Heat president Pat Riley on Hassan Whiteside’s postseason: ‘He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape’

AP Photo/Alan Diaz
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MIAMI (AP) — In the case of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic Heat center who was a nonfactor in the playoffs and complained about how he was being utilized by coach Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the entirety of the situation.

Whiteside dealt with injuries during the season and didn’t want to wear a knee brace that the Heat insisted upon, and Riley said that if Whiteside and Spoelstra need an intervention to solve their relationship issues – if any – he’ll handle it.

Riley also didn’t mince words, saying Whiteside needs to make changes.

“By the time we got to the playoffs I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He, and we, got our head handed to us. The disconnect between he and Spo, that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.

“How will Hassan transform his thinking, 99 percent of it to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense and minutes or whatever?”

That word – transform – was a theme of sorts for Riley’s meeting with reporters. He started with a 15-minute monologue on how change has been a constant throughout his 23 seasons with the Heat, how the team landed transformative superstars like Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal in trades and Dwyane Wade through the draft and LeBron James and Chris Bosh in summertime deals.

Come July 1, the Heat will be active on those fronts again – noting that the fan base is clamoring for more.

“Well, we’ll give them more,” Riley said. “We’ll try to give them more. That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. That’s what Micky has been doing, trying to give you more if we can. But we’re not going to do anything that isn’t smart. We will never do anything that’s really going to hurt the franchise.”

Here’s what Riley is not going to do this summer: quit.

Everything else is on the table.

The Miami Heat president said Monday in his annual end-of-season assessment that no player on the team’s roster will be considered untouchable this offseason – if the right deal presents itself, that is – but quickly added the caveat that the franchise is not looking for a total revamp after going 44-38 in the regular season and making the playoffs.

“Show me the right name, and I could be all-in on everything,” Riley said. “You know me. But it’s got to be the right name … that doesn’t happen very often. Our core guys, we would like to keep together, there’s no doubt. We would like to keep them together and we’d like to add something to it, but that’s going to be a challenge.”

He also was clear on his own future: The 73-year-old Riley, who has spent a half-century in the NBA as a player, coach and executive, isn’t going anywhere until managing general partner Micky Arison tells him it’s time to vacate the president’s office.

In other words, the Hall of Famer’s competitive fires are still burning.

“There’s always something that brings you back in,” Riley said. “There’s something that sucks you back in. … I’m an active participant, and I’m going to stay that way to the chagrin probably of some of you and probably people in the organization.”

Riley held exit meetings with players Friday, three days after the Heat’s season ended in a five-game first-round ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. He said he hasn’t yet broached the topic of retirement with Wade, for fear of planting that seed. He reiterated that the team wants to try to keep Wayne Ellington, even with the Heat somewhat handcuffed right now by salary-cap and luxury-tax challenges. Miami has $111 million already committed to the as-of-now seven highest-paid players on its books for next season.

NOTES: Before Riley spoke, the Heat said guard Tyler Johnson had surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Johnson was hurt in the opening seconds of Game 3 of the series against Philadelphia but finished the series. He will be in a cast for six weeks. The Heat expect him to be ready to begin camp in September.

 

Three things to know: Luka Doncic looks like an MVP, but can he keep this up?

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Luka Doncic looks like an MVP, but can he keep this up?

Luka Doncic vs. Stephen Curry.

The schedule makers gave us a showdown of early-season MVP candidates but also two guys who have had to carry a massive load this season, waiting for their teams to come together around them. Curry has gotten more of that lately as Klay Thompson has started to find his legs and some rotation shifts have improved play off the bench.

Luka is still on a Brunson-sized island waiting for help. Tuesday night that island got smaller when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of the Warriors’ Jordan Poole.

That just meant more Doncic, and he reminded everyone why nobody wants to play the Mavericks in the playoffs with a 41-point triple-double (12 rebounds, 12 assists).

Doncic was a force of nature, although Curry had his chance in the final 10 seconds but got called for traveling (a call the Warriors disputed).

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas, but this was the Luka Doncic show.

Doncic has been asked to carry a massive load for Dallas this season. He has a usage rate of 38 through the first quarter of the season, a number that would rank in the top-10 all time (right around 1987 Michael Jordan and 2006 Kobe Bryant).

How long can Doncic do this without starting to wear down? Without risking injury? Sure those other players like Jordan and Kobe got through the entire season, but they also didn’t make the kind of playoff runs Dallas is hoping for. Coming off EuroBasket, Doncic entered this season in the best shape he has ever been in to tip-off an NBA campaign, but there have already been stretches where he has started to look worn down. Then there are nights like Tuesday when he carries the Mavericks to a win and looks unstoppable.

Doncic is young, but asking him to carry this load also puts a ceiling on how good this team can be. Curry is getting that help. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also putting up historic usage percentage numbers this season, but Khris Middleton will return to the Bucks and take on some of that load. The cavalry isn’t coming for Doncic, not in the short term.

If the Mavs want to win in the postseason, it can’t just be the Luka show. But during the regular season, some nights that is enough. At least until he wears down.

2) Damian Lillard to return Sunday, not soon enough for Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers miss Damian Lillard (calf strain, his second this season) — they are 1-4 in the current five-game stretch without him, playing their worst defense of the season. The latest of those losses — a come-from-ahead loss to a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George — was maybe the team’s worst loss of the season. Anfernee Simons put up 37, the Trail Blazers led by 18 in the second half, and yet they collapsed against a team whose best offensive weapon was Nicholas Batum (32 points).

The good news for the Blazers is Lillard is due back on Sunday, reports Chris Haynes of TNT.

If you didn’t watch the late game on TNT, you missed a battle of two teams trying to keep their heads above water while their star (or stars) sit out injured.

Portland is still 11-10 on the season but has struggled this past week. What was ugly about Tuesday’s loss was the team just let go of the rope. This was a winnable game, but when it got tight they let go.

Powell scored 22 points in the fourth quarter and took over to get the 13-9 Clippers another win.

Los Angeles has done it against a soft schedule, but they keep finding ways to win until their stars return. Nobody is sure how good this team ultimately can be, but Tyronn Lue has got his squad defending and finding ways to win until everyone does get right. It’s an impressive coaching job.

3) Karl-Anthony Towns out weeks with calf strain (likely more than a month)

The MRI is in and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports Towns likely will miss 4-6 weeks.

Not good, but it looked a lot worse when it happened.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his stats are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

The Timberwolves are not off to the start they thought they would be, and if they don’t figure out a way to win without Towns the next month this season could get sideways on them.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).