Barry Jackson

Heat’s Riley optimistic despite 2-8 start

Miami Heat president Pat Riley speaks at a press conference at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, July 16, 2016.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley speaks at a press conference at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, July 16, 2016.

Amid a 2-8 start and the Heat’s first six-game losing streak since 2008, team president Pat Riley struck a positive tone on Wednesday, citing the team’s track record of success, and young nucleus, as reasons fans shouldn’t be discouraged.

Asked about the difficult start after years of winning, Riley said: “That's why [fans] should be encouraged. That's why they should be more buoyant themselves about our team and not get caught up by what the typical second-guess would be and that we're not very good and [ask] why did this happen and that happen.

“Since 2003, this team has been a contender. It's had hope. There has always been contention there. We've won championships. There has always been a fight for the right and our fans have enjoyed that. And now we need them more than ever…. They go home disappointed on a tough loss but they see the fight in these guys and in due time and in due process, things will change and players will change and maybe something else might happen. But right now, first things first is to get a win and feel good about ourselves.”

All of the Heat’s losses have come against teams that now have winning records, and Riley said that shouldn’t be overlooked.

“We're playing against the best competition,” Riley said after the team’s annual Thanksgiving charity event in Overtown. “All of the teams we lost to --- very close games, they had their game and lineup together and had been together for a couple years. So they knew what they running in the fourth quarter, they knew who they were going to in the fourth quarter. They felt comfortable and been in the playoffs. Does it give me any consolation? It never does. Maybe there is some kind of lesson better learned playing that competition and getting beaten by somebody who is not in that class.”

Riley made clear “we're not happy with the losses. They've been tough, tough losses. Our team deserves a little bit better but in this league, unless you're making free throws, unless you're not turning the ball over, unless you're making some shots when you need them, the league is unforgiving from that standpoint. But we'll get there.”

Riley also preached patience with the team’s young players.

He said the team “got a little bit buoyant” after winning the opener in Orlando. “Seventy-two points in the paint that night. I've

been through this drill before. We have great faith and great belief in our young players. Our young players have been not forced but put up into a position where they now have to deliver timely times during the game, sustaining drives, stopping drives, making shots at the end, making free throws. They'll get it. It doesn't happen overnight.

“You don't just sort of tap somebody on the shoulder and say. 'Oh by the way, you have to be the go to guy tonight.' Ask Dwyane Wade, ask LeBron James, ask [Chris Bosh], ask [Alonzo Mourning] ask all the great ones we've had here, ask [Tim Hardaway], there comes a times when you get used to that and it becomes second nature.”

With Chris Bosh’s contract expected to come off the Heat’s books in February, Miami could have more than $43 million in cap space next summer. Riley was non-committal about whether Miami, before February’s trade deadline, would be active or would be willing to take on contracts that run into next season.

He likely would consider taking on multiyear contracts if he can add an impact player before the trade deadline.

“The important thing is we are a forward-thinking team,” he said. “We are not going to be thinking backwards. We're not going to have any regrets. We love what we have with our young players and we know assets, whatever assets we have in the future are going to help us rebuild, whether it's picks, whether it's personnel, whether it's room.

“I'm always thinking down the future, down the road. I was looking down there when I first came here. Anything that is said by me about the future you could probably take with a grain of salt. That is just my image and my vision of how I may see things happening. That's why I don't talk to the press too much because I might create too many images out there that I can't fulfill. Some have been fulfilled.”

A large contingent of Heat players, coaches and staffers distributed meals in Overtown on Wednesday. The Heat has done this event for 25 years, distributing 15,000 Turkeys and 10,000 hot meals over that time, according to the Heat.

“Over the 25 years,… this has been a very special day,” Riley said. “It's our obligation in this country and this world to help one another.”

Asked about the importance of such events against the backdrop of a divisive presidential election, Riley said: “These won't change because of whatever has happened in the last week or 10 days in this political race that we've just gone through. People will always give. They will always have a sense of community. It's the way we are. It's the nature of being an American. We're the most giving nation in the world.”

• The Heat listed Goran Dragic (ankle) and Justise Winslow (wrist) as questionable for Thursday’s game against Milwaukee. Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday that Dragic emerged from a Tuesday workout feeling good but that does “not necessarily” mean he will play Thursday.

Asked Tuesday if he expects to miss a week or two, Winslow said it was too early to tell.

For a look at how the Heat has been impacted off the court in the post-Wade era, please click here. One season-ticket holder said he cannot even give his tickets away... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz