Pat Riley on Heat: “Our small ball team is who we are now”

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The Miami Heat won a title going small. It worked. You can bet next season you are going to see a whole lot more Chis Bosh at the five and LeBron James at the four. The Heat will be going small.

And Pat Riley is okay with that. Mostly.

Riley was on with friend of this blog Orlando Alzugaray — The Big O Show on 640 Sports in Miami — and talked pretty frankly about how he is not totally comfortable with the evolution of the NBA to more of a small-ball league. Riley said he worries about the lack of size more than anyone in the organization because he played with Wilt Chamberlain and coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal and Patrick Ewing and he knows what a great center can do for a team.

That said, Riley also said he used to play some small ball as a coach — with the Lakers he used to used Bob McAdoo and Mychal Thompson as centers for stretches.

“I’m a small ball guy if you have guys like LeBron, or James Worthy and Magic Johnson, guys who are 6’8” 225, 230 (pounds) and are very versatile,” Riley said. “You can put that guy at power forward so to speak and surround him with perimeter guys and a non-scoring center. That’s the nature of today’s game. The game has evolved over the last 10 years away from the dominance of any one big man, that team because almost obsolete and archaic unless you had someone who was just truly great, and there’s only three or four of them in the league now.

“Our small ball team is who we are now, I just want to have both.”

Riley added that the small ball trend is playing out in the Olympics.

“It’s changed dramatically and I think we’ll see in the Olympics exactly how this all plays out because Spain is playing big.” Riley said. “They play Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol together, so they have 7’1” and 7’0” and they are starting with a conventional backcourt and small forwards. We’ve got Tyson Chandler, then we go down to Kevin Love who is about 6’9” and he’s playing a power forward at center. So we’ll see. If it comes down to it, if Spain and the USA are in the gold medal game then it is going to be small against big and you’ll see who probably wins out in that one.”

Some other highlights of the conversation:

• Riley on coach Eric Spoelstra:

“I’m different than Erik. And I’m different in a way that’s bad to his being different in a way that’s good. He’s as intense as I am, so we both carry that intensity. But I was more of an in-your-face guy every single day for 30 years….

“In today’s game you can’t do that. I think Spo has a perfect demeanor with the players. His confidence and how he handles them in practice, talks to them in team meetings, handles them in games. And I know for a fact if he has to get up in a player’s face he’ll do it in a way they will both get something out of it.”

• “First off, we don’t have guys like that, who are always going to challenge the coach. But we have players who will challenge philosophies and ideas and situations and I think that is where he collaborates very well with all of our players….

• On Spoelstra’s growth as a coach:

“So when we got the big three and we went to the finals the first year, he had to take a hard look at himself. Just like some of our players did. About what he had to do the next time he was in that situation. And I coached a little bit so I know what is going on out there on the court. To watch him evolve this year, like in Indiana when there was a tough situation and a confrontation with Wade. I mean he stepped up and handled that over the next two days.”

• On recruiting to Miami:

“The fact that we have LeBron and we have Chris and we have Dwyane (Wade), that’s a pretty good arsenal to bring to a negotiating table with any NBA player, especially after we won a championship. So there is not any magic words that come out of my mouth…

“But a player will make a decision based on how comfortable he feels about the organization. Whether or not it’s an organization that is going to waste his time or is he going to have a chance to win. And I think in the end that usually plays out. Going after Ray (Allen) and going after Rashard (Lewis), they both knew what they wanted and that was to play with us. So it was sort of an easy thing for us at the end because they wanted to be here.”

• “I am actually amazed anybody on this Olympic team thinks they could come within 10 points of the Dream Team. But I would love to see it. It would be speed against size because back then we had some big guys.”

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.