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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Lamar Odom on Heat: ‘If you have talent and you go to Miami, it’s going to be maximized’

Lamar Odom on the Miami Heat: ‘If you don’t go hard, you can’t play there. That’s why I respect their program and their tradition and their style of basketball even to this day.’ (Photo Getty Images)

Lamar Odom played one season with the Miami Heat, but it was a season that shaped the rest of Odom’s career and even how he watches basketball today.

Odom, in an interview with Shams Charania of The Vertical, spoke about his career, including his disappointment over being traded by the Lakers in 2011, and the impact the Heat and president Pat Riley had on his life.

Odom, 37, signed with the Heat in 2003 and after one season was part of the trade with the Lakers in which the Heat acquired Shaquille O’Neal.

Although Odom was happy to return to Los Angeles – he spent his first four years with the Clippers before coming to Miami – he realized he left an organization that is able to bring out the best in their players.

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Odom told The Vertical he had never worked out before training camp before signing with the Heat and that he “learned how to play hard and what playing hard was,” during his season in Miami.

“There was one game when we played in Puerto Rico against the 76ers, and I shot the ball bad,” Odom said. “But I had a lot of rebounds, had two ‘and-ones’ in crunch time, and I was like, ‘Damn.’ I was down. Pat runs up to me, reads me the stat line, and says, ‘Yeah, O. I like that (expletive). I like how hard you went.’

“In Miami, if you don’t go hard, you can’t play there. That’s why I respect their program and their tradition and their style of basketball even to this day, even though they didn’t make it to the playoffs last year. Because I played there and I understand them, I can still watch them. I know what they’re going through in practice. They’re getting pushed to the limit. So if you have talent and you go to Miami, it’s going to come out and be maximized.

“We had (Dwyane) Wade, Caron (Butler), Eddie Jones, Rasual Butler, Rafer Alston, Brian Grant. We had a good nucleus. We had a gritty team, blue-collar. I took the Heat philosophy for my whole career. When I watch basketball now, I watch it through the eyes of somebody that played for the Heat.”

Odom averaged 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds during his one season in Miami after signing his six-year, $65 million deal. He and Wade led the Heat to the second round of the playoffs.

But when the Shaq-Kobe Bryant relationship soured Riley swooped in and offered the Lakers anybody on the roster, except Wade.

Odom, Caron Butler and Grant were headed to L.A.

Odom spent seven seasons with the Lakers, where he teamed with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to win two titles. His career, and life, spiraled out of control after leaving the Lakers. Odom has gone public about his issues with drug use which included a life-threatening drug overdose in a Las Vegas brothel in October 2015. Odom suffered multiple strokes, kidney failure and was in a coma and on life support.

He says now he is lucky to be alive.

The Heat also benefited from the Odom trade as Wade and Shaq led Miami to its first title in 2006.

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Heat president Pat Riley has accumulated assets on reasonable contracts. Look out!

Heat president Pat Riley has accumulated enough chips to go all in if an opportunity arises to made a major trade. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

MIAMI – In the summer of 2004 Pat Riley’s chips were all on the table. … Well, all but one.

Looking to land a transcendent player to help put the Miami Heat over the top in their quest for their first title, Riley assembled enough assets to pique the interest of the Los Angeles Lakers.

After giving the Lakers their pick of any combination of players on the roster with the exception of Dwyane Wade, Riley changed the course of Heat history by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal.

Riley had not acquired Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler with the idea of peddling them for the original ‘whale,’ but the opportunity was there. Which brings us to Monday, and Riley’s characterization of his current team.

“This team sort of reminds me of that team,” Riley said about the 2003-04 group. “Just something about it reminds me of that kind of team and that kind of spirit. So I have a good feeling about it.”

The unintended comparison was to what happened in that summer of 2004. Riley had accumulated assets with reasonable contracts and put himself in position to make a franchise-altering trade.

The notion that Riley has lost his fastball because he could not land Gordon Hayward, or even his mind because he spent about $162 million of Micky Arison’s money (with GM Andy Elisburg’s help) on three four-year contracts for James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk is misguided. Riley knew exactly what he was doing after learning Hayward was headed to Boston. He quickly recovered and re-signed his top two free agents (plus retained Wayne Ellington) and added Olynyk.

Three players that at the time were among the top 10-15 free agents still on the board.

Riley said the long-term contracts were by design to “tie up our young guys.” But later he touched on the biggest advantage the Heat have moving forward.

Considering the largest contract of the three is for $60 million (Johnson) that means all three players are signed for an average annual amount of $12.5 million to $15 million.

All reasonable. All valuable pieces if another superstar becomes available.

In a climate in which the salary cap will climb above $100 million next summer and keep climbing and Otto Porter Jr. is averaging $26.5 million, Jrue Holiday $25 million and Tim Hardaway Jr. $18 million – all nice pieces but not super stars – Johnson, Waiters and Olynyk will become more of a bargain as each year passes.

In the last two weeks 15 players have signed deals with a higher per year average than Johnson. And 19 greater than Waiters and Olynyk. To take it further, 57 players averaged more than $15 million last season, 73 more than $12.5.

Do you really think there are 72 players in the NBA who are better than Johnson or 92 players better than Waiters and Olynyk?

Riley said Monday he does not like to define players as assets. But then he did.

“They are assets,” he said. “If something comes along somewhere along the way, there are opportunities to do other things. I don’t have plans to do that, but you need those kinds of assets.”

Then, the man who wrote the book on motivational tools, knew he had found another.

“That will give them something to think about,” he said laughing.

And Riley had no choice. All three Heat free agents were looking for their first big contract and one- or two-year deals did not appeal to them. And if they would have, the annual salary would have been much higher (Waiters reportedly turned down $17 million for one year from the Lakers) making it impossible to sign all three under the cap.

O’Neal becoming available in the summer of 2005 was totally unexpected. One year ago nobody would have thought Indiana would trade Paul George but the Pacers unloaded the four-time All-Star to Oklahoma City for an unimpressive package of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

And last summer the trade winds around Jimmy Butler started blowing, another player who two years ago no one expected would be moved. The Bulls finally pulled the trigger on a Butler deal to Minnesota last month.

Now, with his chips back on the table, do not doubt that Pat Riley would be all in if another star hits the market.

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Former Heat cult hero Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen looking to take flight out of Miami

Chris Andersen showing off new ink before the 2015 season. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen, one of the more colorful characters ever to wear a Miami Heat uniform, is cutting his ties to South Florida.

Andersen, who last played for the Heat in February of 2016, has put his Pinecrest home up for sale, hoping to double his money. Anderson paid $1.89 million for the five-bedroom, six-bathroom, 7,629-square foot home in 2013, after signing with the Heat. The mansion went on the market in early April for $4.55 million but already that price has been cut to $3.94 million.

The backyard of Birdman’s Pinecrest home.

The home, naturally, includes basketball court.

Andersen, though, will not be needing to cut any corners if he doesn’t get his asking price. He has made close to $39 million during his 15-year NBA career, including $3.5 million during his three years with the Heat. Andersen played in two Finals with the Heat, helping Miami win the 2013 title.

Former teammate LeBron James convinced the Cavaliers to sign Andersen, 38, to a one-year deal last summer. Andersen, though, played just 12 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in December. In February, the Cavaliers traded Andersen to the Hornets to clear a roster spot. Charlotte then waived the 6-foot-10 power forward/center, likely ending his career. Andersen averaged 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds, while shooting 53.2 percent, in his career.

Andersen became a cult hero in Miami with his bizarre personality, Mohawk hair style and nearly head-to-toe tattoos. He attended a Heat-Cavaliers game at AmericanAirlines Arena in April and and received a standing ovation. Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson then walked over to slap hands with Andersen, who was sitting front row on the baseline.

The entrance to Birdman’s Pinecrest home

Andersen is used to the competition on the court, but now is competing with at least two other former NBA stars in a different way. Homes owned by Penny Hardaway and Lamar Odom also are on the market in the Pinecrest community, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Hardaway, who played in 16 games for the Heat in 2007-08, listed his 8,639-square-foot home for $3.799 million. Odom, who played for the Heat in 2003-04, put his 8,600-square-foot home on the market for $5.2 million.

The area is home to Heat players Tyler Johnson and James Johnson, who fast became friends after James Johnson joined the Heat last summer. They then started sharing rides to and from AmericanAirlines Arena.

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Former Heat center Brian Grant fighting Parkinson’s and keeping tabs on his old team

 

 

Former Heat center Brian Grant is dedicated to raising awareness of Parkinson’s disease since being diagnosed with the disease in 2005. (AP Photo)

MIAMI – Former Heat center Brian Grant sees the parallels.

In early March 2004 Miami was 11 games under .500, went 17-4 the rest of the way and finished fourth in the East.

In mid-January of this season Miami was 11-30, has won 26 of 24 and gone from the second worst record in the league to the No. 7 seed.

“We had veterans, you kind of expect veterans to bring it together,” Grant said of the team led by the 6-foot-9 Grant, Lamar Odom, Eddie Jones and a rookie named Dwyane Wade.

“This is a young team that really says a lot about (coach Erik Spoelstra.)”

Grant, 45, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease late in 2005. He publicized his disease four years later.

After the diagnosis he decided to recreate the Brian Grant Foundation to support efforts toward the education and awareness of Parkinson’s. The mission is to help those impacted by the disease to live active and fulfilling lives.

The foundation hosts a fundraiser, Shake It Till We Make It, to raise money to provide support and resources for all those affected by Parkinson’s. Shake It Till We Make It is held annually in his hometown of Portland, Ore. Saturday it will be held for the first time in Miami.

Grant praised the Heat organization for being contributors to his foundation and said he has always wanted to do something in South Florida.

“What we’re trying to do is get people who are young and have on-set Parkinson’s, 60 or younger, to continue moving and getting up, not to wait for the cure because that cure may never come in our lifetime,” Grant said. “That’s what we’ve built our program on.”

Grant has become very public about his disease but that always wasn’t the case.

“It took awhile,” he said. “I still deal with it from time to time. I’ve always been someone who is self-conscious about what people think but not as bad as when I was first diagnosed. Then I was always looking to see who was looking and no one was looking.”

When someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s the best thing is to “progress relatively slow,”  Grant said. He has, and he attributes that to being an athlete. His main symptoms are “a tremor, a little bit of foot tapping and a short term memory loss.”

“I really don’t have any limitations other than when I don’t want to do something I say, ‘Oh, man, I got Parkinson’s,’” he said with a smile. “Or I need my kid to get the remote control or something like that.”

Grant played 12 seasons in the NBA, four with Miami before being dealt to the Lakers in July 2004 as part of the trade that brought Shaquille O’Neal to Miami. He averaged 10.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in his career.

Spoelstra will remember Grant as being “one of the ultimate Miami Heat teammates.”

“He’s always remembered here for his time because he was such a giving and selfless teammate, was great for the culture, believed in what you were doing and put his heart and soul and guts out there to try to help you win,” Spoelstra said. “You love guys like that. Obviously what he’s gone through has been so tough. But the awareness he’s been able to generate and to really try to make a difference I think that is awesome.”

Grant returned the praise.

“People tend to think because you have LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade you don’t really need to coach them,” he said. “You absolutely need to coach them. But I think he’s really shining with this group, and saying ‘I can coach (a) group of superstars but I can also coach this group of young kids and make a good run at this year.’

“I’m really happy for Spo.”

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What are chances Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic wins Player of the Month?

 

Heat guard Goran Dragic drives against Mavericks forward Nerlens Noel during Dallas' victory over Miami on Monday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Heat guard Goran Dragic drives against Mavericks forward Nerlens Noel during Dallas’ victory over Miami on Monday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

MIAMI – The Heat’s 8-3 record in February was among the best in the NBA, making Erik Spoelstra a strong contender for Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.

But Spoelstra isn’t the only member of the organization up for a monthly award. Guard Goran Dragic once again is in the conversation for player of the month.

Dragic, who was nominated in January for the Eastern Conference Player of the Month that went to Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, has been Miami’s best player this season and February has been his best month.

Dragic, 30, averaged 22.5 points and 5.0 assists while shooting 53.8 percent, including 45.7 percent on 3s in 11 games. Dragic has never been a player of the month during his nine seasons in the league, although he has been honored twice as the player of the week, in April of 2012 while with Houston and February of 2013 with Phoenix.

Those numbers, though, may not be enough to beat out Cleveland’s LeBron James, who stepped up his offense with teammate Kevin Love out for about half the month.

James averaged 25.9 points, 10.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 63.7 percent, 56.8 percent from 3. The league, though, might be tired of etching James’ name on this award considering his has won it 33 times, 12 of those while with the Heat, to go along with 57 player of the week awards. The next closest: Kobe Bryant with 17 player of the month awards.

James is the last Heat player to capture the award, in March 2014.

Thomas had another solid month with a 30.2 average and 5.7 assists while shooting 43.5 percent. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan averaged 28.5 points and 2.5 assists on 45.7 percent shooting.

Heat players besides James, to win player of the month include Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning, Lamar Odom, Dwyane Wade (6) and Shaquille O’Neal.

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