We haven't been used to the season ending press conferences coming in April, but on Monday, Pat Riley gave the last session of what will be an extended off-season. Last year, Riley ended his season presser with a subtle challenge to LeBron and the team not to leave at adversity, but to stick with it.
Then LeBron left, and some blamed Riley for the coarse choice of words. Now with Goran Dragic opting out and Riley faced with similar questions, he took a different approach.
When asked about resigning Goran Dragic, Riley said, "If he doesn't sign, my ass is going to be in that seat and I'll be writing about it." A little light-hearted approach. But Riley said he feels confident about Dragic and the other free agents, claiming he can offer them more than anyone else.
Dragic, Luol Deng and a few others will be/can be free agents this off-season.
But even in the midst of all that could be talked about, the questions about LeBron James didn't stop. Riley said they have all moved on and are at peace with it. But, when asked about the upcoming NBA Draft, Riley said, "No more smiling faces with hidden agendas, so we'll be going in clean." Was that a subtle jab at LeBron? Riley said it could have been about anyone. But you can probably recall when James approved of Shabazz Napier as the best point guard in the draft, then the Heat traded to get him, and then James bolted.
But the past season was what Riley really wanted to talk about. He said he didn't have a problem with Erik Spoelstra and how he handled 31 different starting lineups this season. He said it would have been nice to see the team that he put together (post Dragic trade) play at least one game together.
Riley talked about plenty of thing from the fans, to the injuries, to what he hopes next season will be like, but it all starts with the one Riley claimed was the bedrock of the organization alongside Alonzo Mourning, Dwyane Wade.
He claims that Dwyane Wade will have to reinvent himself and turn the narrative of his injury story around. "There's no doubt we're going to need Dwyane every single night that he's available." He said that Wade has five months to continue to work and the Heat will help him.
Hassan Whiteside had a break out year, and Riley spoke highly of him. "I think he can be a formidable presence and option in the offense. He has to take the attitude of someone like Alonzo." He also said, "It's almost like having a lottery pick that's here with us right now." Which is good because the Heat may now end up with their lottery pick. Speaking of which, Riley also said, "Hopefully on May 19 we don't have anymore buzzard's luck."
But the most encouraging part of the presser came when Riley said this: "I challenge myself more than anybody else to make sure what happened this year doesn't happen again." Pat is still the same objective Pat. We aren't tanking, we are going to rebuild, we are pursuing the same goal. "Every single year, regardless of what the team looks like we always come to win a Championship."
And that has to be the best part of it all, knowing the man at the top has the same goal as always. This will be Riley's 21st year with the Miami Heat, and he ended the presser talking about age. He said everyone wants to make you feel older than what you are. Riley gave no hints that he was close to calling it quits.
That's great news for Heat Nation.