I must preface this article by saying, one of my first sports memories growing up was my parents allowing a young boy to stay up late to watch the Lakers vs. Celtics in the NBA Finals. My two older brothers and father were Magic Johnson fans, so naturally I rooted for the Lakers. My first sports idol wasn’t a player, it was head coach Pat Riley. I loved the way his team played, they were physical, smart and played hard on every possession. Not matter how much success they had, Riley always wanted more. When the Lakers won back to back titles in 1987-88, it was the first time any team had accomplished that goal since the Celtics did it in 1968-69. When Riley came to the Knicks, I was a little older and wiser when it came to basketball. I noticed something I did not like. As good as the Knicks were, Riley coached every regular season game like it was the 7th game of the NBA Finals. You see, Riley had a lot of Bill Parcells and Bobby Knight in him. He wore players down over time. Riley left the Knicks in 1995 and went to coach the Miami Heat. If you watched those Heat teams they were very competitive in the regular season. But, they never had a “2nd gear” in the playoffs. “Riles” worked them so hard they could never take it to the next level, come playoff time. After giving the reigns over to Stan Van Gundy, Riley took over the coaching duties in 2005-06. He composed a 41-20 record and won an NBA Title. The team went south after the NBA finals, going 44-38 in 2007 and 15-67 in 2008 before Riley moved upstairs to run the team.
Riley hired Eric Spoelstra to replace him on the bench. In his first two season the man they call “Spo” went 43-39 and 47-35 and lost twice in the first round of the playoffs. All that changed when LeBron James came to Miami. The team made it to four straight NBA finals, winning two titles. Without “King James,” the Heat have missed the playoffs twice and have a record of 37-45, 48-34,41-41 and 44-38.
On Saturday night the Heat lost their first-round playoff game to the Philadelphia 76ers, 130-104. The 76ers won without their leading scoring Joel Embiid. The Heat looked lost in the 2nd half, but this is not a surprise.
Under Riley and Spoelstra this team has absolutely no identity and they are beyond dysfunctional. The highest paid player on their team is Hassaan Whiteside. He makes $23 million this year and will make $25 and $27 million over the next two seasons. The problem here is, their most expensive player, only played 25.3 minutes per game during the regular season. That ranks 7th on the team, Justise Winslow, who has been a major disappointment coming out of Duke, averaged 24.7 minutes per game. Against the 76ers, Whiteside played 12 minutes. He had 2 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Say it out loud… Miami’s franchise player, doesn’t play in the 4th quarter or crunch time because Spoelstra tends to go with a smaller lineup. The Heat have invested in a player who doesn’t even play 26 minutes per game. This is an epic failure by the coach and the president Riley. The only reason they signed Whiteside was because they didn’t want to lose another player after LeBron James left town. Riley was desperate to show that he can keep talent in South Beach, but Whiteside is not a franchise player. The best player on this team is Goran Dragic who averages 17.3 points per game. He is 37th in the NBA in scoring.
One of my favorite sayings is, “The reason most people fail instead of succeed, is they trade what they want most, for what they want at the moment.” Looking back, Riley just wanted to prove he could land a so called “big time” free agent in Whiteside. That is what he wanted at the moment, but as we have seen, it was not what the team needed long-term.
The Heat are going to lose to the 76ers in the first round. It is time for the Miami ownership to get rid of Pat Riley and Eric Spoelstra. Maimi should be a “hot bed” for free agents to come and play. It has been a ghost town since LeBron James took his talents back to Cleveland.
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