Describing Thursday’s trade deadline as “boring,” Heat president Pat Riley said he did not make a deal partly because he wants to see how his team plays over the final 25 games after a stretch of winning 14 of its past 16.
“I’m glad we didn’t do anything stupid,” he said, with the Heat opening its post-All-Star break schedule Friday night at Atlanta.
“We weren’t a buyer or seller. We said at the beginning of the year that we have a team that we like with a group of young players and wanted to see who would really emerge. I want to see how they will operate with real pressure. If making the playoffs is important, then there will be games that will have some pressure.
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“If we get those players that we think can be part of a future to perform at a high level and make the playoffs, that’s what we’re looking for and that’s why we didn’t make trades for the sake of making trades, lateral trades to get a look at other players. When it came right down to it, [we said], ‘Let’s play this out.’ ”
Did the stretch of winning 14 of 16 affect Riley’s thinking about making a trade?
“Maybe, but I don’t think so,” he said. “Even when we weren’t winning, there were some players that were emerging and playing well. We don’t have those kinds of assets to go out and acquire [something significant]. …
“Somewhere we will have a star that emerges. We already have a couple guys we consider stars. Can you get one via trade, develop one from within, draft one, get one in free agency?”
But Riley said this winning streak is not a mirage.
“This was not smoke and mirrors over the last five weeks,” he said. “This was some very good basketball. We will see now after nine days off if they can remain the same team, with the same kind of edge. I know they are going to play hard every night. I know they are going to be prepared every night.
“Can they stay efficient, and can the key guys we depend on that have to score for us at times we need points and we need stops, can they do this now? And that may translate into a playoff spot. That’s what I want to see. That will give us a better evaluation of what we have to do after the season.”
Count guard Dion Waiters, who has played very well over the past six weeks, among the players the Heat is particularly eager to evaluate.
Asked Thursday how big a sample size is needed to determine if Waiters has taken the step from decent player to very good, Riley said: “He got off to a good start and then got hurt. He didn’t shoot well at the beginning but played well.
“When he came back from the injury, [coach] Erik [Spoelstra] has been coaching him on efficiency. Be a two-way player. We know he’s a big-game player. He has a lot of guts, gravitas. He wants to take the shot at the end of the game.
“He’s a very gifted player. If he can put together another 25 games similar to what he’s done over the past 12, that’s a pretty good sample size of what the guy can do.”
Riley addressed other issues:
▪ He said: “I’m excited about a playoff run just as I would be excited about getting the No. 1 seed. You get excited at different levels. We’re all excited about this. We have bigger dreams here than that, but you take what you can at that moment. This is where you are.”
▪ He loves how the coaching staff has maximized “guys that have perceived to have failed and use as platform to become better players. I love what James Johnson has done. I love what Dion Waiters has done. Willie Reed, Tyler Johnson.”
▪ On Hassan Whiteside, he said there are “nights he can truly dominate a game at both ends of the court. I love Hassan. We would not have invested in Hassan if we didn’t believe he could be an integral part of winning. There are still parts of his game he needs to work on in how he incorporates his game with his teammates. If you are a professional player and there’s a quick substitution, you deal with it as a professional. Being accountable as a franchise player is an all-of-the-time thing.
“One of the most difficult things in this league to do is as a great talent, where your team depends on you every night, is to bring it. This is not to say he doesn’t. That is a skill.”
Friday: Heat at Hawks
When/where: 8 p.m.; Philips Arena, Atlanta.
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY-790 AM, WAQI 710 (Spanish)
Series: Hawks lead, 61-49. Atlanta has won two of three games this season.
Scouting report: The Heat enters its post All-Star break schedule at 25-32, two games behind No. 8 Detroit (pending the outcome of Thursday's Pistons-Hornets game) and three games behind No. 7 Chicago. Atlanta stands as the fifth seed at the moment, 7.5 games ahead of Miami. Heat Josh Richardson is expected to return after missing 19 games with a foot injury.