Last week, Miami Heat president Pat Riley delivered his usual end-of-season address to media, looking back at Miami's injury-plagued season while laying out his vision for the team's future. He covered a wide range of topics, including free agency, LeBron James' departure and how he sees Dwyane Wade's role with the Heat evolving next season.
Here's an excerpt of what Riley told the press on Monday about Wade.
"He's got to change the narrative himself about his body and about his injuries and about his missing games. And we had a discussion about this. But he always has to answer those questions, and I know those questions are legitimate because they're real. So night in and night out, there's always the question of whether or not he can or he can't. And so I'd like to have him try to get past that first hurdle mentally and do whatever he has to do to get himself ready to practice and himself ready to play, each and every night."
Here's the full video of his press conference:
In context of Riley's address, the response seems fairly benign. But, given recent history and Wade's lingering health issues, could Riley have been too critical of the Heat superstar?
David Ramil: Riley is beyond "old school". He's an anachronism, a man out of time. In his mind, it's still an era where players rub a little spit in a wound and find a way to drag themselves out onto the court. But that's far from the truth and Riley of all people should recognize that. Times have changed but Pat still thinks that the old ways work best - just earlier in the press conference he referred to Larry Bird lying on his back courtside (because it hurt too much to sit down) as evidence of how tough players used to be. And while Wade has had some injuries over the course of his career, I don't think anyone has ever questioned his toughness.
Earnest Christian: It's funny that the one piece of relevant and important information regarding the immediate future of the Miami Heat went totally unnoticed due to the innocuous LeBron James jab....allegedly. That said it might seem a bit unfair on Riley's part to expect the biggest star in franchise history who is clearly on his last legs as a top tier player to be available for the wide majority of games. I know he didn't necessarily say that but the vibe I got from Riles was that he wants Dwyane to "change the narrative" when involving his health and while Heat fans might actually agree with "The Godfather", the reality should be dealt with than a passing thought. Here's what I DO know. Miami did a poor job protecting Wade in terms of getting capable wing players to eat up some of his minutes and it might have cost the team a postseason berth as a result.
DR: So you think Riley was in the right to challenge Wade? His early injury of a hamstring did force him to miss a lot of games but that before the acquisition of Goran Dragic and the blood clots in Chris Bosh's lungs. He played the second half of the season as well as anybody in the league and while he missed the occasional game, he was consistent and spectacular in the games he played. He missed time he needed to at a point in the season when no one knew what was in store for this team. And if getting a player like Dragic doesn't help Wade long-term, I don't know if anything will. Plus, where's all the talk about players like Bosh or Luol Deng or Chris Andersen "changing the narrative" on their respective injuries? It just feels like Riley's missing the point a bit.
EC: Riley is old school and at the young age of 70 he shows no signs of changing the very nature that made him who he is. I do agree there's isolated criticism from many parties like Deng, Birdman and hell even coach Spo. I do think however most of the trust he levies goes toward Dwyane so heavy is the head that wears the crown. What I will say is Pat does need to also take a look at himself and the front office and ask themselves if they're convinced they did enough to help this team during the season especially after the myriad of injuries obtained. Let's not forget, that $2.5 million injury exemption from the Josh McRoberts season ending injury did go unused.
DR: You do bring up a good point regarding the front office and their potential mistakes. Riley often gets a pass (and, usually, deservedly so) but he acknowledges that he mortgaged a big chunk of the future by acquiring Dragic and signing Bosh to a contract that many criticized for its overall value. This could be a make-it-or-break-it year for Riley if they don't achieve a very high level of success. He seems committed to ensuring this team is in good hands moving forward and in a good place overall but what if the worst case scenario comes true? If Dragic doesn't re-sign and Bosh never lives up to that max contract and we can't lure any quality free agents in 2016, will Riley just abandon a sinking ship?
EC: In business, to succeed you have to take chances. Miami has been doing that very thing the moment Riley arrived in '95. Fans sometimes feel like every move Pat has come with guarantee success and the reality is nothing is guaranteed. That said, I ultimately think Riley subliminally calling out Wade was also a little bit of a mind game to see where Dwyane's head is at. There was a sense of complacency from this roster this season as opposed to the last four seasons. But now that the first post-LeBron season has been exhausted, all hands hopefully are in for 2015-16 -- including the best player in franchise history.