Pat Riley: 'We are one step from being a very good team'
Heat president Pat Riley addressed a bunch of issues in a Friday morning news conference:
• On where the Heat ranks in the East compared with Boston and Cleveland and others: “Everyone is giving teams something. The preseason ratings - the ones I respect - they can do a pretty good job of rating where teams might finish. So many things happen during the regular season with teams. Some times teams at the top might not go as hard as you think. Might not matter as much [to them] to win 60 games.
“Teams that might be rated at the bottom [Riley meant four through eight in the East] are a little bit more hungry and maybe we will build off that 30-11 and see if that’s real or not. I do know we have a highly committed team. I do see Cleveland and Boston at the top. There are some questions a little bit with the Celtics, not from a talent standout. They lost 10 out of their 14 players that had the best record in the East.
“Cleveland lost who I thought was next to Steph Curry, the best true point guard both ways in Kyrie Irving; they got a great one back [Isiah Thomas] but there are questions there [with an injury]. We see an opportunity because there isn’t a Golden State in our conference or San Antonio or Houston. We will take advantage if we can....
“We’ll see what 30-11 was about. I am not saying we’re going to win 60 games. That was a pretty impressive run for our team. The disappointment was not making the playoffs. Maybe not making the playoffs was a carrot [to motivate them].”
• On having a roster without any clear-cut stars: “There were only 12 All-Stars in the Eastern Conference last year. We felt there were players last year who had All-Star years [on the Heat] but they weren’t selected. We have stars on our team but they’re not considered that.
“I respect the fact Kevin Durant gave us an audience when we went to the Hamptoms to talk to him [in July 2016]. I felt we were a long shot. The same thing happened with Gordon Hayward [this past summer]. If we have the opportunity, we will always continue to pursue a player of that ability to come here. We made the decision to stay with this team. I like this team. I am happy James Johnson and Dion Waiters didn’t sign somewhere else and were still on the market. I think that’s where we are. We are way ahead of a rebuilding cycle. We are one step away from being a very good team. One step away could be the collective effort of an emsemble cast, or one step away could be a move to bring a player here.”
• On potential interest in Dwyane Wade if he gets a Bulls buyout: “Other than absolutely being in love with Dwyane Wade, because of our relationship over 13 years when he was here, and remembering when Jason Terry missed that shot in Dallas and Dwyane collared the rebound and threw it to the heavens and we won the championship.
“Probably one of the greatest series any player has ever had in the playoffs [during those 2006 NBA Finals]. If something happens, and I can’t speak to this because he’s under contract to them - I saw Gabby [Union, Wade’s wife] the other night at the Emmys. Chris [Riley, Pat Riley’s wife] and I were talking about how beautiful a woman and person she is. I feel great about our relationship that we had over the 13 years. Anything that happens from a personnel standpoint and any opportunities that are there, right now he’s under contract with Chicago and I wish him the very best.”
• On Hassan Whiteside: “We’ve seen growth in his play, in his approach to the game and his attitude about conditioning. A lot of things a young player takes for granted. He was a physical specimen when we got him. He was incredible as an athlete. I really believe he wants to be the best. He’s motivated and inspired to be the best.
“If he wants to achieve the goals he talks about in the media, and puts out on social media, which are great great goals - to be defensive player of the year and make the all defensive team and be respected. Those are things you must bring every single night [and you] must bring every single day in the offseason. H’s on the road to achieving some of those goals. He wants to win. He appreciates the team and his teammates around him. That kind of growth has come slowly but it’s there. We’re expecting a great year out of Hassan and we need a great year out of Hassan.”
• On Bam Adebayo: “What I’ve been most impressed with Bam is his maturity. As a 19-year old player, he’s very mature. The decisions he’s made off the court, his dedication to his mother. It’s real and he’s real. He’s only had four months of competitive basketball at a real high level.
“We had the pleasure of seeing [Kentucky coach] John Calipari down here. He was down here trying to recruit players. He came by our facility and coach Spo and myself and some of the other coaches had a great time with him. He believes this kid hasn’t even reached the ceiling and did hold him back some last year to an extent. He feels we might have the steal of the draft. We think not only is he mature but he’s very gifted, very talented. He’s in great shape. That’s up to Erik and the staff to evaluate him and how he plays and [if] he gets into the rotation.”
• On Udonis Haslem: “I’m so proud of the fact he has decided to finish his career here. He lifted 10 times in a row, 300 pounds.... He is the epitome of what it was about. I think U.D. is vital to Erik because he’s his No. 1 ally in the locker room. Coaches in today’s game need to have players like U.D. who not only can be that voice. He can still play the game.”
• On the four-year, $42 million extension for Josh Richardson: “We believe in him. His size, his length, his defensive ability. His ability to shoot the ball. He can get us into offense. He can’t really run an offense but we don’t run offense when he’s handling the ball.
“He’s a prototype contemporary player and he’s young. He was slowed down with the knee injury last year, missing the first half of the year. The wrist injury [last season], he was out of sync. Then it came together at the end of the year. He was dominant in personal workouts this summer. This perimeter competition for minutes and a starting position is going to be one of the great things I look forward to in practice.
“When you take a look at player value, there are a lot intangibles you have to look at. We didn’t want him to go in the open market next year and coming off a great year, having to match some crazy contract. If the average salary in the NBA is close to $9, $10 million, that’s where a lot of these guys are falling. When these words come out of my mouth, $8 or $9 million as the average salary, if I’m a player in this league, I am saying to myself, I am going to stay straight, be right, do whatever I can to have a 10-year career in this league and set up my family for life. We felt he was worth it and we expect great things from him.”
• Riley feels no need to add a veteran point guard: “If we didn’t feel comfortable with Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters, then we would have gotten a veteran with 10, 12 years in the league. We don’t feel like we need that. If we did, it would have been easy for us to acquire that type of player. The way Spo coaches now, it’s positionless now, it’s true. Most of the teams with gifted two way players are handling the ball.”
• Riley said he has enough defensively-skilled guards to guard quick point guards: “We have enough defenders that can play that. Goran Dragic is a heck of a defender. He gets after it defensively. When we want to put a stopper on a point guard, you can put Josh on him. Tyler gets after it; he can contain off the dribble.”
• On Justise Winslow: “You can’t be perfect with your rotation and personnel and what everyone brings to the table. We feel Justise is right there with everybody. He has worked diligently and very hard since he had surgery. The more he feels the pressure that he’s got to score or shoot the ball, he’s got to get over [that]. We love him as an athlete and winner. And he’s just 21 years old. We have a young team.”
• On his 19-man roster, one under the maximum permitted for training camp: “I’m happy with it. Erik is happy with it. It’s more than enough to go into camp. All of our players we brought back from last year are here and signed. The players we signed to D-League contracts, whether they were two way contracts - we have one [former Michigan point guard Derrick Walton Jr.] - the number 19 is enough. We don’t want to bring someone in just to bring someone in to have a 20th player. Spo said that’s enough. I think that’s enough....
“Our players voluntarily on their own have really worked out hard for the offseason. I think they’re ready for camp. This short period of time, you are not going to get a team in shape in five days. You don’t want to push them in five days where you start getting all these nagging injuries. You do have to think more as a coach about how you’re going to handle your players....
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about the competitiveness we’re going to see in this training camp. These players, all of them, want to play and want minutes. That can be good and that can be bad. Spo is wearing a T-shirt with ‘true competitor’ on it. I said, ‘Where did you get the T-shirt?’ He said ‘I had it made.’ I said, ‘Why didn’t you make one for me?’ We’ve got a very competitive locker room.”
• The Heat asks people to go to youcaring.com/heat for people who want to donate to Irma relief efforts.