Pat Riley

Southeast Notes: Gordon, Wizards, Miller

Aaron Gordon jumped on Sirius XM NBA Radio to talk about the Magic‘s NBA offseason and he portrayed optimism about Markelle Fultz‘s future with the club.

“[Fultz] is a sleeper. If he wakes up and if he’s awake and woken up, he’s a monster,” Gordon said.

Fultz, whose return to the court has yet to be determined, will have a chance to win the team’s starting point guard spot. Incumbent starter D.J. Augustin, who has one season left on his deal, and Michael Carter-Williams, who re-signed with Orlando on a one-year deal, will be the former No. 1 overall pick’s top competition for the role.

Orlando didn’t make major additions in the backcourt this offseason. The team re-signed a few members of its core (Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross) and brought in Al-Farouq Aminu with its mid-level exception. Gordon is excited about the addition of Aminu, as well as the continuity the team will experience next season.

“We got Al-Farouq, which is dope,” Gordon said. “[He’s] another 3-and-D guy. Tenacious, hard noise, long-defender and that’s the most beautiful thing. Nothing has changed from this year to last year.”

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether the Wizards can make a quick turnaround. Hughes argues that if Washington is going to contend sooner than later, the team needs its young talent to show improvement. That would increase each players’ trade value and give the Wizards an avenue to place an immediate difference maker next to Bradley Beal.
  • The Hawks have promoted Tori Miller to assistant GM of the College Park Skyhawks, according to the G League affiliate’s website. Miller spent the last two seasons as the Skyhawks’ Manager of Basketball Operations. She broke into the NBA as an intern with the Suns from 2014-16.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel envisions Pat Riley remaining with the Heat for the foreseeable future, as the scribe details in his latest mailbag. Winderman adds that Miami’s team president remains determined to get the team back to contention and the franchise’s young players are suited to help them achieve that goal.

Heat Acquire Jimmy Butler In Sign-And-Trade

The Heat have officially acquired Jimmy Butler from the Sixers in a sign-and-trade deal that also includes the Trail Blazers and the Clippers, according to press releases from Miami and Philadelphia.

The Heat also acquired big man Meyers Leonard from the Trail Blazers and cash considerations from the Clippers. Miami sent shooting guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, center Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers and a conditional first-round pick to the Clippers. The Clippers also received forward Maurice Harkless from Portland and the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Mathias Lessort from the Sixers.

The Clippers and Blazers have also confirmed the swap.

The 2023 first-rounder that the Heat forwarded to the Clippers, which is lottery-protected through 2025 and unprotected in 2026, was subsequently moved to the Thunder as part of the agreed-upon Paul George blockbuster.

Butler inked a four-year, $141MM contract with the Heat. Miami waived forward Ryan Anderson and stretched his contract in order to stay below the hard cap and complete the sign-and-trade.

“Jimmy’s leadership, tenacity, professionalism, defensive disposition and his ability to create his own shot will improve our roster immediately,” Miami president Pat Riley said in the press release. “Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move. Meyers is a versatile big, a great shooter, can play inside and block shots. The addition of both men puts us in a great position to win.”

The disgruntled Butler was dealt by Minnesota to Philadelphia last season. The Sixers wanted to retain Butler but couldn’t convince him to stay and got something for him via the sign-and-trade mechanism. In 65 total games for the Wolves and Sixers last season, Butler averaged 18.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.9 SPG with a .462/.347/.855 shooting line. Richardson averaged a career-high 16.6 PPG and 4.1 APG last season.

Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey called the acquisition of Whiteside an “impact move for our roster.” The Blazers were looking for a starting center with Jusuf Nurkic on the mend from a serious leg injury.

Heat Notes: Riley, Whiteside, Dragic, Haslem

Heat president Pat Riley spoke about the state of the Heat recently, and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald passes along some of the more relevant take-aways from Riley’s comments.

Despite Justice Winslow‘s success running the point while Goran Dragic was injured last season, Riley expects Dragic to be the team’s starting point guard for the 2019/20 season. Riley also expects both Dion Waiters and James Johnson to come back strong from injuries and play a significant role.

Regarding first-round pick Tyler Herro, Riley said that the 19-year-old guard “has proven in his short time at Kentucky that he’s not only a great shooter, but he’s a competitor, he’s tough, and he can defend. We’re very excited to have him.”

Riley declined to comment on the 32nd overall pick KZ Okpala, as his rights are still owned by the Pacers. He likewise declined to speak about Bol Bol, as his rights are being traded to the Nuggets.

There’s more out of Miami this afternoon from Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel:

  • Cap-strapped after both Hassan Whiteside  and Dragic opted into their player options for the 2019/20 season, the Heat are in somewhat of a holding pattern until they are able to clear those two off their books in the summer of 2020. For now, Pat Riley seems keen on encouraging Heat fans to root their young team on towards a playoff berth next season (link).
  • The Heat are likely to carry 14 players on their roster during the 2019/20 season in order to avoid the luxury tax, but will Udonis Haslem be that 14th-man (link)? It’s a possibility, and Haslem has said that his family with play a primary role in his retirement decision.
  • The conundrum the Heat face with Whiteside next season is that while he may have the chance to stay healthy and rediscover his game, how does that help Miami if they’re not a championship contender (link)? Whiteside’s contract ends after the 2019/20 season, and if the Heat are serious about developing their young core, Whiteside doesn’t really have a place on the roster past this season, so letting him stuff the stat sheet on a mediocre team for one season really does the Heat no good.

Goran Dragic Picks Up Player Option

Goran Dragic has picked up his $19.2MM player option for the 2019/20 season, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). Rade Filipovich, Dragic’s agent, said the point guard “wants to stay in Miami forever,” Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets.

Dragic had until June 29 to make a decision, though the Heat have been operating under the assumption that he would make this move. Miami now has roughly $102.6MM in guaranteed salary on the books for the 2019/20 season.

Rumblings that the Heat are looking for a point guard upgrade didn’t stop Dragic from picking up his option. Dragic is now eligible to be traded.

The Heat originally traded for the veteran point guard at the 2015 trade deadline, giving up four players and pair of picks in the deal. Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams, and Justin Hamilton were all sent to Phoenix — none of those players are on an NBA roster anymore.

The Suns used the 2018 pick they received from the deal to select Zhaire Smith and packaged him along with Miami’s 2021 selection—the other pick Phoenix received from the Dragic deal—to move up and take Mikal Bridges (the Clippers now own Miami’s 2021 selection via the Tobias Harris trade).

Prior to picking up his option, Dragic did not receive any assurances from Pat Riley that the Heat would not trade him, per Jackson (Twitter link). However, Riley also didn’t indicate that trading him was the plan.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.