Miami Heat ties to Finals not limited to LeBron James

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh led the Miami Heat to four consecutive Finals appearances and two championships. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat were eliminated from the playoffs more than five weeks ago. But the Heat have plenty of ties to the Finals, which starts Thursday and pairs Cleveland and Golden State for the fourth consecutive year.

But for the Heat, this isn’t exactly how they want to be connected to the Finals.

Here are six Heat ties to the 2018 Finals:

LeBron James: OK, we get the most obvious out of the way first. James is playing in his eighth consecutive Finals, half of those with the Heat and half with the Cavs. With Miami, he won two titles. Unless the Cavs pull off the upset, he likely will be 1-for-4 with Cleveland.

A Finals four-peat: The Cavaliers and Warriors join just three other franchises to appear in at least four consecutive Finals, including the Heat, the last to do it from 2011 to 2014 with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Until then, just the Celtics (1984-87) and Lakers (1982-85) accomplished the feat. Boston also appeared in 10 straight Finals from 1957-66.

Kevin Durant: The Heat were one of six teams the former MVP met with during the summer of 2016, giving the contingent led by owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley about two hours of his time in the Hamptons. The Heat thought they were in a good spot considering they were the second-to-last team – in front of the one he had played with for the first nine years of his career, Oklahoma City – to meet with the jewel of the summer’s free agent crop. But in the end, it was Golden State, which sent Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to the meeting, that landed Durant. The quintet has now become known as the “Hamptons Five.”

Okaro White: Okaro White has not played a minute this season for the Cavaliers and he’s been on the inactive list for all 18 playoff games, But he’s in the Finals. White, from Florida State, turned two 10-day contracts with the Heat during the 2016-17 season into a two-year deal. He started this past season in Miami and had surgery for a broken foot a month into the season. White was traded to Atlanta on Feb. 8 for Luke Babbitt, waived by the Hawks and signed to a 10-day contract by the Cavs. Cleveland then signed him for the rest of the season on April 6 giving him a front-row seat for the entire playoffs.

The Cleveland staff: Former Heat players James Posey and Damon Jones are a part of Tyronn Lue’s staff. Posey played two seasons with the Heat (2005-07) and was a key member of the 2006 title team. Jones played one season in Miami (2004-05) but made his mark. Jones played in all 82 games, starting 66, and set a franchise record with 225 3-point field goals, one that held until this past season when Wayne Ellington recorded 227 threes. Jones then signed with the Cavs prior to the 2005-06 season.

Shaun Livingston: The Heat took a chance on Livingston, signing the free agent guard in October 2008 after a knee injury forced him to miss the entire previous season. But three months later, and after playing in just four games for the Heat, Livingston was traded to Memphis. Since, Livingston has been with eight different organizations, waived four times and traded twice before finding a home with the Warriors in 2014. He joined Golden State at the start of their Finals run and now has been an integral part of two (and perhaps three) title teams.

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The number of head coaching changes in NBA since Erik Spoelstra’s first season is staggering

Miami Heat president Pat Riley and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra at Miami Heat training camp at FAU in Boca Raton in September. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Erik Spoelstra becomes more of a rarity with each coaching firing.

Former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons parted ways today, pushing the number to eight teams that have fired their coach since the start of last season.

More than half of the teams have changed coaches in the last two years and more could come as the playoffs progress. This despite no coaching changes from the end of the 2016-17 season to the start of 2017-18.

Since Spoelstra’s first season as the Heat coach in 2008-09, there have been 131 coaching changes in the league, including interim coaches, and the five remaining openings that will be filled in the coming weeks.

Spoelstra, 47, just completed his 10th season in Miami. The Nets have had nine different coaches and Kings have had eight during that span.

Only San Antonio and Dallas have not changed coaches since Spoelstra’s first season. The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is the lone head coach who has been with his current team longer than Spoelstra. Spoelstra was hired April 28, 2008, 11 days before the Mavericks put Rick Carlisle in charge.

Popovich has been coaching the Spurs since Dec. 10, 1996.

Spoelstra has credited his longevity to the organization’s stability. Owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley have run the organization for the last 28 years.

“I’m in one of the most fortunate situations in the league,” Spoelstra once said. “No matter what’s going on with our team I’m always able to quickly get back to a sense of gratitude. I see how unique this organization (is) and my bosses are compared to the rest of the league.”

Van Gundy, who worked for the Heat for 11 seasons, including a little more than two years as a head coach in which Spoelstra was on his staff, was fired today as the head of basketball operations and head coach.

If Van Gundy fills one of the four other openings, it would be his fourth head coaching job, third since Spoelstra took over in Miami. Van Gundy was the Magic head coach from the 2007-08 season until the 2011-12 season.

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At 73, Heat’s Pat Riley not thinking retirement: ‘Something sucks you back in’

 

Heat president Pat Riley said ‘there’s always something that brings you back in,’ when thinking about retirement. (Photo Tom D’Angelo)

MIAMI – Something changed for Pat Riley the last two years.

Perhaps it’s the challenge of rebuilding this team, a process that started two summers ago. Or just the fact that about six weeks after his 73rd birthday that competitive flame still burns.

But after saying two years ago that he’s “had thoughts the last couple of years of moving on,” the Miami Heat president did an about face Monday at his postseason news conference on the same question.

“No, no I haven’t,” he said. “Until (owner Micky Arison) comes to me …  you know, I haven’t.”

Then, and now, Riley spoke about something that always “sucks you back in.”

“I‘ve spoken about this before, because I think this happens all the time to players, coaches, executives,” Riley said Monday. “This is my 50th year (in the NBA). There’s always something that brings you back in, there’s something that sucks you back in. You could tell yourself in September, ‘This is my last year.’ But by the end of the season something happens that sucks you back in. ‘I can’t now. I’ve got to make the team better. We have free agency. I’ve got a draft pick. I can’t do this to Micky. I can’t do this.’”

For Riley, this challenge of making the Heat competitive again in the post Big Three era is as difficult as any he’s had.

Riley appeared energized at his postseason news conference Monday, opening with a long statement about how he has had to build, tear down and rebuild several times since arriving in South Florida in 1995. He cited several major moves from the Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway era to the Eddie Jones, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant era to the Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal era to the Big Three to now.

“But my point in going back to Zo and Tim and that first team is what has got us to where we are here today,” he said. “Because between then and now I can’t think about the number of transactions. … 50, 60 transactions across the board.

“When you think about the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs and the ones not going to the second round, there’s 22 teams that didn’t advance. They’re not happy. They’re just like I am. They’re not happy. Getting beat in the first round … they’re having the same conversations we’re having. That’s why this is a wonderful time and open market. I always go back to the very first trade I made here to get Zo. There are more of those out there. I’m not saying they’re going to happen this year.”

That does not sound like a man ready to ride off into the sunset, even though he did say two years ago he has spoken to Arison about an exit plan.

“I would love to have one of those golden consulting jobs somewhere,” he said. “There’s a few guys around the league that have those jobs. But I say that in jest, because all the men who do that I’m sure they provide a good service. But I’m an active participant, and I want to stay that way to the chagrin of some of you and some people in the organization.”

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After riding out Irma, Udonis Haslem joins Erik Spoelstra, Nick Arison to help South Florida’s pet population

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, captain Udonis Haslem with dogs that were flown to the Bay Area to help make room in South Florida shelters (Photo Tom D’Angelo)

MIAMI – Leave it to the Captain and the Heat’s only Miami native to ride out Hurricane Irma.

While the rest of his teammates were evacuating, Udonis Haslem remained in his Southwest Ranches home with his family and three dogs.

“It’s not that I don’t respect the power of Mother Nature because I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mother Nature,” Haslem said. “But I built a bunker. I paid a lot of money for it. I’m going down with my ship.”

Haslem, like many, was spared with the most damage coming to his trees and fence. My yard took a beating,” he said. So he did what most of us have been doing for the last three days, rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

“It’s been a long time since I did that kind of work,” he said. “I just saw everybody in my neighborhood cleaning out trees and I said ‘Let me get out there and clean out my trees.’

“Why not?”

But Haslem knew his work was not done even when he finished cutting and dragging tree limbs to the curb. Before the storm hit he had called around informing the Heat and anyone else that he was available to be called into action.

On Friday, Haslem, coach Erik Spoelstra, CEO Nick Arison and several Heat employees helped load 150 pets into crates at Miami International Airport so they could be transported to Oakland, Calif., where members of the Golden State Warriors were waiting to unload the pets. Haslem, an admitted animal lover who said he walked his three dogs as much as he could during the storm, assisted in giving the dogs a little outdoors time before their flight took off.

The pets were being transported to Bay Area shelters to make room in the Miami area shelters for pets abandoned during Irma.

“There are so many areas that need help,” Spoelstra said. “This is an area that often gets forgotten, the displaced animals, and some of the horrific stories about animals getting left behind in the storm. Many of the animals would have been euthanized this weekend.”

    The project is a joint effort by the Heat, Warriors and Federal Express. Additionally, Heat owner Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine will make an immediate donation of $2.5 million from their foundation to Direct Relief, UNICEF and the United Way of Miami-Dade County to support the most timely and urgent relief needs in the wake of Irma.

Carnival Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Arison’s company, and the Miami Heat Charitable Fund are each pledging to raise a combined $5 million in funding for relief and recovery efforts. The Arisons will match that commitment up to a total of $5 million, including the organization’s initial $2.5 million donation, bringing the total to $10 million.

Spoelstra, who evacuated his Coconut Grove home, said the families of Micky Arison and president Pat Riley are behind the Heat’s community involvement, especially in times of need. On Thursday, Riley drove to a Publix, without notifying the organization, and started pushing a cart up and down the aisles, purchasing items to hand out in the Little Haiti section of Miami.

“(They) don’t know any different,” Spoelstra said. “I’ve seen their example. And the Arison family has been so deeply rooted in the community for so long that as soon as something happens they activate and they get everybody else motivated to do something.”

Spoelstra was behind many of his players leaving town, saying he made the suggestion, especially considering most had never experienced a hurricane.

Spoelstra and his wife, Nikki, evacuated their Coconut Grove home. They returned to find it in good shape.

“It doesn’t make you more courageous to stay. I think we all learned a lesson from Houston,” he said, referring to Hurricane Harvey. “If you can get out early and secure your house and secure your properties discretion is the better part of valor oftentimes.

“I think we were all very fortunate with this storm but I think the numbers were roughly 7 million that evacuated. That was the smart thing to do. Once everybody is able to come back safely now we all have to lace up our boots and get to work and build back this community.”

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Heat owner Micky Arison, Carnival Cruise Line to donate $2 million to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison looks on during a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets at American Airlines Arena on October 11, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MIAMI — Count Miami Heat owner Micky Arison among those getting involved in the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Arison, his company and his foundation are pledging a minimum of $2 million to relief and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Continue reading “Heat owner Micky Arison, Carnival Cruise Line to donate $2 million to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts”

The night Heat president Pat Riley got all ‘goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired’

 

Heat owner Micky Arison, coach Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley at a team Easter Party on Friday.

MIAMI – A year ago, the term that defined Pat Riley’s postseason news conference was “whale,” the word the Heat president used to describe the type of free agent (i.e. Kevin Durant) he would be pursuing during the summer.

On Wednesday, while recapping the 2016-17 season, one phrase Riley used multiple times to describe his mood after Miami’s stunning turnaround fell one game short off the playoffs stood out.

“I’m not all goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired. That’s not my makeup,” he said in his opening statement.

Later, Riley did give us an example of when he was “goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired,” when perhaps he finally came out of his funk and was able to move on from the disappointing final night of the season that, ironically, ended with a Heat win over Washington but soon turned sour when Miami did not receive the help it needed to make the playoffs.

“Goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired? I have that in me,” he offered. “I think Donovan put something on line the other night having bunny ears on. I was goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired that night.”

Riley is referring to Heat vice president of sports media relations, Tim Donovan, and the photo above that appeared on owner Micky Arison’s Instagram account Saturday.

For those wanting a couple of other “goose-bumply, fuzzy-haired’ moments from the Heat’s Easter party, here you go.

 

 

 

Riley said on Wednesday he regrets using the term whale because the new the collective bargaining agreement will greatly impact the number of super-stars to hit the free-agent market.

Goose-bumply, fuzzy-haired? That will stick with Riley for awhile.

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Heat’s Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg below Raptors, Rockets, Cavs in ESPN management rankings

 

Heat GM Andy Elisburg and president Pat Riley, shown here with CEO Nick Arison, received little love from ESPN experts in management rankings. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

MIAMI – The Miami Heat finished in the top seven in each ESPN’s polls that ranked teams’ coaches, management (president/GM) and owner, but it was one of those rankings that makes you wonder.

The management team of Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg was slotted behind San Antonio, Golden State, Boston, Houston, Cleveland and Toronto in the president/GM rankings.

The Heat have won three titles and played in five Finals under the current management team and they are among the very best in developing players. Take away the Spurs and the rest of those franchises combined have as many titles in the 2000s as the Heat.

If we’re talking conference titles. … Toronto has never played in the Finals and Houston hasn’t been there in more than 20 years.

Breaking down wins since 2010, only San Antonio with 58.8 per season has more than Miami’s 51.5. The others in order: Golden State, 49.5; Houston, 45.5; Boston, 41.5; Toronto, 38.6; Cleveland, 34.

Nobody will argue that San Antonio has been the most successful franchise in the short and long term (the criteria was how the management team affected on-court success in the short and long term), but no other organization has shown the consistency in the way it runs its franchise for the short and long terms, the way it is able to build a champion, recognize when it’s time to move on, and then rebuild for another successful run than Miami.

And one of the most impressive accomplishments of them all is what the Heat have done this year, winning 26 of 34 after starting 11-30.

Frankly, ranking Miami behind Cleveland, Toronto and Houston is a joke. OK, want to argue Golden State and Boston, I’ll give you that but I still would have the Heat second on this list.

Erik Spoelstra was ranked fourth among coaches, behind San Antonio’s Greg Popovich, Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Boston’s Brad Stevens. Spoelstra is gaining as much (if not more) praise for what he is doing this year than what he did while leading the Heat to four straight Finals appearances and two titles during the Big Three era.

Miami is 26-8 after starting the season 11-30 and a win tonight at home against the Knicks would make the Heat the first team in league history to reach .500 after being 19 games under during that season.

Micky Arison came in fifth in the owner rankings, behind the Spurs, Warriors, Celtics and Rockets. As a result, the Heat are fifth in the overall management rankings – a combination of coach, president/GM and owner – behind San Antonio, Golden State, Boston and Houston.

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