Ri­ley: ‘This was very dis­ap­point­ing’

Pres­i­dent thinks team right now is at ‘launch­ing pad’

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man iwin­der­[email protected] sun­sen­tinel.com. Fol­low him at twit­ter.com/ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ ira.win­der­man

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.

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