Pat Riley thought the… Miami Heat had “an absolutely amazing year, a year that we can be really proud of.” But the longtime club president didn’t listen or read anything in the media at the end of the season, saying: “I took a break from what I felt was probably going to be an attack. It’s no different.”
A few days after the NBA season ended in heartache for Miami, in short, there was one more win to cheer about.
“I had my granddaughter clap for ‘Let’s go Heat!’ at nine months. Riley said. “Had her do this on FaceTime. That was quite the feat of coaching.”
Sometimes when work hurts you, life lifts you up again.
You’re in a pretty good spot, both as a franchise and as the guy running it, when within 16 seconds of a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals it’s been a “great year” — but also one that ends up being disappointing. When even great isn’t good enough.
So it’s that Grandpa Pat, 77, is digging to work ahead of his 28th season with the Heat, as the off-season shifts into high gear with the start of free agency on Thursday—the time of “Bird Rights” and “Exceptions to the middle level of taxpayers”.
Since 1995, only the Warriors, Lakers and Spurs have won more NBA championships than Miami’s three. While South Florida sports fans wait (and wait) for the dolphins and marlins to become important again, the Heat continues to compete reliably and relentlessly under Riley.
Riley is a whaler by trade, but 2022 is an off-summer for prized free agents, whales that are both desirable and achievable. Miami’s salary cap situation also doesn’t lend itself to chasing whales of their own free will.
Chicago’s Zach LaVine is a Class A free agent, but looks likely to re-sign with the Bulls.
What about a sign and trade?
I would only recommend Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and . consider Tyler Herroz being real estate. Herro is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is subject to renewal. I wouldn’t expect a maximum five-year deal for Herro, but instead a lot of money over three or four years. And what keeps the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year from being a starter is a bridge the Heat has to cross.
Herro’s offensive doll is needed out there as much as possible. Too often in the postseason, just past, it seemed offensively like a one-man show with Butler.
Point guard Kyle Lowry looked rather unfit and an old 36 in the playoffs, fading in the Eastern Conference vs. Boston. I would explore the market for any trade value. Kyrie Irving, available shortly before you chose to return to Brooklyn, would have been enticing. Riley has long admired Irving, despite his eccentricities seeming oddly suited to Heat Culture. Irving staying with the Nets also means Kevin Durant is unlikely to leave.
PJ Tucker? I would re-sign it if possible. When he’s healthy, he does a lot of things that the Heat needs him to do. But I suspect he’s going elsewhere.
Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are inexpensive pieces worth keeping.
Is Victor Oladipo worth re-drawing if he’s third on the depth chart?
Duncan Robinson is the real mystery. He disappeared from the rotation late in the season and in the playoffs, in part due to defensive commitments, when coach Erik Spoelstra lost confidence in the man who had swamped Miami with a $90 million five-year deal.
If Robinson doesn’t make a big contribution, that contract becomes notoriously bad, proving that even the great Riley isn’t perfect. Despite that contract, Robinson could have some commercial value. On the other hand, in a three-point shooting competition, is the Heat ready to give it up and move on? How about solving what led to his fall from grace.
A wild card in all of this is the Heat’s No. 1 draft pick, 6-11 Serb Nikola Jovic, who is gifted offensively. At 19, how soon will he be ready to replace a departed Tucker and pair up with Adebayo in a potentially great frontcourt?
This is now business in the wheelhouse of Riley, who has earned the trust of this market to do the right thing in a way not seen by any of our other great professional teams.
The Dolphins are looking up, but still haven’t won a playoff game since the 2000 season.
The Panthers are in for a big year, but one that ended in a miserable second round.
Inter Miami has disappointed in its third season in Major League Soccer.
The fourth place Marlins are still cheap and don’t spend enough.
Since 1995, when Riley took over, the Heat have made it to the playoffs 21 times – more than the Dolphins, Panthers, Inter Miami and Marlins combined†
This off-season could see the Heat stick with the core and essentially roll it back with just a few tweaks, or it could be a surprise with a big move or two. Anyway:
We have faith in Pat. Only in this market did he deserve that.
There are always rumors of retirement around him. He has referred to ‘the end of the road’. It’s coming.
Sport in South Florida has seen nothing but Pat Riley. Appreciate him while you still can.