A six-pack of Heat notes, approaching Miami’s game at Indiana on Friday night:
▪ With LeBron James’ Lakers playing the Heat in Miami on Sunday, any prickly feelings between James and Heat president Pat Riley have seemingly dissipated, more than four years after James left the Heat to return to Cleveland.
When author Ian Thomson was working on his new book The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown between LeBron, Kobe, Doc and Dirk that Saved the NBA, Thomson said Riley agreed to speak with him only on the condition that he give James a heads-up.
So Thomson – as told on a podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe — said he approached James and told him, “Pat Riley wanted me to say something.”
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James, according to Thomson, “had a nervous chuckle and said, ‘I am listening.’ I told him about the book. I said, ‘Pat is going to talk to me for it and he would only talk to me if I told you myself and he wanted you to know he’s not looking to give you any crap.’ LeBron nodded and said, ‘Pat’s great, Pat’s great.’ We left it at that. ... Pat hadn’t spoken a word to him since he left.”
If you missed it when excerpts were released this past spring, the most interesting Heat/James anecdote in the book was this:
“After the 9-8 start [in the Big Three’s first season together], Riley brings in the Big 3 for a private meeting,” as Thomson relayed to ESPN’s Lowe. “[Riley said] I remember LeBron looking at me and he said, ‘You don’t ever get the itch to coach again?’ He didn’t ask any more questions and Riley didn’t [answer].”
As Lowe told Thomson: “The implication is he’s asking Pat to bump Spo [Erik Spoelstra] out of the job.”
Thomson said: “I don’t think he [Riley] was tempted.”
And Thomson said after talking to Riley, it was clear Riley wishes Miami had defended Dirk Nowitzki differently in that NBA Finals loss to Dallas in the first year of the Big Three era.
“When it came to Dirk in the fourth quarter, if we had to do it over, we would have defended him differently or with different people,” Thomson said, paraphrasing Riley. ”We should have had LeBron on him.”
Riley also said in the book that when James left: “I had two to three days of tremendous anger. I was absolutely livid, which I expressed to myself and my closest friends. My beautiful plan all of a sudden came crashing down. That team in 10 years could have won five or six championships. But I get it. I get the whole chronicle of [LeBron’s] life.”
In interviews following his move from Cleveland to the Lakers in July, James did not list the Heat among teams he seriously considered this offseason. And the Heat lacked the cap space to sign him without a sign-and-trade.
▪ Ticket of America’s Michael Lipman said he sold two courtside seats for $12,000 apiece for Sunday’s game — most ever for a regular season Heat game. He declined to disclose the identity of the buyers.
▪ It has been nearly 10 months since Dion Waiters underwent ankle surgery on a procedure he said would sideline him 8 to 10 months. And yet his return is not considered imminent.
In addition to healing from the procedure, we’re told conditioning is also an issue for Waiters, who needs to get in better shape. For the second year in a row, Waiters won’t collect a $1.1 million bonus that would be paid if he plays in 70 games.
James Johnson, who had sports hernia surgery, told the Herald’s Anthony Chiang that he’s not playing yet because he still needs to meet Heat weight and body fat requirements.
▪ If the Heat ultimately decides to trade Wayne Ellington to get back under the luxury tax (and there’s no indication Miami is considering that), he would have the right to approve any trade.
Ellington and all NBA free agents signed before Sept. 15 of this past summer cannot be traded until Dec. 15, anyway.
▪ Since it’s our first Heat column since Jimmy Butler was traded to Philadelphia, a couple of things: According to a source, the Heat’s last best offer for Butler – offered weeks ago – was Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk and a protected No. 1 pick. But Riley never came back with another offer after Minnesota asked for more and before he was traded to Philadelphia. The Athletic reported the Heat also earlier dangled a package with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow….
Riley never went back to Minnesota because he believes he gave it his best shot and wasn’t prepared to offer more. So it wasn’t a case of Miami removing Richardson from the package as much as it was the Heat never returning to the table, period... The Heat’s offer was probably better than Philadelphia’s, but the Timberwolves weren’t serious about trading him until they fell to 4-8 and then 4-9 with Butler.
▪ Though the Heat has been mentioned as a possibility for Houston’s soon-to-be released Carmelo Anthony (and can’t be discounted until he signs somewhere), keep in mind that the Heat’s meeting with him in July in Las Vegas came about only because Anthony requested it, not because the Heat was aggressively pursuing him. There are some Heat basketball people who don’t especially like the fit, especially with Miami trying to get its defense back on track and a rotation crowded enough as it is.