Barry Jackson

Pat Riley explains Heat decision not to make trade, other issues

Pat Riley addressed several issues in informal news conference.
Pat Riley addressed several issues in informal news conference.

The Heat did not make a move before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, and here’s what president Pat Riley had to say in an informal news conference:

• He said the Heat did not come close to making a trade and he’s eager to see this roster over the final 25 games.

“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. There was a lot of adversity. And they found some real positivity and the same chemistry that was borne out of that losing is this time now you are seeing some guys emerge.

“The most interesting thing we as an organization will look at the last 25 games is because this is about something we can gain. 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.

“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 all said] let’s play this out. We got a great roster of young players and some great leadership with some the veterans emerging and a great coaching staff teaching them everything they know and what they need for this run.

“We have a draft pick. We don’t know where it’s going to be and we have that elusive moving number out there for the summer that will help us rebuild. I’m glad we didn’t do anything stupid.”

• On the deadline passing quietly for Miami: “It wasn’t frantic. There was nothing. It was like boring. There’s a time when you’re out there buying when it gets frantic. When we did the Goran [Dragic] thing [two years ago], when we made deals for Tim Hardaway, when we made deals for [Alonzo Mourning]. There are times during the trading deadline when you know you can make something happen.

“I always believe at that time you give a nickel more to get what you want if you think it can help. If you look at the teams that did something big, it’s teams that want to take a step up because they’ve been taking steps back. I thought Toronto made a great deal for them. The DeMarcus Cousins deal [with New Orleans]... OKC in the deal they just made to get Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.... Five or six teams vying for that playoff spot. It’s going to be very competitive.”

• Did the streak of winning 14 of 16 affect Riley’s thinking about whether to make a trade?

“Maybe but I don’t think so. 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]. The only thing that is going to change this franchise is what comes from within first. What we do in draft, what we do in summer and what we do in the trading market.

“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? That’s part of the game.”

• On this team: “I like what I saw at the beginning of the season. What happened when we were [11-30], there was a lot of close games and we couldn’t finish those games for some reason. They hung in there and in this last five weeks, there was a lot of positivity. It was that chemistry. It was Erik and the staff and this winning streak where now it’s fun.

“Let’s take this to what we would say is the fourth quarter and everything is on the line over the next 25 games and let’s see what we can do and what they can do. 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.

“This was not smoke and mirrors over the last five weeks. This was some very good basketball, some very good performances. 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.”

• “What really made me proud was the work that the staff has done with a lot of guys that were perceived to have failed somewhere else. Those players’ commitment to take the step up and to receive the coaching and to have better seasons than they’ve had in their careers is very pleasing that they have decided to invest in themselves and use this platform to become better basketball players. I love what James Johnson has done. I love what Dion Waiters has done. Willie Reed, Tyler Johnson. It’s a shame that both Justise Winslow and Josh have been set back somewhat.

“We feel like we have some knowns with them, but with these players in particular, with Wayne Ellington and what he can deliver making three threes in 60 seconds. All of them have done a great job. ...Their commitment to becoming better basketball players has really opened my eyes to them and possibly how I see them going down the road with us.”

• On Hassan Whiteside: “The nights he can truly dominate a game at both ends of the court. I love Hassan. We would not have invested in Hassan Whiteside if we didn’t believe he could be an integral part of winning, a force on defense and rebounding, from an offensive standpoint. There are still parts of his game he has to work on in how he incorporates his game with his teammates....

“When you are professional player, and I don’t care who you are, there’s a quick substitution, you deal with it as a professional. There are nights under there I talk under my breath and say get him out of there. Not him. I could say that about 15 players. That’s my coaching instinct. Give him a rest, give him a blow, get him back in.

“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 franchise and city and teammates depend on you every night, is to bring it. This is not to say he doesn’t. To bring that every single night, that in itself is a skill. That I think he is really getting an understanding of as to what his responsibilties are. When he plays the way he plays some nights, we’re going to be unbeatable.”

• When is the sample size big enough to know that Dion Waiters has transformed from a decent player to a very good player, as opposed to this being a hot streak?

“He got off to a good start and then he got hurt and missed 20 games games. He didn’t shoot well at the beginning but played well. Then he got hurt. When he came back from that [groin] injury, Erik has constantly been coaching him on efficiency, efficiency, 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 last 10 or 12, that’s a pretty good sample size of what a guy can do. Does it impact winning? That’s an analytic you have to figure out - his impact on winning. He’s been talked to a lot about that and I think he’s taken it to heart. He’s a big time playmaker.” 

• On his friend and former Lakers player, Magic Johnson, getting the job as president of basketball operations in Los Angeles: “There couldn’t be a better person and worker to be the sort of face and spearhead this. He will get the job done out there....

“Those 20 years in Los Angeles are part of me. But my 20 years in Miami have become more of part of me than they are because they’re more current. I’m just happy for Magic. He’s going to try to rifle my pockets and I’m going to try to rifle his along the way.”

• On the new labor deal: “We will all find out the consequences of the CBA two or three years from now. Last year, with the influx of a lot of dollars in the system, there were eye-opening contracts that were signed. You might have one more round of that this year and then there will be a new analytic out that will evaluate players even more as to how much you will pay them. We don’t know.”

Please click here for my other post this hour, with Chris Bosh news and an in-depth look at the Heat’s cap situation after not making a trade.

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