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

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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.