I only brought one suit and one tie. That's what Pay Riley said as he coached his team to a Game 6 victory in the 2006 NBA Finals. Riley has always been a man of confidence. And now, he's pushing that confidence onto his team for this season.
Pat Riley doesn't talk much publicly anymore, but when he does, it's always worth listening to. So for the first time since June, Riley is talking about the team he has assembled this season. Speaking on the Dan Le Batard show, Riley had this to say:
"I think this team has all of the elements of a championship team," he said. "Whether or not you can ever win a championship will depend on a number of factors. I can list them and you can list them. It's going to come down to this, health,... performance and this guy and that guy. It's going to come down to can you make shots?..."
Riley knows what he's talking about, too. For a guy who has been known to carry around a sack of championship rings, you better listen. Many people didn't see the misfits Riley put together in the 2006 run as a championship team, but he made it work.
He added this:
"I think this team has the opportunity and the possibilities of being a contender. That's where you start with a team like this. We have an opportunity to create a new first. That's how I feel about this team.... I'm excited about this season."
And we are excited about this season, too. With the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, the return of a healthy Dwyane Wade, and a full season of Goran Dragic...the Heat should be a a good team.
But, are they a championship team?
That's where we have to start questioning whether Riley is trying to instill some confidence into this team, sell some season tickets or just make the headlines. Does Riley have any base to say this team "has all the elements of a championship team" or not?
In the Eastern Conference, you really are only "worried" about the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's not a knock on the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks or anyone else that thinks they have a shot. It's simply a confidence thing that we all have over here. The Bulls, Wizards and Hawks are good teams. But, the Heat have a higher ceiling than them and we believe because of Whiteside and Dragic, Miami can be special.
But are they special enough to dethrone the Cavs in the East? LeBron James is bringing back a solid team and if Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron all happen to be healthy at the same time...they are a potent offensive team. But they aren't unbeatable.
When you look at what Miami has in Whiteside, Dragic, Bosh, Wade and Deng as a starting unit and a solid bench with Winslow, Chalmers, McRoberts, Green, and Amaré -- you can see a nucleus that can be described as a contender. And that's exactly what Riley is saying.
The Miami Heat are contenders, and they should be viewed as a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. If everything comes together as planned, the Heat could be looking at starting 5 guys who legit have a chance to make an All-Star team. They all won't, but any of them could have that good of a season.
It will take time, and luck, and more time. But they can get there. And that's really all that Riley is saying is that the elements are in place, now it's just a matter of how it all comes together and whether the ball bounces the right way.
Let's hope for Heat Nation that it does.