Pat Riley

Pat Riley says he didn’t think LeBron was leaving, Heat can turn around quickly


Pat Riley thought LeBron James was coming back.

Riley spoke with the Miami media Wednesday as Chris Bosh inked a deal to become the Heat’s focal point, but the conversation quickly swung to what Riley thought happened with LeBron choosing to return to Cleveland. Riley didn’t expect it.

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel has the quotes, starting with Riley talking about his meeting in Las Vegas with LeBron where he still thought LeBron would stay with the Heat.

“There wasn’t anything in that meeting that told me that wasn’t going to happen.”

Riley said he went into free agency selling guys on playing with LeBron in Miami next year.

“I went in with the notion that he was coming back. So I was selling it to players. I let him know that prior to free agency, that was the direction I was going. He never said to me, ‘Don’t do that.’ I don’t think I was misled. But I don’t think I was encouraged either. That’s business.”

When LeBron chose Cleveland, Riley tried to jump into the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.

“That dance card has already been punched. We were a little bit late to that party.”

Now the Heat are retooling. They brought in Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, who with Bosh and what Dwyane Wade can give is a Heat team that will play its space-and-pace system and is likely a playoff team in a wide-open East.

Riley thinks the Heat can go swinging for the fences again in 2016 and will be back on top quickly.

“It’s fired me up. I don’t like to get beat at anything. . . . This process didn’t take anything out of me other than this one notion . . . that [generational team] chain has been broken prematurely.”

Riley remains one of the smartest and best executives in the league, one who can sell Miami as a destination. He’s a competitor. Don’t bet against him turning Miami around sooner rather than later.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.