Heat president Pat Riley said Friday he wants to keep the nucleus of this team together long-term, even with the luxury tax becoming far more onerous in 2014-15, but that the decision ultimately would be made by owner Micky Arison and Riley did not want to speculate what Arison would do.
After the new labor agreement was signed 17 months ago, Arison said that even with tax penalties increasing, “we can keep [the three stars] together” in the new deal, should LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide to stay here when they could exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts in the summer of 2014.
“It’s doable in this tax economy, but I’m going to leave it to Micky,” Riley said. “We’ve already had internal conversations. That will all be tackled after the season, but it’s doable.
“When you have an opportunity to build a team like this — if you take a look at the four or five teams that endured over eight or nine or 10 years — they did it with the same players. So it would be a shame if you couldn’t do that.
“I would love to see them all end their careers here at the same time and hang their numbers and become the godfathers to each other’s children and one big happy barbecue in the backyard somewhere. I’d love to see that, but I don’t know if that’s reality in today’s game.”
Keeping the three stars together long-term remains the strong internal sentiment, but Riley stopped short of saying that would definitely be the approach in the summer of 2014.
“I am going to defer that question to Micky, because it’s going to be a big decision,” he said. “What we sold these guys on when they came here was winning championships, and we’re going to do whatever we can to maintain the talent we have to win … and contend for championships.
“How that changes over the next couple years and what we do next summer will determine how he handles that in the future. It’s going to take some thought.”
Riley mentioned the Dodgers’ “extraordinary television contract. It’s going to take that kind of revenue … to be able to do something like that. But it is doable. There’s going to have to be some strategic planning over the next couple of years to deal with it.”
On keeping his stars when they can become free agents, Riley said: “I don’t believe we have to sell anybody on us anymore in 2014.”
If the Heat keeps all three stars beyond next season, it likely would need to surround them with players mostly on minimum contracts to avoid a huge tax bill. A big tax bill likely would await regardless in 2014-15, with Udonis Haslem signed for $4.6million and Joel Anthony for $3.8 million that season.
Riley addressed other issues in his first news conference since July:
• He said winning the championship last season “has freed up [James] to take it to another level. … The numbers show he’s more efficient, more confident.
“He just plays at a different level now. He’s a real leader. He manages the game at the end extremely well. Just an extraordinary player. This is going to be better than watching House of Cards with my wife for 15 hours, just to see him play in the first game [Sunday]. He has taken something from every single player he’s admired.”
• Riley said he and James “don’t have heavy conversations … I’m not a hands-on guy anymore with him.”
• He said Erik Spoelstra should be named the NBA Coach of the Year: “He will yell at me for talking about this, but don’t penalize him because he’s got a great team.”
• Last month, when Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said it was “embarrassing” that James was voicing displeasure about hard fouls, Riley said that Ainge should “shut the [expletive] up” and worry about his own team.
Asked about that Friday, Riley said: “At 211 degrees, water’s just hot. At 212, it boils and creates steam. … That’s sort of what happened. … Somebody on the outside weighing in, I don’t think that’s right in this league. There are too many people in the league that weigh in on other people’s business.”
• On hard fouls, Riley said the Heat “interacts with the league office when we feel like it’s getting out of hand. LeBron has battled that for so long that he’ll deal with it. We have to try to protect him. If you hit him harder and harder, you’re making a huge mistake.”
• Riley said Spoelstra often implored him to sign Chris Andersen before Miami did in January.
“If I got another text from Erik about trying to get Chris Andersen, I was going to put my hands around his neck,” Riley said. “That’s a Spo addiction the past two years with me. Spo knows exactly what he needs. Chris is the perfect complement to how they want to play, the energy he brings.”
• He said he never discussed the 27-game winning streak with Spoelstra and “stayed away from the team” during it. “I was really disappointed when we got beat. I wanted them to break the record. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. I thought we were going to get it done.”
• On Brandon Jennings predicting the Bucks would win the series against the Heat in six games: “What anybody says doesn’t mean anything.”
• Riley cracked: “I’m tired of watching Homeland 35 times. I’m ready to get on to the playoffs. … Our team has a deep belief.”