Without the ‘assets’ to make an impactful deal, Heat President Pat Riley focuses on playoffs



A proud Miami Heat President Pat Riley, (L), greets Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, after the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in game seven of the NBA Finals Thursday evening June 20, 2013, in Miami.(Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)
Heat President Pat Riley, celebrating with coach Erik Spoelstra after the Heat locked up the 2013 NBA title, said he was happy to stand pat with this Heat team.(Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)

MIAMI _ Heat President Pat Riley entered Thursday’s trade deadline with low expectations.

He got just what he expected.

As several teams made moves to either make a run at the playoffs or dump unwanted players, the Heat stood pat for the first time in five years.

Riley was not surprised.

“We had what we expected to occur … nothing,” Riley said.

“I’m glad we didn’t do anything stupid.”

Riley said the Heat, who have won 14-of-16 to pull to within two games of the final playoff spot in the East, wasn’t a buyer or a seller. Which was fine considering he, coach Erik Spoelstra, GM Andy Elisburg and CEO Nick Arison made a decision to “play out” the rest of the season.

“I think the most interesting thing that we as an organization will look at (is) the last 25 games, because this is about something that we can gain,” Riley said. “I want to see now how they will operate now with real pressure.”

Riley did not say if anything was close but the only reports involving the Heat included fringe players like guard Wayne Ellington and injured forward Josh McRoberts.

Still, the only true impact player moved around the deadline was Sacramento sending DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans. Others, like Indiana’s Paul George and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, stayed put.

“We don’t have those kinds of assets to go out and acquire,” Riley said. “And I think the only thing that’s going to change this franchise is going to be what comes from within first, what we do in the draft, what we do in the summer and what we do in the trading market.

“Somewhere, we will have a star that emerges. We already have a couple of guys we consider stars and can you get one via trade, develop one from within, draft one, get one in free agency? That’s part of the game.”

[Trade deadline not only time Riley can make blockbuster deal]

[Chris Bosh set to join TNT as studio analyst, making return to court this season even more unlikely]

Even if the Heat made a move, it was not going to be at the expense of the long-term plan of rebuilding this team through free agency and, now to a lesser extent because of its record, the draft.

By sitting out the deadline, the Heat will enter free agency with at least $40 million in cap space, unless a move is made around the draft.

Riley was asked if the last five weeks in which the Heat went from the second-worst record in the league to a playoff contender changed his trade deadline approach.

“Maybe,” he said. “But I don’t think so. Even when we weren’t winning, there were some players emerging and playing well.

“When we were 11-30, there were a lot of close games and we couldn’t finish those games for some reason. They hung in there and this last five weeks … now it’s fun. Let’s take this to what we would say the fourth quarter and everything’s on the line the next 25 games and let’s see what we can do.”

For the players, the focus now can be solely on the court.

“It is a little bit of a relief,” guard Goran Dragic said about the trade deadline expiring. “We’re together from Day 1 and it’s not easy if some of your teammates are gone. But we understand this is a part of the business everybody is going through.”

Now Riley is curious to see if Dragic and Dion Waiters keep ascending, if Hassan Whiteside develops into that franchise center, if James Johnson and Tyler Johnson continue to excel coming off the bench.

Miami’s final playoff push continues Friday in Atlanta.

“This was not smoke and mirrors over the last five weeks,” Riley said. “This was some very good basketball, some very good performances and we will see now if after nine days off, if they can remain the same team with the same kind of edge.”

Riley said the next seven weeks of the regular season will go a long way in the evaluation process.

“I’m excited about a playoff run just as I would be as excited about getting the No. 1 seed or the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “You get excited at different levels and so we’re all excited about this.”

But, Riley added, this is not where the Heat want to be in the future.

“We have bigger dreams here than that. You take what you can get at that moment.”

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