Barry Jackson

Riley happy team mostly back, addresses multiple issues

Pat Riley.
Pat Riley. For the Miami Herald

Heat president Pat Riley addressed a bunch of issues Monday:

• “I’m excited about it. I’m glad we could bring [most of the team back].... I think the team deserves a chance to grow organically. We’ll see if the 30-11 is smoke and mirrors or if that’s the reality.... Not having Dion really hurt us even though we won four of our last five games.”

• He said this team should be eyeing homecourt in the first round: “They should be competing for that, thinking in those terms. I look at Cleveland as the top team.”

He praised Boston and said the Celtics have “another player or two that could be real big. Washington has proved they’re really a great team. Toronto signed Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and gave away DeMarre Carroll, got back CJ Miles. We feel good.... The sky is the limit. You’ve got to go for it.”

• On pursuing Gordon Hayward: “In this game, you have to stay one step ahead of the posse. And that posse is Cleveland in this conference. And then a growing Boston. And Golden State being the gold standard. The pursuit of Gordon was a no-brainer. The fact Gordon had an interest in us, we felt a need to pursue that but not at the risk of [not] negotiating hard with our own free agents.

“On the plane back from the West Coast [visiting Dion Waiters], we saw Kelly Olynyk was waived. From 30,000 feet, we called his agent and pursued him. They sort of rewarded us because we went after them.”

• On why Miami pursued Olynyk: “We have eight perimeters and three or four of them are really good shooters. The one area we really felt the need to shore up — what we didn’t have is stretch four/fives that are highly skilled, and that’s where Olynyk came into the equation. Sets probably the best screens in the NBA. Gets your guards in the paint. He’s an excellent passer from the elbow. We watched him for four years.

“He is a perfect fit for Hassan [Whiteside]. He and Bam [Adebayo] can play [together]. Kelly is a great outlet passer. I think he’s an excellent defender. He will get in better shape with us. His game will emerge. I look at him as part of the 25 to 30 year old group of young guys.

“Needing a three or going after a shooter was a priority if we could have gotten somebody like Gordon but we didn’t. The next thing was getting help for Hassan and JJ. JJ could possibly start at the power forward spot. We hopefully get Udonis Haslem back. Getting AJ Hammons in a trade. A 7-footer who can stretch the floor. We want to take a good look at him.”

Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks about free agent Dion Waiters.

• On Adebayo: “Bam is a hybrid player that has such an upside. His play in the summer league has shown some of the things he’s capable of doing. We have seen exactly why we drafted him. He’s super athletic. Sets great screens. Excellent defender. Blocks shots. The whole concept of feeling comfortable shooting the ball will come with trust.”

• On giving contracts that will tie up cap space for a couple years:

“We wanted to tie up our young guys. Dion I would like to see him play 70 to 75 games. If he does, I believe we have one of the most talented two way guards in the league in attacking the basket and raising on threes. He had one of the top defensive percentages in the league in defending. He’s an end of the shot player and a lot of times you can’t find those guys.”

• On dealing Josh McRoberts to create cap space: “We loved Josh McRoberts. He had a great series against us [with Charlotte]. One of the things you learn is when you go into free agency and commit to a player who’s coming off surgery and you think he’s going to heal and everything will be fine, you’re taking a little bit of a risk. He had some terrific bad luck... Kept having injuries. We have to move on and players have to move on. I have great compassion for Josh. It was time to move on.”

• Riley said the Heat “has used every last dollar,” though Miami has a $4.3 million exception and can sign players to minimum contracts.

• Regarding the $4.3 million room mid-level: “We will probably hold onto the room mid level. Sit tight. We have 10 guys that we really like, 11 guys or 12 who will be fighting for rotation minutes. I’m going to add another room mid-level guy who is going to be fighting for 10 minutes? That takes some pressure off coach. If something pops up that’s really good, we’ll think about using it.”

• Does the Heat need a true backup point guard? “Absolutely not,” he said. “We use JJ a lot of getting us into offense.” He likes Tyler Johnson as a combo guard.

Miami Heat's president Pat Riley compares the team's 2017 First Round Draft Pick Bam Adebayo, with NBA Legends Shawn Kemp and Kevin Garnett.

“Justise was a primary ballhandler before he got hurt. And Josh Richardson. We don’t need a prototype pure point guard.”

• Was there concern about losing Waiters or James Johnson during the Hayward pursuit? “Yes,” he said. “Dion was active. And I don’t blame him. He was highly sought after. As soon as we found out about Gordon, he was the first call.”

• Riley believes the team has enough at small forward, with Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder and the ability of Josh Richardson and James Johnson to play there.

“Wherever coach Spo wants to take this positionless game, it can be real small, with him playing five on down to three point guards with Justise at four [or three bigs]. However he feels, the whole concept of positionless has to do with the offense. Every player knows all of the positions.

“Some players feel more comfortable in certain areas of the court. The game has evolved to such a point, so beyond where I coached in New York, three yards and a cloud of dust [where his talent was suited to that]. It wasn’t when I coached L.A. Our best lineups were A.J. Green at five. I love the way the game is going. It’s so highly entertaining. Sometimes, it can get a little tedious when a team jacks up 50 threes.”

• He praised GM Andy Elisburg for working magic with the cap: “He is the best in the business. I could never do this without him. His number crunching, his mind, from the draft to free agency, he was the star of this whole thing.”

• Is Winslow a starting forward? “It’s up to him. He was short-circuited by the wrist and the shoulder. Justise is going to compete like crazy to start. The great thing about Spo, is when we come into training camp, it’s open.”

• He said when Olynyk was introduced to Winslow in the past few days, “We sign Kelly and Justise is in a full sweat working out. [Justise said], ‘I know him. He separated my shoulder. I know him already. We’ve already met.’”

• Riley: “I think the team deserves a chance to grow organically. We’ll see if the 30-11 is smoke and mirrors or if that’s the reality.... Not having Dion really hurt us even though we won four of our last five games.”

• Riley made clear he wants Haslem back and said “we’re still talking” with Luke Babbitt. He suggested Willie Reed is unlikely to return.

• On Hammons: “He’s the kind of player that fits that mold of a stretch five or four. We remember him from Purdue. That happened very quickly. We made that deal pretty quickly. We already had scouting reports on him.”

• Riley spoke of the importance of keeping Wayne Ellington: “We fought very hard to keep Wayne as our shooter.”

Related stories from Miami Herald