Barry Jackson

Heat’s Pat Riley dishes on state of franchise, other issues: ‘We want to win big’

Highlights from Miami Heat president Pat Riley’s media briefing on Friday:

On the general goals for this season: “We want to win. We want to win big. Jimmy Butler laid the groundwork as to what his expectations are {to win]. I’ve seen a gravitation to that kind of attitude. With this particular team, I feel good. I felt good about last year’s team. Somewhere in December, I got the feeling it was going to be harder when Goran [Dragic] got hurt.

“We had won five in a row and then Goran went down. I feel like there’s been some change. Jimmy Butler, I think is a top 10 player. That’s up for debate. Can we find others to develop into those kind of players on our roster?”

He indicated he wasn’t deflated about not adding a second star this summer:

“I’m happy right now. The fact Jimmy wanted to be in Miami. That’s a start with the players we have. It’s put up or shut up, Bam [Adebayo], Justise [Winslow], with Kelly [Olynyk]. Dion [Waiters] is coming back, James Johnson is coming back. It’s time to play.

“This is a good team that has had a tremendous amount of adversity. More adversity since LeBron [James] left than any team in the league, with Chris becoming ill, and making a trade for Goran [Dragic], and Dwyane Wade leaving. We had a lot of adversity with injuries. We would like to have a healthy, happy, hungry year and keep our players healthy. We are going to show restraint as much as we can and as much discipline as we can with our roster. If something ever presents itself, we’ll always take a look at it.”

He said everyone will be healthy to start camp except Kelly Olynyk. “Everyone will be ready to go probably with the exception of Kelly Olynyk. He’s still rehabbing from his knee surgery from Team Canada. We will have 19 ready to go. Sometime during training camp, he will be ready to hit the floor.”

Does he mind Justise Winslow saying he wants to play point guard? Riley wishes he hadn’t.

“We fined him $50,000 and we gave it to Goran,” Riley joked. “He’s a young man. I love Justise. Jimmy Butler loves Justise. We all know what kind of player Justise is.

“What Erik [Spoelstra] has done is an amazing job of turning this 19 year old into this major ball handling guard. Don’t put the word point on it. He put him out there himself [but] we have an All-Star at that position. I don’t think he should have expressed it that way.”

On Butler saying he wants the Heat to be hated: “It’s part of our culture. We’ve talked enough about wanting to be respected. And in order to be respected, you have to show the competition that. But you do it in a basketball manner... He’s one of the top 10 players in the league. We’re going to find out how he meshes with our team... We’ll see what his impact on winning is. That’s what I’m encouraged about.

“I embraced all the qualities he had... He could get 27, 7, and 7 for him but I’m not so sure that would equal winning. He’s a very unselfish player. Him as a person, as a basketball player, as a big time scorer and defender, that comes organically.”

Riley, speaking about developing culture, said there are three things he cannot tolerate: “Complaining, gossiping, not working hard. I can’t stand that. If players start to complain, start to gossip, start to become cynical about things, I have a hard time with that.”

He said Heat practices are “not Draconian. It’s not mediaval. It’s where we expect professional players to be world class athletes, become the best version you can be. We will help you do that. And become nutritionally involved to get in shape. We’ll help you do that, and work for a great owner. The culture we’ve created, I’m proud of.”

On Dion Waiters and James Johnson: “I love both guys. James Johnson is a competitor. Dion Waiters is a competitor. Both are very skilled, very talented. Both came here and played extremely well for us. As much as you keep throwing that out that they were bad contracts,.. both of those guys performed extremely well for us. They’re in great shape, they worked all summer long. I’m glad we have both of those guys healthy.”

On Tyler Herro: “He had a great summer. What everybody says about him and how much he’s getting written up in a positive way. He’s a very humble guy. I don’t think he said five words to me since we drafted him. He competes and works hard. He knows he’s going to have to earn it. We all know he can shoot the ball. We all know he has a toughness to win.”

On center Meyers Leonard: “We saw what he can do in his last game [a 30-point game for Portland while being eliminated by Golden State in the Western Conference Finals]. Maybe we catch Meyers at the right time [at this stage of his career]. We like what he’s done and like the fact he can really stretch the floor, got size, sets great picks. “

On guard Kendrick Nunn: “He’s like a German Shepherd. He’s going to surprise a lot of people. Being able to sign him on the last day of the season and have the kind of summer league he had, we like that kind of opportunity. Maybe he can become Tyler Johnson, maybe somebody like Ike Austin that can really play.”

He believes rookie forward KZ Okpala is “just like a Derrick Jones Jr., just younger.”

Riley said he asked Udonis Haslem after the season if he wants to play or coach. Haslem said he didn’t want to coach. “I said you’re like a coach right now in the locker-room. Mark my words, one day, he’s going to coach.... He’s quintessential to almost everything we do. He’s so respected by our guys. Not to play that much and keep himself in great shape and be part of it. I keep accusing him of you want to just play another year. $2.8 million is $2.8 million. He still wants to compete and be part of a team.”

Please check back for colleague Anthony Chiang’s piece on what Butler said in his news conference today.

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