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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UPDATE: Gordon Hayward’s Free Agency Tour ends Monday; Heat, Celtics, Jazz await decision

 

All that’s left for Gordon Hayward is The Decision. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

ORLANDO – Free agent Gordon Hayward had his final meeting Monday, sitting down with officials from the only team he has played for during his seven-year NBA career.

Hayward met with the Utah Jazz in San Diego for 3.5 hours, according to ESPN,  and left without a decision as to whether he will return to Utah or sign with the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. Included in the meeting was new point guard Ricky Rubio, who flew in from Spain.

Reports during the day indicated Hayward still laboring over the decision.

Hayward traveled to Miami and Boston during the weekend, but had the Jazz delegation travel to San Diego, where the Haywards have a home.

Most reports have Hayward making his decision Tuesday or Wednesday.

Utah’s pitch was different from those of Pat Riley and the Heat on Saturday and Danny Ainge and the Celtics on Sunday. The Jazz are attempting to retain a player who is very familiar with the organization, the coaches and players and the city.

     Miami and Boston pulled out stops to welcome the 6-foot-8 swingman, who is coming off his first All-Star season, and familiarize him with the organizations and the cities.

Hayward, 27, was greeted with a banner of his likeness as he and his wife, Robyn, drove up to AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. In Boston, they were taken to an empty Fenway Park where they were welcomed on the video screen and shown a video highlighting the franchise’s rich history.

The Jazz sent owner Gail Miller and her family, GM Dennis Lindsey, coach Quin Snyder, team president Steve Starks and a group of players to meet with Hayward in San Diego.

“We feel good because of the city and the organization, the level of the team, Quin, the development staff, Rudy,” Lindsey, referring to center Rudy Gobert, told the Deseret News prior to the meeting.

“We’re quite confident. We’ll see what that means. We’ll find out if that’s overconfident or appropriately placed.”

The Jazz did not have to convince Hayward that they have made significant strides. He has been a big reason the team went from 25 to 38 to 40 to 51 wins the last four years. Utah was fifth in the Western Conference last season and defeated the Clippers in seven games in the first round before being swept by eventual champions Golden State in the conference semifinals.

    Miami and Boston, meanwhile, spent a good portion of their meetings talking to Hayward about how he is a significant missing piece and how he will fit into their structure.

The Celtics attempted to sell Hayward how joining a 53-win team that advanced to the conference finals before losing in five-games to Cleveland could put them over the hump and into the Finals.

The Heat, meanwhile, had to convince Hayward they are more like the team that had the second-best record (30-11) in the league during the second half of the season – better than Boston – and not the one that started 11-30. Miami could also sell Hayward on the fact that he would be the No. 1 option and play with a point guard like Goran Dragic who is more apt to share the ball than Boston’s shoot-first point guard, Isaiah Thomas.

And both teams can gang up on Utah, pointing out how the West, already a much more powerful conference, got much stronger this summer with All-Stars Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap leaving the East either through trades or free agency.

Utah, with Hayward, could be at best No. 5 on paper in the West and even that could be debated. Put Hayward on Boston or Miami and both could have an argument they are No. 2 in the conference, the Celtics’ case being much stronger.

Hayward would be the lone Western Conference star to go to the Eastern Conference this summer if he joins Boston or Miami.

The wooing of Hayward has been played out in social media. Three star players, one from each team, became involved in an emoji war on Twitter over the weekend, each trying to promote his team.

Gobert kicked it off by suggesting the Heat are garbage, the Celtics are a pile of poop and the Jazz win trophies.

Boston’s Thomas countered by pointing out the Jazz have never won a title, the Heat have won three and Boston has 17 championships.

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside then limited that to titles won this century, of which Miami has three, Boston one and the Jazz none.

But emoji wars and fans’ takes on social media will not determine where Hayward signs. What will is everything he and his wife have heard in the last three days and soon they will share that with the rest of us.

[Miami target of a racist and ignorant taunt from Utah, Boston journalists]

[Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?]

[Mailbag: Could the Miami Heat pull off a sign-and-trade if they land Gordon Hayward?]

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Bitter rivals Pat Riley, Danny Ainge going head-to-head for Gordon Hayward

ORLANDO – Pat Riley and his nemesis once again are locked in a duel.

Riley and the Miami Heat made their pitch to Utah small forward Gordon Hayward Saturday and today Hayward will meet with Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics. Riley and Ainge have a history that has been ugly, vindictive and resorted to name calling.

    Which is why winning the Hayward Sweepstakes will be that much sweeter for whoever emerges.

This bad blood goes back 3½ decades when Riley coached the Lakers and Ainge played for the Celtics. The teams hooked up in three intense, physical, ugly Finals in the ultimate clash of styles and cultures.

But back then Riley hated everything and everybody associated with the Celtics.

He hated the Boston Garden.

He hated then Celtics president Red Auerbach.

He probably hated the color green and shamrocks, despite his Irish heritage.

But the bitterness really boiled over in March of 2013 when Riley issued a statement shortly after Ainge let it be known how tired he had gotten of then Heat star LeBron James complaining about the league’s officiating, saying it was “almost embarrassing.”

Riley had enough:

“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was a player. I know that because I coached against him.”

That ‘F’ word, by the way, was not censored in Riley’s statement.

To which Ainge shot back:

“I stand by what I said. That’s all. I don’t care about Pat Riley. He can say whatever he wants. I don’t want to mess up his Armani suits and all that hair goop.”

It was on. Two NBA team presidents acting not very presidential. … umm, at least not for those times.

The previous year Riley swooped in and stole free agent Ray Allen from the Celtics. The Celtics were bitter, although that was aimed at the Heat and Allen, who turned down a higher offer from Boston. Allen remains shunned by his former Celtics teammates to this day.

Then, in July of 2014, Ainge got his payback by helping the Cavaliers clear cap space for their pursuit of James. Boston was part of a three-team trade in which Cleveland dumped three contracts, allowing it to get to the required number to sign James. Two days later, James’ penned his famous ‘I’m coming home’ letter.

Hayward will make his decision after meeting with his incumbent team, Utah, on Monday. If he leaves Utah he will be the No. 1 free agent to switch teams this summer and that decision will help tip the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, perhaps not this season as Cleveland remains the favorite, but probably in the not-too-distant future.

And Riley and Ainge believe they both have a shot.

Stay tuned. Because somewhere down the line, no matter where Hayward lands, Riley and Ainge will meet again, with swords sharpened.

[Is Hassan Whiteside using Snapchat to recruit Gordon Hayward to Miami?]

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Could the Boston Celtics trade have reaching impact on Miami Heat when it comes to Gordon Hayward?

The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are considered the biggest threats to convince free agent small forward Gordon Hayward to leave Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics are set to add another small forward to a roster that already includes starter Jae Crowder and emerging Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 overall pick a year ago.

Whether that player is Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum or even Jimmy Butler, who could be Danny Ainge’s end game, stockpiling more picks to throw at the Bulls for the All-Star forward, Boston will be deep at the position.

How does this relate to the Miami Heat?

If Gordon Hayward leaves Utah, Boston appears to be the Heat’s biggest competition for the 6-foot-8 small forward. Recent reports have the Jazz just as concerned about the Heat as they are the Celtics – who are coached by Hayward’s college coach, Brad Stevens – in their attempt to retain Hayward. And you know Pat Riley is going to walk into a hotel room, probably on July 1, and throw down a sack of championship rings to start his recruiting pitch.

Riley can also say the position is wide open. Justise Winslow is the only true small forward on the Heat roster and he would make for a nice sixth man. But this is more about the Celtics, who are creating quite a logjam at the spot and now may be better served spending their free agent dollars on another position.

Boston still will make the case that with Crowder, Brown and either Jackson or Tatum, Hayward will be the unquestioned top dog at the position and the top offensive threat. Still, four small forwards is excessive. And if the Celtics are angling for Butler, why would they want to eventually be paying max money to two players who play the same position? Butler could move to shooting guard but Avery Bradley has emerged at that position.

Boston may then decide to refocus its free agency plan and target a power forward – a position of much greater need – like Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap.

Also in the Heat’s favor are reports that Hayward has concerns about playing with a ball-dominant point guard like Isaiah Thomas. In Miami, he would be teaming up with a drive-and-kick point guard in Goran Dragic and a shooting guard like Josh Richardson, whose main focus will be defense.

The Heat are in the game already when it comes to Hayward. Maybe the Celtics just opened that window a bit wider.

[Mailbag: Should the Heat pursue a trade for Paul George?]

[Justise Winslow gives back to hometown of Houston with free camp]

[Collins, Giles, Jackson, Kennard, Mitchell leading way among players linked to Heat pick]

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Time for Heat prez Pat Riley to dig into save drafts and tell Phil Jackson to ‘shut the … up’

 

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Pat Riley once told Danny Ainge to “shut the f— up” through a statement.

Now that we know Riley tends to hold onto documents in his “save drafts” (just ask Dwyane Wade) perhaps he could dust that one off and send it to Phil Jackson.

Jackson may have taken over two championship ready teams (Bulls, Lakers) and collected 11 rings along the way, but nothing he has done suggests he has a “vibe” to build anything resembling a championship team from the ground up.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Jackson, now the Knicks president, questioned how Riley could lose Wade this summer and said LeBron James leaving Miami for Cleveland in 2014 “definitely was a slap in the face.”

Jackson added that Riley’s “vibe” with his players has broken down.

“I always thought Pat had this really nice vibe with his guys. But something happened there where it broke down,” Jackson said.

Riley and Jackson have had a long-standing rivalry, dating back to when Jackson took over the ready-made Bulls with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant and led them to six titles in eight years, losing the two years Jordan experimented with baseball.

During that run, Jackson’s Bulls were 3-1 in playoff series against Riley’s Knicks and eliminated Riley’s Heat twice.

What separates Riley – who has seven titles as a coach and executive – from Jackson are the three titles Riley won in Miami: 2006 (president/coach), 2012 and 2013 (president).

Jackson’s only experience with running a team started in 2014 when he was named president of the Knicks. He’s made one disastrous coaching hire (Derek Fisher) and the Knicks have lost 115 games in Jackson’s two full seasons. Jackson’s attempt at a quick fix this year meant bringing in Derrick Rose.

In 2013, Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, made the mistake of criticizing James for questioning the officials for calls they made during a Heat-Bulls game.

“I think the referees got it right,” Ainge told a radio station. “I think that it’s almost embarrassing that LeBron would complain about officiating.”

Riley responded in a statement released though a Heat spokesperson:

“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”

Maybe it’s time for Riley to go back into those saved drafts.

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