Riley: ‘This was very disappointing’
President thinks team right now is at ‘launching pad’
Heat president Pat Riley, unhappy with the 39-43 season, quickly pivoted to an optimistic view of the club’s future during his annual media postmortem, saying, “I think we’re right at the launching pad right now.”
MIAMI — What’s done, Miami Heat President Pat Riley said Saturday, is done.
“This was very disappointing,” he said of the just-completed 39-43, lottery-bound season.
What’s next, he said, is what has him encouraged.
“Whether you believe me or not,” he said during a media session at AmericanAirlines Arena, “I think we’re right at the launching pad right now.”
Opting for a forwardthinking exercise, Riley attempted to brush past the personnel moves that got his team to this point when questioned Saturday about possible deals involving Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside.
Instead, Riley said those who have doubts have no place at his table.
“There are no obstacles; there are decisions,” he said, with his team already hard up against not only the 2019-20 salary cap but also the luxury tax.
“And if there’s an opportunity out there that is presented to us that we all feel is worthwhile, then we could say yes to it or no to it. Those opportunities are going to be there, whether you have room or not, whether you’re at the tax or not. They’re always there.”
The question is the timing, which largely will be dictated by the approaches of Whiteside and Goran Dragic, who have the option to void the final seasons of their contracts and become free agents this summer.
“Don’t be making any kind of conclusions about next year in that we’re stuck with certain contracts or whatever it is you think we can’t get out of,” Riley warned, speaking from a stage erected on the team’s practice court.
“That would be foolish thinking on your part. There are only opportunities, so you’ve got to pursue them if they’re there. And if they’re not there, then you make them.”
He also said there would need to be introspection.
“Every now and then, you got to tighten the screws,” Riley said. “If there is some slippage — and there may have been some slippage in some areas across the board, not just player conditioning but across the board in a lot of things — then you jot that down as part of your thought process about what needs to be changed.
“And there will be changes next year. Not a new culture, but [you want] to tighten the screws on a culture that sometimes erodes just a little bit.”
Equally unnerving to Riley
was the Heat’s 19-22 home record.
“How we lost games at home at times really upset me,” he said. “And the last thing I want to do is send our fans out to the beautiful night of Miami cheering like crazy in the first half of a 20-point lead and then leaving with a one-point loss.”
What those fans won’t have next season is a Dwyane Wade to mask tough times, with the franchise icon retiring after his 16th season.
“I think our fans are sophisticated enough [to understand] that you’re going to have a period where
there’s going to be some adjustment,” Riley said.
Just as Riley acknowledged one adjustment: backing off his midseason proclamation of possibly having the ability to add two top-tier free agents in the 2020 with cap space.
“Maybe having one slot, if that happens, would be enough,” he said. “If I can get the two, I’ll go for it.”
Through it all, as he did with the pursuits of Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward, and before that in trades for disgruntled players such as Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal, Riley believes that if stars want to get somewhere —
perhaps his somewhere — that anything is possible.
“It doesn’t make any difference what we have the ability to do, you know,” he said. “We can want anything, but it doesn’t make any difference.
“It’s up to the player. It’s up to them to choose where they want to go. If a player really wants to get somewhere, then all of a sudden all they have to do is make that known. It possibly can happen.”
Miami Heat President Pat Riley shared his thoughts, and a few smiles, Saturday during an end-of-the-season news conference at AmericanAirlines Arena.