MIAMI – Pat Riley has moved from trying to land a whale.
Now, he’s after a “transformative player.”
Riley spoke for nearly 45 minutes on the state of the Miami Heat on Monday, acknowledging while this may be a playoff team, “making the playoffs is not like wearing a badge of honor.”
“I’m not happy,” Riley added. “I’m not happy with the ending.”
Riley, the team president, said nobody is “untouchable” on this roster but trying to improve the team through trades would be a challenge.
“We’re not going to stop (trying to get better) and it doesn’t make any difference how we do it,” Riley said about his team that was 44-38 and lasted just five games in its first-round series with Philadelphia before being eliminated.
“Whether you’re a (cap) room team, whether you’re capped out, whether you’ve got a lot of guys under contract, whether you’re limited with your picks, you keep working toward your goal. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to continue to try to make the team better.”
But how is he going to do that?
Like Spoelstra during his season-ending new conference last week, Riley mentioned improving internally. But Riley added it will take more than just bringing back the entire team for the second consecutive season.
“Right now we have a bunch of guys that can still get better,” Riley said. “While internal improvement and development is a huge part of our organization, going outside and looking around and now is the opportunity to have those conversations – trying to find a transformative player, maybe, is probably what our challenge is going to be.”
The Heat, though, are in a tough spot, which will make the jobs of Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg that much more difficult.
Miami has 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $120 million. That puts the Heat way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line.
Those numbers take Miami out of the big-time free agency game – without shedding contracts through trades – and puts the pressure on Riley to find a way to bring in that ‘transformative’ player through a trade.
The Heat have had several of those through the years and one even returned this season, though at 36-years old Dwyane Wade was beyond his transformative years when he was reacquired in February.
Wade was a major factor in the Heat finishing with No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and staying relatively competitive in the series with the Sixers. He was the team’s second leading scorer in the postseason behind Goran Dragic and had 28 points in Miami’s lone win in the series.
Riley made it clear he would like Wade to return for another season. He said the two spoke last week but not about Wade’s future. That conversation will come in about a month, Riley said.
“I don’t like to talk to a player about retirement because when you start talking to a player about retirement, guess what? He retires,” Riley said. “So, I don’t want to talk to he or (Udonis Haslem) about retirement because I think both players are still in great shape. They both can play.”’
Unlike a year ago, when Riley and Elisburg had two plans laid out long before business opened in July (attempting to sign free agent Gordon Hayward and if that failed bringing back most of their own free agents), this offseason will not be as clear cut because of the lack of flexibility.
“We’ll have Plan A and Plan B,” he said. “We don’t today. We have a lot of thoughts. The board is massive. There’s 450 players on the board and so he’s already had a book, three books already developed on the summer and what we’re going to do. Then we will dissect those books and getting to look at them.”
That was when Riley added that anybody could be moved.
“I could be all in on everything,” he said. “So, I don’t think there’s anybody untouchable on any team that’s (currently not in the playoffs) if the right name comes up. But that doesn’t happen very often.
“Our core guys, we would like to keep together, there’s no doubt, we’d like to keep them together and we’d like to add something to it, but that’s going to be a challenge. But just like we’ve been challenged over the last 23 years.”