Some Heat notes on a Thursday:
▪ Before this season, the Heat cited its depth — the fact it has a lot of pretty good NBA players — as one of the best qualities of this roster.
Ultimately, though, the depth created a challenge that team president Pat Riley wants to fix.
By the end of the season and playoffs, the Heat had limited minutes for Tyler Johnson, far fewer minutes than Hassan Whiteside wanted and virtually no minutes for Rodney McGruder. Luke Babbitt went from starter last season to mostly a DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision).
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“I'm going to tell you one thing about our team that we do have a problem with — we have a logjam,” Riley said.
“We have too many good-to-great players. We have too many. We have like 11 or 12 guys. We might have 9 or 10 guys especially with Kelly [Olynyk] and Bam [Adebayo] and JJ [James Johnson] and with Hassan and things change at warp speed during the course of a game. "
▪ On that point, Riley said he had no issue with how Erik Spoelstra used Whiteside, but also talked about wanting to “keep him on the court 30 minutes a game” (he averaged 25.3 this season, down from 32.6 last season) and spoke generally about how many coaches opt to go to a smaller lineup when other teams do.
“A lot of coaches … get caught up in this game of speed and spacing and threes and layups and before you know it, they have a 10-point lead and they're down 20,” he said, not speaking of any coach in particular. “They lose games that way. Quite frankly, there are three or four teams that have this down to a science. But the way the game is going right now and how it’s being played offensively and defensively, I don't think anybody has a real handle on it yet.
“One day somebody is going to have a real handle to do both, that can marry both offense and defense with their personnel. That's crucial. If you have a philosophy of we're going to do this — but maybe you have personnel that you have to do that — then that's a decision you have to make. I think that's where we are somewhat with our roster."
▪ Riley made clear this week that retiring is not in his plans.
He said he hasn’t thought about it.
“This is my 50th year,” he said. “1967 is when I came in. There’s always something that brings you back in, there’s something that sucks you back in. You could tell yourself in September, ‘This is my last year.’ But by the end of the season something happens that sucks you back in.
‘I can’t now. I’ve got to make the team better. We have free agency. I’ve got a draft pick. I can’t do this to [owner] Micky [Arison]. I can’t do this.’
“I would love to have one of those golden consulting jobs somewhere. There’s a few guys around the league that have those jobs. But I say that in jest, because all the men who do that I’m sure they provide a good service. But I’m an active participant, and I want to stay that way to the chagrin of some of you and some people in the organization.”
▪ Though it’s unclear which of these players will return, Riley again challenged them to get in the gym and get better:
“You have to ultimately continue to improve your skill level. You can come in with talent. Talent is something you have in a box. Then you go to an organization and you make a commitment about conditioning and world class and all those things.
“Can you become a better basketball player off the court? Can you transform that into a real competition? That's where you measure a player's improvement.
“So you always internally improve. I know this for a fact when I was with the Lakers. Each and every one of those players went home and did something better. Even the greatest of the greatest get better. There is a ceiling to everybody.”
▪ There’s nothing quite as compelling as Riley streams of consciousness during news conferences. Here was one of several Monday:
“There is no perfect solution or answers to all our questions ... I'll bring you back to the present and the present is I'm not happy. I'm not happy with the ending. I also wasn't overwhelmed by our 30-11 finish last year. I wasn't really overwhelmed by it. It planted some seeds in my head about those guys that played during that time. So, once we struck out on [Kevin] Durant [in 2016], once Dwyane left [in 2016] and once the [Gordon] Hayward thing went sideways [last summer], I think it was very important to get a mix of players that could compete, and are versatile, players that Spo wanted in his system and were playoff players.
"Now, if you go back to Game 4, give me Game 4 back; I think we take it to Game 7. That's me. Give me Game 4 back. One-point lead in the last 30 seconds. Dwyane hits two shots, [Ben] Simmons dunk and [J.J.] Redick's dagger in the corner. Give me one stop. You go to Game 5…
"Then you see if they can respond with that kind of pressure. We come back for Game 6 and it’s a survival game. We never got to that. I wish we would have got to that. But Game 4 was the game that made me feel like I felt when we walked out of here in 2000 and we got beat by the Knicks. That was the moment that that team was really broken up. But I'm not going to break this team up.
“We're going to make this team better. I can't go back to Game 4. And I can't go back to Simmons' dunk or Redick's jumper. It's over with. We move on and watch other teams play and we watch other teams go on vacation and do the same things they're doing."