Heat owner Mickey Arison is heir to the Carnival Cruise Lines
fortune, which means he knows that even an endless blue stretch
of ocean can seem exciting if the passengers have enough lounge
acts, mai tais and shuffleboard. That insight may at least
partially explain Arison's decision to lure ex-Knick coach Pat
Riley aboard to lead centerless, starless and essentially
rudderless Miami. Riley will be a stylish diversion from the
team's uninspiring mix of players, even if his services cost
Arison dearly: a five-year contract that reportedly includes $15
million in salary, the payments on a $3 million loan and a 20%
stake in the franchise worth at least another $25 million--not to
mention $1 million and a 1996 first-round pick forked over to
New York to settle tampering charges.

Even at that price, the 50-year-old Riley will pay Arison a few
instant dividends. His arrival has already bumped season-ticket
sales significantly upward and could help check the Heat's
decreasing number of sellouts (which have declined from 38 to 18
to eight over the last three seasons). He will have the team
organized, well-conditioned and playing hard. And Riley has the
aura of a winner, with the record to back it up (756-299 and
four NBA titles). Last year was the first time in his 13 seasons
of coaching that his team did not win its division title. "I
think Coach Riley is in a perfect position to draw every bit of
attention out of all the guys on the team," says center Matt
Geiger. "Then we can find out what kind of team it is."

On the other hand, Riley had franchise players like Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing to call on while
with the Lakers and the Knicks. In Miami's seven seasons, it has
yet to suit up an All-Star. Riley now has neither the rebounders
to fast-break a la Showtime, nor the defensive enforcers to
effect New York's slow-down, low-down tactics. It remains to be
seen, too, whether the presence of Riley, who runs a slightly
tighter ship than Captain Bligh did, will be a help or a
hindrance when it comes to reeling in free agents.

"I'm committed to creating and being part of an environment
where everybody can flourish," Riley says. "One thing that keeps
me going is the image of a symbolic parade, the championship
parade. That's the only reason I coach."

If such a procession down Biscayne Boulevard does happen to take
place soon, expect these three players to be riding high in the
convertibles: Glen Rice, Billy Owens and Khalid Reeves. At 28,
Rice has a shooting range that rivals anyone's in the NBA; his
56-point outburst against Orlando, the highest total in the
league in 1994-95, included 19 jumpers from an average of 20
feet. What Rice lacks in dribble penetration and rebounding, the
6'9" Owens more than makes up for; his 7.2 boards a game in
1994-95 set the pace among guards. First at Golden State and
then at Miami, a lack of size has forced Owens to line up at
power forward. That slot may again be his this season, but at
least Riley has a gift for maximizing versatility: His longtime
dream has been to coach a quintet of interchangeable 6'9" types
just like Owens. "He could be the key to the whole thing," Riley
says. Reeves took over the team as a rookie late last season,
and in 17 starts he averaged 15.0 points and 6.3 assists. "There
aren't too many plays you can run for me," Reeves says. "But I
love giving the ball to the scorers."

At shooting guard, inconsistent Rex Chapman and Predrag
Danilovic, imported from Serbia, will share time. Riley has no
such logjam at center. Geiger is at best a dependable backup,
and No. 1 draft pick Kurt Thomas, who led the nation in scoring
(28.9) and rebounding (14.6) at Texas Christian, is 6'9" but not
a shot blocker. Expect power forward Kevin Willis to fill the
void, even though his black-hole approach to distributing the
ball has not always endeared him to teammates. The Heat also
acquired another big body in free-agent center-forward Stacey
King.

Had Riley waited five more days to leave the Knicks, Miami in
all likelihood would be coached by the University of
Cincinnati's Bob Huggins, to whom Arison reportedly had offered
a four-year deal worth almost $5 million. Either way, the view
from the poop deck looks about the same: a rising tide of
mediocrity. "Any team that will work hard and be committed to
each other will be a better team," Riley says. "How much better?
I don't know."

--H.H.

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD LEWIS/NBA PHOTOS The multiskilled Owens may be the key to how far Riley can take the Heat. [Billy Owens passing basketball between two Milwaukee Bucks]

BY THE NUMBERS

1994-95 TEAM STATISTICS

PPG (Rank) FG% (Rank)

OFFENSE 101.1 (14) .467 (14)
DEFENSE 102.8 (16) .471 (18)

BURNT RICE

Glen Rice has quietly become one of the top scorers in the NBA.
He averaged 19 or more points in each of his last four years
and has topped the 1,000-point mark every year he has been in
the league. Despite this, Rice has never appeared in an NBA
All-Star Game. In fact, he holds the distinction of having the
highest career scoring average of any player in NBA history
never to have played in an All-Star Game (minimum 400 games).

Highest-Scoring Non-All-Stars

Years G Pts. PPG

Glen Rice; Heat 1989-95 478 9,248 19.3

Ron Harper; Cavs, 1986-95 609 10,816 17.8
Clippers, Bulls

Eddie Johnson; 1981-94 1,007 17,658 17.5
Kings, Suns,
Sonics, Hornets

Purvis Short; 1978-90 842 14,607 17.3
Warriors,
Rockets, Nets

Cliff Robinson; 1979-92 629 10,823 17.2
Nets, Kings,
Cavs, Bullets,
76ers, Lakers

Chuck Person; 1986-95 715 12,171 17.0
Pacers, T-Wolves,
Spurs

Wayman Tisdale; 1985-95 724 11,860 16.4
Pacers, Kings,
Suns

PLAYER TO WATCH

At 6'5" and 200 pounds, Predrag (Sasha) Danilovic may change the
widely held notion that players from across the pond are
reluctant to mix it up. Danilovic, the 1994 European Player of
the Year, led Yugoslavia to the European championship and
averaged 29.1 points to take Bologna to the Italian League
title. "He can shoot, but he likes to take it to the hole," says
Bull center Bill Wennington, who played with Danilovic in
Bologna in 1992-93. "He's a lefty, but he likes to go right. I
think he has to become a little stronger." Adds countryman Vlade
Divac of the Lakers: "His best skill is his defense. He's
tough." Obtained last November from Golden State, Danilovic does
have one thing in common with other Europeans: fine shooting and
ball-handling skills. "I think I'm ready," he says. "But I'm not
expecting 30 or 35 points a game my first year."

PROJECTED LINEUP

STARTERS 1994-95 KEY STATISTICS

SF Glen Rice 22.3 ppg 4.6 rpg 85.5 FT%
PF Billy Owens 14.3 ppg 7.2 rpg 3.5 apg
C Kevin Willis 17.2 ppg 10.9 rpg 0.54 bpg
PG Khalid Reeves 9.2 ppg 4.3 apg 1.15 spg
SG Rex Chapman 16.2 ppg 2.8 apg 86.2 FT%

TOP RESERVES

G Predrag Danilovic Rookie; played for Bologna (Italy)
G Bimbo Coles 10.0 ppg 6.1 apg 1.46 spg
C Matt Geiger 8.3 ppg 5.6 rpg 53.6 FG%

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)