Catch the latest news on NBA Blog, a journal of hoops-related commentary, news and analysis, and reader-driven discussions.
5 p.m. ET, 1/03/07
Champs Take Another Hit
Posted by Marty Burns
Coach Pat Riley didn't give a timetable for his return to the Heat bench.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Pat Riley was so excited at his team's championship celebration last summer in Miami that he danced on the stage.
Now Riley's days of boogeying are on hold indefinitely -- and it's beginning to look as if he won't get a chance to bust any moves at a championship celebration any day soon either.
Riley's decision to take a temporary leave of absence to have knee surgery is just another setback for the Heat. The slow start in training camp, the blowout defeat to the Bulls on opening night and the loss of Shaquille O'Neal to a knee injury were bad enough. Now comes the departure of the team's coach for an indefinite period.
It's early yet, but the Heat certainly are making it look as if they're going to be a one-year wonder.
Some might suggest Riley's decision could be a motivational stunt. Or maybe it's a subconscious act to get out before the ship sinks. When I interviewed Riley last week, he sure didn't sound like he was 100 percent certain all his veterans were truly committed to another title run.
"I just hope the fact all these guys won their first one late in their careers that they don't say, 'That's enough. I don't need that anymore,'" Riley said at one point. "I want them to continue to stay hungry."
In terms of X's and O's, Riley's absence doesn't figure to hurt the Heat too much. Ron Rothstein, Riley's lead assistant and the first head coach in Heat history, is more than capable of filling in on a temporary basis. He knows the players and system so there shouldn't be any problems.
The real issues for the Heat are complacency and a possible overreliance on Shaq. The 7-1 center has been out nearly all season after having undergone knee surgery, and Miami has struggled without him. Riley said earlier this week that he expected Shaq back by the end of a current six-game road trip. But Shaq has been slowing down for the past couple years, so it's unlikely he's going to dominate the way he did four or five years ago.
Moreover, it would be devastating for Miami if Riley were to decide not to come back at all this season. As team president and holder of five NBA championship rings, Riley commands a certain respect in the Heat locker room. He might be the only one who could keep Miami's core of veterans from being complacent.
"That's the nature of a veteran team," he said. "It's my job to eradicate it.
When asked how long he expected to keep coaching, Riley just scoffed and said, “Don't ask me that question.” Maybe he knew that he was going to need some time off and didn't want to release the information yet -- or maybe he just didn't want to think about not coaching. But one has to wonder if he has at least entertained the idea of hanging up his whistle for good.
For now, Riley says he intends to return and there is no reason to doubt him. The Heat aren't out of it yet. Dwyane Wade alone gives them a chance. Shaq will be back soon. The East is wide open. But there's something about the way the Heat season has gone so far that makes one think it's not meant to be.
This latest news on Riley just seems like another indicator.
I must say that Heat is looking very anemic now. I am a true heat fan to the core and I am somewhat shocked of this erratic start. I know the heat still has a sense of urgency when it comes to the playoffs so I am not writing them off yet. The heat are the champs and everyone needs to respect that. When they become healthy completely they will become a force to deal with. I never thought that the heat injury woes would creep up to Pat Riley. I think David Stern needs to do an investigation because this injury bug is contagious.
If you watch Riley coach, he's on his feet the whole game. He paces back and forth -- sometimes kicking up his leg for punctuation after a big play. On the other hand, if you watch Phil Jackson coach, he sits down the whole game. He has this special chair that's elevated to support his bad back. So, if Riley can just learn to be a little more sedentary, I think he should be OK. But Riley is an energetic coach; in fact, it's actually fun to watch him in action. I just hope Riley finds some kind of compromise.
Riley is a big wimp. He wants it to look like its not his fault that the Heat won't win it again this year. Wade must be kicking himself for signing an extension with theis future train wreck of a team...
Walker and Posey work their butts off and miss their body fat goal by 1% and he benches them? Please. He benched them because he knew Walker would get the blame and he could quit on his team AGAIN when it doesn't go the way he wanted it too.
Ten to one bet when Shaq comes back and the team starts winning Riley is all of a sudden healed.
Both players were at their weight goal but because of body fat they get benched? Like I said, please.
Riley and the Heat are tired. I like the Heat but every other team was making trades and getting better during the off-season. . The Heat did nothing. I didn't like Walker last year. He's worse this year. They can't spread the floor because the lack of 3-pt shooters. It took Wade to start attempting them to spread the floor. Wade is unreal. Unreal talent but he's going to need help!!!!! This season is Dwayne vs. Five; 1 on 5. GET HIM SOME HELP!!!!
as a golden state warriors fan, i have to say i believe in d-wade. d-wade has the heart of a champion and then leadership of winner. they'll be back in contention when he gets healthy. don't count them out just yet.
Take your favorite team and remove your 2 TOP players and point guard and see what you have.....what would Dallas be like with Dirk hurt and Stackhouse with a busted wrist and Jason Terry missing games left and right?
Riles is not sleazing out on anyone. You try having a busted hip at 61yrs of age and stand all game long!!
I do agree that the timing of him leaving is suspect, but, he knows his 2 Generals are about to return and the team will be fine while he gets healthy.
Miami does need a trade to defend though, that is about the only thing I agree with above.
Like I said, Wade and Shaq come back, the team gets on a roll, Riles makes it back and they make a modest run in the playoffs..toss in a solid trade to dump Walker, and the Heat could go back to back.
Anemic??? Try pathetic. They were lucky to win last year and now they are stuck with some old, out of shape vets that have rings (see Walker and Payton). They will probably turn it on at the end of the year, but it won't be enough to get beyond the second round.
Miami should not have even won the championship last year. Yes, Miami got some favorable calls from the refs. Yes, Dallas focused too much on the refs and not enough on Miami. Dallas had a much better team than Miami, but they could not finish off Miami. Shaq has officially become "The Big Has-Been." Also, there's this "crackdown" on palming the basketball, but apparently this rule doesn't apply to D Wade and Grant Hill.
I'd say Rile's is quiting while the quiting is good. He can't bear to see the Heat lose all their coming road games to make it 10 losses in a row and have that pinned on him. He could have all his surgeries in the offseason just like Phil did but chose not to. Why only now? Is it just a coincidence that he is walking away just as the heat in the midst of an extended losing streak and possibly more? Hmmmmm
The Heat are not going to turn it on like all the Wade and Shaq bandwagon fans are saying. It's not going to happen. The Heat will probably either be finish 9th or 10th in the East. Their best chance is to get like a 7th or 8th seed and hope for a miracle. The Heat are done.