gordon Hayward, then it was time to sort of move on from searching for room and at the same time holding your other players hostage,” Riley said. “To move into a two- or three-year window with young players that we drafted and others who we thought were on-the-brink-to-make-it veterans that hadn’t made it somewhere else. What we came up with and what we found out is that we have a very, very competitive team.”

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Riley made moves during the trade deadline to get rid of the glut of guards and wing players on the roster. He also waived Rodney McGruder right before the end of the regular season to dodge the luxury tax. He feels the roster is much more balanced now heading into the summer. “I think we have built a base. … We have our draft choices,” he said. “The possibilities of room are right around the road. Don’t be making any kind of conclusions about next year in that we’re stuck with certain contracts or whatever it is you think we can’t get out of. That would be foolish thinking on your part.”
  • Center Thomas Bryant will be a restricted free agent if the Wizards extend a qualifying offer of $3MM and he intends to re-sign, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “They gave me an opportunity to play,” said Bryant, who inherited the starting job with Dwight Howard playing only nine games. “Why would I want to leave?” Retaining Bryant is high on the current front office’s priority list but the GM who replaces fired Ernie Grunfeld might not feel the same way, Hughes points out. League provisions could also come into play if Bryant signs an offer sheet. The Wizards hold his Early Bird rights but salary-cap concerns would grow if Bryant signs a back-loaded contract.
  • If the Hornets move up in the lottery and snag a top-three pick, GM Mitch Kupchak would likely listen to trade offers, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer opines in his latest mailbag. However, that would only make sense if Kupchak was confident that bringing in an impact veteran would secure a commitment from Kemba Walker. Otherwise, the Hornets would be in a rebuild mode, and a rookie with star potential would be more valuable to them.

Pat Riley Discusses Heat’s Future, Playoffs, Free Agency

Heat president Pat Riley discussed the franchise, its future, free agency and the playoffs during a team charity event at American Airlines Arena on Sunday, as relayed by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Riley expressed confidence that the Heat will make the postseason this year, also noting the amount of cap space the team is set to have during the summer of 2020. Miami, according to Jackson, wants to augment its roster via trade or free agency around that time.

The Heat have mostly disappointed through 62 games with a 28-34 record, currently trailing the No. 8 seed Magic by one game.

Here are some of the noteworthy comments from Riley:

On whether the Heat can make the playoffs:

“I have high expectations. I have always had them. [Erik Spoelstra] has them. I believe our players not only believe in the expectations but we’re right now in a wonderful stretch drive. It’s competitive.

“Our last 10 games with the exception of Denver, Detroit, right down to the wire. This whole thing is going to go down to the wire and we’re going to make the playoffs and that’s what it’s about. High expectations… sometimes you don’t get to where you want and you do what you have to do to make the playoffs and that’s where we are.”

On clearing cap space for free agency in 2020:

“If you want to do the math any way you want to do the math and say we can’t do it, then you don’t have big dreams like I do or how we’ve operated here. Clearing space is easy. You just watch the New York Knicks do it and what was their price in doing it. You watch the Clippers do it and what was their price in doing it.

“You can do it if you want to do it, but you have to get a good feeling that the reason why you’re going to do it is you’re going to get two [high-end players]. You have flexibility and that’s what the possibility of having room does for you. If you get an indication something good can happen that year, you go for it. If you don’t , you just keep plugging away. We have the two picks [first-rounders in 2019 and 2020]. We have a lot of assets. We have cash, we have exceptions. We will improve the team. It will be much better than it is now.”

On whether Dion Waiters and James Johnson have met the team’s conditioning requirements:

“You don’t get to see the numbers every week I do. They’re making their numbers. Based on their injuries and the fact they’ve missed a lot of time, it’s very hard to stay in world class condition. They’re working at it every day. If they were not making their numbers, I don’t think they would be on the court. Because of their injury past, they don’t get a pass on anything but they’re making their numbers. They just got to go harder on it.

“It isn’t about conditioning with those guys, it’s about performance. With them and performance with everybody else. What is the result? The result over the past two years has been this, which is we’re competing for a playoff spot.”

Pat Riley Talks 2020, Playoff Race, Draft Picks

Assuming Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic exercise their player options for next season, the Heat won’t be in position to open up cap room this summer. The club would have over $129MM in guaranteed money on its books for 2019/20 in that scenario, well above the projected $109MM cap.

However, with the contracts for Whiteside and Dragic set to expire in 2020, Heat president Pat Riley believes his team can be a major player during free agency that offseason. Riley said as much in an interview with Heat reporter Jason Jackson (video link), as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays.

“In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room,” Riley said. “We’ll also have the possibility to have enough room to go after two max contracts, and we’re going to do that. So we’re planning that 2020 will be the room year.”

The NBA’s latest salary cap projection calls for a $118MM cap for 2020/21. Currently, the Heat project to have about $71.6MM on their books for that season if James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk pick up ’20/21 player options. So Riley’s suggestion that the team will have two max slots may hinge on one or both of those players opting out.

While Riley and the Heat are eyeing that 2020 offseason as their next opportunity to make a major splash in free agency, it sounds like he’s not ruling out the possibility of pursuing upgrades this coming summer, when the club will have a mid-level exception available.

“We’re chasing a playoff spot and we’re young, and then we’re going to be chasing some players that could come in,” Riley said, per Winderman. “If we could get one or two players to come in with this group, this young group, then I think the sky’s the limit for this team in the next couple of years.”

Here’s more from Riley on the Heat, via Winderman:

  • If they continue to slump, the Heat – who currently rank 10th in our reverse standings – would be in position to snag a pretty favorable draft pick. However, Riley wants to see the squad continue pushing for one of the final playoff spots in the East. “It’s absolutely essential that they grow with experience, but not only experience with the playing time, but they get to the playoffs,” Riley said. “… I don’t care if you’re fighting for spot number eight or seven or five or three or the top spot or you’re fighting for a championship. You’ve got to be chasing something that’s positive.”
  • While Riley sounds far more interested in earning the No. 8 seed than in landing a top-10 pick in the draft, he dismissed the idea that he doesn’t value draft picks: “People think I don’t believe in draft picks. They’re so wrong. … Draft picks are very important to us.”
  • Riley suggests that Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Josh Richardson are the key members of the Heat’s young core going forward. However, the club president also mentioned Derrick Jones Jr., and noted that players like Dion Waiters (25), Olynyk (27), and Whiteside (28) are still fairly young.

Pat Riley Talks Heat, Retirement, LeBron James

Pat Riley has served as team president of the Heat since 1995. The 73-year-old executive brought Miami three titles—one while also serving as a coach—but remains hungry to oversee another championship team.

“Maybe that’s why I’m not going to retire. I ain’t going out this way until we win another title,” Riley said with a smile to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard (h/t Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel).

Riley added while he would love to have “one of those golden consulting jobs,” he wants to remain a hands-on participant in the franchise

“There’s a few guys around the league that have those jobs. But I say that in jest, because all the men who do that I’m sure they provide a good service. But I’m an active participant, and I want to stay that way,” Riley said.

Riley also touched upon LeBron James‘ tenure with the club and LBJ’s departure in 2014. The executive said he “saw a dynasty fly out the window” when James decided to return to Cleveland.

“I didn’t blame him [for leaving],” Riley said. “But I knew that was a 10-year team. It was just a sad day for me and for our franchise because I wanted that dynasty. I wanted this city and this team to go 10 years and maybe be in the Finals eight times.

“I don’t know how many championships we would have won. But I don’t have any rancor toward him at all.”

Dwyane Wade Won’t Be Talked Out Of Retiring

Dwyane Wade isn’t open to a suggestion by Heat president Pat Riley that he play until age 40, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wade, 36, is in the middle of his 16th and probably final NBA season, which he has dubbed a “One Last Dance” retirement tour. But Riley claimed last week that Wade still has a lot of basketball left.

“I got to get him to play another three more years,” Riley said. “I want him to get to 40. If he has a great year, he might not fall out of love with the game. He might want to just stay in it. That’s my goal.”

Wade has been away from the team on paternity leave for the past seven games and wasn’t aware of Riley’s comments until yesterday, but he doesn’t seem receptive to the idea.

“I appreciate him thinking that,” Wade said. “Could I be swayed? I don’t think so. Not at this point.”

Beyond the sentimental value Wade has to the Heat organization, he remains a productive player. In the 10 games he has played this season, he is putting up a 13.4/3.8/2.8 line in about 24 minutes per night.

Wade is looking forward to retirement to spend more time with his family, including his newborn daughter. She’s too young for an airplane trip, and Miami’s schedule won’t give Wade much free time for the rest of the season.

Wade admits that Riley can be very persuasive, saying “It’s always a chance of everything,” but adds, “I know the chance is very, very, very, very, very slim. I’ve got my mind made up.”

“I’m just going to finish this year out,” he said. “I want to get back into the groove I was in before I left, just for my body feeling great, and just continue to enjoy the game and play the game the way I know I can, even at this age, even in my role, even in my minutes.”

Wade also noted that this isn’t the first time Riley has brought up the idea of playing until 40.

“The one thing is, he said that a long time ago,” Wade said. “He always said he wanted me to play until I was 40. And even when I was 30 I laughed at him, like, ‘It’s no way possible.’ So he continues to have that. I appreciate that.”

Southeast Notes: Riley, Whiteside, M. Williams, Carter

Heat president Pat Riley told his players just before the season started that he was pulling out of trade talks with the Timberwolves involving Jimmy Butler, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Riley held a team meeting October 14 in which he acknowledged that negotiations had been going on and apologized to players whose names became public in trade rumors. That was just days after the teams nearly completed a deal that would have sent a package that included Josh Richardson and a protected first-round pick to Minnesota. However, Riley didn’t guarantee that negotiations with the Wolves wouldn’t resume.

Today’s trade that sent Butler to the Sixers eliminates that as a possibility. With about $130MM in salary, Miami is hovering above the $123.7MM luxury tax threshold and would face a $9.7MM tax payment if the team can’t trim $6.3MM by the end of the season. Riley said Thursday that the team isn’t currently active on the trade market, but tax concerns may change that before the February deadline.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who has reportedly been on the trade block for several months, is “changing his mindset to be great,” teammate Bam Adebayo tells Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Whiteside posted his best game in a long time Wednesday with 29 points, 20 rebounds and nine blocked shots. “I think a lot of people had written me off,” Whiteside said. “That’s fine. I don’t need anybody’s justification. But I feel like if I do those things for myself, it’ll put me in the conversation of being an All-Star, being defensive player of the year.”
  • Marvin Williams says the players were thrilled this summer when they learned that Tony Parker was leaving the Spurs to join the Hornets as a free agent, writes Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. Parker brought championship experience to Charlotte, having won four titles in San Antonio. “He’s so willing to teach everyone and he’s very patient with all of us,” Williams said. “He’s obviously been in certain situations that a lot of us haven’t been able to experience yet, so that knowledge and that wisdom really helps us.”
  • Williams believes the way the game has changed in recent years has helped the HawksVince Carter stay productive at age 41, relays Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer. Carter still displays his vertical leap on occasion, but he has prolonged his career with a deadly jump shot. “As the league has evolved, he’s almost benefited from it because he still can guard multiple positions, and he can still really shoot the lights out,” Williams said.

Pat Riley On Trade Rumors: “We’re Not Actively Pursuing Anything”

Heat president Pat Riley spoke today in front of fans and media personnel, answering questions about the team’s reported pursuit of Jimmy Butler, his decision to address the players, and where the team currently stands from a competitive viewpoint. Riley made his comments at an event created to help renovate the homes of two veterans, with the longtime Heat executive being joined by Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning, and others.

“I’m not looking, I’m listening and [general manager Andy Elisburg] and I are … we’ve been doing this all the time,” Riley said, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. “We’re not actively pursuing anything, we’re listening. But you have to be part of what’s going on in the conversation in the NBA, and there’s a lot of hypotheticals from that standpoint.”

Riley also added that he “never called anybody with an offer, but there’s always conversations — probably more Andy than myself because he loves to talk. So he has a brethren out there, and his brethren are great. He’s got 29, 30 GMs that they all like to talk, and so they need to talk to one another. You listen, and I think that’s how things happen is you just sort of listen.”

The Heat nearly reached agreement on a Butler trade with the Timberwolves last month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but the deal fell apart shortly before completion. With rumors swirling and players’ names surfacing in reports, Riley made the decision to pull the plug for the time being. He made his plans known to Heat players and assured them they would remain with the team.

“I think it was important. It was about time,” Riley said when asked why he addressed the team. “I let it go for about two weeks, but it was all over the board and when things get out publicly like that, I think your players and names start to hit, you’ve got to talk to them. I always talk to the agents first, but I thought at that time it was best just to sort of, ‘Let’s get the season started. We’re not going to do anything. We shut the thing down, and this is where we are with it.’”

The Heat have started the 2018/19 season with a 5-5 record, and could revisit the Butler talks down the road. For the time being, however, it certainly appears the team isn’t pursuing a trade for Butler or any other player.

Heat Rumors: Butler, Trade Talks, 15-Man Roster

Reports earlier this week on the Jimmy Butler situation suggested that the Timberwolves nearly accepted a Heat offer that included Josh Richardson and a first-round pick, but ultimately asked Miami for more. A subsequent report indicated that Wolves owner Glen Taylor wasn’t responsible for turning down that offer.

During an appearance on Mason and Ireland, ESPN’s Jorge Sedano confirmed both stories, reporting that the Heat and Timberwolves got close to a trade that would have sent Butler to Miami for Richardson, a first-round pick, and Dion Waiters. The two teams even exchanged medical information for the players involved. However, according to Sedano, Tom Thibodeau asked the Heat for more draft picks, at which point Pat Riley called him a “motherf—er” and hung up on him (Twitter links).

For what it’s worth, a source familiar with the negotiations disputes that story, telling Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel that Riley insists he didn’t offer such a reaction. That source apparently didn’t deny the other details of those trade discussions though.

Here’s more on the Heat, including another note on their dealings with the Timberwolves:

  • Both Winderman and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald report that the Heat aren’t pushing to re-engage the Timberwolves in trade discussions involving Butler. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that a deal won’t happen, Miami sounds ready to move on and prepare for the season. Butler didn’t travel with the Wolves to Milwaukee, with Thibodeau telling reporters that the All-NBA swingman is in Minnesota working on his conditioning, adding that the situation remains “fluid” (Twitter link via Dane Moore of 1500ESPN).
  • The Heat typically carry a full 15-man roster into the regular season, but the team appears likely to open the 2018/19 campaign with just 14 players, as Winderman writes in another piece for The Sun Sentinel. According to Winderman, the Heat haven’t entered the season with fewer than 15 players on standard contracts since 2003/04. Luxury tax concerns likely play a major part in that decision this year — Miami is currently over the tax line by about $6.3MM.
  • In a Q&A with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Chris Bosh explained that he still hopes to return to the NBA because he views his career as an “unfinished painting.” Bosh pointed specifically to his final season with the Heat, noting that he thought the team had the potential to win the East, but he didn’t get a chance to see it through.

Author Claims LeBron Wanted Riley To Coach In Miami

Early in his first season in Miami, LeBron James sent a message to Heat president Pat Riley that he should take over coaching duties from Erik Spoelstra, author Ian Thomsen claims in a new book. That story is among several contained in “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA,” which Thomsen promoted in a recent appearance on Zach Lowe’s podcast (Hat tip to Dane Delgado of NBC Sports).

Spoelstra was in his third year as head coach when a rift reportedly developed between him and James during a 9-8 start. After a loss to the Mavericks, James dropped a subtle hint to Riley that he wanted him back behind the bench.

“[I] asked how things were progressing,” Riley recalls in the book. “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.’

“He didn’t ask any more questions and I didn’t offer any more answers but I know what it meant and I always go back and wonder what he was thinking at that time. He walked out scratching at his leg like it was itching.”

Riley, of course, remained in the front office as Spoelstra led Miami to four straight NBA Finals and a pair of championships. James was involved in a similar scenario after returning to Cleveland, where he reportedly clashed with coach David Blatt, who was eventually replaced by Tyronn Lue.

Southeast Notes: Robinson, Hornets, Wade, Carter

Despite being invited to participate with USA Basketball in its World Cup qualifying round games, Heat swingman Duncan Robinson has opted to remain in Miami for informal team workouts in the hopes of landing a standard NBA contract for the upcoming season, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

“I’m really proud in the fact that Duncan Robinson has been invited to play in the international series,” said Heat team president Pat Riley“but he decided to stay here because he wanted to make our team, he wants to force us into giving him a real (standard NBA) contract.”

Robinson, 24, signed a two-way contract with the Heat on July 10th that would limit him to 45 days in the NBA this coming season and maximum earnings of about $385K, per Winderman. A standard NBA contract at the rookie minimum would pay Robinson just north of $838K.

Robinson says that his goal in passing over the opportunity to play for Team USA is to maximize his opportunities in the Heat developmental program. “I mean the margin between having this job or being overseas or being in the G League, whatever it might be, is so thin,” Robinson said. “And I understand that. I understand I caught some breaks and was able to put myself in a situation to be successful. I’m certainly thankful for that.”

There’s more today out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have struggled to attract big name free agents since the franchise returned to North Carolina in 2004, but Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer doesn’t think it has as much to do with the city of Charlotte itself as it has to do with the team’s lack of cap space. Per Bonnell, money is the No. 1 factor in free agency and, unfortunately, the Hornets don’t have significant space under the salary cap now or in the immediate future.
  • In another piece for the Sun-Sentinel, Winderman opines that Riley is fully committed to signing Wade to a free agent contract this summer, luxury tax concerns be darned. Riley’s greater concern would be Wade’s level of commitment. Per Winderman, Riley would likely want a commitment from Wade that this season isn’t simply a retirement tour, but that Wade is seriously interested in making the Heat a better team.
  • While Vince Carter could have spurned the Hawks and signed with a serious title contender this offseason, he tells Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that such a quest is “not his style.” Rather, Carter will be relied upon to be a veteran influence over the youthful roster Atlanta has assembled. “Let them see me and let them see how annoying I can be, but in a good way,” Carter said during an introductory press conference. “I’m going to stay in their ear. At least you know at any time throughout the year, whether it’s practice games, any situation, they will have me to fall back on. Or I’ll come up to them and help them out any way I can.”