Heat Mailbag: Has Boston’s Danny Ainge passed Pat Riley as an executive? That, and more

Pat Riley

Time for another Miami Heat mailbag.

If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpost.com.

    From @ChrisHypeTrain: Has Danny Ainge passed Pat Riley as an executive?

Riley, the Heat’s president, and Ainge, the GM and president of basketball operation for the Celtics, have a rivalry going that took an ugly turn five years ago. That’s when Ainge called it “almost embarrassing” that the Heat’s LeBron James complained about hard fouls and Riley responded in a statement by saying Ainge needs to “shut the f— up” and that he was “the biggest whiner” as a player.

The two have gone head-to-head a few times with Riley signing free agent Ray Allen away from the Celtics in 2012; Ainge helping the Cavaliers clear cap space in 2014 by being a part of a three-team trade that allowed Cleveland to dump three contracts and re-sign James away from the Heat; and last summer when the Heat and Celtics were after Gordon Hayward and the free agent chose Boston.

Both have been highly successful with Ainge putting together a Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that won one title and Riley putting together a Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh that won two titles. But lately, it’s Ainge who has been the best executive, perhaps in the entire league.

Starting with the 2013 trade with the Nets when the Celtics netted four first-round picks for Pierce and Garnett, Ainge is putting together a team that will be contending for titles for many years to come.

That trade was the foundation to the Celtics’ rebuilding plans and Ainge has been on a roll since. Some of his highlights: hiring coach Brad Stevens; signing Hayward; and pulling off two-more one-sided deals that netted Boston Kyrie Irving from the Cavs, and an extra first-round pick from the 76ers for swapping the first pick for the third pick in last year’s draft and still getting their man, Jayson Tatum.

The Celtics are three-wins from returning to the NBA Finals and have not had Hayward or Irving for one minute during the playoffs. In addition, Boston could have three first round picks in 2019: Sacramento’s, the Clippers’ if it is No. 15 or later, the  Grizzlies’ if it is No. 9 or later.

Riley has built three championship teams in Miami and will go down as one of the greatest executives in NBA history. But after losing James in 2014 he has been scrambling to turn the Heat into a contender again mainly because of circumstances beyond his control. … Bosh’s career coming to an end because of blood clot issues just a couple of years into a five-year contract. Still, some have questioned Riley trading away so many draft picks and handing out long term contracts to good, but not great, players.

Meanwhile, with the Celtics are situated to contend for several years. Ainge clearly has had the upper hand of late and not just on the Heat but on most of the league.

From Randy, Sunrise:  Whose contract is more of a burden on the Heat, Hassan Whiteside or Tyler Johnson?

Whiteside is due $52.5 million the next two years while Johnson is owed $38.5. Both are a major drain on the Heat’s salary cap but which one is more of a burden? That depends on which Whiteside you are getting. If the 7-foot center is the player who has led the league in blocks and rebounding and averaged 17.0 points, though not ideal, the Heat could live with his large contract. But if he’s the player we saw much of last season and into the playoffs, then no question that is the one contract the Heat would love to shed. As for Johnson, you know what you are getting, someone who will average from 12 to 15 points, shoot about 44 percent, 37 from on 3-pointers and bring energy. Johnson, though, is a player you would rather have coming off the bench, which should be the case with Dion Waiters returning, and $19 million a year for a reserve is not ideal either.

[How does Heat package stack up in possible deal for Kawhi Leonard? We take a look]

[Report: Former Heat star Chris Bosh being sued by mother after trying to evict her from Texas home]

[Checking in on Dwyane Wade: What’s his offseason been like; what his teammates are saying as he gets closer to The Decision]

[Miami Heat still trying to recover from setback that nobody was prepared for]

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A strength in numbers? Here’s why Heat believe their balanced offensive attack is a key to their success

Miami Heat’s Tyler Johnson (8), James Johnson, second from left, Kelly Olynyk (9) and Josh Richardson (0) talk on the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Miami. The Heat won 129-102. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Heat believe there’s a strength in numbers.

Not the number of points scored, but the number of players who are a threat to score. Miami’s balanced offensive attack features a league-high nine players averaging double-digit points this season (including injured guard Dion Waiters). Continue reading “A strength in numbers? Here’s why Heat believe their balanced offensive attack is a key to their success”

Erik Spoelstra reflects on free-agent pitch to Gordon Hayward: ‘We absolutely respected his choice’

The Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward watches a foul shot put up by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

MIAMI — With the Celtics in Miami for Saturday’s game against the Heat, Gordon Hayward was supposed to be at AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since his free-agent meeting with the organization.

But Hayward is likely out for the season after suffering a gruesome leg injury in Boston’s season-opening loss to Cleveland. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took some time Saturday to reflect on the organization’s free-agent summer pitch to Hayward.

“We loved the meeting with Gordon,” Spoelstra said Saturday in advance of the Heat’s game against the Celtics. “There was a reason we recruited him. We thought it went well. You just never know how those things are going to play out.” Continue reading “Erik Spoelstra reflects on free-agent pitch to Gordon Hayward: ‘We absolutely respected his choice’”

Add Heat center Hassan Whiteside to long list of injuries around the NBA. Is shortened preseason to blame?

MIAMI — The Heat started the 2016-17 season on Oct. 26. The opener came on Oct. 18 this season.

That’s because the NBA shortened the preseason and moved up the start of the regular season this year in an effort to reduce back-to-back situations and allow for more days in between games during the six-month schedule. But has the quicker turnaround from training camp to the start of the regular season played a role in all of the injuries around the league early on? Continue reading “Add Heat center Hassan Whiteside to long list of injuries around the NBA. Is shortened preseason to blame?”

Erik Spoelstra: Heat coaching staff went ‘immediately silent’ after watching Gordon Hayward injury

ORLANDO — Erik Spoelstra was looking forward to celebrating the start of the NBA season with his Heat coaching staff Tuesday night.  But his mood changed just six minutes into the first NBA game of the 2017-18 calendar.

After getting to know Gordon Hayward this summer as the Heat tried to recruit the All-Star forward in free agency, Spoelstra was now watching Hayward leave the court on a stretcher after suffering a gruesome leg injury just a few minutes into his Celtics debut. Hayward’s left leg bent awkwardly after he went up for an alley-oop pass and he was later diagnosed with a fractured left ankle and fractured left tibia.

“It was horrible to watch,” Spoelstra said in advance of Wednesday’s season opener against the Magic. “I was watching it with the staff, and all of us were immediately silent. And that’s the thing about this league, it really is a fraternity. You want to play against teams when they’re at full strength, and it’s six minutes into it, you just feel for him, you feel for his family.” Continue reading “Erik Spoelstra: Heat coaching staff went ‘immediately silent’ after watching Gordon Hayward injury”

Mailbag: What does losing out on Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving say about the Miami Heat?

The Miami Heat, and president Pat Riley, will remain major players in free agency and the trade market.

The Miami Heat always are in the conversation during free agency or when a star player suddenly is on the trade block.

That’s the benefits of having Pat Riley running your organization and being located in popular destination.

But the Heat were unable to land either of the two biggest names to change teams this summer, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving (at least for now). What does that say about Miami?

We answer that and more in our latest mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44.

From @ChrisHypeTrain: what does this say about Heat, a team looking to rebuild, losing 2 pieces that could have been key (Hayward,Kyrie)

Let’s take each case separately.

First Hayward. The notion that Riley has lost something off his fastball or the Heat are slipping when it comes to attracting big name free agents because they did not land Hayward is silly. The Heat were one of two teams other than Utah that Hayward visited and in the end Hayward chose Boston.

The Heat did all they could and the deal breaker appears to have been that Hayward was much more comfortable playing for his former college coach, Brad Stevens, than anything else. But think of it, the only team other than the one coached by a familiar face to even have that chance was the Heat, a team that did not make the playoffs last season.

As for Irving, the chances of Miami trading for the All-Star point guard were lower than its chances of signing Hayward. Even if the deal with Boston is rescinded (which is unlikely), the Heat still are a long shot to acquire Irving.

With league rules preventing teams from trading free agents they signed during the summer until after the season starts, the Heat had little to offer. Cleveland wasn’t just looking to replace Irving – which Miami could have done with a package that started with Goran Dragic – but it also had an eye on the future to protect itself in case it loses LeBron James. That meant not only receiving a veteran point guard but also young, proven talent and an attractive draft pick, a package Miami could not offer.

From @soy_pinguino: What do you guys expect this season out of Bam Adebayo? If SF gets soft we can always have JJ there and give those extra PF minutes to Bam.

The Heat have been very pleased with what they have seen out of Adebayo, who they took with the 14th pick in the draft. He is athletic as advertised, can run the floor, defend and block shots. He even flashed an ability to handle the ball during summer league.

But to expect Adebayo to be a major contributor early on is asking a lot. What I expect is the 6-foot-10 center/forward to fill the role occupied by former backup center Willie Reed, which is to bring energy, defense and rebounding when Hassan Whiteside is on the bench. Then, if he continues to develop maybe he sees more playing time at power forward.

[Heat mailbag: What will be Erik Spoelstra’s biggest challenge this season?]

[A look at the Heat’s six-game preseason schedule]

[What should the Heat’s All-Time roster look like? Here’s NBA 2K18’s answer]

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Miami Heat 2017-18 schedule: 10 games on their schedule you won’t want to miss

MIAMI — The Heat’s regular-season schedule is set.

The NBA released the full 2017-18 schedule Monday evening and, as always, there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be excited for. For the Heat, there are two home games against Dwyane Wade and the Bulls, an early-season game against Gordon Hayward and the Celtics, and even an international contest against the Nets that will be played in Mexico City.

Here are 10 games that you won’t want to miss from the Heat’s 2017-18 schedule Continue reading “Miami Heat 2017-18 schedule: 10 games on their schedule you won’t want to miss”

What were Gordon Hayward’s thoughts after meeting with Heat? ‘Wow, that’s going to be really tough to beat’

MIAMI — Before Gordon Hayward decided to sign with the Celtics in free agency earlier this month, he thought he might end up with the Heat.

After traveling to Miami to meet with Heat players, coaches and management on the first stop of his free agency tour on July 1, Hayward came away so impressed that he immediately texted his agent Mark Bartelstein: “Wow, that’s going to be really tough to beat.”

“It was all positive stuff,” Hayward said of the immediate reaction to his free-agent meeting with the Heat on an episode of The Woj Pod with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski released Monday. Continue reading “What were Gordon Hayward’s thoughts after meeting with Heat? ‘Wow, that’s going to be really tough to beat’”

Heat president Pat Riley opens up on free agency, adding Kelly Olynyk, retaining his players and much more

Heat president Pat Riley spoke on Monday about the past (free agency) and future of a team that returns most in tact.

MIAMI – Heat President Pat Riley met today with the print media, recapping free agency and looking ahead to a season in which he expressed excitement to see what the team can do.

Here are some highlights from Riley’s meeting:

* On Kelly Olynyk: Riley said the Heat first made contact with Olynyk’s agent “from 35,000 feet,” as they were returning from L.A. to meet with Dion Waiters. He was a bit nervous about James Johnson and Waiters waiting out Gordon Hayward, more so Waiters. Then, “as soon as we found out that Gordon was not going to be with us we moved quickly on all of them.”

* More Olynyk: Riley said the Heat believe Olynyk has “always been an X factor with the Celtics.” He said Olynyk is a perfect fit for center Hassan Whiteside and called him a “hybrid” player and “excellent defender.” Coach Erik Spoelstra has typed a workout program for Olynyk but Riley said Olynyk is “in pretty good shape, he’s not in our kind of shape. We’ll just get him in better shape.” As far as man bun Olynyk vs. long hair Olynyk, “I don’t give a damn,” Riley said, laughing.

* On Wayne Ellington: “It would have killed me to see him go,” Riley said. “He committed himself just like everybody else. Like JJ and Dion, he changed how he played. I look at Wayne like a Udonis, JJ type of personality. He’s one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league. And he’s such a great person.”

* Riley said the long term contracts were by design. “I wanted to tie up our young guys. They are assets. We don’t look at our players as assets but they are assets if something comes (available) along the way. I’m not thinking that way, but we have them.” To that point, he said this team reminds him of the 2004 team of which he never believed so many of them (Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom) would be traded. But used that as an example of how a franchise altering player could become available like Shaquille O’Neal and it’s best to be positioned with some assets to trade.

* The Heat used “every last dollar” under the cap to make it work with Olynyk, Johnson, Waiters and Ellington. And Riley gives all the credit to GM Andy Elisburg. “The agents out there really know the room. They know every last dollar you have and squeezed every last dollar. We have no room. That’s a testimony to Andy. His number crunching, his mind to go through from the draft to free agency, he’s the star of this whole thing. I could never do this without him.” Riley’s last text back to Elisburg: “Winning is like taking your last breath. I’m glad we spent every last dollar.”

* Riley is happy with what he’s seen from rookie Bam Adebayo in the summer leagues: “We have seen exactly what we saw and why we drafted him. He’s a super athletic, above the rim player. We’ve seen his coast-to-coast game.” The biggest step for Adebayo will be to get more comfortable shooting the ball.

* On Josh McRoberts: “I loved Josh. He just had some horrific bad luck. He’s had a tough time with it. I had great compassion for Josh. It was time for him to find another place, for us to move on.” He added, if healthy, he believes he’ll have a banner year in Dallas and then, “he will be in the market and guess what, we can go after him again.” Riley then laughed before adding. “I’m just saying.”

* Riley said the Heat are not expected to use their $4.3 million exception but he likes having it in case something happens. As for that exception, he does not believe Miami needs a true backup point guard. “This has become a combination guard league. Even if you look at the point guards in the league they’re not pure point guards. You’ve got to be a two-way guard now.”

* Riley said the best way to catch Golden State may not be to do it the way Golden State has done it. “Golden State grew organically, they drafted well but they also made some very good acquisitions. Today to catch them, if you are going to do the organic trip, it’s going to take a long time.” He said signing that one super star to add to an already rising team may be the best way.

[Heat Q&A: What will be James Johnson’s first purchase after signing his new contract? Gym equipment for his home]

[Mailbag: With free agency winding down, where do Miami Heat rank in the East?]

[Patience and confidence paid off for Dion Waiters: ‘I’ll bet on myself any day’]

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Gordon Hayward picks Celtics over Heat and Jazz. A look at a crazy day and where the Heat go from here

Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors defends against Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz during Game One of the NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals at ORACLE Arena on May 2, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

MIAMI — Pat Riley said the Heat had a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” entering free agency. It turns out they will have to turn to their backup plan this summer.

With a letter posted on The Players’ Tribune, Gordon Hayward announced his decision to sign with the Celtics on Tuesday evening to cap off a crazy Fourth of July. The All-Star forward picked Boston over the Heat and incumbent Jazz after holding free-agent meetings with each team over the past few days.

Hayward will reunite with his college coach Brad Stevens in Boston on a four-year deal worth $128 million with a fourth year player option, according to David Aldridge from NBA.com.

“My meetings with all three teams during this process — Miami, Boston and Utah — were just unbelievable,” Hayward wrote on The Players’ Tribune. “They couldn’t have been more impressive. Each meeting left me convinced that the team I’d just met with was the right fit.

“This was a life-changing decision for me and my family, and something we took really seriously. And from the very start of this process, one thing stood out as important: I knew that I wanted the fans and the organizations to hear my decision directly from me. After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”

This news was reported earlier in the day just after 2 p.m. when ESPN’s Chris Haynes indicated that Hayward had opted to sign with the Celtics.

But just minutes after that news surfaced Tuesday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted: “Gordon Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, tells ESPN: ‘Gordon hasn’t made a decision yet. We are still working through it.'” And Aldridge tweeted: “Another league source says Boston hasn’t heard yet directly from Hayward. Again: doesn’t mean he cant pick [Celtics] later; he just hasn’t yet.”

Jazz President Steve Starks then went to Twitter and posted, “We trust Gordon and his agent that no decision has been made. Good communication all day and a great relationship.”

A source told the Palm Beach Post on Tuesday afternoon that Hayward had not yet made a decision and the reports of him choosing the Celtics “are all erroneous.”

It wasn’t until after 7 p.m. that Hayward made his decision to sign with Boston official with a letter on The Players’ Tribune.

This comes after the Heat put the full-court press on Hayward, delaying their other free-agency plans until the sought-after forward made his decision. Miami had the first free-agent meeting with Hayward on Saturday, as the Heat welcomed him to Miami with a small banner outside AmericanAirlines Arena showing the 27-year-old in a Heat uniform.

Saturday’s meeting with Hayward included Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg, CEO Nick Arison and Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, coach Erik Spoelstra and part of his staff. Players also spoke to Hayward, including Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem and James Johnson.

Without Hayward, the Heat are left with about $35 million in cap space after officially waiving Chris Bosh. Miami is now expected to focus on its own free agents with Dion Waiters and Johnson still on the market.

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Knicks continue to speak with Waiters and the Lakers are also interested in him. There have been no reports of any free-agent meetings involving Johnson, who shares the same agent with Hayward.

Even if the majority of that cap space is used to retain Johnson and Waiters as expected, there should be some money remaining to sign another mid-level free agent or two. That’s the space the Heat can use to keep Wayne Ellington and guarantee his $6.3 million salary for the 2017-18 season.

If Miami decides to bring back Johnson, Waiters and Ellington, most of last season’s core will be kept intact. The Heat’s other free agents are center Willie Reed, and forwards Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem.

The Heat can also look at outside free-agent options like forward Rudy Gay, a name that has been linked to Miami, or use their cap space in a trade.

Free-agency negotiations began Saturday, but signings are not allowed until Thursday at noon.

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