Pat Riley‘s decision to pursue an accelerated rebuild over a “process” has allowed the Heat to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com writes.
Riley, as Windhorst notes, always approaches his job as team president in a highly competitive manner. The Heat typically don’t fixate on a slow process, rebuild or “tank”. Rather, the organization maintains a winning culture and mentality every season — regardless of the circumstances.
“You know me, I’m all about now,” Riley said earlier this season, as relayed by Windhorst. “We’re going to press on and we’re not going to stop.”
Riley acquired star forward Jimmy Butler in a four-way trade last summer, solidifying the team’s stance of competing for a title now. Miami has execeeded expectations thanks to the rapid improvements of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, along with the trade deadline acquisitions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. Thus, the club’s first trip to the conference finals in six seasons.
“Miami’s strategy is always to be as good as possible every season,” one league executive said told Windhorst. “They are studs at team building. But you have to acknowledge that strategy also led them to miss the playoffs in three of the last five years.”
The Heat are set to open their series against the Celtics on Tuesday, with Game 2 slated to commence on Thursday and Game 3 on Saturday. The winner of that series will move on to the NBA Finals to play the Lakers, Clippers or Nuggets.
Here are some other notes out of Miami:
- Jae Crowder has officially found his footing after being traded to the team earlier this year, a re-occurring theme in the 30-year-old’s professional career, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Crowder has been traded a total of six times since entering the league in 2012. “I look at it like this,” he said, “this is what keeps me going: You see a lot of guys who are being traded and they get waived once they get to the team. That’s never happened in my career. So once I’ve gotten traded, I’ve been able to sustain a role. I’ve been wanted. I feel like another team wants me. I just think that speaks of my work. I don’t look at it as bad thing. I don’t get frustrated with the process, because I feel like I’ve every team I went to, I’ve had a role to play.”
- Winderman examines whether Kendrick Nunn’s stock is in the rise in his latest “Ask Ira’ mailbag. Nunn, the runner-up for the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award, contracted COVID-19 this summer and struggled to get back into his old form during the restart, but the 25-year-old is also starting to find his footing as the back-up point guard behind Goran Dragic.
- The Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry is set to add another chapter with the Heat and Celtics meeting in the conference finals, Windhorst writes in a separate story for ESPN. Both executives share a strong rivalry going back to their playing days, more recently with Riley’s Heat beating Ainge’s Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals and Ainge beating Riley in the race to sign Gordon Hayward in 2017.