Heat, Riley host Veterans Day clinic for military

Pat Riley spent part of his Veterans Day on the basketball


Only problem was, the Miami Heat president wasn’t surrounded by

Miami Heat players.

So instead, Riley stood at midcourt, microphone in hand and

reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while military members and their

families packed into bleachers on either side of the gymnasium –

the latest in an ongoing series of tributes the Heat have held for

service members and their families in recent years.

”That’s why we’re here,” Riley told the crowd. ”We’re here

because of what you do for us and the freedoms we have in this

country and freedoms that you’re allowing other people to have in

other countries. I can’t wait `til the day everybody comes back

from Iraq and Afghanistan. I can’t wait for that day that

everybody’s back with their families and able to come to Heat


That day may be next month. Or next year. Either way, the answer

should be coming soon. After two more days of talks in New York

ended Thursday night, the NBA proposed a deal that would allow for

a 72-game season starting Dec. 15. Players are expected to decide

to take it or leave it by early next week.

”I’ve had enough,” Riley said of the waiting game that comes

with the lockout. ”I’ve waited long enough. I think we all


Since 2006, the Heat have honored military personnel in a number

of ways, whether it’s welcoming returning veterans from the wars in

Iraq and Afghanistan at home games or last year’s move to hold

training camp at a pair of U.S. Air Force installations in

Florida’s Panhandle. Riley indicated that may happen again in the

future. And the team’s community-relations side has tried to keep

the Heat brand visible in South Florida while the lockout


Still, there are some days boredom is unavoidable. Riley claimed

he’s become the No. 1 gin rummy and backgammon player in the Heat

offices during the lockout, and professed that his new look – a

silvery goatee – is as good as the one team owner Micky Arison has

had for years.

”The day that we start,” Riley said, ”this thing is


He hopes to be shaving soon enough. And when the time comes, he

said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and the rest of the staff will be

ready to start moving very quickly to prepare for an abbreviated


”Right now we have one of the greatest bases of fans in the

league and I think they’re patiently waiting,” Riley said.

”They’ve supported us. We’re supporting them. And we just hope

that we’re going to be able to deliver to them the same thing we

delivered last year, which is exciting basketball. We’ve got some

great, great, great talent, great players and we can’t wait to get

it going again.”

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