Pat Riley speaks about why he believes Heat can improve this season
With the Heat (5-5) off Thursday, team president Pat Riley was out in the community honoring veterans with home renovations.
Riley and former Heat players Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice worked alongside members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade, Inc. and Ultimate Software to help renovate the homes of two local veterans with Veterans Day around the corner.
“We appreciate them,” Riley said of the veterans. “I think they appreciate what we do. I think the community does. Ever since 2006, since ‘Home Strong’ really became sort of part of an entity and part of the Heat, we try to do as much as we can. And I don’t think we do enough. I think we can do more. ... We have to do more. We have to keep bringing that to light. Even though we don’t do as much as I think we should do, I think we’re doing enough to let people know that they count and they matter.”
Riley also touched on various on-court Heat topics. Here’s a rundown of what he had to say Thursday ...
▪ The Heat was involved in trade discussions with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler before the start of the regular season. ESPN reported that a deal between the teams was close, but fell apart when Minnesota asked for more from Miami.
When asked where the Heat currently stands in the trade market 10 games into the season, Riley said: “I’m not looking, I’m listening and [general manager Andy Elisburg] and I are … we’ve been doing this all the time. 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 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.”
Just days before the start of the season in a team meeting, Riley acknowledged the Butler trade discussions and apologized for players’ names surfacing in rumors. The message was, “I’m pulling the plug,” after talks continued for too long, but there was no guarantee that a trade will not happen down the road.
“I think it was important. It was about time,” Riley said when asked why he decided to address the team on the subject. “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.’”
▪ With 14 players returning from last season’s roster, the big question surrounding the team is whether there will be enough internal improvement to achieve more than last year’s first-round playoff exit. Riley called the Heat “average” for the past three seasons, but said he’s talked to the team about being better than just average.
Miami has recorded a 90-84 record dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season.
“We’ve got six guys that have been here for four years and we’ve got the rest of the guys for at least three years,” Riley said. “That’s more than enough time to get your act together as a team. So, there should not be any chemistry issues or continuity issues. Players have gotten better, their development skills have gone through the roof. How much better they can get, I think will be determined by how much more work they want to put into it. Also, a lot of it has to do with the health of the team from that standpoint.
“But we were average, average is not bad. If you like to be average, then that’s what we were last year and that’s what we’ve been for the last three years. I think this team has a chance to go above that. I’ve discussed this with the team. They want to go above being average, which is maybe the bottom of the playoffs and then get out there in the fourth or fifth or third spot. It’s going to be quite a challenge, but I think they have the ability to do that, I really do. So, that’s what we’re looking at this year, and I think this year is a big year for the team.”
▪ Does Riley see the Heat’s logjam at almost every position as an issue? No, because “the one thing I can guarantee, and I say this to [Erik Spoelstra] all the time: ‘Don’t worry about the rotation. I guarantee you there will be four guys hurt every single night.’ There will be. Every roster, has three or four guys that are hurt.’”
Riley continued, “We have enough depth, and I think Spo realizes he’s always going to be down two or three guys maybe. And then when we get all 14 healthy, he’s got an issue. He’s going to get down on his knees and pray to the players and say, ‘Please, just understand you’ll get your time somewhere.’”
▪ Riley said he now uses a hashtag when texting Dwyane Wade: “#216-6percent with a heart at the end of it.” That’s referring to the weight and body fat percentage Riley wants the 36-year-old Wade at.
“He knows what that means, and he laughs all the time. But he’s playing great,” Riley said. “He’s playing young and he’s still a closer. He’s got the game totally under control and if he stays healthy, by the time February comes around or the end of the season, we know what we have in Dwyane. We love him to death. He’s a great player to this day. But I got to get him to play another three more years. 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.”
▪ As far as center Hassan Whiteside, Riley has been impressed. A day after Whiteside finished with a stat line of 29 points, 20 rebounds, two assists and nine blocks in Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, Riley said: “I think the media for the most part has gotten so caught up in this pace and space game that you automatically eliminate very talented, very athletic players by saying, they can’t play in this game. I think Erik realizes just how talented he is and that as much as we want to stay contemporary, he can’t drink too much of the Kool-Aid because you’ll get drunk from it and then trying to keep up and keep pace, you might keep your best player sitting on the bench.
“[Whiteside] has the motivation this year to want to do something to dispel a lot of the stuff that was written about him last year. And it was deserved, what was written about him, deservedly so. I think he’s responded to it because that’s what this game is about.”
Wade, Union welcome baby girl to the world
Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, announced the arrival of their daughter Thursday. She was born Wednesday via a surrogate.
It’s Wade’s fourth child and Union’s first.
Wade missed Wednesday’s win over the Spurs because of personal reasons, which is now known to be the birth of his daughter. He’s also listed as out for Friday’s home game against the Pacers.
In addition to playing without Wade, Derrick Jones Jr. (bruised right knee), Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) and James Johnson (sports hernia surgery) are also listed as out for Friday’s contest. Goran Dragic (right knee) is questionable.