Pat Riley

Southeast Notes: Butler, Riley, Beal, Hawks

Heat star Jimmy Butler gave a brutally honest assessment of his team after it dropped a third straight game on Friday to Minnesota, explaining that the club has been playing a “soft” brand of basketball. Miami’s record now stands at 28-28.

“We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said, as relayed by ESPN. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”

The Heat lost the game 119-111, allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 52% from the floor and 42% from deep. Aside from being outworked, the team once again deployed a game plan of switching screens — a perplexing move by Erik Spoelstra with both Victor Oladipo and Andre Iguodala sidelined. The same scheme was also used in a loss against the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic on Wednesday.

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens.

“I’m glad it happened to us. And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • Speaking of the Heat, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines in his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag whether Pat Riley failed to properly size up the team’s roster this season. Miami has upcoming games against the Nets (38-18) on Sunday, the Rockets (14-42) on Monday, and the Spurs (26-28) on Wednesday.
  • Wizards star Bradley Beal feels somewhat vindicated by not requesting a trade earlier this season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “It speaks volumes,” Beal said. “It’s always tough because when my name was buzzing, that’s all I heard early in the year is, ‘Trade Beal, trade Beal.’ It wasn’t anything other than that. So, me knowing who I am and just sticking through it, that’s a testament to what we did as a team this year.”
  • The majority of Hawks players received their second COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. In addition, at least two players received their first dose.

Southeast Notes: Anthony, Heat Arena, Monk, Riley

Injured Magic rookie point guard Cole Anthony, recovering from a rib fracture suffered on February 9, has been progressing in his rehab, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel tweets.

Magic head coach Steve Clifford addressed: Anthony’s improvement: “He’s able to be on the court more now. He can’t do any contact. The rib isn’t totally healed, so he’ll have to do another MRI before he’s ready for contact but he is able to do, like work out with the ball, shooting, ball handling, things on the court that he wasn’t able to do a week ago.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The cryptocurrency exchange FTX has purchased naming rights for the Heat‘s home court, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The current American Airlines Arena will soon be rebranded. FTX will pay $2MM per year for the moniker.
  • The Hornets face interesting decisions this summer on 2021 restricted free agents Devonte’ Graham and Malik Monk. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wonders if Charlotte should prioritize retaining Monk, who has been on a tear of late, in the offseason. Bonnell notes that, in terms of each player’s potential fit alongside future of the franchise LaMelo Ball, Monk can be reliably slotted both alongside Ball and as a legitimate backup point guard option. The Hornets may need to let at least one of Graham or Monk walk to seek out a free agent upgrade at the center position.
  • Heat team president Pat Riley discussed Miami’s new veteran additions, and why his team opted to retain its promising youth, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. The Heat added shooting guard Victor Oladipo, recently a two-time All-Star, plus forwards Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica, without giving up intriguing young players Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, both of whom many assumed could be moved. “They can become truly great,” Riley said. “I hate to have that come back to [bite] us if we move them… We’re happy with both of them. They’re both [going through a shooting slump]. They’ll come out of it.” Riley was also excited for Oladipo’s diverse offensive game and his defensive promise: “He’s not just a shooter. He can really defend.”

Heat Notes: Harkless, Silva, Trades, Butler

New Heat forward Maurice Harkless was impressed by team president Pat Riley‘s recruitment process, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The Heat added Harkless on a one-year, $3.6MM deal last month.

Harkless and his fellow new addition, guard Avery Bradley, will be expected to make up for the perimeter defense and three-point shooting of Jae Crowder, who left for the Suns in the offseason. In 62 games played for the Clippers and Knicks last season, Harkless averaged 5.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG across 23.0 MPG. He shot 34.7% from long range last season, and 50.2% from the field.

There’s more out of South Beach:

  • Heat reserve big man Chris Silva could be due to take a leap in his second season, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Silva knows one area in which he can improve: fouling. “The less fouls I have, the more of an option I am for coaches to put me back in, to actually have a choice to use me in different moments,” Silva said. “Of course, the foul trouble thing has been a big emphasis, from learning and watching film on how to play defense the right way, how to make reads on defense so I don’t get in foul trouble.”
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if the Heat should wait out the trade market before making any moves, as the asking price for Rockets superstar guard James Harden is currently fairly steep. There may be mutual interest in a Harden deal.
  • Fresh off a career-best postseason run that saw him lead Miami to its first Finals appearance since 2014, Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler has remained vocal in team training camp, as  Winderman details for the Sun Sentinel.

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.”