ATLANTA — As Thursday’s trade deadline passed without a move from the Heat, Pat Riley seemed content.
“I’m glad we didn’t do anything stupid,” Riley said minutes after the 3 p.m. deadline.
Heat players and coaches are glad, too. With wins in 14 of the past 16 games entering Friday’s contest in Atlanta against the Hawks, Miami can now make its push for the playoffs with the same roster that powered this season’s incredible turnaround.
“Guys are very excited about the opportunity of being together and having an opportunity to play for the playoffs,” coach Erik Spoelstra said in advance of Friday’s game. “From a human standpoint, it was great to see everybody get on the plane last night. We’ve been through a lot and everybody in this gym wanted this group to continue to go forward.”
After reaching the midway point of the season with the NBA’s second-worst record at 11-30, the Heat pushed their way back into the playoff race with a 13-game winning streak. As of Friday afternoon, Miami is 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference occupied by the Pistons, and three games out of the No. 7 spot occupied by the Bulls.
If the Heat had not gone on their long winning streak, the trade deadline could have been a lot different for the organization. Even Miami’s players understand that.
“Obviously, when you take some steps in the right direction it always helps,” guard Wayne Ellington said. “If our team wasn’t in such a great state you feel like we might make a move or something, something might happen. But obviously we’ve shown some growth and we’re growing in the right direction.”
But all of this doesn’t mean there weren’t trade rumors floating around involving Miami. The Vertical reported that the Heat were shopping a package that included forward Josh McRoberts and Ellington in an attempt to unload contracts.
“It caught me off guard,” Ellington said of seeing his name in a rumor leading up to the deadline. “I didn’t expect anything, but at the same time you’re talking about somebody who has been through a lot of scenarios in this league already. I’m a person who has earned everything I’ve got. I come in every day ready to grind and ready to work.
“I understand it’s part of the business, part of what we signed on for. I’m happy I’m still here, obviously. We’re building something that we’re all confident and we’re all happy about. I think we’re taking some steps in the right direction.”
Whatever the Heat are building, it must be intriguing to team president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg because the organization stood pat at the trade deadline for the first time in five seasons.
“We have opportunities to get better and stronger and more connected throughout every NBA season,” Spoelstra said. “It depends on how you handle the things that come at you. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity and ended up digging ourselves a big hole at the turn of the year. But we felt that we were getting better. Guys did not cave in or cash in the season. Because of those tough times and adversity and going through some tough close game losses, we ended up getting some toughness from that.”