Highlights from Heat president Pat Riley’s Saturday news conference on the state of the franchise (we've added a few things since the initial posting and encourage you re-read the whole thing if you have the time or interest):
• Opening statement: "Obviously, from my standpoint and the team’s standpoint, we’ve had a tough summer. Period. In this league, you don’t have an opportunity at times for do-overs. When you get a chance to win, as we have had in the past, in 2006 and 2011 and 12, when you get a chance to win, you've got to win. When you get an opportunity this summer to do something that you could have done and you didn’t do it, you didn’t do it.
"1995, 96, I was put in charge of basketball operations and I have always taken the approach that there were about five things that I really valued and they’re not my words. They’re somebody else’s words because you get educated by other people. It is to be impeccable with your word, to never take anything personal, don’t make any assumptions, always do your best, be skeptical but learn to listen.
"This summer at least three of those things didn’t come to fruition.
"What happened with Dwyane floored me. And I’m going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat. You are what you think. It’s my responsibility to sort of make that happen. I didn’t make it happen.
"Dwyane left and the buck really stops here. I’m not trying to fall on the sword for anybody. I have great regret I didn’t put myself in the middle of it and immerse myself in the middle of it and get in a canoe and paddle to the Mediterrean if I had to, be in New York when he arrived on the 6th and greet him at the airport. I didn't do that. I wasn’t there in the middle of that negotiation and that’s my job. It’s not going to be the same without him. But we will forge ahead.
"I have been here when Zo left, Shaq left, when Brian Grant, Eddie Jones. But Dwyane is unique. There will always be a key under the mat. I just hope it doesn’t get too rusty."
• On Wade’s departure: "The conditions, over the last year or two [from Wade] have always sort of pointed in the direction that we, as an organization, didn’t do enough for Dwyane. I was always reaching, reaching, reaching to get him another guy especially after LJ left. And try to get another guy to not only help win but in a way he would be very proud when he moved on out and retired. It wasn't just getting another guy for him; it was to maximize our ability to win. The only way we can do that is to have cooperation, the same kind of collaborative cooperation they had in 2010, and how that whole thing came together.
"What my thoughts were always to try to make the team better and to to make sure that Dwyane, over the three, four, five years left in his career, was going to get his money. But not at the expense of paralyzing our ability to win, which would have hurt him. If there is anything I could have done better, I would have done it. But there's no do-overs. I wish him the best.
"It’s a sad week for [wife] Chris and I. We love his dearly. I've always said one of the only things you can count on in life is change. When change ranges its beautiful or ugly face, you have to deal with it and adapt and move on. We’ve been here before. I wish him nothing but the best and nothing but great health.
"I haven’t spoken to Dwyane yet [since he left]. I have been crafting a very long email to him. I am going to send it when it's finished. It's not finished. If I saw him right now, I believe it would be a warm embrace. I don’t have any negative feelings for him at all. I know he was caught in a quandary with his thinking and thought processes at the time and what he felt was going on. And I was locked into mine at that time.
"I was so impressed when he talked to you guys [reporters last weekend] and I believe he was sincere in the things he said. At that particular time, he was raw. I feel the same way about him. Everybody in the organization will feel that way about him forever.
“You get to a point as a man in your life where you thinking or thought process change. This was not about money [with Wade]. This was about something else. I more than he, because he's the asset, he's the star, he's the face of the franchise, I should have tried to do everything I could have verbally in trying to change his mindset to mine or big picture or better picture or one I thought would help him end his career and also get him financially the money he needed and wanted."
Riley said the negotiations "were difficult from a logistical standpoint. Dwyane left at the end of June and was gone for a couple weeks in Europe. To be able to get an audience with him was hard. Everything was done through a myriad of agents and other voice pieces and stuff. It still doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have gotten in a canoe and gone over there and made more of an effort to contact him. But there were people that were in touch with him that were close to him.”
• On Chris Bosh, Riley was non-committal. I suggested asking Riley specifically whether Bosh would be cleared to play if he doesn’t get another blood clot. The question was asked to Riley, and Riley was non-committal, which seemed telling:
“It’s always fluid. It always has been since there was a diagnosis and a decision for him not to play the rest of the season. It’s a positive environment right now with Chris and his doctors. Our doctors are constantly communicating, more so now than ever. I know Chris wants to play. Obviously, we would be open to that but this is still a very fluid situation. On this day, there is not an answer. I wish I could give you one.
“I can’t speak medically about this thing. I can only speak from a basketball standpoint. He’s been working out and will probably continue to work out. From a basketball standpoint, is it complicated? It’s only complicated based on the information we would get back from our doctors if there's ever a moment of truth, whether it's yes or no.
"From the standpoint of today, it’s moving forward of down that road of him playing. He wants to play. We’re open to helping him get there. That’s all I can say. It’s a sensitive, complicated situation that I can't speak to medically. From a basketball standpoint, I’ve been told we've been put on hold. Losing him after the All-Star break, both years in a row, you never know what you have or what you could have done. That's what kills me. We put together a good team right when LJ left. We never had an opportunity to see it at its full.
"We should just wait until August or September [for clarity on Bosh]. I think we'll have a lot more information then. Chris is an X factor here."
What about reducing Bosh's travel or workload? “All those things will come into play and there will be discussion. There are many players in different sports that play with that condition in on and off programs with blood thinners and stuff. When it comes down to a final protocol for it gets to a formula of how this has to be done, that’s what we will deal with.”
Was not having a firm idea about Bosh an impediment in free agency? “No, it wasn’t an impediment. It’s just something that has to run its course. We went through it with Alonzo Mourning.... Because it's an unknown to some extent, it will work itself out. It does right now stymie us from doing certain things instead of knowing wholeheartedly he's going to be at the four spot next year.”
Remember, if Bosh plays one game next season, his $26 million salary will be on the cap next summer, period. I expect Bosh will fight this if the Heat doesn’t allow him to play. The Heat privately refutes any perception that it's trying to keep Bosh off the court for cap-clearing reasons.
• On what the team is losing in Luol Deng and Joe Johnson: “Lu wanted to stay here. He understood our dilemma, that he didn’t have Bird Rights. There wasn’t going to be enough for anybody. He was in until his agent called and told us $72 million. [That's] a lot. There is no way when Lu told us that he got $72 million, that train just left the station. I’m happy for him. He’s going to a great franchise [the Lakers].
"When Joe Johnson got $22 million, that train left the station. Joe was a long shot for us always. When we got Joe, we were very fortunate to get him because he wanted to come to Miami. He did have an opportunity to get to two seven games. We lost Lu and we lost Joe. I think the person that's going to benefit the most from this, and it's time to step up, is Justise Winslow. He’s capable of starting in this league and that is right now who we have slotted in there and that is who I feel very comfortable with.”
• On why he expended the effort and time on a bid for Kevin Durant: I thought it was a longshot for us [with Durant], especially after CB went out. It's almost a fiduciary responsibility on my part to keep us in the game of being able to have an audience with a Kevin Durant. I will never ever not take an audience with a free agent who calls and says we would like to talk to you or vice versa. That didn't slow us down. I feel good about what happened in the aftermath of Dwyane leaving."
• On Hassan Whiteside: “This summer was an absolute explosion of dollars... and the cap going from $70 million to $94 million. I’ve never seen more teams with more maximum room than I've seen this year.... A priority, not the priority, was Hassan Whiteside and there was no doubt I was going to meet and talk with him early and get him signed. We were very fortunate to get him.
"We ended getting him here and we saw enough in the last two years to say this is a very unique talent, a very unique talent. At the dollars he’s going to be getting over the four years, we felt it was worth the investment. He can absolutely dominate a game on the defensive end. Blocking shots, rebounding, lobs, dunks, all those things.
Don’t warn him, please, you shouldn't do this just because the guy got a max contract. Don't warn him that you better play well or we are going to tell everyone you’re not deserving of the money. If you look at some of the contracts that went out the first two days. On Dec. 15 [when free agents can be traded], Andy [Elisburg] and I are going to be getting a lot of calls from teams about how to get rid of those deals.
"We believe he’s an essential part of this team. Anchors our defense. Will improve offensively and gain more confidence. We agreed as an organization we were willing to make that investment in. I don't think he's a neophyte. Neophytes don't get 20 rebounds and get 20 points and block 12 shots. He is a little bit young and raw to a leadership role and a responsible every single night role. You've got to produce these numbers. That’s what our obligation is as coaches to make sure he's productive. But the money doesn't have anything to do with it.
“The fact Hassan and Josh and Justise and Tyler are all in that young group of guys. Give me four guys their age in the league and play a four-on-four game in the league and I think we would have a competitive four whether they’re lottery picks or not [playing against those four]. We have a good base of young players. The next step is to see what they can do to augment this team and go from here. We are definitely going to be young. We are going to be playing a different pace next year. What player emerges as the guy, only time will tell. We have a couple guys ready for that."
• On Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow: “Goran is going to have a different kind of season, a different kind of responsibility. Justise, we’ve looked at him as 'it’s time.' I remember when James Worthy came to the Lakers and Jamaal Wilkes was the incumbent. There came that time where it was just a matter of time where James Worthy would take his position.
Are we ready for Justise Winslow to start at the 3? I am. I’m not just throwing him out there. This guy has been thrown out there last year and played significant minutes and significant times. I trust him. You guys put too much emphasis on things he can’t do vs. what he can. And those things he can't do, he's going to be able to do better with more minutes.”
• Why did you give Tyler Johnson four years but not offer more than two for Wade?
“If you’re rolling over year to year and looking at the free agent class, having your best and most important player at a time in his career. He's 35 years old and having him on a 2 yr deal, 1 and 1. If he does opt out, the next year, if there are people in the market, that could come in under, you could come in under, you have that flexibility, as opposed to being in a three-year deal where you don't.
"If you miss on somebody, Bird rights is the golden pass for any veteran player. You don't have to give them $20, $20, $20. You can give them, $20 million, 8, 37, 25. What difference does it make? We never talked about that [with Wade]. That was the partnership the players had with the Big 3. It was a very cooperative, collaborative, what was it going to take to get players in to help us. That’s where I kept reaching and where I missed the point with him. If I had a chance to really sit down and rethink my thoughts patiently, maybe I could have made a difference and explaining the big picture as opposed to the now picture.”
• And what about Johnson’s contract, the four-year, $50 million with cap hits of $19 million and $20 million years three and four?
“It’s a distorted contract. He's on low numbers the next two years and then we’ll have to deal with what's in years three and four. When you have a restricted free agent, under the Gilbert Arenas rules, that makes it very difficult for you, and makes it easy for somebody like Brooklyn, who tried to get a lot of young guys, balloon them up and tell us we're going to poach one of your guys. Micky [Arison] said, 'You’re not poaching any of my guys.' Micky made the decision. He loves Tyler. He’s a young piece. He’s part of our future. We will deal with years 3 and 4. Years 1 and 2, we got him as a bargain."
After Wade left, the Heat wanted to do a contract with Johnson with less onerous cap hits, but Johnson wasn't receptive because he had made an oral commitment to Brooklyn to sign the offer sheet.
"Tyler is a good kid. They refused. He said he wanted to keep his word with Brooklyn and I honored that. I get it. He wasn’t going to agree to something and then come back to us and do something and say it's off. The kid is a great kid and has great moral values. And sometimes in this sport, somebody kept his word. And we matched it."
• On the roster post-Wade: “I feel good about the aftermath of Dwyane leaving. We always liked Luke Babbitt from years past. We just didn't think he was sort of in the right situation. Last year, he played extremely well in New Orleans.
"Willie Reed we knew. We had him [in Summer League last year]. He had a good year last year with Brooklyn. Filling positions in with new players, and Wayne Ellington; personally, we know he can shoot the ball. We felt good about being able to go after these players, especially getting them on one-year contracts and having a young athletic team and still being in the game next summer.
"James Johnson is a defender, 6-9, very athletic, very long. I’ve seen him have great games, truly great games. He started for Toronto a number of games before he rolled his ankle over and then the young kid from UCLA [Norman Powell] came in and took a lot of his minutes. I think with consistent minutes, and with a specific role as sort of a Swiss Army knife type of guy, he can guard guys. He can really defend, if you are looking to beat anybody in the East, you have to look at how you are defending certain players that can make a difference.
"Derrick Williams is an elite athlete, above and beyond from an athletic standpoint. We think we can raise his 30 percent three-point shooting to maybe 37 or 38. We feel like we can improve that with James [also].
"Luke already has that ability to make threes. Ellington has that ability. Willie is an athletic young guy inside who can score. And we needed to have a backup center. It was a good opportunity for us. All of them we feel will fit in, especially the way coach wants to play."
• Overall: "I don’t think there’s any doubt we can compete for a playoff spot. You have to see who in the East really has what it makes to be competitive. It takes 20 to 30 games and then you get an idea who you are. Our plan is to always compete for a playoff spot and I don't think there's any doubt we can do that.
Cleveland is obviously the class of the conference. When you look around the Eastern Conference and looked at who helped themselves and who didn’t help themselves, Horford going from Atlanta to Boston, that helps them. I don’t know about Derrick Rose going to New York, but Joakim Noah is a great move for them, having those two players with Carmelo and Porzingis. That could be a team that could be different… I don’t know how Atlanta is going to be with Dwight Howard. He's a different kind of center than Horford."
• On 2017, when the Heat will have about $17 million in space if the cap is $102 million (with the ability to trade away players to create more): “There’s no guarantee whatever money you can create next summer in the free agent market is going to bring in somebody. Kevin Durant is a pretty good example of a man who had an opportunity to make a choice and was true to what his criteria were. His main criteria were if I go, I want to go to a team that can win immediately and he lived up to that.
"You will see more superstars that might be with franchises for years, four or five years, and they are banging their head against a wall, and they get an opportunity to go somewhere where they think they can win now, I think you will see that happen more often. As far as we're concerned, I'm always looking for that opportunity. And that's what we'll do again next year. But there's no guarantee.
"You sit down and talk to them and they will take a look at your roster and take a look at everything and talk to you about your future and draft picks and everything.... You better have all the space and the players or they're [the star players] are not coming. I don't think many free agents are going to leave good situations to go a team that has been gutted because you need to get rid of players to get them."
• On Erik Spoelsta's expected contract extension: “We’re working toward an extension I do believe will come to fruition, not only with him but his assistant coaches. I believe Danny [Craig], Juwan [Howard] and Chris [Quinn] will all be part of the bench staff. Erik has been through this before because his first two years after I retired. He had playoff teams but obviously they weren't championship teams. I thought he did a hell of a job at that time of starting his coaching career with teams that were competitive and also playoff teams.
Then he had the four years where I think he really earned his stripes as head coach with four finals and two world championships. The past couple years, there's been a rebuilding, a retooling to where we are today. He’s got his work cut out for him. Welcome to being an NBA coach. It's not always going to be easy. Sometimes there are going to be other challenges.
I know one thing about him. He’s competitive, he's excited and knows what the challenge is. He loves the guys he's already developed. He's not a developmental coach. We have a developmental program. His philosophy as a coach to me is bring 'em to me and I'll coach 'em. That's the way it has to be right now. He's very involved in the process all the time. Every single player we talk about or sign, he gives the nod because I don't want to send him anybody that he doesn't want."
• Riley said he won’t use his $2.9 million room exception this summer but has it in his back pocket to use next season if needed:
“We have 17 players on our roster. Three or four of them are what we could call development players. They have conditionally guaranteed contracts, with hopes we can continue to hold on to a player if they go to the D-League and don't make it [with the Heat] and play in Sioux Falls. As far as the $2.9 room exception, we are going to hold onto that. It’s a little jewel. I don’t think we are going to use it rest of this summer. There isn't anybody out there right now I want to give it out. It's something you can use somewhere in February or somewhere around March.”
• Riley said the Heat didn't target Al Horford, only because he came to a quick agreement with Whiteside. "We liked Al, Joakim Noah" as options if he didn't get Whiteside (as we reported in June).
• Riley said the Big Three originally was comfortable with five-year contracts in 2010, but then asked for six at the last minute, which cost the Heat four draft picks. All ended up opted out after four years anyway.
• Riley said teams should be allowed to sign one franchise player to any amount with a franchise tag, without it counting against the team's cap.