Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Pat Riley’s State of the Heat press conference

Vintage Pat Riley emerged from his cave for his end-of-the-season presser, criticizing and praising his group. He also rebuked the idea of a rebuild because he thinks a healthy Jimmy Butler can be a 1A player in the Postseason.

He started with an indication that there must be a change to the team’s approach to winning. Player availability is a big deal to the Heat and so are tweaks to the offense and defense. Which means he expects more from coach Erik Spoelstra and the trainers.

When asked about the shelf life of the Heat’s build as it approaches its sixth season together, Riley initially told a story about telling LeBron James in a meeting after the 2011 Finals about “going to work on the roster” by adding depth. Yet that team hadn’t burned itself out by playing so long together.

As an anti-rebuilder, he doubled down and said his goal is to keep the ride going. “You start talking about the Draft more than anything else right now.” But on the current squad, he said everyone is bothered by not having claimed a title despite its success over the last five seasons.

Regarding Butler’s second extension, Riley said, “We don’t have to do that for a year. We have not discussed that internally right now, but we have to look at making that kind of commitment… We’ll see.”

Butler, who will be age 35 in September and who has played in 74.4% of the Heat’s regular season games since 2019-20, is on notice that the Godfather expects his top earner to be on the court more often. Riley also shared that he had spoken “thoroughly” with Butler’s agent, Bernard Lee, before last season about attendance.

Answering about his feelings on rest and missed time, Riley said, “This whole injury reporting stuff… I can remember when there was a time we never reported any injury because you then became a target.”

As a point of reference to Riley’s mentality, when he was coach of the Lakers in 1988, he permitted James Worthy to play in the All-Star Game with left knee tendinitis after the team’s public relations department said he would not. And his brother Len passed away at age 52 of an illness the Friday before the exhibition he coached for the West stars.

He isn’t a fan of the 65-game rule either because he thinks it gives players an excuse to miss 17 outings.

Furthermore, the Don said Tyler Herro is fragile and needs to make some adjustments but highlighted his work ethic. Then he said Herro is a starter when asked if he agreed with Udonis Haslem, the former Heatles’ captain and current vice president of basketball development, who recently commented on ESPN that the group is better with him as a sixth man.

Bam Adebayo needs to “expand his game.” Riley cited Magic Johnson making changes to become a better shooter and post up player to pick up his scoring.

PS: Terry Rozier is still using a neck brace and is “feeling good,” according to Riley.

Riley wasn’t thrilled with Butler’s comment about an alternative first-round outcome with the Boston Celtics had he been healthy enough to play. He said, “If you’re not on the court playing against Boston or on the court playing against the New York Knicks, you should keep your mouth shut and [stop] your criticism of those teams.”

And he’s trying to get away with blaming the 2011 Finals loss on not having enough depth, like LeBron James recently has on episode three of the Mind the Game podcast. The real reason was James getting outplayed by Jason Terry.

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