Barry Jackson

Riley has idea to curtail tanking; Riley assesses East, Warriors’ dominance and more

Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Sat., July 16, 2016, in Miami.
Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Sat., July 16, 2016, in Miami. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Wednesday:

• Tanking has been a problem for the NBA occasionally over the years, with management of a few teams transparently trying to secure a high draft pick.

Heat president Pat Riley has a solution.

“What I'd like to have,” Riley said this week, “is a two out of three lottery playoff. So the season ends on Tuesday, the playoffs start on Sunday, and from Wednesday to Saturday, the lottery teams play a tournament for the pick. Now, that'll stop all that [garbage], of guys tanking and all that stuff. So the 14th team and the first team, there's equality here now. So no more tanking in the end.

“Maybe it's a one game. I think you'd draw a tremendous amount of fans and great interest. But because of the way it has been for long, the history of the lottery, is that people would go crazy, they won't get used to it. So play for it. Let's have a little playoff for the top pick in the draft, instead of working on ping-pong balls and all that stuff. But the whole tanking and resting players at the end of the year, for the right reasons, if you're a playoff team and you know you made the playoffs, and you're going to rest your guys, I understand that. I get that. But if you're a lottery and you're going to be resting players, we all know what that's about. I've done it. We've all tried to do it to get the best position that we can get, from that standpoint. So you just want to make it as competitive as you can."

• I asked Riley if a top four seed is a very realistic target in his mind.

“Yes,” he said. “I think they should be competing for that, thinking in those terms. Cleveland has got some issues right now. They don’t from a talent standpoint but it seems as though they have some issues surrounding a lot of things. But I still look at them as a top team. I look at Boston as a team that could become monstrous. I still think they have another play or two that could be really big because of the assets they have and what could happen next year in free agency also. Washington proved they’re really a great team. Toronto even though they signed back both Kyle and Serge and gave away Carroll and Cory Joseph got back CJ Miles. So, there are other teams in the conference but we feel good. If you go into the season healthy, in shape and you’re feeling good and there’s been sort of a commitment to one another the sky’s the limit. You got to go for it....

A lot of times with all this going on, we forget that we have one of the best point guards in the NBA and one of the top centers in the NBA in Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.”

(My thoughts: On paper, the Heat seems better than everybody in the East except Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto and perhaps Milwaukee. And it wouldn’t be shocking if Miami challenges the Wizards or Raptors - as well as obviously the Bucks - if everything breaks right.)

• Among the things players will be told when training camp starts: “I think that will be a message by coach Spo and if it’s not by him it will be by me that as good as we were in the second half of the year, we didn’t finish the job,” Riley said of missing the playoffs by virtue of losing a tiebreaker to the Chicago Bulls.

• Why does Riley believe that the Heat doesn’t need a prototypical pure point guard to back up Goran Dragic?

“This is becoming combo guard, a combination guard league,” he said. “Even if you take a look at the point guards of the draft, they're not just pure point guards. Maybe [Lakers rookie] Lonzo Ball might be the purest point guard. The other guys are all. This doesn't mean he can't be a combo guard or play with another guy. But you've got to be two-way guards now.

“You've got to be able to score. You've got to be able to handle; defend, make threes; take it to the rack. Tyler Johnson is great at it. We use JJ [James Johnson] a lot in handling the ball and getting us into offense. Our plan was that that's probably what we would have done with Gordon Hayward and also now with Justise Winslow coming back. He was a primary ballhandler for us a lot before he got hurt and even before. And Josh Richardson. We don't need a prototype pure point guard. We have enough ballhandlers and I think the game is such today that's the way it's being played."

• NBA teams can carry 16th and 17th players this season, with those players signings two-way contracts and not permitted to spend more than 45 days in the NBA this season. Riley expects to use one of those two spots possibly in the next week or so but didn’t say if it would be a player on the Heat’s Summer League roster (such as rookie guards London Perrantes of Virginia or Matt Williams from Central Florida) or a player on another team’s summer league roster.

“I have a list of players, so I do think there's a possibility maybe this week or after that we might sign one,” he said. “There's only been six players thus far that have signed two-way contracts, so that's not many. I think teams are taking a look at it to see, to make sure they get somebody really good and not just to give it to anybody.”

The Knicks gave one of their two-way contracts to Vanderbilt center Luke Kornet, who has the most three-pointers in NCAA history for a 7-footer.

“We liked him after the workout here, but we didn't step up,” Riley said. “So we'll see. We're going to probably use it. But we want to make sure we get a very good prospect."

• Though Riley suggested that resigning Willie Reed is unlikely because the Heat is set with its power rotation, he said: “I hope he get what he deserves.”

• Riley, on how to build a team like the juggernaut that Golden State has assembled: “I think everybody feels that, yes, they are a dominant team. Two titles in three years. Cleveland, three years in a row for the Finals. So both teams have been to the Finals three times in a row. But you never give up hope and you keep building toward that. But what will happen is Golden State grew organically and also they drafted well, but they also made some very good acquisitions via trade and free agency. They got Andre Iguodala, they ended up getting Andrew Bogut in a trade.

“The very first championship they won, they signed Shaun Livingston. They were beginning to go that way and they drafted Draymond Green in the second round. So they had a very low contract with Steph, they got Klay, so they grew organically through trades and also free agency. They used all three areas. I think today in order to catch them, if you want to do the organic trip, it’s going to take you a long time. Because the organic trip obviously is through lotteries and draft, and maybe some real good trades. But to be able to pick off the free agent that can change that organic trip and make it a little faster, I think will always be there.

“I think what [Rockets GM] Darryl [Morey] has done. Chris Paul wanted to play with James [Harden], whatever happens next. P.J. Tucker ended up going there and then so they are starting to match up with them and they got [Trevor] Ariza and [Clint] Capela still. So they’ve got a really good team.”

FYI: The Heat plays Washington at 6 p.m. Wednesday from Las Vegas, on NBA TV... Here was yesterday’s Riley six-pack, with his thoughts on the next step for Dion Waiters, the small forward competition and more... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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