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Pat Riley hit with $25,000 fine after comments on LeBron

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Riley said he’d leave a “key under the mat” for LeBron James if he ever wanted to come back.

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the NBA fined Miami Heat President Pat Riley $25,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule during an interview with Dan LeBatard.

During the interview, someone asked Riley whether he or Dwyane Wade was responsible for bringing LeBron James over in 2010 and if he would still leave “a key under the mat for him” — a reference to a full-page ad the Heat placed in South Florida newspapers after Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2016.

The question was about whether Riley would leave a key under the mat for Wade, who recently became a minority partner of the Utah Jazz. But Riley misinterpreted the question and spoke about leaving “a key under the mat” for James. While doubting that the four-time MVP would return to the Heat, Riley said that he would “put a new shiny key under that mat” if James ever wanted to come back.

Even though the comment is innocuous — he said he wishes James nothing but the best — it was enough to earn the fine. Of course, Riley should have known better than to mention bringing a player back who is currently under contract elsewhere. But the fine reveals how the NBA is all to eager to jump on public comments that can be construed as tampering while teams regularly engage in free agency conversations well before they “officially” do.