Pat Riley doesn't think changes are necessary to Heat roster
Jun 26, 2013 at 4:44p ET
MIAMI — Meet the new team, same as the old team.
As far as Miami Heat president Pat Riley is concerned, that’s the plan for next season.
Yes, Riley will monitor free agency throughout the summer and he confirmed the Heat will take a look at center Greg Oden, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since December 2009. But, for the most part, Riley wants to keep together the cast of players that last week won the team’s second straight championship and third in eight years.
“I like our team, and we don’t like change,’’ Riley said Wednesday. “There are times that it’s necessary to change but we don’t feel like it’s necessary to change.’’
Riley said the Heat, as expected, will pick up the $4 million team option on point guard Mario Chalmers’ contract, and that move was announced later in the day. He said he does not expect the Heat will release guard Mike Miller as part of the NBA’s amnesty provision. And he wants to bring back center Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who becomes a free agent Monday, and guard Ray Allen, who could opt out of his contact and also become a free agent.
There has been plenty of speculation about Miller because a more punitive luxury tax enters the NBA next season. Miller, 33, is due to make $12.8 million over the next two seasons, and the Heat could save more than $20 million in tax by letting him go.
“Mike is as healthy as he’s ever been and he’s worked very hard in strengthening his (once-ailing) back,’’ said Riley, who said it’s ultimately up to owner Micky Arison how much luxury tax he is willing to spend moving forward. “So, unless I get a mandate about (making Miller an amnesty victim), we haven’t talked about it. We really haven’t talked about doing that. We just want to keep this team together.’’
On Tuesday, Miami forward Rashard Lewis and guard James Jones exercised their player options for next season. Now, with Chalmers and Miller primed to return, the Heat will set their sights on bringing back Allen and Andersen.
Allen, who turns 38 next month, has until Sunday to decide whether to exercise his $3.23 player option for next season. However, using the NBA’s non-Bird exception, he could opt out and re-sign next season at a 20 percent raise over his 2012-13 salary of $3.09 million, which would be $3.708 million. He could re-sign with the Heat for as long as four years.
“I can’t speak for Ray,’’ Riley said. “I really don’t know what his decision is going to be. I do know that we want him back. … We’ll have to wait until July 1 to see what he wants to do.’’
That’s when free agency starts. And that’s when the Heat officially can offer a deal to Andersen, who wants to return.
The Heat could use the non-Bird clause on Birdman. That would give him a salary next season of $1.62 million, which is 20 percent over the minimum. Or they could dip into their $3.183 million taxpayer mid-level exception for Andersen.
“We love Chris Andersen and we want him back,’’ said Riley, who noted Andersen was working out Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. “He will obviously be informed by his agents as to all the ramifications of what’s out there and to what we can do.’’
It remains to be seen if the Heat would need to use their $3.183 million exception to land Oden. His agent, Mike Conley, told FOX Sports Florida last week there is mutual interest between Oden and Miami. Riley confirmed his interest and said Oden and his agent recently had a “good two-day visit’’ with the team in Miami.
“We will explore that and see where it goes because of the possibilities,’’ Riley said of Oden, who has been plagued by knee problems since being the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 2007. “You go back to look at (Zydrunas) Ilgauskas. He had nothing but foot problems for about four years and everybody thought it was over. And the same thing happened with Kurt Thomas at the beginning of his career. There’s been a lot of players young in their careers that have had chronic injuries (and then) it doesn’t happen to them anymore. I think he’s such a young player and to be such a force, that you’d want to monitor him very closely.’’
While he is intrigued by Oden, Riley downplayed that Miami needs to sign another big man. He pointed out that three years ago, after Miami’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had joined forces, that Heat brought in Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier to join holdover Jamaal Magloire, and coach Erik Spoelstra barely used any of the centers.
“We didn’t have any problems against ( Roy) Hibbert,’’ said Riley, shrugging off the Indiana center having averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Riley’s next order of business is the NBA Draft on Thursday, but the Heat don’t have any picks. Riley didn’t rule out they could acquire one, but doesn’t consider that a priority.
When free agency begins Monday, the focus will be on Andersen and on Allen, if he opts out. After that, Riley doesn’t anticipate jumping on anything immediately.
“We’re going to monitor free agency,’’ Riley said. “We’re going to cannibalize the market in August and September. … We’re not going to rush into anything.’’
Conley said Oden is willing to work out for teams during the summer. Since Cleveland, San Antonio, Charlotte and Boston are among others in the mix and his medical situation will have to be carefully evaluated, Oden might not make an immediate decision.
For now, Riley wouldn’t mind at least a little time to enjoy the championship.
“We are so giddy about that, and proud of our team,’’ said Riley, whose Heat wrapped up the title last Thursday with a Game 7 win over San Antonio and had a parade and a victory rally in Miami on Monday. “And also excited that what we did three years ago has led us to this.’’
Of course, it would be a completely different story now had the Heat lost Game 6 of the Finals and fallen short of defending their title. Miami trailed the Spurs by five points with 28 seconds left in regulation before storming back to win 103-100 in overtime.
Asked about that game, Riley borrowed from Al Michaels and said, “I believe in miracles.’’ But he admitted the Heat probably would have a different approach this offseason had they not won the championship.
“The whole set of dynamics would have have been an absolute negative flood of everything, energy,’’ Riley said. “But it didn’t happen. But would we have approached it differently? We probably would have been thinking differently. … You don’t know how it would have been like. We know how it would have been covered. … But the point is we found a way.’’
Now, the Heat have a chance to become just the fourth franchise in NBA history to win three straight titles. Riley might have earned nine rings as a player, assistant coach, head coach and executive but he’s never won three in a row.
James can opt out of his contract next summer. But he said Tuesday it’s a “goal’’ for the Heat to continue to win championships next year and beyond.
“That’s my dream,’’ Riley said. “I hope that what he said (Tuesday) is something that will come true.’’
Riley, 68, plans to be around in an attempt to see it through. He reiterated he’s not thinking about retirement.
“I love what I’m doing right now,’’ he said. “Why would anybody want to get off this train? … As long as Micky will have me, I will be here.’’
Riley wants the cars on next season’s train to remain quite similar. After all, it’s been hard to complain lately about what the Heat express has done.