Pat Riley press conferences, though rare, are always a treat and today's session was a refreshing, unfiltered stream of knowledge from the longtime Miami Heat president.
Well, some anger too.
"Want something trending? I'm pissed. So go ahead, get it out there," he remarked early on.
Topics raised in the hourlong meeting ranged widely between the past and the future of the organization he built together with owner Micky Arison since 1995 to what it is now. Emotions ranged from jovial to borderline frustration, especially with the coverage his team had received in the Big 3 era. Some of his answers seemed to be directed more towards his own players, with some understanding for their situation but also a stern message that they need to look from within to get better and to learn from this experience.
On the team not being able to win their third straight NBA championship, Riley had a clear message for everyone (and his players): "You got to deal with it. You've got to come back. This stuff is hard and you've got to stay together if you've got the guts. And you don't find the first door and run out of it.
"We need to retool. We don't need to rebuild. But everybody get a grip. It's been a great run."
Beyond that, he remarked that losing on the biggest stage is something all great teams must learn to deal with, and "it's happened to all the great dynasties in this league."
Riley offered up several examples of star trios such as the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale or the Lakers with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to drive home the point that the Big 3 need to overcome adversity and stay together for several years to build something truly special.
"I didn't come down here 19 years ago for a quick trip to South Beach and get a suntan, I can guarantee you that," Riley pointed out. "And I don't think (the players) did either. I think all of those guys that have come here have gotten exactly what they wanted. They got the best competition on the biggest stage and we won two of them. We hope all of those guys want to come with us."
Riley's style is not to coddle his superstars and while he respects the free agency process, he wants LeBron James to prove himself by bouncing back by returning and leading his team again.
"I think it's a present-day mentality of all players in the league, and they have the inalienable right...to pursue those options and think about those options.
"I don't take anything away from LeBron had to say. He has to get away and he has to think about it. I'm confident that we are an organization that's been strong. Micky (Arison) has been a great owner. We've got great leadership, great coaching, great discipline. We've got great fans."
Riley took offense to the perception that the team will be asking the Big 3 to take pay cuts, insisting that it would be a voluntary thing. But from their end, Riley is "sure that Micky is going to do whatever he has to do to keep this team together."
He'll put the best team together he can this offseason but he wants the players returning to be held accountable first and foremost for the present situation. He recalled how his Los Angeles Lakers bounced back to win titles but also how they were handled by the likes of teams like the Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. Bottom line: losing is inevitable but how will the team respond?
"We will find out what we're made of here. It's not about options, it's not about free agency, it's not about anything. It's about what we have built over four years here and we have a chance to do something significant. But losing is just as much a part of it as winning is. When you're a team, you deal with it.
"There is no hugging, and there is no high-fiving. 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? We have a tremendous opportunity here for long term success but don't think we're not going to be beat again.
"So just get a grip, everybody. That's my message, and that's my message to the players also."