Heat Check

Riley didn’t feel ‘goose-bumply’ or ‘fuzzy-haired’ about Heat’s finish. But here’s why he’s optimistic

Pat Riley addresses the media after the 2016-17 season

Miami Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual state of the Heat press conference on April 19, 2017.
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Miami Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual state of the Heat press conference on April 19, 2017.

Pat Riley spoke for a little more than 47 minutes on Wednesday and made a lot of eyebrow-raising comments about the state of the Miami Heat.

But what needs be to taken away from it all is that while most of Miami remains proud of the team’s 30-11 second half finish and heartbroken about barely missing the playoffs, the guy in charge since 1995 was “pissed off.”

And no matter how much Heat Nation may have all fallen in love with this team – with Dion Waiters’ Phily Cheese Swag and game-winning shots, or James Johnson’s transformation from no-name backup to a LeBron-like leading man, or Wayne Ellington’s ability to run off screens and hit threes like Ray Allen – Riley, 72, always wants more.

And if he can find a way to get closer to winning a championship than this particular team did, that will always take precedence.

“While I feel absolutely great about what happened, I think all of you know me, I’m not happy about not being in the playoffs at all,” Riley said in his opening statement to reporters at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“I’m not all goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired. That’s not my makeup. Maybe there has to be somebody like that.”

The architect of three Heat world championship teams, Riley, though, acknowledges the NBA’s landscape has changed since the team’s last huge summer in 2010.

Whale hunting isn’t what it used to be. Not when the new collective bargaining agreement is structured to allow teams to offer their own free agents much more money than the outsiders looking to pry them away.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks about the team's plans for Chris Bosh during his season-ending press conference on Wed., April 19, 2017.

The Heat’s $38 million in projected cap space – once Chris Bosh is released and his salary cap hold recovered – will simply not be enough to bring in outside help (like All-Stars Gordon Hayward or Paul Millsap at over $30 million each) and keep Miami’s own top free agents in Waiters and Johnson.

So, with that in mind, Riley said, the Heat will look toward resigning its own free agents this summer, using its lottery draft pick wisely, and potentially making a trade or two to get the franchise back into contention for a title before he finally walks away for good.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we have found a lot of seeds to be able to plant to make a team a lot quicker than maybe in the past,” Riley said. “So I think the first thing is to really focus in on our team. We’ll always observe what’s going on in free agency. We do have that flexibility. But as long as you have that flexibility and you have a draft pick and you have a lot of players on your team that you like, then I think you’re in a good position to move forward.

“I just want to have a good summer, come back and have a great team and contend for championships. I don’t know how many more non-playoff years I could take or I’d want to take. And I’m not so sure if we had more non-playoff years that I’d even deserve to be here. We got a good group of guys. I love this group of guys we have to built this team from and we’re going to hopefully make the right selections.

“I hope that Dion and James and the rest of our free agents like it here enough that we’re going to be fair with them and they’ll be fair with us. We’re in a whole new era now with free agency.”

000 Pat Riley DS
Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media during the season ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wed., April 19, 2017 in in Miami. David Santiago dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Other topics Riley covered Wednesday:

▪ Riley chose not to discuss the situation regarding Bosh and when he might be released this summer to clear up the cap space the team needs, but said “there has been conversations with the organization and with Chris personally.” Bosh recently told Larry King he believes he will play in the NBA again one day.

“Look, there isn't anybody in this organization that feels worse for CB than I do,” Riley said. “As far as all the other things go, I think in due time it will run its course and it take care of itself.”

▪ Riley said Erik Spoelstra “coached the hell out of” this team.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks about the team's plans for Chris Bosh during his season-ending press conference on Wed., April 19, 2017.

“When I went back and really examined that 11-30 record, I looked at it as probably an 18-23 record, that’s probably what we should have been,” Riley said. “I do think this was his greatest challenge going in and it was a great challenge for him at 11-30, and at the end of the season he showed the results by having that the 30-11 record.”

“Erik is very measured, his message is great, the players don’t get confused by the message and he’s very direct with them. He’s very direct with you guys night in and night out. He doesn’t BS you and he doesn’t give you anything else either. That’s the perfect coach.”

▪ Riley said it was “ridiculous” the Chicago Bulls, who made the playoffs on a 2-1 head-to-head tiebreaker over the Heat and earned the eighth seed, only played once in Miami this season. “If we played two here, maybe we’d be in the playoffs,” he said. “That should not be part of the tiebreaker, head-to-head. It should be on the court. But I can’t change the rules.”

▪ Riley said the issue of teams resting players has “become a travesty, an absolute travesty” and an issue commissioner Adam Silver must address. “We don’t rest. I don’t believe it,” Riley said. “Let's just put a little more integrity into the whole concept of rest.”

▪ Riley said he was proud to see former Heat assistant and Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale go after officials in his postgame rant Monday night. Fizdale was fined $30,000 for it Wednesday. “I’m glad he’s got some Heat DNA in him,” Riley said.

▪ Riley said he thinks Hassan Whiteside is capable of putting up 25 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks a night more consistently. “To be a world champion we’re going to need a championship center,” Riley said. “I think he has the capability of being that.”

▪ Riley said he doesn’t know “if there are two tougher-minded guards in the league than Goran [Dragic] and Dion.”

▪ Riley said he would like to see captain Udonis Haslem, who turns 37 in June, on the roster next season and said his leadership is invaluable. But he added, Haslem is “going to have to come in and earn his position, not just because he’s the grandfather of the team. Mr. Miami is in our hearts and so we’ll let that sort of run its course as we build our team over the summer.”

▪ Riley said it is unfair to judge Justise Winslow after 75 games – especially because he played with a wrist injury in his 18 appearances this season. He also said including Winslow in trade rumors is nonsense.

“He ain’t going anywhere,” Riley said. “He’s got something to prove, there’s no doubt, and I tell you what, he’ll prove it. He’ll prove that he's more than just that. He’s a winner, man, and we’re glad to have him.”

▪ Riley said he likes the position the Heat is in heading into the draft. Miami has a 98.2 percent chance it will pick 14th.

“I do believe that between 12 and 20, or 20 and 12, these players can flip-flop, that there will be a very good player in the draft,” he said. “We’ll probably take the best player, depending on free agency. And who’s going to stay and not going to stay. But I do like some of the players that I saw. And possibly some of these guys from 12 to 20 could be better than the guys from seven to 12.”

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