Riley, Heat move beyond kid stuff

Riley on Heat interest in Napier (Winderman)


   It was nearly 1 a.m. Friday morning. Pat Riley's voice was thin, his presence not nearly as commanding as when the Miami Heat president previously addressed the media a week earlier, at a far saner hour.

   He had just obtained UConn guard Shabazz Napier, a four-year player with championship pedigree who had slipped to No. 24 in the NBA Draft.

   "I like veteran, mature players," Riley said. "I like to be around veteran, mature women, like my wife."


   Not quite the same silence as when Riley just days earlier had essentially dared LeBron James to stay the course after the Heat's NBA Finals demise, but the type of silence of an even greater peril, actually discussing the age of one's wife.

   "I like staying with that group," he said of Napier . . . or Chris Riley.

   The point was made, no matter what Riley would have to deal with when he got home. ("Chris will love it," he said. "She will have a great laugh.")

   Make no mistake, Thursday night was about Pat Riley being able to feel good about himself. While the Heat haven't added many players in the draft in recent years, the success stories have been of veteran, mature players, experienced collegians like Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, who arrived ready to go, their skills and shortcomings clearly discernible.

   And that had Riley pausing again, this time to reflect on a decision made a decade earlier, when he went against his gut and selected Dorell Wright straight out of high school with the No. 19 pick in the 2004 draft, one pick ahead of Jameer Nelson, who in many ways was that draft's Shabazz Napier, a fourth-year point guard coming off a particularly successful senior season.

   Riley wasn't naming names, but he might as well have been.

   "I've had this experience before, we have, with having a decision," he related, "and I'm not saying that all young players don't make it, but I want to win now. And we all want to win now. We're in the present moment and so the more, I think, maturity you can get, and experience you can get, the better off you are.

    "It happened one time. We turned down a four-year player and took a very, very young player. And so you remember those things."

    So Riley instead got his experience, and LeBron James had his Twitter whim validated.

    This is where the Heat stand. Those hopeful of a youth movement surely to again be disappointed. The offseason used to be about the Heat's summer academies, how the team would develop the likes of Malik Allen, Mike James, Udonis Haslem.

   That was fine for then, when the long view had merit because the goal was a regular place in the playoffs. Now it's about retaining a place in the NBA Finals.

    Summer camp and then summer league begin this coming week for the Heat in Orlando. This is when the youth of the likes of former second-round acquisitions James Ennis and Justin Hamilton again will be measured. But summer camp will be held concurrently with the start of free agency, when alternatives just as cheap, but with far more experience, could be available.

    To land Napier, the Heat not only swapped first-round slots Thursday with the Charlotte Hornets but also included Thursday's second-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

    That's 2019 as in when Riley will be 74, Dwyane Wade 37 and Nick Arison could already have an heir of his own lined up for eventual franchise control.

    The Heat and Riley are living in the moment. They believe Napier can live in that moment. The irony is that if Andrew Wiggins lives his own LeBron moment, it likely will be after he has had as much time to develop as Napier, another two or three years, when James will be coming off his next contract.

    Summer league may yet yield an intriguing prospect for the Heat, perhaps Ennis' athleticism, perhaps Hamilton's shooting, perhaps someone gleaned from another team's roster for when the Heat move on to the Las Vegas summer league.

    But Riley at least is candid enough to acknowledge he is beyond the kid stuff. His wife is 66, his new point guard is 22. In his world, those numbers add up perfectly.


   WHY TRADE?: So why trade up two spots with the Charlotte Hornets at the cost of a pair of second-round picks to acquire Shabazz Napier at the No. 24 pick in Thursday's draft? The only logical reason is that Heat President Pat Riley was convinced that the Houston Rockets, at No. 25, were poised to pounce. The logic, to a degree, made sense, with the Rockets potentially having to excise Jeremy Lin to make room for a top-tier free agent and with Napier fan LeBron James among the potential Houston targets. "You don't want to get sort of left at the altar," Riley said. "The same thing happened with Norris [Cole]. We had the 32nd pick in the [2011] draft, and as we got closer and closer and closer, we heard that somebody was going to take him at 29, or whatever it was, so we moved up four spots and got him. And that next team took a guard. So it's a bad feeling. You might as well go for it at that time." The San Antonio Spurs followed by taking Cory Joseph at No. 29. The cruelest irony might have been that the Chicago Bulls then stole Jimmy Butler at No. 30. As it was, the Rockets selected Swiss forward Clint Capela at No. 25 Thursday. The irony to the deal is that the Heat lost postseason drawings with the Rockets and Hornets for the Nos. 24 and 25 picks (the Heat, Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, who previously dealt their pick to Charlotte, all closed at 54-28).

    FINAL SECRET: Riley said he was disappointed with the leaks about the Heat's interest in Napier. So when it came to dealing with the Hornets and Michael Jordan, he said he left nothing to chance. After the draft, Riley related, "I've had that happen, where we were on the phone with a team -- and it's a coincidence because it's a team I used to coach -- and they said, 'Well, who do you want us to pick?' I said, 'We're not going to tell you.' [They said], 'Well, we're not going to give you the pick unless.' Then we gave him the name and he said, 'Well, we want him and he hung up.' So, we weren't going to do that this time."

   MEANING . . . WHAT?: Amid his takeover of the New York Knicks' front office, Phil Jackson tried to relate his desires with Carmelo Anthony to where the Heat have stood the past four years. Whether it is in praise of the Heat is another story. "What happens is then you end up having two or three players that have big contracts and everybody else's is either veteran minimums or young players coming in," he said of the Heat's Big Three pay program. "You don't have that middle ground for a player that's veteran, comfortable leadership-quality people. Miami explored it. I think they got the most out of it."

   OUTSIDE REALITY: While the Heat retool with an eye on vengeance against the Spurs, plenty of Eastern Conference contenders continue to operate with an eye on the Heat. It is among the reasons that Noah Vonleh made sense to the Hornets, who bypassed a shot at the shooting of Doug McDermott. "With San Antonio, one of the reasons they got back to the top is they knew they needed more size along the perimeter. So they went out and got Kawhi Leonard," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford told the Charlotte Observer recently. "At the end of the day, it is still a matchup league. It's different from college, which is more five-man basketball. In the playoffs, you're going to go at matchups."


    12-1. Odds, according to, of Heat acquisition Shabazz Napier winning Rookie of the Year, 10th among draft picks despite Napier going 24th in the first round. No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, now with the Milwaukee Bucks, is favored, at 5-1. Follow him at

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