MIAMI (AP) — Pat Riley tends to look at things in five-year increments, and that might make this a very important season for the Miami Heat.
With the current Miami core — Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro — about to start its fifth season together, the Heat president said he still believes his team has “as good a chance as anybody” to win the Eastern Conference. But he also indicated that what happens this season could have a serious effect on what the Heat look like next season.
“If you build a team around one or two players, three players, and you don’t win the championship, then you might have to start thinking: ‘OK, this is not going to work. This is not going to happen,’” Riley said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Maybe you see that in Milwaukee, maybe you see that in Boston. They got to those windows and made moves.”
The Bucks — who won the NBA title in 2021 — revamped their core this offseason by trading for Damian Lillard, who originally hoped to go to Miami but wound up seeing Portland strike a deal for its onetime franchise player in Milwaukee. The Celtics then ended up with Jrue Holiday, the point guard Milwaukee traded away to help acquire Lillard.
Had Miami made a big deal this summer, it likely would have involved trading Herro — who didn't enjoy another summer of trade rumors — to make salaries match up. Herro is making $27 million this season, and Miami's payroll of around $180 million enters the season as the sixth-largest in the NBA.
“We have never shopped him and had no interest in ever trading the guy," Riley said of Herro. “But when you're talking about acquiring one of the top five players in the league, there isn’t anybody on our team that won't be discussed.”
Riley, who is about to start his 29th season in Miami, said those moves obviously put Milwaukee and Boston in the East drivers' seats. But the Heat have won the East in two of the past four seasons, falling short in the NBA Finals in 2020 and again last season.
“To win it, it’s going to take this mentality on the part of our team and on the part of our three best players — most importantly, Jimmy and Bam and Tyler,” Riley said. “They’re the guys we really look to, the guys that are getting paid, they have to have far and away their career-best years that impact winning. So, whatever that is, scoring, rebounding, assists, not turning it over, defensively, whatever it is ... that’s what it’s going to take.”
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