Two seasons ago, the Miami Heat rocked the bubble, coming from the middle of the playoff pack to reach the 2020 NBA Finals. Last year, though, the combination of injuries, the COVID-19 effect, Tyler Herro’s ho-hum campaign and getting shafted with the shortest offseason in league history resulted in a first-round sweep.
Despite the incredible downturn, though, Heat president Pat Riley never considered hitting the reset button.
“If you want to go through the rebuilding process, you can — that can be painful and it can be very successful — but I don’t think that’s the way we want to go about our business down here,” he told Jason Jackson during a conversation that hit Heat.com on October 21. “We want to be in it.”
For Riley, plugging gaps is always preferable to massive changes in direction. Last offseason, he wanted to empower the players that had led Miami to the Finals by ironing out the spots on the roster where the Heat had become stuck.
“When you sit around and talk about your roster and what you think you may need and you say, ‘It can’t be done, we can’t do it and we are stuck,’ you find a way to get unstuck,” he said. “It’s all you do.”
On the Team’s New Additions
Where “unsticking” the roster is concerned, Riley thinks he may have hit it out of the park over the summer.
“I take a look at Kyle [Lowry] and take a look at PJ [Tucker] and take a look at Markieff [Morris]… in particular, I think those three guys can really help us,” he told Jackson. “Along with having Dewayne [Dedmon] now here for a year, plus our other young guys and how they’ve grown, I think we’ve got a good, deep team and I see real possibilities here with this basketball team.”
It has only been one game, of course, but the early returns have been encouraging for Riley and the Heat. In their season opener, Miami throttled the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks 137-95. Along the way, Tucker and Dedmon debuted with show-out efforts.
For his part, Tucker logged eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and added two triples, six rebounds, two assists and a steal in just 22 minutes of play. The Heat outscored the Bucks by 31 points when he was on the floor, which was a team-high mark.
Dedmon, meanwhile, scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds in limited action.
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Leaning on Championship Experience
In terms of each player’s raw production on the court, the moves to acquire Lowry, Tucker and Morris made a ton of sense for the Heat. However, Riley clearly placed an equal level of importance on the championship experience that each member of the trio would bring the table.
More than that, though, it was their collective approach and dedication to the craft that intrigued Riley.
“These guys take us past that,” he said of their championship cred. “They’re not just champions. They know what it’s like — they’ve worked very hard all their careers to do that and to be part of these teams. So, PJ and Kyle and Markieff are really going to help us.”