Heat, Riley host Veterans Day clinic for military

BY foxsports • November 11, 2011

Pat Riley spent part of his Veterans Day on the basketball court.

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 games.''

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 have.''

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 continues.

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 history.''

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 season.

''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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