NEW YORK (AP) — With his latest endeavor, Shaquille O’Neal now considers himself the ”Pat Riley of comedy.”
Miami president Pat Riley moped out of the visiting clubhouse at the Garden Friday night, his hair looking a little grayer, and the championship skip missing from his step, after watching his club get demolished by his old club.
In early July, the backup center had narrowed his suitors down to the Knicks and Heat, and he was about to hop on a plane for Miami to meet with Pat Riley when the Knicks’ top brass traveled to Houston.
“Honestly, I was going on a plane to Miami when Allan and Glen and Woody came down to Houston,” he said. “So that’s how close I was.”
It not only gave the Knicks the edge to finalize a sign-and-trade with the Rockets, but it also gave them another key defensive advantage to challenge the Heat and Celtics, and the Western Conference’s top two teams, the Lakers and Thunder.
Knowing that winning back-to-back NBA championships is inherently more difficult than winning the initial title, Pat Riley refused to let the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat rest on their laurels. During the offseason, the Heat acquired veteran sharpshooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Ray Allen wanted a change of scenery. Pat Riley didn’t want to make the same mistake he made the last time the Miami Heat won the title.
MIAMI Ray Allens number never will hang above the parquet floor.
That became assured when Allen, who had played in Boston for five eventful seasons and helped the Celtics to the 2008 title, bolted to sign with rival Miami as a free agent. But hows this for a way for Heat president Pat Riley to welcome Allen, whose emotions clearly have been torn, to his new city?
We hope (Allen) ends his career here, and we hope that we can be the one that hangs his number up in our rafters, Riley said Wednesday, when the Heat signed and introduced Allen and fellow free-agent signee Rashard Lewis as the latest big names in his stable.
Why wouldnt Riley do that if Allens Heat tenure turns out well? He retired Michael Jordans No. 23, and he never played a game for Miami.
If Allens jersey ever is hoisted to the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena, it wouldnt be the No. 20 he wore in Boston from 2007-12. It would be the No. 34 he also donned in Milwaukee and Seattle from 1996-2007.
When the shooting guard showed up in Boston, he had to switch numbers because No. 34 belonged to Paul Pierce. Now, hes going back to that number as he tries to move on from his years with the Celtics.
No. 20 was great to me, said Allen, a 16-year veteran who turns 37 on July 20. No. 20 represents a lot of who I am and who I was in Boston. (But) we thought about it (earlier this week). And I called Pat up, and I asked him, Is No. 34 available? He said it is available.
Of course, it is. Center Eddy Curry wore it underneath his warm-ups last season, and he sure isnt returning.
And Allen isnt returning to Boston. It was clear during Wednesdays press conference he still is coming to grips with that.
I think that theres a sense of sadness and hurt that I think that the people feel, and we feel that too as a family, Allen, who has three children with wife Shannon, said when asked about some Boston fans calling him a traitor for going to the rival Heat. We feel the sense of loss that well have not being in that community, and thats understandable.
Allen, who said its doesnt bother him what some Celtics fans are saying, said many of those close to him in Boston still remain part of his life. But dont count on Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo being a part of it.
There has been plenty of talk about there being friction between Allen and Rondo, something Allen didnt deny but said wasn’t a factor in his decision to sign with the Heat. The hardest part apparently was leaving behind Boston stars Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
I havent spoken with (Rondo) at all, said Allen, who had lost his starting job to Avery Bradley late last season but said he will have no problem coming off the bench for Miami. I know when I came down here, I texted Paul and Kevin. Those are the guys I talked with quite a bit over the years, and we shared a lot of similar philosophies . It is sad to me knowing that Im not going to be with those guys anymore. But Im looking forward to what we can do here in this organization, with being a teammate of LeBron (James), being a teammate of Dwyane (Wade), Chris Bosh.
Allen obviously believes hes got a better chance to win a second ring with the defending champions than he does with the aging Celtics. Why else would he have taken half as much money for the next two seasons?
Allen turned down a two-year, 12 million offer from Boston for the most the Heat could offer him, which is the 3.09 million taypayer exception for next season. Its believed Allens deal is for two years plus a player option, which could make the total value 9.69 million over three years.
Meanwhile, Lewis, who recently was bought of the final 22.1 million on his contract by New Orleans for 13.7 million, signed a two-year, 2.75 million contract. The first year is for the NBA minimum of 1.35 million and the second year a player option for the minimum of 1.4 million.
At this point in my career, Ive been on the All-Star team and played 14 years, said Lewis, 32, a forward who helped Orlando to the NBA Finals in 2009 before falling off in recent years, some of it due to injuries. Ive made a pretty good amount of money over my career (about 150 million). I feel everybody sets goals over their career. My goal is obviously to win a championship.
Allen and Lewis have come to the right place. Allen, who has been named to 10 All-Star Games, and Lewis, who has been to two, join James (eight), Wade (eight) and Bosh (seven) in giving the Heat five players to have been named to a staggering total of 35 All-Star Games.
The signings of Allen and Lewis have made the Heat even bigger favorites to repeat as champions. Riley likes that his team isnt staying pat, an approach that didnt work out too well after Miami won the title in 2006 and then was swept the next season out of the first round.
We got to raise the bar, Riley said. What we didnt do back then is we didnt add people like Ray or Rashard or like last year we added Shane (Battier, following a 2011 Finals loss to Dallas). So probably that was my mistake.
Allen and Lewis provide a wealth of experience and nifty shooting. Allen ranks first on all-time NBA list for 3-pointers made while Lewis, who at 6-foot-10 can play both forward spots, is eighth.
I already know that you got to double team LeBron, you have to double team D-Wade, you got to double team Chris Bosh and then you think theyre going to leave Ray Allen open? said Lewis, who is good friends with Allen from when the two were Seattle teammates from February 2003 through the 2006-07 season. You got to leave somebody open.
It remains to be seen, though, how much Lewis has left. He claims hes fully healthy after being bothered by a knee injury last season, when he averaged just 7.8 points in 28 games to drop his career average to 16.1. He then was dealt to the Hornets, who bought him out.
Allen might be four years older than Lewis. But hes a guy Miami really is counting upon to provide scoring off the bench and help spell starting guard Wade, who slowed down last season at 30 and underwent knee surgery early this week.
A big role, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of what Allen, who averaged 14.2 points last season and has a career average of 20, will have. We want to get to a point where we are position-less and we have basketball players out there. Ray absolutely fits that. Hes played multiple positions. But his skill set, his professionalism, as a champion, he fits very well with who already have here . Were thrilled to have here him in the Miami family.
Helping lure Allen to the family were James and Wade. Allen said both sent him text messages during the free-agency process, which included Allen visiting Miami last Thursday and making his decision the next day to sign.
Im not trying to come here to win on my terms, Allen said. Im trying to win on what Coach Spoelstra and Pat Riley need for this team to win another championship.
If that happens, it certainly will increase the chances of No. 34 eventually hanging from the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson
The Miami Heat this afternoon announced the signings of the free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Just weeks after winning their second title in franchise history, the Miami Heat bolstered their roster in preparation for their title defense.
Ray Allen will go back to using his previous No. 34 jersey and Rashard Lewis will use the No. 9 for the Heat next season.
Allen opted not to return to the Boston Celtics, but join the team that knocked him out of the playoffs last season in the Eastern Conference finals. Lewis agreed to a buyout with the New Orleans Hornets after being traded there, making him a free agent.
The pair add their specialized three-point shooting to the roster that lacks shooters. In the finals, Mike Miller and Shane Battier showed just how dangerous the Heat are with knock down shooters.
Allen and Lewis are much better than what the Heat had before when it comes to shooters, and therefore should be even scarier to face.
Lewis also adds an interesting dimension with the Heat going all-in with small-ball. Lewis’ size allows the Heat to bring in another perimeter player without sacrificing a ton of size. At 6’10″, Lewis can play the 3 or the 4 with LeBron playing the other and Bosh the 5 without giving up that much size.
During the introduction, both players talked about their roles and what they hope to do in Miami.
Lewis: My role on this team is to do whatever the staff wants me to do to win ball games, and that’s what I’m going to do. #WeGotRashard
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) July 11, 2012
Ray: I’m not going to try & win on my own terms, but on what Coach Spo and Pat Riley needs and wants to win another championship. #WeGotRay
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) July 11, 2012
And yes, the Heat organization really did use the obnoxious “#WeGot…” hashtag. Although it’s hard to hate on a team that just keeps winning.
It seems that both players are committed to getting a ring and doing whatever it takes to assist the big dogs in Wade and LeBron rather than be significant stars. With new and improved role players, the Heat are definitely the favorites to win another ring next season.
The next question becomes, who’s going to be the next veteran looking to tag along on the journey for a ring?
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com
I couldn’t hide my exhilaration when I heard the Chicago Bulls agreed to terms with Kirk Hinrich. My first thought was, “Bring on Miami,” because now they have the pieces to take them down.
Of course I’m kidding. To say Hinrich is a letdown when the Miami Heat get Ray Allen, Boston comes to terms with Jason Terry, and Brooklyn pulls off a trade acquiring Joe Johnson and are working on possibly bringing Dwight Howard to town, is a huge understatement.
You have to question why the Bulls keep ending up with the leftovers. Everyone the Bulls compete with is getting better while Chicago is going back in time with Hinrich.
It’s not just the cap space, either. Allen agreed to a 3-year, $9 million contract to play with Miami instead of going back to Boston for double the money.
In Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent column on Yahoo Sports, Wojnarowski called Pat Riley, “Basketball’s most persuasive recruiter.” The same column quoted a source as saying, “The presentation was incredible.”
Riley assured Allen how much he was wanted in Miami and sold him on multiple championships awaiting him there.
There-in lies the Chicago Bulls’ problem.
Everybody places the blame for the Bulls missing out on elite free-agents on cold weather, cap space, no state income tax in Miami and Derrick Rose‘s reluctance to recruit.
The real problem lies in the teams’ front office.
Representing the Bulls are Gar Forman and John Paxson. They are both nice guys and good basketball men, but they are not dynamic.
They have made some nice moves securing Nikola Mirotic in a draft-day trade last year and acquiring a first round pick from Charlotte for Tyrus Thomas, but that’s where the difference lies.
When it comes to selling players to come to Chicago, they come up empty-handed.
On one side you have the slick, Armani-suited Pat Riley flashing his rings while the Bulls have Jed and Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.
For arguments sake, let’s say Wade wanted to stay in Miami. Wade is standing there with Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, who decided to stick around. Other than that, they have nothing.
Waiting for them in Chicago is Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik. In other words—a team.
In Miami they were banking on a hope and a prayer to fill out the roster, yet Riley convinced them to come to South Beach.
You could say it was collusion on their part and that was the plan ever since the three of them played together in the Olympics.
But why couldn’t the Bulls have convinced Allen to come to Chicago in 2010? His contract was up and his defensive coach got the head job. Didn’t the Bulls appear to be a team on the cusp of greatness, while the Celtics were old even then? Wasn’t the future looking brighter in Chicago?
The Bulls had enough to sign him to be their shooting guard. Instead, they ended up with Bogans, and we all know how that turned out. Everyone said the Bulls were only a shooting guard away from beating the Heat.
In the best free agent summer in years, the Bulls ended up with Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Bogans. Not exactly the cover boys for NBA 2k11.
Being nice only gets you so far. Chicago Bulls fans have seen that is not far enough, and now the next few years are looking dim.
Those responsible for leading the team in Chicago can’t close the deal. Players will take less if you can sell them on the idea. Nobody with the Bulls is capable of doing that.
If Riley was in Chicago and Forman and Paxson in Miami, things would be much different right now.
People can keep making excuses why the Bulls are losing out on everybody, but isn’t the answer obvious?
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com
MIAMI Larry Bird didn’t mention any names. But it sure sounds as if he wouldn’t be a fan of free-agent guard Ray Allen taking less money to join the Miami Heat.
In an interview with ESPN, the Hall of Famer who recently stepped down as Indiana president, said what he doesn’t like about how the Heat have put together a team that just won a title and is shooting for more.
The one thing that bothers me the most is guys taking big pay cuts for a year to go down there and try to win a championship, Bird told ESPN. Theres a lot of guys who like to ride the coattails of the best and theyll take a pay cut just to have an opportunity to win that ring.
Allen, who will visit Miami on Thursday, has been offered a three-year, 9.53 million deal by the Heat, well below the two-year, 12 million offer the Celtics have on the table for him to re-sign. The most the Heat can offer any free agent for next season is the 3.09 million taxpayer exception.
The Heat in the summer of 2010 brought in free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join a re-signed Dwyane Wade. It paid off as Miami last month beat Oklahoma City for the NBA championship.
I always say you got to play by the rules, and, if thats the rules, thats the rules, Bird told ESPN about how the Heat put their team together. But to have the best player (James) and probably the fifth- or sixth-best player (Wade), and a top-20 player (Bosh), thats tough to compete against.
For bringing together the three stars, Heat president Pat Riley was named 2010-11 NBA co-Executive of the Year. Bird won the award last season for having constructed a team in a different manner, patiently building up Indiana through the draft and trades.
While with the Pacers, Bird saw up close what James did in leading the Heat to the title. James, who averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in the postseason, had 40 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in Game 4 of an East semifinal in which Miami beat Indiana 4-2.
If you go back to the beginning of the playoffs, has anyone ever had a better run? Bird told ESPN about James. Itd seem like youd have a bad game once in awhile. He never did have a bad game. He was so focused, and just seeing his confidence build and build and build. He should go down in history as one of the top, top players and maybe he can get close to Michael (Jordan).
If James, who won his first title, ends up rivaling Jordan, who claimed six, at least Bird wont have to be on the wrong end of it if he remains retired.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson
Next season will be much like the past two for the Heat, as they will be depending on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the majority of their production. That being said, their supporting cast needs to be improved to take some pressure off their big three.
The Heat will certainly focus on acquiring a big man, as it was proven throughout the postseason that the most effective way to score against their world-class defense is inside.
The chief problem that the Heat will face in free agency will be how to improve their team with very little cap flexibility.
The Heat front office must be careful in free agency, as they must make sure that they sign players that will mesh with their existing team. Here are some players that Pat Riley should avoid bringing to South Beach.