MIAMI — The Miami Heat are going for their second straight championship. But Pat Riley wants a lot more down the road.
There is much uncertainty about what will happen with the Heat after a more punitive luxury tax enters the NBA next season and continues to escalate in future years and for when stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can opt out of their contracts in the summer of 2014. But Riley let it be known Friday the Heat are capable of doing what it takes to keep the team together.
“It’s doable in this tax economy,’’ the team president said about keeping his stars in South Florida.
That’s hardly good news for foes. The Heat (66-16) look close to unbeatable as they prepare to open the playoffs Sunday against Milwaukee. And now Riley has indicated a huge tax bill might not be able to slow them down.
Riley talked about a variety of topics in a 45-minute discussion with reporters, including his recent comments that Boston general manager Danny Ainge needs to “STFU’’ and how he had hoped the Heat would break the 33-game winning streak the Los Angeles Lakers had in 1971-72. Riley was a guard on that team.
But most interesting was what Riley said about the future of the Heat even if he was short on details.
“I’m going to leave that to Micky (Arison, the team owner),’’ Riley said about specifics. “And we’ve already had internal conversations about it with Nick (Arison, the Heat CEO) and Andy (Ellisburg, the team’s salary-cap expert) and myself and Micky. That will all be tackled after the season. We’ll start talking about it.’’
Riley said the Heat likely would need to gain additional revenue, and he mentioned how the Los Angeles Dodgers recently signed an “extraordinary’’ television contract. Regardless of how it might happen, Riley wants James, Wade and Bosh to play a number of more seasons for the Heat.
“Something like that is doable,’’ said Riley, who brought in James and Bosh in the summer of 2010 to team with Wade. “It is a question of the economics of the game, so there’s going to have to be some strategic planning not only from that standpoint but from a personnel standpoint over the next couple of years.
“But when you have an opportunity to build a team like this, and I’ve said in the past, when you take a look at the four or five (top) teams that endured over eight, nine or 10 years, they did it with the same players. So it would be a shame if you couldn’t do that. This team, I would love to see them all end their careers together at the same time and hang their numbers.’’
While Riley didn’t identify teams he was speaking of, among them he no doubt was referring to were the Celtics of the late 1950s and the 1960s, the Lakers of the 1980s, the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s and the San Antonio Spurs, who still have a championship core.
Riley coached the Lakers to four of their five titles during the 1980s. He said the team really didn’t mature until the latter part of the decade after the Lakers already had won three crowns.
Speaking of the Lakers, Riley touched on several topics Friday that linked his days with the team to the Heat of this season. Riley won his only championship as an NBA player for the 1971-72 Lakers, who reeled off 33 straight wins.
Riley didn’t talk to the media when the Heat last month were challenging that mark, a quest that ended after 27 straight wins. But Riley finally revealed how he felt.
“I stayed away from the team,’’ Riley said. “I didn’t talk to anybody. (Coach Erik Spoelstra) and I never mentioned it. I was really, really disappointed about it when we got beat. I wanted them to break the record. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime phenomena.’’
As much as wanting his Heat to get the mark, Riley said he also wanted to bring some publicity back to his 1971-72 team. He singled out three deceased players: Wilt Chamberlain, Happy Hairston and LeRoy Ellis.
“I really thought we were going to get it done and I was really disappointed that we didn’t,’’ Riley said. “I felt sad for the (Heat) because I know as much as they were talking about, ‘We’re not thinking about it,’ they were thinking about it. That’s the way we are.’’
After Miami’s streak finally ended with a 103-99 loss March 27 at Chicago, James was critical of Bulls players for having hard fouls on him he called “not-basketball plays.’’
Ainge said it was “embarrassing’’ for James to criticize the officiating. That resulted in Riley saying through a spokesman, “Danny Ainge needs to ‘STFU’ and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”
Riley coached against Ainge’s Celtics during three Finals in the 1980s.
“I’ll put it this way,’’ Riley said Friday about his comment. “At 211 degrees, water is just hot, right? At 212, what happens? It boils. And then when it boils, it creates steam and then steam can move the locomotive. And think that’s sort of what happened.
“Somebody from the outside weighing in, I don’t think that’s right in this league. I think there’s too many people in this league that weigh in on other peoples’ business when they should take care of their own program and that’s how I feel about it.’’
As for James’ talk about teams being physical with him, Riley said it would be a mistake for opposing players to get too rough with James, a cinch to win his fourth career MVP.
Riley on Friday also said he has no problem with the Heat and other teams resting top players at the end of the regular season because teams make such an investment in them. He revealed Spoelstra urged him for months to sign free-agent Chris Andersen, who eventually joined the Heat in January and has paid huge dividends.
With Andersen as a final piece, Miami became just the 13th team in league history to win 66 or more games. For that, Riley said Spoelstra should be named NBA Coach of the Year.
Riley no doubt would like to keep Spoelstra as well as his star players around Miami for a long time.