As NBA Draft and free agency loom, Pat Riley's eyes remain on main thing | Inquirer Sports

As NBA Draft and free agency loom, Pat Riley’s eyes remain on main thing

/ 11:12 AM June 21, 2023

Miami Heat Pat Riley NBA

Miami Heat president Pat Riley gestures as he speaks during an end of season NBA basketball news conference, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI—Pat Riley sometimes finds himself waking up in the middle of the night these days, turning on the television because he’s unable to sleep.

This is when the president of the Miami Heat watches Garfield cartoons.

Turns out, his young grandson Connor is a big fan of the lasagna-loving cynical orange cartoon cat, so Riley — like many doting grandfathers probably would — has become a bit of a Garfield fan as well.

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“Connor’s going to love hearing this,” Riley said.

Here’s the part that Heat fans might love hearing: It’s in these moments where Riley’s mind is racing with thoughts about how close Miami came to a championship this season — and what needs to happen to get it done next season.

Riley held his annual end-of-season review Tuesday, reflecting on a year like few others and insisting that if there is a way to get better this summer, the Heat will do it. Miami nearly missed the playoffs and had to rally in the play-in tournament just to make the postseason, then made its way to the finals as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

“Another championship team, that’s my goal,” Riley said. “I have no other plans other than to do that.”

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Retirement was not discussed during Riley’s 35-minute session with reporters; he’s shown no signs of slowing down and there’s been no talk of any exit strategies for the 78-year-old who has been part of nine NBA championships — three in Miami.

The Heat were involved in the trade talks over the weekend that ultimately resulted in Bradley Beal waiving his no-trade clause to go from Washington to Phoenix, a deal that’s still awaiting final approvals from all sides and the NBA. And if Portland’s Damian Lillard decides he wants a trade, it’s a poorly kept secret that Miami would be more than willing to talk to the perennial All-Star and gauge his interest in joining the Heat.

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Riley, by league rule, cannot talk about players under contract elsewhere. But his approach every summer is to find the player or players who can bring Miami closer to a title. That won’t change this summer, and he doesn’t think the current roster has to be decimated to make change happen either.

“We’re not going to take a wrecking ball to this thing,” Riley said, channeling the lyrics of his friend Bruce Springsteen, whom he quotes often. “Good times come, good times come. Hard times come, hard times come. We’re not going to take a wrecking ball to a good team that had some real adversity this year. We had a good team, probably a great team. We wouldn’t have as gotten as far as we have, and there’s no caveat in any of that, if you weren’t a great team.”

Riley raved about Jimmy Butler, who just finished his fourth season in Miami — “he’s a whole different bag of tricks, let me tell you, and love him to death,” Riley said — and spoke at length about the continued evolution of Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro from late-lottery picks to integral parts of the Heat plan.

There’s a No. 18 pick in Thursday’s draft to add, then free agency awaits a week later. If a move presents itself, Riley is ready to pounce. If not, he won’t panic.

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“Persistence and perseverance has been something that’s been part of my life forever. Just has been,” Riley said. “And patience is the last thing that came with it. And so, we’re going to show some patience here instead of react without knowing what the consequences could be in doing something. So right now, this is what we have.”

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