Pat Riley said he requires a week after a tough season-ending loss before he can speak coherently.
Four days after his Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals, Riley addressed the media.
“Good morning, everybody,” Riley said. “You want to trend something? I’m pissed. OK? Get it out there.”
Pissed at LeBron James? If you want spin Riley’s comments that way, you easily could – though shouldn’t.
I don’t believe it’s coincidence reports have emerged in the last couple days LeBron wants the Heat to spend more. With an early-termination option giving him leverage, he’s challenging owner Micky Arison and Riley.
And Riley is firing right back.
“This stuff is hard,” Riley said. “And you’ve got to stay together if you got the guts. And you don’t find the first door and run out of it.
“We’ll find out what we’re made of here. It’s not about options. It’s not about free agency.
“There’s just looking around the room now and finding out who;’s going to stand up. This is time that you go home and take care of yourself and look at yourself and what are you going to do to come back and make the team better? Because we have a tremendous opportunity here for long-term success. But don’t think we’re not going to get beat again. So, just get a grip, everybody. That’s my message. That’s my message to the players.
“They’re hearing it right now. I’m sure they’ll hear it. We’ll make sure of it.
“You deal with it by doing what you have to do to make yourself better by taking accountability for yourself and your own actions and not laying it off on something else or somebody else.”
Riley stuck up for Arison specifically, noting the owner’s commitment for keeping LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
“He will do anything to get those guys to come back,” Riley said “There’s been a perception out there that I think has been construed in some way about him not wanting to pay the tax. That’s BS. He’s been paying the tax for three years.”
That last line is true. However, the issue is how much luxury tax Arison is willing to endure.
Though Riley characterized amnestying Mike Miller and trading a draft pick to dump Joel Anthony as moves to better position the Heat for next season – which is fair, because both players were under contract for 2014-15 – they also cut costs. And the timings of the moves leave little doubt that money was a factor.
The Heat could have used Miller on the court this season and then amnestied him this offseason while receiving the same future flexibility. They also could have waited to deal Anthony until this summer, when his contract would have held less remaining money, therefore requiring less of a sweetener to move, and again received the the same future flexibility.
Instead, Miami made both transactions earlier than necessary to reduce 2014-15 payroll. But the earlier, the more savings this season.
So, maybe Riley’s emotions were directed at LeBron. After all, Riley made clear he was addressing the players.
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But he also respectfully stuck up for LeBron’s right to exercise his contractually negotiated options. He said he wants to talk more with LeBron, Wade and Bosh and values their input. He emphasized their responsibility is to take best situation financially for themselves and families.
When LeBron left Cleveland, Dan Gilbert’s notorious letter showed a disgusting sense of entitlement. There was none of that from Riley.
“I love LeBron,” Riley said.
I don’t think Riley was challenging LeBron to overcome the Heat’s spending habits. I think he was challenging LeBron – and everyone else – to overcome a crushing Finals defeat.
Riley spent a lot of time on how often Duncan’s Spurs, Shaq’s and Kobe’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls, Larry’s Celtics and Magic’s and Kareem’s Lakers lost. It seems Riley can tolerate losing. He just can’t tolerate succumbing to it.
If anyone knows how to motivate and coax superstars, it’s Riley, who described his approach as “you don’t pander and you don’t punish.”
In 2010, Riley famously flashed his championship rings to impress the big three. The players carried most agency in the super team’s creation, but Riley played a huge part – and he’ll again play a part in keeping it together.
“I don’t think we have to recruit Chris and LeBron and Dwyane again,” Riley said. “Four trips to the Finals and a great organization and two world championships – I’m not dropping championship rings on the table for those guys. They can drop their own.”
And if that’s not enough?
“Whatever it takes to keep them together, we’re ready for it,” Riley said.
At some point, Riley, LeBron and Arison must get on the same page about spending. As far as a will to win, Riley isn’t negotiating.
He’s demanding it.
Could that push LeBron from Miami? I guess it’s possible, but I’m betting Riley knows it won’t.