Barry Jackson

Heat’s Pat Riley says focus will be on keeping current players, speaks of possible trade, addresses assorted issues

Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media during the season ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wed., April 19, 2017 in in Miami.
Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media during the season ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wed., April 19, 2017 in in Miami.

What Heat president Pat Riley had to say in his season-ending news conference (this is being continually updated):

• “While I feel absolutely great about what happened, all of you know me, I’m not happy about not being in the playoffs at all.... If you’re going to come all the way back from 20 down,.... The ultimate goal was to get into the playoffs and compete. This particular team which made itself through incredible coaching and leadership by Spo and his staff, it was a disappointment [not making the playoffs]. I am not all goose-bumply and fuzzy haired. That’s not my makeup. But I do love this team and I love what we have built.

“Last year, in free agency, when we signed the five guys, when the room opened up, I remember making one statement about let’s see who emerges, let’s see what players emerge. We might find some surprises or players we really like... I don’t think there’s any doubt there were three or four guys that emerged that we feel very good about.

“While we’re not in the playoffs, we’re ahead of the game. The table is set, with the pick. We obviously know we have flexibility in free agency. We will see how that works out with our players and other players. I was pissed. They deserved to get in and they didn’t get in.... We won four out of our last five games against the best teams in the conference and we still didn’t get in. It was a great disappointment, but at the same time it was a lot of success.

“I don’t know how many more non-playoff years I can take. I love this group of guys. I love this group of guys to build this team from. I hope Dion and James and the rest of our free agents to like it here enough. We’re going to be fair with them and [hope] they will be fair with us. I care about the team that I wanted them to experience this [playoff] competition. It would have been fun and really validated all the work they put in. Their performances and their conditioning and all the challenges each player put themselves through validated... that they’re in the right organization. It’s not a big step back. It stops the week of having fun.”

• On pursuing whales, Riley said: “I regret ever making that statement. The collective bargaining agreement is going to dictate a lot of things about free agency.... Today it’s a lot different than [2010]. Any great player will have to give great pause to walk away from $65 million to $70 million to walk away.”

Riley said top players now will have to really want to leave a team or really want to come to another.

“We are going to focus on our guys, really focus on this group of guys. We have found something about three of these guys, I felt they had something but never really had the platform. We will always observe what’s going on in free agency. We have that flexibility. When you have a draft pick and a lot of players on your team you like, you are in good position to move forward.”

• On James Johnson and Dion Waiters wanting to stay: “They really like it here... It’s a vibrant city to live in. Both James Johnson and Dion Waiters were speaking to that, the discipline and dedication of eight, nine, 10 people. I give James, Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters, Willie Reed, Luke Babbitt credit, and give them the credit because they took advantage of something a lot of players wouldn’t. These guys went all the way and I was so impressed and proud of them. And they saw the result.

“We moved it up from best conditioned to world class. If you don’t want to be a world class athlete, then what are you doing? You’re wasting time. You’re just making money.... James can get better. My conversation with him was there’s another level efficiency wise. He knows exactly what he’s talking out.”

◘ On Waiters: “I don’t know if there are two tougher minded guards than Dion and Goran. Dion has this affable defiance, which he and I talk about all the time, which I like. The two of them, with how they play, the did complement each other. Both are attackers. Doin can create space, get to areas of the court, where he can get up shots [late in the shot clock].

“He is going become a better finisher, higher percentage. He gets into the paint 14 times a game. He realizes now what it takes to be a great player.... Here he played 30 plus minutes a game and got starter’s minutes, and you saw during those times, he could be efficient. We want to improve his efficiency. The consistency in minutes increased the efficiency.”

• More on the backcourt: “We don’t forget what Tyler Johnson brings in. He brings in another level of attack. We think Dion in more than a sample size of 46 games to challenge him to be that kind of a guard. He has the ability to shoot over 40 percent from three. He has the ability to be 47, 48 percent field goal percentage guy. What bothers me is he is not making 85 percent of his free throws. We saw enough of it. Plus, we like him. We really like him. He’s a good guy.”

• Riley said he wants Udonis Haslem on the roster. “He’s invaluable.” He says he has committed to help players on the roster. “I want to see him on the team but I also want to see him on the team as a player.”

• I asked Riley if he believes if he brings most everybody back, adds the 14th pick (likely), a healthy Justise Winslow and a moderately priced free agent, if that would be enough to compete for a championship.

“If you are looking at Golden State and Cleveland, those teams and Houston and San Anontio, the top four teams in the league, what happens to the other teams in the Eastern Conference, yes, you have to say to yourself, I want to get there as quickly as I can and contend,” he said.

“Even if you brought all of these guys back with the 14th pick and some kind of room exception, can you beat those teams? You will never know until you get there. I think the fans here appreciate what we do. They also appreciate we want to bring more quicker to the table. I want to play for that [championship]. That’s what we want to compete for. That’s what it has always been about. You don’t have have to go whale hunting. You can acquire key players via trade, instead of laying out $38 million for a guy. Some of these max numbers are ridicluous. That’s the nature of the collective bagraining agreement.”

• On Winslow and Josh Richardson: “Josh got on this incredible three-point run at the end of the season. Those two players are part of our future, a big part of our future. I take exception with some of you in the media, though it’s your right... I’ve been around players like Justise Winslow for a long time. He is a warrior, defender, cares about winning, has tremendous energy. The guy had a tough ride this year. He had a sprained wrist and played with it. Separated his shoulder, had that surgery. I took a look at a lot of those guys like Justise who came in as one and done guys. Kawhi Leonard averaged eight points a game his first year. Six years later, he’s 25. We are measuring this guy after 75 games. That’s unfair.

“I wish you would get off his three-point shooting... He will make enough of them. When you have Dion and Wayne Ellington and you have James and Tyler and you have others and Goran, you are going to need a player that’s sort of like the backbone of your team, a glue guy. It bothers me when you’re taking away from a guy who is 75 games from being on the court. It’s unfair to him. Give him a chance. He ain’t going anywhere. I’ve read where you can package him here, package him there. He has something to prove. There’s no doubt. He will prove it. He’s a winner.”

• Riley, on Chris Bosh, said “there has been conversations with the organization and with Chris personally. I will leave it at that. There is no resolution to it. Down the road, we don’t have Chris’ services. There isn’t anybody in the organization that feels worse than CB than I do. It got a little sideways at the end... The last three years... had to be horrible for him, the feeling he couldn’t compete, he couldn’t play the game he loved. We did not have him for two months for the first year. We probably could have gotten to the Finals last year (with him). In due time, it will run its course.”

• On Spoelstra: “Erik is one of the best coaches in the league... Unlike me, he is measured. He stays on message. Players respond [to that]. Players don’t get confused by the message.... At 11-30, he was beside himself. He had never been there. He learned a lot about himself at that time. We were in LA and we took that hit against the Lakers. I walked into his coaching office and I said, ‘Coach ‘em up.’ That’s what he did. He coached the hell out of them.”

• Riley said “We like 12 through 20” in the draft. “We already scheduled a time where we will bring players in to work out. Between 12 and 20, there will be a very good player in the player. We will probably pick the best player, depending on my thoughts on free agency and who’s going to stay and who’s not going to stay. Everybody in the top seven is point guards. And since we don’t need a point guard, I’m glad we’re not at the top of the lottery where I don’t have to make that decision.”

• Riley doesn’t like that the Heat and Bulls played only three games, with two in Chicago, with the Bulls’ 2-1 season series edge being the reason Chicago, at 41-41, made the playoffs instead of Miami (41-41).

“That should not be part of the tiebreaker,” he said. “If we had played here, maybe we would be in the playoffs.”

• On Hassan Whiteside: “There is so much more we need from him for us to beat Golden State or the world champions in Ohio. We are going to need to have a championship center. He has the capability of being that. We know him across the board in every aspect. Erik and I discuss a lot of things about Hassan and how he can better help us.

“Can he be a 17, 14 and 4 guy.. which he is now... or can he be a 25 and 17 and 6 player? I think he can be that. You have to carve out something more for him offensively. He has the ability to carve out bigger numbers... We have to get those 30, 20, 10 nights out of him five nights a year. I think he has the ability. I’m proud of him. I’m glad we made him a priority last summer. I think he has taken on that responsibility.”

• Riley said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver needs to address the issue of teams resting players.

“We don’t rest players. It has reached the point where it has become an absolute travesty, blatantly so. We maintain players. Let’s put a little more integrity into that concept of rest.”

Related stories from Miami Herald