Riley speaks on Heat season, insists Miami is playoff-worthy
MIAMI (AP) Pat Riley stood along a wall in what the Miami Heat call ''Championship Alley,'' the hallway that links the team's locker room and the court inside AmericanAirlines Arena.
The corridor is lined with photos of great moments from Miami's three championship runs since 2006. Updating some of those photos has seemed like a rite of summer in recent years, with the Heat making five trips to the NBA Finals in the past nine seasons.
Needing new images this summer seems highly unlikely.
Riley, the Heat president whose media sessions occur only a handful of times each year, spoke out Thursday about Miami's struggles this season, with the franchise falling from the highest rungs of the NBA to a level where it's simply fighting to grab a playoff spot.
''It's just been very, very frustrating that we haven't been able to overcome the adversities that we have faced,'' Riley said. ''And they are not excuses - they are adversity. ... We're in the fight. We're not in the fight like we were before for the top of the conference, OK? We are in the fight for five or six other teams for, probably, the playoffs, spots six, seven and eight.
''So get real about it. Don't feel sorry about it. And get after it.''
The Heat (18-24) play host to Indiana (15-29) on Friday night, a matchup of the two teams that met in last season's Eastern Conference finals and are now fighting for mere playoff spots.
For the first time since 2004, the Heat has no one selected as an All-Star starter. Miami is 16 1/2 games behind sizzling Atlanta in the Southeast Division and enters Friday holding down the No. 7 spot in the East - with the next four teams in the conference standings all within three games of the Heat.
''Have we relegated ourselves to the thinking of we're just a playoff team? No,'' Riley said.
Riley and the Heat have engaged in some conversations about trades, though they seem largely initiated by other clubs. Riley said the team has not made any trade offers to anyone and said any deals the team makes before next month's trade deadline would be with the intent of improving this year.
He insists that Miami's current roster, even with injury issues, is enough to make the playoffs.
''I'm not going to move chairs,'' Riley said. ''If there's something that makes sense that we could do that could really help us then we would consider it. But we're not about to give up assets that we don't have, that we need, to make a lateral move out of desperation.''
Riley coached the Heat to their first title in 2006, then engineered one of the best coups in league history when he found a way in 2010 to bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami and play alongside Dwyane Wade. In four seasons together, that group went to the NBA Finals every year.
James left to go back to Cleveland last summer, and the Heat are widely expected to be major free-agent players again in 2016. That doesn't mean Riley is sitting around idly for the next 18 months, however.
''I'm not so sure that what we did in 2010 is anywhere close to what you can do in 2016,'' Riley said. ''The rules have changed. Players can force you into sign-and-trades. We were forced into a sign-and-trade in 2010 and we would gladly do it again, and it cost us four first-round picks.''
Miami has dealt with a constant stream of injuries all season, and Riley said it's ''paramount'' that coach Erik Spoelstra has some sort of lineup consistency - in terms of player availability - over the final 40 games. Wade and Bosh have both been out, Josh McRoberts' season is over because of knee surgery and the Heat have already had 10 players miss some time with injuries.
''The overall health, and just getting mentally tough to the challenge of what we're playing for,'' Riley said, when asked what the biggest keys to turning the season around now are. ''And what we're playing for is a playoff spot. Humble yourself to that, let's roll and let's go get it.''