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Pat Riley Addresses the Miami Heat Summer

July 17th, 2016 1 comment
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The following post attempts to parse through the eloquent words of Pat Riley, delivered at his press conference on Saturday, to arrive at their true meaning.

Things are not always necessarily what they seem.

During a press conference on Saturday to discuss the state of his Miami Heat team, Pat Riley opened up about the sadness he feels for having lost Dwyane Wade, the team’s most important ever player.

“What happened with Dwyane floored me. And I’m going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat… It’s not going to be the same without him… I have been here when Zo left, Shaq left, when Brian Grant, Eddie Jones. But Dwyane is unique.”

After 13 seasons, Wade is gone. Officially signed by the Chicago Bulls.

Wade will get paid $47.0 million over the next two years, with a player option on the second season. That’s more than the Heat’s two-year, $40.0 million offer. But this wasn’t about the money.

Wade’s decision was predicated on a deteriorating relationship that resulted from a fundamental difference in philosophies. A difference that was two years in the making.  Read more…

The Anatomy of a Spectacular Miami Heat Failure

June 15th, 2014 4 comments
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The Miami Heat’s bid for basketball immortality – four straight NBA Finals appearances and three straight NBA titles, a feat which has only been accomplished once in league history – has fallen spectacularly short. In the wake of this colossal failure, we’re all left wondering how it all went so wrong so quickly – how our team ended up looking so old, so slow, so flawed, so unable to adapt, so unable to defend.

Is it an organizational philosophy that failed us?

“I don’t think you win championships with young, athletic players that don’t have experience. I think we’ve learned over the years that building with young players is very frustrating.”

That was Pat Riley in June 2011, describing his aversion to developing youthful talent.

It is a philosophy that he has expressed many different times in many different ways over the years. It is a philosophy that has permeated his every decision in preparation for and during the Big Three era. It is a philosophy upon which the Stepien-like decisions to surrender a whopping six future first round draft picks in a period of less than five months from February to July 2010 were predicated. It is a philosophy upon which the decision to constantly fill the roster with post-dated bench-warming veterans was predicated.

It was a philosophy which, initially, didn’t bother us. We were all so captivated by the moment. Riley had a plan. He executed upon it with deadly precision. He got the big things so right that it didn’t matter how he handled the little things. In Riley we trusted.

The winning that followed only validated that ideology.

But, quietly, things weren’t as wonderful as they appeared. In the wake of the signings of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the summer of the 2010, the front office lost sight of its need to build for the future. Everything was always only about the moment.

Some of us couldn’t help but wonder. If your mission is to win as many titles as possible while the Big Three are still in their primes, then wouldn’t you like to have some upside around? Some players who will be getting better with time? Some players who can keep the energy level high when the stars need to rest?

Riley has always had a clear affinity for the seasoned veteran versus the inexperienced rookie. He’d rather have the sure thing than the potential next big thing. But as much as these veterans are low risks to make stupid, rookie-type decisions, none will break free off the dribble in crunch time or make that key defensive stop and then sprint up the floor for a breakaway jam – they’re zero risks to become more athletic, to develop new parts of their games, or to be usable as trade bait should the need arise.  Read more…

Vindication!

July 8th, 2010 7 comments
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Pat Riley turned 65 years old in March, the retirement age for most but apparently the age of reinvention for him.

Just when Riley seemed to be on the verge of fading into professional irrelevance, buried under the weight of a pile of mistakes and a bitter fan base, he executed an unprecedented triple play, as he calls it, positioning himself for a climactic final act of a six-decade career that resembles the finale of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

As the model of his own standard, Riley has long been a target for satire with his slicked-back hair, Armani dress code and a motivational intensity that could exhaust a robot army. But NBA people who dismissed him as a pretty-boy ex-player and Magic Johnson’s house man in the 1980s and wrote him off as a Miami burnout case not all that long ago must now concede that he is an unparalleled multi-generational titan of the world’s greatest game.

This is vindication.

Riley’s unrivaled summer of 2010 truly started with the summer of 2004.

There was no elaborate plan for the Heat to woo LeBron James and Chris Bosh back then. Instead, that’s when Riley got Shaquille O’Neal to sign a $100 million, five-year contract. With that one move, costly as it was, the Heat had become instantaneous NBA royalty. The very next season, only an ill-timed strained Dwyane Wade rib muscle denied the Heat its ultimate goal. But a championship followed the season after. Riley believed another dynasty was on the way.

Then, thud.

The team quickly got old. Fat. Unmotivated. Undisciplined. Ultimately embarrassed in a first round playoff shutout.

Things had to change. Desperately.

In an effort to pull out from under the abyss, Riley made a series of questionable decisions which crippled the organization. Unable to salvage its former glory, the Heat unceremoniously traded O’Neal in February 2008, they were quickly the NBA’s worst team, and Riley soon after realized that the bloated contracts the Heat had been accumulating would keep his team from having any real money to spend until the summer of 2010.

The intervening years were a monumental struggle. Riley stood idly by as a once-proud roster was slowly and effectively depleted of its talent. He seemingly couldn’t adapt. Couldn’t adjust. He was getting old. His philosophies outdated. His rants tired. His trades awful. His draft selections even worse. He seemingly had no idea what he was doing.

Wade was unhappy. Fans were angry.

But there was method in his madness. Every deal he struck was made with summer 2010 in mind, not wanting to take on any contract that would eat into the team’s valuable cap space for that fateful summer. It was a strategy that infuriated Heat fans who refused to waste prime years of their Hall of Fame shooting guard’s career.

It was a strategy that Riley himself struggled with at times. In the summer of 2007, he nearly killed the dream when he offered contracts to Milwaukee point guards Mo Williams and Charlie Bell; the Bucks thankfully retained both. In the summer of 2008, he signed James Jones to a contract that could have killed the dream. In the summer of 2009, he offered Lamar Odom a contract that would have killed the dream.

But here we stand.

After three long years of preaching patience in the face of uneasy failure, Riley has become the face behind the most brilliant plan in NBA history — a dream scenario even he never thought possible.

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh will each be wearing a Miami Heat uniform in October, a trio of All-Stars and Olympic teammates that rivals anything from Magic, Kareem and Worthy of the “Showtime” Lakers to the Bird, McHale and Parish of the original “Big Three” era Celtics to M.J., Pippin and Dennis Rodman of the best-ever Bulls.

Whether the earth-rattling move was the result of a longtime scheme hatched by James and Wade, the product of a masterful strategy implemented by Riley, or the synergistic power of the Creative Artists Agency, which represents the Heat’s principal characters in the story, is at this stage irrelevant.

Riley cleared the money. He created the structure. He developed the culture of family.

He leveraged his own experience. Talk of titles wasn’t just idle talk with him. He lived it. He had the rings to prove it. Seven of them, in fact, as a player and coach.

And that’s what Riley sold James and Bosh on. Come to Miami, he said. Win championships. Make history.

In James’ case, Riley brought his proof. A bag of championship rings.

Rings and family. That’s what he talked to James about for the better part of three hours, sitting at opposite ends of a conference room table that held nothing but seven championship rings on top of it.

When that meeting ended, he and Arison walked out of the room, confident that James was coming to Miami.

A week later, the deal was done.

“Blood, sweat and tears, all that as a family. And that’s what I’ve always been a part of my whole life,” James said. “That’s always, since I was a kid, what I always seeked. And when I heard that from Pat and from Micky, it was, that was kind of like the icing on the cake for me.”

James paused. “And the rings were pretty cool. I need a few of those.”

Riley played with Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. He coached Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He coached Wade and Shaq. Now, as an executive, he’s brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He leveraged his championship legacy and Hall of Fame ties to deliver what could be the most talented trio in league history.

Wade. Bosh. And, in a stunner, a two-time league MVP in James. All together on one team, his team, basketball’s best in 2006, basketball’s worst in 2008, and now basketball’s most feared for years to come.

Love him or hate him, few can argue that in a league filled with movers and shakers, Riley moves the needle like no other. He’s done it for decades.

Act VI – decade six – is just beginning. It could be his best of all.

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For Pat Riley, the time is now

June 2nd, 2010 7 comments
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This is it. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.

Every decision that has culminated in the current Miami Heat roster was made by a Pat Riley who already had his current strategy in mind. He has no excuses.

It took a lot of patience for Heat fans to get to this point. We sat idly by as the best player in team history utterly wasted three years of his prime. We suffered through a 15-win season. We watched the rest of the conference improve around us.

We did it all because Pat asked us to trust in him. He convinced us it was all a means to an end. He had grander visions in mind – visions of rebuilding in the summer of 2010.

We didn’t always agree with the decisions he was making. There were several that infuriated us along the way.

When James Jones was signed in July 2008, the partial guarantee was dubbed as one which ensures that Miami could still have maximum spending capability. After a starting role in the 2009 NBA playoffs, he was banished to the bench for all but 503 minutes of mop-up duty in 2010.

Daequan Cook’s fall from grace had already removed much of the luster from the 3-point championship he won at last year’s All-Star Game when Riley made a decision in October to pick up Cook’s option for the coming season. Pat had already been informed by the league of a projected 2010 salary cap as low as $50.4 million, yet he was willing to invest more than $2.1 million in a player with an uneven track record who, at best, would never be more than a quality backup to one of the best players in the game today.

Despite our hesitations, we believed in him. Because he had the resume to suggest he knew better. And isn’t it always easier just to assume that the people with the power have access to information we don’t?

Along the way, we overlooked some miraculous draft blunders. We overlooked several high-profile failed recruitment attempts, rationalizing that the team simply didn’t have the money to make an adequate pitch.

Now we do.

When Pat developed his vision, he couldn’t possibly have envisioned such a vast wealth of free agent talent. It had simply never happened before. Without question, the NBA’s free agent class of 2010 is the most talented in league history. Read more…

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