Pat Riley seems to be still smarting over LeBron James’ departure
The NBA experienced a seismic shift in the balance of power, particularly in the Eastern Conference, when LeBron James decided he was “going home” and returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Miami Heat were the poor organization that was right on the fault line and left to pick up the pieces. And that difficult task mostly was charged to team president Pat Riley.
In an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report NBA senior writer Ethan Skolnik, the NBA icon weighed in on a variety of topics, but whenever the topic of James was brought up, it became clear that Riley is still smarting over LeBron’s smiting of the Heat.
Admitting that James’ departure “just crushed us,” Riley thought that the moves he made afterward, including bringing in Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng put the Heat in position to compete this season.
Riley later waxed nostalgic to how things were in the good old days of the NBA, lamenting how much the game has changed as it relates to roster turnover, obviously addressing how the “Big Three” he assembled quickly changed into a dynamic, but not as dominant, duo.
Riley, who before James left South Beach and “pissed” about losing to the Spurs in the Finals, challenged his “Big Three” to return if they’ve “got the guts.”
Riley then insisted after James departed that leading up to the star’s decision, he “went into it with the notion he was coming back.”
Discussing with Skolnik how in past eras “generational teams” — which he presumably felt the Heat were — would “stay together,” Riley said he can’t believe how players today don’t recognize how good they have it and aren’t willing to stay with one team for the long haul.
“That was almost shocking to me that the players would allow that to happen. And I’m not just saying LeBron,” Riley insisted. “I mean, the players, themselves, would allow them to get to a state where a guy would want to go home or whatever it is.
“So maybe I’m dealing with a contemporary attitude today of, ‘Well, I got four years here, and I think I’ll go up there for whatever reason I went.’ You know, the whole ‘home’ thing, I understand that. But what he had here, and what he had developed here, and what he could have developed over the next five or six years here, with the same team, could have been historic.”