Highlights from Heat president Pat Riley’s conference call with reporters on Friday:
▪ He said Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem likely will decide in the next three weeks whether they intend to play next season. Both are free agents and both have been invited to return.
“I do believe and I hope by the middle of August, we will probably have a decision on both players,” Riley said. “There has been communication with Dwyane and with his agent. It’s best that we give him some more time. He had a long trip in China that was a wonderful trip for him. Im happy for what he did, being able to get a longterm contract with a shoe company.
“I want Dwyane back as a player, I want him back as a guy that wants to have the greatest year he’s ever had as a player. I read more articles about Dwyane being done, he’s lost a step, he’s not the same player, he might not have the same motivation. There have been a lot of things written about him in that context.
“But I still see a player who can contribute heavily if he really wants to. If he plays, he’s going to want to do that. We don’t want him back as a placemat holder or somebody who’s going to be a veteran in the lockerroom. Dwyane is a great player, a great talent. He’s not the same guy he was in 2006, but he can be a very good player for us and can make a big difference for us. We want him back as a guy that realizes if this is going to be his last year or whatever, we want this to be his best year ever.”
Wade wants the Heat’s $5.3 million taxpayer midlevel extension, according to the Associated Press. With the Heat already $3 million above the luxury tax threshold, is Miami willing to offer him that?
“As far as the tax goes, that’s the abyss we all deal with in the NBA,” Riley answered. “As we proved in the past, if you’ve won a championship or you’re a championship contender every year or you’re heading toward that, you treat that differently. That’s always the owner’s call because of the nature of the tax and how punitive that it can become year to year. The fact we are over the tax and whether we would offer that exception to Dwyane, that’s going to be a question I will ask [owner] Micky [Arison]. I will be visiting with my boss this week.”
▪ Is Riley frustrated he couldn’t change the roster this offeason after a 44-win season and first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia?
“I’m not frustrated at all,” he said. “Even though there has been a lot of activity on our part with having discussions around the league, we have a roster that’s a playoff roster. This year is a pivotal year for these guys when they come back to try to dispel the notion and the perception out there is that we are who a lot of people think we are. To me, that’s a great challenge on the part of the team and the coaching staff. We are going to be a very competitive team. I do hope with the continuity and the belief we have with this roster, that it we’ll be better.
“You always want to improve the team in certain ways but also you want to stay the course. I can remember a lot of the teams I coached, whether it was the Lakers or New York or even my earlier years in Miami, once we built a team, you build on that foundation and the most important thing that can happen with that team organically is you improve.
“But it doesn’t necessarily mean individuals will go to another level with their play as to what it is now. Continuity to me is important. Once the chain was broken when Dwayne accepted the offer with Chicago [in 2016], we moved forward with putting together a team we felt we could build with, take a look at the team for two or three years, guys that had made it or didn’t make it or guys that were in the middle of their careers that just needed an opportunity. You have seen with these players that got a real legit opportunity that they could perform and could perform on a playoff team.”
▪ And Riley made this point, too: “Once we made all those signings after Dwyane left and then after we had a great 30-11 second half of the season and after making the playoffs last year with this team and also not having Dion Waiters play hardly at all, you got to give it another shot. You can’t just keep ripping things up every year and changing your roster.
“Continuity is important. I believe that in that the first team I had here with Zo, five years with that team. If we didn’t do well in the playoffs, we go home and come back in October and try it again, maybe add one or two guys. I think that’s where we are right now. I feel good about where we are right now. I don’t feel any tremendous anxiety to do something big because quite frankly we can’t. But we will again one day.”
▪ Here’s how he assesses the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James has left for Cleveland: “You can never predict anything in this league. You look at what happened last year to Indiana and how good they became getting [Domantas] Sabonis and [Victor] Oladipo, how they changed, how their mentality changed. They made some good additions. Very few people talk about them. They only talk about how this is Boston’s conference and this is Philadelphia’s conference.
“With the trade of Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan, you don’t know how that’s going to play out [with Toronto]. I think there are a lot of teams in the East that have made, whether it’s upward moves or lateral moves, are having a feeling about themselves that they’re going to be better. 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, I’m all for that because I think the door is wide open for almost anybody to do something very good.”
▪ Asked whether he has decided whether to make a multiyear offer to Justise Winslow by the mid-October deadline – instead of waiting for him to become a restricted free agent next summer – Riley said: “We have been in conversation with his agent. Justise has been working very hard this summer, as he always does.... We are going to address that probably in late August, once everything dies down. We look at Justise as one of our anchor pieces. We will have that extension discussion probably in late August. We don’t have to do anything until mid October so we will just see what happens.”
▪ With the Heat capped out this year and for the 2019-20 season as currently constituted, does Riley have any hopes of having cap space before 2020?
“Free agency and room can be overstated,” he said. “You can have room fatigue. Since 2010, we have been a team that has always been chasing somebody bigger and better, having conversations with players that we didn’t even have an opportunity to probably sign because we didn’t have enough room. but trying to force some kind of a trade to bring them to Miami.
“After the [Kevin] Durant and after the [Gordon] Hayward situations where we were not able to get those guys to come here, we felt once Dwyane left, we changed course but we discovered a team to keep together for two or three years and that’s why we are where we are right now.
▪ He confirmed a report in The Miami Herald that the Heat has declined to attach valuable assets to shed salary.
“If you want to shed salary, you got to go into your draft picks and you’ve got to go into your young players,” he said. “We have had opportunities this summer to do that a lot but it wasn’t worth getting rid of our young assets or the two picks we have coming up [first-rounders in 2019 and 2020]. So we decided to stand pat with the team that we have and use the resources we have in the draft and the money that we have to make this team better. We will be a room team again one day. 2020 is the year we could possibly be a significant room team. But I think it’s important to develop this is where we are going.”
▪ Asked how the Heat can reconcile the fact that Hassan Whiteside has repeatedly indicated that he’s unhappy playing 25 minutes per game – as he did last season – Riley said: “That has been addressed – there have been great discussions with coach and with Hassan.
“Hassan is working hard. He’s going to make a trip to Africa and Juwan Howard is going with him and is going to be working with him in Africa. He is going to go there on a safari....
“Stuff happens, things are said, players are frustrated. Guys have a tendency to have great pride. They want to be on the court. This is nothing new. One of the reasons this becomes so widespread is because one comment leads into a million comments. Hassan has a lot of work to do, not just to verbally demand he wants more minutes or wants a different role or whatever it is. He has got to do what Erik [Spoelstra] thinks is in the best interests of the team.
“I am confident that if he just comes every night and plays as hard as he can play, and do what he does best – which is rebound the ball, block shots, be a rim protector, be a hard pick and roll player, defend, all of those things - and does it with a pure heart and not with a mixed up mind of I need this or that, he will have a great year. You go back to the first year and a half, people were talking about him being Defensive Player of the Year. He has that in him but it’s up to him.
“There have been a lot of players in their careers that have had bumps in the road somewhere along the way where maybe they didn’t think it was going the way they wanted it to go. But Hassan simply has something to prove and prove to himself and prove to us and prove to a lot of people out there that are second guessing him.
“I am expecting him to have a great year. We value his talent. He just has got to bring it – I talk to his agents all the time, Jeff Schwartz, Sean Kennedy, great guys. We are all in agreement. It’s up to Hassan – we are doing everything to help him but it’s up to him to decide how great he can be and how great he wants to be.”
Riley said Whiteside “has not been shopped all over the league.” Two general managers who have spoken to the Heat said earlier in July that Miami had made Whiteside available in trade talks.
▪ Riley said James Johnson “is coming along great” from sports hernia surgery, Tyler Johnson is “fine” after thumb surgery and Dion Waiters - off January ankle surgery - “is now ramping up his efforts to heal and get better and put more work into being able to get out on the court.”
The Heat has been non-committal about whether he will be ready for the start of training camp.