Miami Heat players (L-R) Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James sit on the bench in the final minutes of their loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in San Antonio, Texas, June 15, 2014. (REUTERS: Mike Stone)
Less than a week after losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, Miami Heat President Pat Riley lashed out on Thursday at the notion his team needs to be rebuilt.
The Spurs won the best-of-seven final 4-1 to snap the Heat’s two-year championship run. Miami is the first team to play in four straight finals since Boston from 1984-87.
“Media, Heat players, organization, all of our fans, they’ve got to get a grip on greatness,” Riley told a new conference. “I’ve been here for 45 years in the NBA and I’ve witnessed dynasties, I’ve witnessed great teams.
“The Spurs in 17 years won five titles, so you add it up. What’s the math there? They lost 12 times. This stuff is hard. You’ve got to stay together, if you’ve got the guts.
“You don’t find the first door and run out of it, if you have an opportunity.”
Riley’s rant appeared to be a plea for LeBron James to stay in South Beach. James, a four-time NBA most valuable player, can become an unrestricted free agent this offseason sign elsewhere.
Although the other members of Miami’s Big Three, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, can also leave via free agency, James, the league’s best player, has the most options.
“The four years we’ve had with LeBron, we hope turns into another eight or 10,” said Riley, a five-time NBA champion as a coach. “So that’s how I’m looking at it. All three of the so-called Big Three have opt-outs (of their contracts).
“It’s their choice. They’ve created the flexibility. They’ll think about it … I love LeBron. He knows that. He knows how we feel about him. He’s a winner.
“You really need to give him time to get away.”
James, who has two titles and two runner-up finishes since arriving from Cleveland in 2011, said after the loss to the Spurs he would have to think about his options this offseason.
Riley insisted he needs to tinker with the roster - not reconstruct it - and suggested the folks in South Florida have been spoiled by the Heat’s success.
“This is four years now into this era, this team,” he said. “Four finals - it’s only been done three other times before. And two championships. From day one to the end, it was like a Broadway show.
“And so we ran out of steam. We need to re-tool. We don’t need to re-build. We need to re-tool. And that’s what we’re going to do. I’ve been a leader and a decision-maker.
“That’s my level of expertise. And I’ll do everything I can to re-tool the team. But everybody, just get a grip. This has been a great run.”
Riley, 69, said the Heat have a chance to do something “significant” in the coming years.
“But losing is just as much a part of it as winning,” he said. “And when you’re a team, you deal with it. No, there was no hugging (after the finals loss). There was no high-fiving.
“There’s just looking around the room now and finding out who’s going to stand up. This is time that you go home and take care of yourself. And look at yourself.
“And what are you going to do to come back and make the team better because we have a tremendous opportunity here for long-term success. But don’t think we’re not going to get beat again.”