Pat Riley on Heat’s start, NBA defense, Adebayo and Winslow, being inducted into Miami chamber Hall of Champions

MIAMI – Pat Riley knows this is not the NBA from his heyday as a coach in Los Angeles, New York and with the Miami Heat.

So when the Heat president sees his team’s defense ranked 22nd in the league with a 107.1 rating and 19th allowing 108.5 points per game after four games, he knows other factors go into those numbers.

Pat Riley was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions Thursday.

“There’s a fine line that a coach has to make a decision, when you want to play a pace game,” said Riley, 72, who was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions on  Thursday night. “Look it was easy for me, it was so easy when I coached because I could stop the team by throwing two fingers in the air or a fist in the air and I would take 24 seconds off the shot clock, we would keep the score in the 80s. And sometimes when you’re breaking and running and going hard, and shots are flying, turnovers are happening, layups are being missed, whatever happens, what’s going the other way has to be valuable.”

Riley added once things are settled coach Erik Spoelstra “can either go forward further with it or he can pull back on it. He’s fully committed to it. I think we have the guys that are committed to playing.”

Riley’s teams were noted for their hard-nosed, bloody-the-opponent defense that tried to keep the scores in the 70s and 80s.

“When you control a shot clock on offense for many years like I did, then you can control your defense a lot better, because of the shots you’re taking and guys’ responsibilities,” he said.

“It’s a whole new world, it’s a different game. It really is. I’m excited to watch it, to watch it every single night. Some of the players in this league are exciting and talented and coaches have decided to go that way.”

Riley is not panicking after the 2-2 start that included a 117-110 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.

“It’s early,” he said. “I’m not assessing anything right now. Let’s get Hassan back. That’s sort of a bummer.”

Center Hassan Whiteside has missed three games because of a bone bruise in his left knee.

Riley, though, is pleased with a couple of aspects of his team since it started training camp a month ago.

“The one thing about the team we see every single day and what we see every single night is it’s going to come hard, they’re going to play hard,” Riley said. “They’re bringing every night with effort and once the efficiency catches up with the effort, maybe some of that pace slows down, giving, I think, a real balance. But right now it’s just too early to assess.”

Riley also praised the play of his last two draft picks, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo.

“They’re both young,” he said. “That’s the difference between lottery picks and not having lottery picks or picking in the 20s. … But I’m happy with both Justise and Bam. Listen, five years from now, I hope they’re going to be on the All-Star team.”

Riley was inducted along with former University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris, former Florida football player Carlos Alvarez and drag racer Darrell Gwynn. The ceremony was held at Marlins Park.

“The chamber of commerce for 23 years has been trying to get me to come, but I was so compulsively obsessed with basketball games I didn’t really want to do many things,” Riley said. “The chamber is absolutely vital to a community and they do a great job. It’s a dedicated group of businessmen and entrepreneurs and people who really care about the city of Miami. It’s an honor to be here”

Riley arrived in South Florida in 1995, hired by Heat owner Micky Arison as the president and coach of the Heat. Since, Miami has won three titles, with Riley coaching the 2006 title team, and played in five NBA Finals.

Heat players/coaches inducted into the Hall of Champions include Udonis Haslem (2016), Dwyane Wade (2015), Rony Seikaly (2005), Rony Seikaly (2005), Alonzo Mourning (2001).

[Heat rookie Bam Adebayo’s starting debut a ‘big ask’ against Spurs front line]

[Goran Dragic, Pau Gasol to have EuroBasket reunion tonight when Miami Heat host San Antonio Spurs]

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30 years of Miami Heat: Ranking the top 30 players in team history

A look at the top players in Heat history.

With the Heat just days away from the start of their 30th NBA season, now is a good time to take a closer look at the players who helped make this organization what it is today. Whether it’s based off of pure talent, off-the-court impact or just longevity, there are a lot of names that helped the Heat over their first 29 seasons of existence.

In celebration of the Heat’s first three decades, we bring you the Palm Beach Post’s top 30 players in team history … Continue reading “30 years of Miami Heat: Ranking the top 30 players in team history”

30 years of Heat: The early years and an intern who now deals with multi-million dollar contracts as the General Manager

MIAMI – Andy Elisburg was a 20-year-old intern with the Miami Heat in 1988 when managing partner Billy Cunningham said he needed some chores to be done around the office.

“No problem,” Elisburg said, “I’ll get one of my guys to do it.”

Cunningham looked at Elisburg: “You have people? You’re an intern.”

Elisburg epitomizes where the Heat have come in 30 years. Starting as an intern for public relations director Mark Pray, Elisburg, who turns 50 next month, was a student at St. Thomas University when he was hired to do, well, everything, and started working his way up to senior vice president of basketball operations/General Manager.

Andy Elisburg has worked his way up in the Heat organization from an intern in the public relations department to General Manger. (Photo David Alvarez)

When Elisburg worked with numbers nearly 30 years ago it was those he’d type into a bulky computer to be included in the media guide. Today when he works with numbers it’s negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.

The Heat start their 30th season Wednesday with their season opener in Orlando. Elisburg is one of a handful of people who have been with the organization continuously for the three decades, including broadcaster Tony Fiorentino (who was an assistant coach on Ron Rothstein’s original staff), Eric Reid and Jose Paneda.

Back then, the Heat had about 20 employees, not including players. Today, that number is close to 200.

Only a handful of people, including partners Cunningham and Lewis Schaffel, Rothstein, assistant coach Dave Wohl, director of player personnel Stu Inman and trainer Ron Culp, had worked in the NBA.

For the others it was on the job training.

“Those first games it was really crazy because people really had no idea what to do,” Elisburg said.

During the very first time out of the very first game at Miami Arena, Pray handed the partial box score to a runner with instructions to make copies and “give one to everybody.”

The runner suddenly stopped, looked back and wondered, “how am I going to make 15,000 copies for everyone in the building.”

Finally, he was told, “not everyone. … everyone on press row.”

“It was an incredibly rich and wonderful experience,” Elisburg said. “With the fans, we got a chance to experience NBA basketball and professional sports together. It was very much kind of trial by error in learning what works and what doesn’t and what we had to do.”

Elisburg recalls the entire staff rolling 15,000 posters the night before that opening game.

And although Rothstein had spent five seasons as an assistant coach in Atlanta and Detroit, moving over one seat on the bench was a major adjustment for him, too.

“Anytime you get your first head coaching job the reality is you are a little naïve,” Rothstein said. “The real world hasn’t hit you yet. You’re really full of yourself. You really are. I knew that we weren’t going to be good and I knew that we would lose a lot of games. I had no idea it would be that tough.”

Everybody grew together. … through 17 consecutive losses to start their inaugural year, 33 wins the first two years combined, the first coaching change in 1991 when Kevin Loughery replaced Rothstein and their first taste of the postseason in 1992.

“The philosophy of the Heat from the beginning was we’re going to build through the draft which is exactly what we did,” Rothstein said. “We actually were the first of the expansion teams to make the playoffs, Year 4, unfortunately that was after I was gone. I felt our first three years really set the foundation. Year 4 didn’t happen in a bubble.”

Those drafts netted Rony Seikaly, Grant Long, Glen Rice and Steve Smith, the heart of that first playoff team.

Fast forward 30 years from Nov. 5, 1988, the night of the first ever regular season game for a South Florida NBA franchise, to now where three championship banners hang in the rafters of the AmericanAirlines Arena.

But that does not tell the whole story about where this franchise has come, an ascent similar to the one taken by the intern in the public relations department who now holds the title of General Manager.

“You never know when you start something up that it becomes your home and your family,” Elisburg said. “You don’t think 30 years from now we’re going to be here.

“One of the things that is really special when you are a part of something like this is you’re building something beyond you. We’ve built a foundation what will stand the test of time, a history that people will be part of. It’s been special being part of all the things we’ve achieved and the struggles.”

Miami Heat celebrate 30th anniversary in NBA: The Palm Beach Post looks back

30 memorable moments from the team’s history

Aboard the Imagination and in the Dynasty lounge, the Pat Riley era begins

The early years and an intern who now deals with multi-million dollar contracts

A look at how a group of South Florida sports fans became Generation Heat

Ranking the top 30 players in team history

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Ranking the Miami Heat’s 20 first-round draft picks. Hint on No. 1: He’s the only certain future Hall of Famer

The Miami Heat got a future Hall of Famer when they selected Dwyane Wade with the fifth overall pick in 2003. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat have not exactly stocked their team through the draft in the last decade.

Since 2008, Miami has had just three first-round picks and with mixed success. And when the Heat selects 14th in the June 22nd NBA draft, that player he will be the 21st taken in the first round in franchise history. The list includes at least one future Hall of Famer, a proud Army veteran, three players named Smith and others who never wore a Heat uniform.

We ranked them all, from Dwyane Wade to Tim James and everyone in between.

1. Dwyane Wade, F, No. 5 overall, 2003

Taking Wade in the same draft that included his future teammates LeBron James (No. 1) and Chris Bosh (No.4) forever changed the direction of the franchise. Wade is a 12-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer. He’s averaged 23.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his career and helped bring the Heat three titles and play in five Finals in his 13 seasons in Miami.

2. Glen Rice, F, No. 4 overall, 1989

Rice was the Heat’s first true star although he didn’t totally blossom until after being traded to Charlotte in 1995 for Alonzo Mourning. Rice played 15 years, the first six in Miami. He was a three-time All-Star with the Hornets. He averaged 18.3 points and finished in top 10 in scoring five times.

3. Steve Smith, G, No. 5 overall, 1991

Smith bookended his 14-year career in Miami, playing his first three years and his final 13 games in 2004-05 with the Heat. He was named to the All-Rookie team in 1992 and then traded in 1994 to Atlanta in the deal that brought Kevin Willis to Miami. He went on to become an All-Star for the Hawks. Smith averaged 14.3 points and 5.4 assists.

4. Caron Butler, F, No 10 overall, 2002

Butler came to the Heat one year before Wade and was named to the All-Rookie team. He played 14 years, two with Miami before becoming a two-time All-Star with Washington. He averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Rony Seikaly

5. Rony Seikaly, C, No. 9 overall, 1988

The first draft pick in franchise history, Seikaly was the Heat’s starting center for six seasons before being traded to Golden State. He played 11 seasons, averaging 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and finishing in the top 10 in rebounding three times.

6. Michael Beasley, F, No. 2 overall, 2008

Beasley would be No. 1 on the list of first-round disappointments. The highest pick in Heat history was traded after two years, a casualty of the Big 3 coming together. He was first-team All-Rookie and has played nine years (2016-17 with the Bucks) averaging 12.6 points, including 19.2 for Minnesota his third year. Returned to Miami in 2013 for two years.

7. Justise Winslow, F, No. 10 overall, 2015

Winslow is in the still-to-be-determined category after two seasons, his last limited to 18 games because of injuries. He could eventually climb or fall on this list. Has struggled with his shooting (40 percent), otherwise, the Heat have high hopes Winslow can be a solid starter on a contending team.

8. Kevin Edwards, G, No. 20 overall, 1988

Edwards was a solid late first-round pick. He was taken after Seikaly in the team’s first draft and played 11 seasons, his first five in Miami where he started about half his games at shooting guard and was second-team All-Rookie. He averaged 10.9 points in his career.

9. Kurt Thomas, F, No. 10 overall, 1995   

An underrated player for most of his career, Thomas played 18 seasons in the NBA, his first two with Heat. He averaged 8.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and was known as a tough defender who did the dirty work. He had his best years with the Knicks from 1999 to 2005.

10. Willie Burton, F, No. 9 overall, 1990

Burton was the first high pick who did not live up to expectations with fans wanting more from a skilled, athletic player. He played eight years in the NBA, half of those with the Heat. Burton averaged 10.3 points, with his best season coming in Philadelphia (15.3 average) after being waived by Miami.

11. Dorell Wright, F, No. 19 overall, 2004

The Heat drafted Wright out of high school and he sat on the bench for most of his first two years. He lasted six years in Miami, starting 56-of-211 games, before signing with Golden State in 2010 and then having his best season (16.4 points). He played 11 seasons.

12. Jason Smith, C, No. 20, 2007

One of four players drafted by the Heat in the first round still in the league, Smith has forged a nice career as a backup center, averaging more than 77 games his last three years, 74 last season in Washington. Was a draft night trade to Philadelphia for Daequan Cook.

Harold Miner

13. Harold Miner, G, No. 12 overall, 1992

A major disappointment after coming into the league with the nickname ‘Baby Jordon’ because of his similar style to Michael Jordan. Played just four years (three with Heat), averaging 9.0 points. His career highlight was being two-time winner of the Slam Dunk contest.

14. Khalid Reeves, G, No. 12 overall, 1994

Another disappointing career from a player drafted 12th overall. Reeves played one season in Miami (six years total) before being part of the Rice-Mourning deal. He averaged 7.8 points in his career.

15. Charles Smith, G, No. 26 overall, 1997

Smith played 11 games with the Heat before being part of the trade that sent Ike Austin to the Clippers for Brent Barry. He played 142 games in a five-year NBA career, averaging 5.1 points.

16. P.J. Hairston, F, No. 26 overall, 2014

Hairston was traded to Charlotte the day after the draft for Shabazz Napier. He played 111 games in two seasons and was waived by Houston before the start of the 2016-17 season. He averaged 6.0 points.

17. Dave Jamerson, G, No. 15 overall, 1990

Jamerson had a three-year career in the NBA (90 games) after being traded on draft night to Houston along with Carl Herrera for Alec Kessler.

18. Arnett Moultrie, F, No. 27 overall, 2012

Moultrie played two seasons with Philadelphia (59 games) after being traded on draft night for Justin Hamilton and two second round picks.

19. Wayne Simien, F, No. 29 overall, 2005

Simien played his entire two-year NBA career with the Heat where he even started two games in his rookie year. He averaged 3.3 points in 51 games.

Tim James

20. Tim James, F, No. 25 overall, 1999

The Miami native and UM product played just four games with the Heat and 43 games in his three-year NBA career but his life is so much more. He served in Iraq after enlisting in the U.S. Army in 2008 and eventually being promoted to Corporal. Now retired, James was honored by the Heat before a game in 2011.



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Miami Heat teammates noticing center Hassan Whiteside’s growth


Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic celebrate Whiteside’s game-winning basket at the buzzer on Tuesday in Detroit. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) 

MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside’s recent play has been well documented (here and here), and following today’s shoot-around the Heat’s $98-million center received more praise from his teammates.

Whiteside has been Miami’s anchor as the Heat makes their playoff push, especially since needing 13 stitches to close a cut between the middle fingers on his right hand when he smacked the backboard late in Miami’s win over Phoenix 10 days ago. Whiteside did not miss a game.

Guard Tyler Johnson said he’s been most impressed with Whiteside’s “growth” during the recent uptick in his play.

“That was a huge thing for us to see him be able to battle through (the hand injury) especially at such an important moment in the season,” Johnson said. “Even throughout this whole run we started to see a difference in the way he was playing, a difference in the way he was picking other guys up. It hasn’t just been these past 10 days, he’s really shown that he could do this long term. We all knew he could do it, it was just a matter when he was going to get it done.”

“We’ve seen such a huge change in the way he’s playing and we only go as he goes. He’s the catalyst to our defense and he’s the anchor to our offense. It says a lot about how much he’s matured and it’s good to see.”

Whiteside is averaging 19.1 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while shooting 58.9 percent from the floor in his last nine games. He had a franchise record 15 consecutive double-doubles snapped Tuesday in Detroit, a game that he won with a tip-in at the buzzer.

Whiteside has 51 double-doubles on the season, fifth most in the league and two shy of Rony Seikaly’s team record.

“Probably most players would have sat out,” guard Goran Dragic said of Whiteside playing through the hand injury. “He demonstrated that he cares for this team, for his teammates, for the city. To have 13 stitches in his shooting (hand), most of the times people are hitting him. It gives us a lot of energy when we’re able to appreciate what he does for us.”

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Heat center Hassan Whiteside in foul mood after Portland loss: ‘I know the NBA rules’

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside walks off the court after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to Portland. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI – They came in a flurry.

Hassan Whiteside had gone more than 20 ½ minutes without committing a foul during Sunday’s loss to the Trail Blazers when it all changed. In a span of 4 ½ minutes in the third quarter he was called for four fouls, the first on the offensive end and three while playing defense.

After the fourth, which came with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter and the Heat trailing Portland by six, an obviously frustrated Whiteside held his hands in the air as if to say ‘I didn’t move’ and then walked straight to the bench before even checking if he was being removed.

He was. … as Willie Reed was summoned by coach Erik Spoelstra.

The fouls were the primary reason Whiteside became a non-factor for the second half after starting strong. He had 10 points and four rebounds in the first 4:18, scoring his team’s first 10 points.

Whiteside finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He was 8-of-15 from the floor after going 6-of-9 in the first quarter.

[Three things to watch this week: Heat – without Dion Waiters – hit road for three crucial games after home stand]

[Heat guard Dion Waiters feared his ankle was fractured, hoping to return by end of regular season]

Spoelstra defended his $98-million center following the game.

“We see it differently,” Spoelstra said about the calls. “Who cares? Those are the plays I want him to make. I told him when he came to the bench, I want him going vertical, I want him being a presence.

“I thought he did that. He’s getting so much more savvy in terms of being able to block shots and protect the rim. He had one where he went up vertical and forced a miss and another one where he didn’t jump and I thought he was there. Both of them they called fouls. He’s building the right habits.”

Whiteside said he was playing defense the way he’s been playing all season.

“They thought it was a foul I guess,” he said. “I watch film on myself all day and I know the NBA rules. They got called for fouls today.”

Whiteside closed with his 12th consecutive double-double – breaking Rony Seikaly’s franchise mark of 11 straight – but barely. His 10th rebound came with 32 seconds remaining in the game.

Whiteside was a candidate for the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. He entered the game averaging 21.5 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 86.4 percent (19 of 22) in the previous two games this week.

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Ranking the top 5 centers in Miami Heat history

Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning helped the Heat win the 2006 NBA title.
Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning helped the Heat win the 2006 NBA title.

Two Hall of Fame centers have worn a Miami Heat uniform – and at the same time – along with another center that was just rewarded with a $96 million contract. That qualifies as a rich history of big men. The list starts with Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal, but who is No. 1 and who else is among the franchises top 5 centers? We tell you here:

5. Brian Grant

Grant was acquired from Portland in the summer of 2000 to upgrade the front court and played in all but 16 games for Miami over the next four years, most of those at center. He averaged 11.0 points and 8.5 rebounds, his best season being his first when he averaged 15.2 points and 8.8 rebounds, taking over at center after Alonzo Mourning was diagnosed with a kidney disorder. Grant was traded in 2004 to the Lakers in the deal that netted Shaquille O’Neal.

Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside

4. Hassan Whiteside

Granted, Whiteside’s stats are a small sample size but the Heat thought enough of what they had seen so far to reward him with a four-year, $98 million contract. Whiteside has played 121 games in Miami and has yet to start a full season’s worth of games (75 total). But he has been a solid defender, being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team last season while leading the league with 3.7 blocks per game and placing third with 11.8 rebounds. His 11.1 rebounding average is tops in franchise history.

3. Rony Seikaly

The first draft pick in franchise history (No. 4 overall in 1988), Seikaly was the team’s primary center for its first six seasons. Seikaly is third in franchise history with 4,544 rebounds and finished in the top 8 in the league three times while with the Heat. Seikaly’s averages while with Miami: 15.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks. Seikaly is second in franchise history in rebounds per game. He was traded to Warriors in 1994 for Billy Owens and Sasha Danilovic.

2. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq’s 3 ½ years in Miami were eventful and impactful. He was acquired from the Lakers in another Pat Riley blockbuster deal for Caron Butler, Brian Grant and Lamar Odom in 2004. While with the Heat he averaged 19.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and was part of the franchise’s initial championship in 2005-06. In his first three seasons he averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and was All-NBA first team twice. Shaq was traded to Phoenix for Shawn Marion in midway through the 2008 season; a deal that started the dominoes to shed money in anticipation of the 2010 offseason. Shaq was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

1. Alonzo Mourning

Zo has been with the Heat since 1995 as a player and executive (with the exception of one season in New Jersey), coming over from Charlotte in Riley’s first big trade, two months after Riley arrived from New York.  He was a five-time All-Star while with Miami, a two-time defensive player of the year and on the All-NBA first or second team twice. He averaged 16.0 points and 8.1 rebound in Miami, numbers that are skewed by his role as a bench player his final four years after having a kidney transplant in 2004. During his first five years with the Heat, Zo averaged 21.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.1 blocks. Known as much for his community involvement as his play on the court, Zo is the first Heat player to have his jersey number retired and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

[Ranking the top 5 power forwards in Heat history]

[Ranking the top 5 small forwards in Heat history]

[Ranking the top 5 shooting guards in Heat history]

[Ranking the top 5 point guards in Heat history]

[Ranking the best coaches in Heat history]