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Pat Riley says he didn’t think LeBron was leaving, Heat can turn around quickly

Jul 30, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

Pat Riley Pat Riley

Pat Riley thought LeBron James was coming back.

Riley spoke with the Miami media Wednesday as Chris Bosh inked a deal to become the Heat’s focal point, but the conversation quickly swung to what Riley thought happened with LeBron choosing to return to Cleveland. Riley didn’t expect it.

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel has the quotes, starting with Riley talking about his meeting in Las Vegas with LeBron where he still thought LeBron would stay with the Heat.

“There wasn’t anything in that meeting that told me that wasn’t going to happen.”

Riley said he went into free agency selling guys on playing with LeBron in Miami next year.

“I went in with the notion that he was coming back. So I was selling it to players. I let him know that prior to free agency, that was the direction I was going. He never said to me, ‘Don’t do that.’ I don’t think I was misled. But I don’t think I was encouraged either. That’s business.”

When LeBron chose Cleveland, Riley tried to jump into the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.

“That dance card has already been punched. We were a little bit late to that party.”

Now the Heat are retooling. They brought in Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, who with Bosh and what Dwyane Wade can give is a Heat team that will play its space-and-pace system and is likely a playoff team in a wide-open East.

Riley thinks the Heat can go swinging for the fences again in 2016 and will be back on top quickly.

“It’s fired me up. I don’t like to get beat at anything. . . . This process didn’t take anything out of me other than this one notion . . . that [generational team] chain has been broken prematurely.”

Riley remains one of the smartest and best executives in the league, one who can sell Miami as a destination. He’s a competitor. Don’t bet against him turning Miami around sooner rather than later.

  1. soflasfinest - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    In Riles we trust! Let’s go Heat.

    • apkyletexas - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      I wonder if you can still trust him in Miami? Pat would have gotten LeBron except he couldn’t sell Lowry or Gortat to come to Miami, and both of them should have been extremely easy sales pitches. Amnestying Mike Miller seems to have done a lot of damage to Pat’s credibility among players and agents.

      • beach305 - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:21 AM

        Yes, because paying 18million in taxes for one bench player is always a good idea. Look, I like Mike Miller and wish he was still with Miami, but unless your a crazy Russian Billionaire no one would do make that deal. Phil Jackson just said the new CBA has to many punitive measures that will hurt teams like the Lakers who in the past would go over the tax to keep players. If this was the old CBA, Miller would still be on the team. As for Riley, he’s taken a team that was lopsided in talent 4 straight years to the finals and two rings and you say that he’s lost credibility. Hate all you want, but don’t be stupid.

      • apkyletexas - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:49 AM

        Any owner who wouldn’t be willing to pay $18 million in taxes to keep a championship winning roster together is completely insane. No wonder LeBron left, and no wonder Lowry and Gortat didn’t take Riley seriously.

      • spursareold - Jul 31, 2014 at 10:06 AM

        A Championship team is worth WAY more than $18M to it’s owner. It’s not Riley’s fault, it’s that cheapskate Mickey Arison’s fault. LeBron just saw that there was no path forward to win again in Miami by adding cheap parts around the Superfriends. They were exposed in the Finals. Their role players were too old, but that’s really the kind of player you attract with a minimum salary offer.

      • beach305 - Jul 31, 2014 at 10:08 AM

        18 million in taxes FOR ONE BENCH PLAYER and not the whole team. Good luck finding a GM that would agree with you.

      • spursareold - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        Realistically, the $18M would have been a tax payment for the overall payroll level of the Heat. You can put it on one player’s shoulders if you choose, but it’s not very realistic to do so. Miller just happened to have a contract of the right size that was signed under the previous CBA and was eligible to be amnestied. There were players signed AFTER him who could more legitimately be viewed as the one(s) who put them into luxury tax territory.

    • bobbybouche305 - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      agreed in Pat We Trust….Lebron just left to run a team and Miami dont play that…..Just arrived at cleveland with his clique and added old James Jones, Miller ,and prob Allen, while getting rid of Wiggins ,Bennett and a #1 pick for soft Love….Hurry up Cleveland ,Miami at least had him for 4 years,u only have 2…..and dear god dont let Gilbert his crayons and any sort of letter paper around Lebron….

  2. montrealknowledge - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    Get Wade to convince Bosh and Lebron to come to Miami and then not do enough with the remaining money to win outside the below average Eastern Conference. There I can be just as good as a GM as Riley.

    • kindasporty - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:44 PM

      Except for the 2 times they did win outside the east. And Birdman, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem. I mean none of those guys were top flight talent, but they were all good role players and money wisely spent.

      • cantonbound13 - Jul 31, 2014 at 4:41 AM

        No one wanted Birdman, Riley had to be talked into it by Spoelstra. Ray Allen was recruited by LeBron as soon as he became a free agent. Again, waaaayyy too much credit given to Riley.

    • bobbybouche305 - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:14 PM

      Kool story bro, now show me those 7 title rings…..There u can still be a internet hack…

  3. campcouch - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    Just like Gilbert, that’s ego talking. Fortunately for Riley, there won’t be a plate of crow for him to eat, having Bosh and Wade helps. What he should be mad at is himself for following James on Twitter and drafting Napier instead of some 2,3 or 5 help.

    • kinggw - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:35 PM

      No, that’s past success talking. Riley has rings to lay out on the table, Gilbert has comic sans. Comparing those two is foolish.

      The Heat have missed the playoffs 3 times since Riley took the helm in ’95, the Cavs have missed the playoffs that many times since LBJ left. One franchise has a history of success, one does not. As disappointing as it was for the Heat to lose LBJ, they didnt collapse like many thought they would because of their strong organizational management. The Heat can survive the loss of LBJ, but Cavs fans should enjoy the next three or four years because we know what’s going to happen to them when LBJ starts to decline and/or retires.

      • campcouch - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:25 PM

        No,it’s ego. Believing you can do no wrong. He was surprised that James would leave him even with the success. He had a notion that he was larger than the people around him, just like Gilbert did. Gilbert penned his letter, Riley stood at a podium and called James out. Riley sold players on coming to play with LeBron not even imagining that the guy looked at his life beyond beaches and slick hair. So yeah, that’s ego. Riley’s success hinged on having megastar players on his title teams. If there was concern about LBJ’s decline or retirement, why did Riley make an attempt to re-sign him? Because he knows he needs transcendent players to win and he felt being Pat Riley would be enough.

      • cantonbound13 - Jul 31, 2014 at 4:45 AM

        Say what you want about Gilbert but the fact is he’s a young guy that knows how to handle young stars. Riley is still set in his old ways. A big reason LeBron left is because Gilbert allowed LeBron, his entourage & his family a lot of perks that Riley would not even consider.

      • 1historian - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:32 AM

        Good point. Organizations win championships and Riley is one of the best GMs in the business. I don’t really like him but he seems to have survived for the last 35 or 40 years w/o my approval, so that’s a moot point.

        Riley was the one who put together that ‘Big Three’ circus 4 years ago, and he hasn’t lost anything off his fastball.

      • chief0727 - Jul 31, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        It remains to be seen if they collapse or not. The Heat have essentially the same team as last year except you subbed James with Deng. McRoberts is a journeyman coming off a career year and Deng is on the downside of his career. The Heat are still in the East—so they have a chance of still making the playoffs. Then again, if LeBron was truly the engine in the machine as it appeared—it wouldn’t be a total surprise if they do collapse.

    • muhangis - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      Drafting Napier was a positive move, he never placed enough attention to the Center position. I’m one of those who thinks there is alot more that Pat Riley could have done. He became too complacent once he landed the Big 3, and stopped putting forth *enough effort to do more for the team roster.

    • bobbybouche305 - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:23 PM

      ugh….. do u guys even see or listen to what u type????Riley needs transcendent players to win????Ummmmm just incase Gilbert had Lebron for 8 YEARS, How many rings again?????please stop …. compare Riley to Aurbach,but ur only sounding like complete and utter morons comparing R

  4. ProBasketballPundit - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    I believe the Heat can turn around quickly too. They were trending up the last four years and now they’re going to turn around and be terrible.

    But seriously though… it was shocking that LeBron went back to Cleveland. Nobody really saw that coming.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      Many of us didn’t see it coming because we took Pat Riley seriously when he said that Micky Arison would do what was necessary to keep the Big 3. Riley ridiculed the notion that the luxury tax was an issue. Clearly he had a good idea that a sub-luxury-tax payroll wasn’t going to get it done, or he would have had no reason to say those things. Yet the Heat went bargain-shopping at the height of free agency – and there has been next to zero examination by the pundits of that rather glaring disconnect. It’s moot now, but some answers would be interesting at the very least.

      • kinggw - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        There has been no examination, because the luxury tax didn’t have the effect you believe it did. LBJ wanted to go home, we could debate the reasons for him wanting to do so, but I doubt there was anything else Arison could’ve done to placate James other than giving him the run of the organization and that was never going to happen.

        The Heat didnt go bargain shopping. They were planning on bringing back three guys that would eat up most of their cap space. It’s not like they could’ve signed Lowry and brought back the Big 3. When you carry a bunch of big salary players, you have limitations on what you can do with the rest of your roster.

      • savvybynature - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:17 PM

        My understanding of the CBA is that they could have signed Lowry and then gone over the cap to resign Bosh, Wade and Lebron because they would have had Bird rights to those guys.
        So, I believe, they could have signed Lowry and the Bog 3 if Arison were willing to go into the luxury tax.

      • gofinsgoheatfloria - Jul 31, 2014 at 7:35 AM

        by “Riley’s statement”, I mean his statement of June 19. Sorry for the ambiguity.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 31, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        @savvybynature The Heat could not have signed Lowery for the amount Toronto gave him unless the Big 3 actually signed contracts totaling about $45 million per year. That would be a pretty serious sacrifice of salary for those guys.

        Miami did have bird rights for all three of them, but the thing is that when a player opts out, or is any kind of free agent at all, their previous year’s salary still counts against the team’s salary cap. The only way to get the player off the books is to renounce your rights to them but then you can’t go over the cap to re-sign them. So there was really no way they were going to sign an impact free agent.

        If you think about it they were in kind of a catch-22. LeBron wanted to see what Pat Riley was going to do, but Pat Riley couldn’t do anything until he had a firm commitment from all the players to re-sign for a certain amount.

    • muhangis - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:11 AM

      Let’s think about this some more: ..With Wade turning 33 (shot out legs n all) and Bosh turning 31 this season, Deng rounding 30, who else notable starter do they have?, definitely by far the worst bench in the league, this team is going to decline as the years go by..

      2016 free agency is two years away, I don’t see any NBA star FA w/ true championship aspirations putting honest faith in the Heat then… (36 yr old Wade & 33 yr old Bosh… NOT AN EFFIN CHANCE!)

      This team already started their decline (aging) last year, and from here it will decline worse, think about it…

      • gofinsgoheatfloria - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:05 AM

        Much of that “by far the worst bench in the league” has become one retiree and a few free agents. Their last three draft acquisitions are on the roster (“and it’s about time”, one might reasonably say about Hamilton). Unproven? Definitely. But it’s a bit early to be saying much more than that, either way.

  5. miamiHeatlesnotBeatles - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:13 PM

    Of course he didn’t know. What player has left a team that just made 4 Straight Finals….

    • duhwighthoward - Jul 31, 2014 at 12:09 PM


  6. balsagna - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:13 PM

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching Riley fail at landing Lebron. I would have paid money to see his reaction after finding out.

    • reesesteel23 - Jul 31, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Lol why? Sounds like you care too much. Pat hurt your feelings?

  7. antistratfordian - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    I appreciated this twitter exchange between Michael Wallace, Ethan Skolnick and Ira Winderman. You will too. They all make great points.

    Michael Wallace ‏@WallaceNBA_ESPN 1h
    So if LeBron rushes thru exit meet, opts out quickly, won’t return messages, meets w/Cavs & moves belongings, where’s sign he’s returning?

    Ethan J. Skolnick ‏@EthanJSkolnick 1h
    @WallaceNBA_ESPN I believe that, to an extent, they believed what they wanted to believe.

    Ira Winderman ‏@IraHeatBeat 18m
    @EthanJSkolnick @WallaceNBA_ESPN Except when has a player ever left after 4 straight NBA Finals? That would seduce anyone into confidence.

  8. tomtravis76 - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    The Heat are likely a playoff team? Come on now, they will be a top 3 seed. Cleveland is going to be garbage( unless they get Love). That team has zero experience outside of Bron and is adding the used pieces from Miami. Is this going to be the first year everyone has watched the league? LeBron can’t do it on his own, that’s been proven. Young teams don’t win Larry’s. The wizards right now would smash Cleveland in a 7 game series.

    • cantonbound13 - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:32 PM

      Sorry but LeBron, Love & Irving are far better than Wade, Bosh & Deng. The Cavs also have a lot of good young pieces coming off the bench.

      • tomtravis76 - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:56 PM

        Yes those 3 are, but Love is not a cavalier.

      • cantonbound13 - Jul 31, 2014 at 4:56 AM

        He’s pretty much a Cav. They have to wait 30 days before Andrew Wiggins can be traded due to a ridiculous NBA rule. Nobody has an offer anywhere better than the Cavs offer for Love.

  9. blogsk3tball - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    You could say this “riled” him up

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 31, 2014 at 4:23 PM


  10. bux1022 - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    Actually Lebron made it to the finals by himself in Cle, with a worse roster I might add. So maybe fact check or message recall, whichever you prefer!

    • cantonbound13 - Jul 31, 2014 at 4:59 AM

      The east was pretty bad the year he lead the Cavs to the Finals. Look what happened to him when they played a good team from the west, they got swept. I still think LeBron is the best player in the NBA today but him taking the Cavs to the Finals that year was a product of the East being so bad.

      • antistratfordian - Jul 31, 2014 at 5:19 AM

        The East has been bad plenty of times. It’s still difficult to do, and it took a Herculean effort from James against the Pistons to get there. And remember it was LBJ vs three hall of famers and Bruce Bowen in the Finals. So the Spurs maybe deserve an asterisk for that one. But LeBron didn’t even have his #2 for that series because he was injured and he still managed to make it close in a few games.

      • spursareold - Jul 31, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        Cavs just got destroyed, much like the Heat did this summer. The only asterisk should be

        *Spurs are one of the greatest NBA franchises of all time.

  11. tomtravis76 - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    I know you don’t recognize those names from the 2007 roster because they don’t show up on your latest Nba 2k game, but teams that consistently draft 1 , don’t just win championships. Maybe you should review that Cavs roster again and see how those men contributed in the league…the veterans, to aid LeBron in his first run to the finals.

  12. tribefever - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Sad. Riley is clearly suffering from the early effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

  13. takemytalentstosoutheuclid - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Clearly, 4 straight trips to the finals has made all the bandwagon fans in Miami forget that they were Cleveland’s B#$ch for 7 years prior to that.

    @tomtravis76 – Cleveland is going to be garbage? Seriously? With Kyrie, Lebron, and Wiggins alone, they have more athleticism than Miami’s entire roster. Add in a younger, deeper, and better bench, and we’ll see what happens. enjoy your first round playoff exit, and 6K fans nightly.

    • kinggw - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:53 PM


    • tomtravis76 - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:22 PM

      Athleticism is what now wins championships?

      Wiggins,please, he looked like he could play ball in a Summer Rec league on NBA TV. It’s not the league, he has a ton of adjusting to do. Deng is 10x the player Wiggins currently is, and you think Wiggins can even step in the same room as Wade? Kyrie has shined in Pepsi commercials and an All star game,that’s it.

      The NBA is not about young inexperienced teams winning, it never has been. It’s about building & vets who know the ins and outs of what it takes year in and year out,sprinkled on top with a few rooks. LeBron is the man, such a joy to watch him play the game of basketball,an amazing player, best of this current era. But he took a step backwards, he might realize what a mistake he made, if he can’t get guys to Cleveland,because it’s still Cleveland. Two years is what he is giving Cleveland before NY and LA make it too tough to turn down.

      • cantonbound13 - Jul 31, 2014 at 5:02 AM

        Athleticism helped the Spurs dominate your old team.

      • antistratfordian - Jul 31, 2014 at 5:02 AM

        Deng isn’t 10x the player Wiggins currently is. Maybe 1.3x the player? Deng isn’t that good, but he knows his way around the neighborhood.

        I’d like to see Wade vs Wiggins 1 on 1. Wade couldn’t use picks to get Wiggins off him, and we’ve all seen how Wade has a hard time shaking even slow footed defenders these days. On the flip side, Wiggins should be able to get by Wade whenever he wants. A real game would be another matter because Wade has all of that experience and savvy, but on a 1 on 1 level I think Wiggins can probably step into the same room as Wade.

      • muhangis - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:54 AM

        Yeah the problem is you are thinking way, way too short term! That only works for a year or two max, and you pay much high pay higher pay rolls that leads into a luxury tax.

        Or worse, you get into a severe mess like the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, or Los Angeles Lakers situations.. that are very tough to get out of. Nets could turn out ok this season, but their future looks bleak as hell!

        There is absolutely NO LONG TERM STABILITY in those organizations, due to the plan you mention!

        Build off young star talents, you’ll have a strong, stable foundation for a team that will get better year-after-year!

  14. seasickcecil - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    Yes Kevin Love is not a Cav. Yet.

  15. seasickcecil - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    Looks like Bucky Mcnuggets and the Euro savior isn’t going to cut it. Only team in the running left for Love is Cleve.

  16. seasickcecil - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    @ESPNSteinLine: ESPN sources say Wolves currently only in talks w/Cavs on Love deal; Bulls essentially moving on and GSW still not giving up Klay Thompson

  17. seasickcecil - Jul 30, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    I saw Deng play the second half of last year and he’s not 10x better than anything. And Lebron moved back to raise his family here. He’s not going anywhere.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 31, 2014 at 5:06 AM

      He might be 10x better than Eddy Curry.

  18. urodaddy07 - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:08 AM

    Is Pat saying LBJ misled him, or withheld info

    • antistratfordian - Jul 31, 2014 at 5:05 AM

      “I don’t think I was misled. But I don’t think I was encouraged either. That’s business.”

      That’s what Riley said.

  19. ravenswhat - Jul 31, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    The entire world knew Lebron was gone like 2 days before that Vegas meeting. Might be time to walk away there Pat.

  20. jimmymarlinsfan - Jul 31, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Look at all the jealous little bitches in here. Unless you are San Antonio. You have zero right to say anything as a fan. Especially stupid Knicks fans. Good lord. Try winning anything and then come talk to us

  21. wingedeelfingerl1ng - Jul 31, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    I don’t THINK so! You couldn’t even win this past season WITH LeBron. How in the hell do you think you can win without him? You can’t, you won’t. Bosh is now the cornerstone of your franchise? Give me a break.

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