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Pat Riley on Heat: “Our small ball team is who we are now”

Aug 3, 2012, 8:11 AM EDT

Pat Riley AP

The Miami Heat won a title going small. It worked. You can bet next season you are going to see a whole lot more Chis Bosh at the five and LeBron James at the four. The Heat will be going small.

And Pat Riley is okay with that. Mostly.

Riley was on with friend of this blog Orlando Alzugaray — The Big O Show on 640 Sports in Miami — and talked pretty frankly about how he is not totally comfortable with the evolution of the NBA to more of a small-ball league. Riley said he worries about the lack of size more than anyone in the organization because he played with Wilt Chamberlain and coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal and Patrick Ewing and he knows what a great center can do for a team.

That said, Riley also said he used to play some small ball as a coach — with the Lakers he used to used Bob McAdoo and Mychal Thompson as centers for stretches.

“I’m a small ball guy if you have guys like LeBron, or James Worthy and Magic Johnson, guys who are 6’8” 225, 230 (pounds) and are very versatile,” Riley said. “You can put that guy at power forward so to speak and surround him with perimeter guys and a non-scoring center. That’s the nature of today’s game. The game has evolved over the last 10 years away from the dominance of any one big man, that team because almost obsolete and archaic unless you had someone who was just truly great, and there’s only three or four of them in the league now.

“Our small ball team is who we are now, I just want to have both.”

Riley added that the small ball trend is playing out in the Olympics.

“It’s changed dramatically and I think we’ll see in the Olympics exactly how this all plays out because Spain is playing big.” Riley said. “They play Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol together, so they have 7’1” and 7’0” and they are starting with a conventional backcourt and small forwards. We’ve got Tyson Chandler, then we go down to Kevin Love who is about 6’9” and he’s playing a power forward at center. So we’ll see. If it comes down to it, if Spain and the USA are in the gold medal game then it is going to be small against big and you’ll see who probably wins out in that one.”

Some other highlights of the conversation:

• Riley on coach Eric Spoelstra:

“I’m different than Erik. And I’m different in a way that’s bad to his being different in a way that’s good. He’s as intense as I am, so we both carry that intensity. But I was more of an in-your-face guy every single day for 30 years….

“In today’s game you can’t do that. I think Spo has a perfect demeanor with the players. His confidence and how he handles them in practice, talks to them in team meetings, handles them in games. And I know for a fact if he has to get up in a player’s face he’ll do it in a way they will both get something out of it.”

• “First off, we don’t have guys like that, who are always going to challenge the coach. But we have players who will challenge philosophies and ideas and situations and I think that is where he collaborates very well with all of our players….

• On Spoelstra’s growth as a coach:

“So when we got the big three and we went to the finals the first year, he had to take a hard look at himself. Just like some of our players did. About what he had to do the next time he was in that situation. And I coached a little bit so I know what is going on out there on the court. To watch him evolve this year, like in Indiana when there was a tough situation and a confrontation with Wade. I mean he stepped up and handled that over the next two days.”

• On recruiting to Miami:

“The fact that we have LeBron and we have Chris and we have Dwyane (Wade), that’s a pretty good arsenal to bring to a negotiating table with any NBA player, especially after we won a championship. So there is not any magic words that come out of my mouth…

“But a player will make a decision based on how comfortable he feels about the organization. Whether or not it’s an organization that is going to waste his time or is he going to have a chance to win. And I think in the end that usually plays out. Going after Ray (Allen) and going after Rashard (Lewis), they both knew what they wanted and that was to play with us. So it was sort of an easy thing for us at the end because they wanted to be here.”

• “I am actually amazed anybody on this Olympic team thinks they could come within 10 points of the Dream Team. But I would love to see it. It would be speed against size because back then we had some big guys.”

  1. 1972wasalongtimeago - Aug 3, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Music…..Sweet music.

    Thank you Pat Riley!

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 3, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Pat Riley looks like Michael Douglas in the Wall Street sequel…just as slimy too.

  3. lakerluver - Aug 3, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Congrats on winning the title, Heat. Now let’s see you do it again.

    • dls612 - Aug 3, 2012 at 10:39 AM

      Lakerluver , thank u for being a nice hater ! And if we do win again you’ll say the same thing! ( Enjoy Kobe while you can! )

      • loungefly74 - Aug 3, 2012 at 3:25 PM

        i hate the Heat too (always have)…but hey, congrats to them.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Aug 3, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      It’l be a bigger challenge to win again. But rest assured Lakerluver, that is the goal.

  4. donrwells3 - Aug 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I don’t quite understand the small ball comments. The only thing they are missing is a traditional center. In my opinion, the Heat have good size.

    Chris Bosh is 6’11, 235 lb. Lebron is 6’8, 250 lb.
    Battier, Miller, Haslem.. all 6’8, playing the 2 or 3, Haslem at 4
    Rashard Lewis is a 3 point monster who is 6’10.
    The smallest player with playing time is Mario Chalmers (6’2) and after that is Dwayne Wade at (6’4)
    To me, that is not small ball. The average height of their players with playing time is 6’7.

    My point is this. I don’t think it is fair for Pat Riley to make comments that come across that the Heat are disadvantaged. They are the best team in basketball. (especially now with the Allen and Lewis additions) They are loaded with talent that consists of three Hall of Fame players (Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Ray Allen) and possibly a fourth in Chris Bosh. Their roster is packed with a swing man at every position.

    There’s no need to downplay this. Your team is great and will be great for some time!

    • miamatt - Aug 3, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      I agree with most of what you say, donrwells3, although I don’t think Pat Riley is necessarily implying that the Heat are disadvantaged. He is just a neurotic competitor who can’t stand pat (no pun intended) and be satisfied with anything that he has accomplished. It’s a common drive (perhaps even insecurity) in the sports world, and a big reason Riley has been a winner wherever he has gone.

      The other way to take this would be that Pat is prodding his team through the media, reminding them that it takes a group dedicated to dirty work to win a title; Alonzo Mourning is not going to walk through that door to control the glass and erase defensive mistakes anytime soon.

    • blueintown - Aug 3, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      I don’t think he was saying it was a disadvantage, merely contrasting his current elite squad with a bygone era where the great teams almost always featured a traditional, star-quality big man.

    • 618t - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      Having a 6’11 player at your 5 is not playing small. Heat tried small ball against Dallas and it didn’t work. Finally after nearly 2 years they moved Bosh to center and won it all. No team since 1974 Celtics has ever won an NBA title with a player less than 6’10 at the center position. Dave Cowens anyone!!

  5. paulhargis53 - Aug 3, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Don’t worry about Laker and Lounge, they are just chapped because the Laker window closed 3 years ago and they are still in denial over it.

    2 of the biggest dopes on this site.

    • progress2011 - Aug 3, 2012 at 7:31 PM

      Paul – Agreed…100%

      Fakerluver and Maggot Fly are the two most delirious characters I’ve never had the pleasure to meet…ahahahaha

      It’s so friggin hilarious and so easy to push their buttons too. Simply state the facts and they fly off the handle, attempting to dispute facts that can be easily proven

      Ex: kobe can’t be compared to MJ PERIOD…first of all ! One reason is because Mike was the Finals MVP on all 6 of his chips because he was undeniably THE MAN !

      Conversely, kobe has been the Finals MVP for only 2 of his 5 because he played second fiddle to Shaq, who was the Finals MVP and THE MAN on 3 of kobe’s 5 chips.

      So, kobe has spent his entire career mimicking another grown man (even the tongue wagging) but he still can’t carry MJ’s dirty clothes (you know what I mean) !


    • badintent - Aug 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      I second the motion , the motion is passed.New business.

  6. BigBeachBall - Aug 3, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    its a 3peat at the very least with ray allen there now…. son of a…

  7. paulhargis53 - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Wes Unseld was a 6’7″ center for the Bullets. They won a title around 1978.

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