Some Heat fans have been spoiled by years of moderate-to-monstrous success, with three championships since 2006 and 18 playoff appearances in 23 seasons under team president Pat Riley’s stewardship.
And so a segment of Heat fans – certainly not the majority but a segment that vents on social media and elsewhere – seems angry and discontent that Miami sits now in something of an NBA no-man’s land, without the cap space or the assets to significantly improve a slightly-above-average roster that’s playoff-caliber but far from a championship contender.
When I asked Riley about this on Friday – and whether he shares the impatience of some of these fans - Riley said he doesn’t spend much time on social media and that he doesn’t sense anger from any significant portion of the Heat fan base.
But for a man who once spoke of either winning or misery, Riley implored Heat fans to be patient with the franchise’s predicament, one that likely won’t bring cap space for 23 more months.
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“You don’t ever want to make a trade for the sake of making a trade; you just don’t want to do that [and say] let’s do something because everybody is upset,” Riley said of some fans’ frustration over the lack of roster turnover this offseason after a five-game first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia.
“Every now and then people have to step back, even the organizations, and take a deep breath and get ready for another season. That’s what we’re doing and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the continuity of our players. Our players don’t like to be perceived [how they’re being] perceived as a team and maybe where they are going to finish. That always serves as motivation.
“I don’t feel that level of anger [from Heat fans]…. There are fans that write in that want more. We try to address it and let them know that you have to have a little patience at times. Right now, we are in that period of hoping our fans will have just a little patience and let this thing grow.”
Riley cautions that any discontent from Heat fans shouldn’t be overstated.
“I talk to a lot of fans,” he said. “I’ve given speeches to our season ticket holders and our sponsors and talked to people. And what comes across social media -- or what some fan who might be a real diehard Heat fan might show in frustration -- [is] because we are not what we were when we had the Big Three. We don’t have that kind of team right now. Somewhere along the line, people have to realize you are a basketball fan and you love the game.”
In other words, enjoy a playoff team and don’t necessarily be miserable if you’re not a championship contender every single year.
“If any fan out there is unhappy or angry we didn’t go out and get LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Boogie Cousins or whatever else they felt that they would want us to get probably didn’t realize we couldn’t get them anyhow, that we couldn’t trade for them,” Riley said. “There are things I read [where] people are so uninformed about the rules and what we can and cannot do until one of you [reporters] – and most of the time you do that – [say] we couldn’t make that move.”
And then Riley, who for years craved cap flexibility, offered this relevation: “Free agency and room can be overstated. You can have room fatigue. Since 2010, we have been a team that has always been chasing somebody bigger and better.”
What frustrates some Heat fans is that the Miami committed significant cap space to several players who are decent but not elite difference-makers.
Riley defends those moves: “You have seen with these players that got a real legit opportunity that they could perform and could perform on a playoff team.”
He makes the point that the Heat stuck with the Alonzo Mourning/Tim Hardaway core “for five years” that included three playoff ousters (and one playoff series win) against the Knicks.
“I think that’s where we are right now,” Riley said, though those teams won substantially more games than this current core.
So Riley, who confirmed our report that the Heat has been unwilling to attach first-round draft picks to dump contracts, must do what any executive in this situation would do: offer a glass-half-full perspective.
“This year is a pivotal year for these guys to try to dispel the notion and the perception out there that we are who a lot of people think we are,” he said.
“We are going to be a very competitive team. One thing we have going for us is we have familiarity, we have continuity. There is a system that’s been intact here. If it’s a free for all [in the East], I’m all for that because I think the door is wide open for almost anybody to do something very good.”
Here’s my Saturday post with Dolphins nuggets from the third day of training camp.