The Riley screwed us over with his arrogance narrative hit a crescendo last night only because conquering hero and returning son and beloved one Dwyane Wade, a Riley draft pick who he refused to trade to the Lakers to acquire Shaquille O’Neal, was back in house. Not for the first time, Riley’s behavior was center stage.
In this entire soap opera saga, professional Dwyane Wade has been perceived as the victim. No one throws shade his way for the big money Wade was willing to bolt Miami for. Because Riley deliberately shut Wade out and gave him the cold shoulder when it was Riley’s job as Wade’s boss to communicate, all this hate has come Riley’s way. It could have been easily solved by Riley. Be present in negotiations. Say, yes, I want you here. Or, no, we are moving in a different direction. Yes, we want to pay you but can we compromise on the amount? No, the Kobe contract is not on the table. But Riley said nothing. All of us have been in relationships when someone has stormed out or stopped talking. It is infuriating. So all the sympathy was for the hero. We were on his side. Damn you, Pat Riley.
Right on cue, because if nothing else, Riley is brilliant and sees the product he is responsible for flailing away, is Riley contrition. At this point, what is left to say? The Wade-less Heat don’t have the talent or the depth to compete with top or mid-level teams. They need a star. Hassan Whiteside is a nice enough Wade replacement player whose motor wanes at times but he isn’t a star. Plus, this is a guard league now.
So here Riley was last night with national television staring him in the face as the villain, the man who broke this whole thing up. He did a Pat Riley thing. He seized the moment. He said he was sorry.
Not in those exact words. He told David Aldridge of TNT that he should have given Wade the Kobe deal in 2014 when he signed Chris Bosh to a max deal. He owned up to his mistake. It sounded oh so very pretty and humane and something believable if you didn’t know that Riley had deliberately not spoken to Wade the past four months. He could have told Wade the day after he signed in Chicago he made a mistake. He didn’t. He could have said, oops Dwyane, my bad. But no. He stewed and simmered. He may have been mad at himself. He may have been mad at Wade for dissing him publicly and turning his back on the Heat. Riley obsesses about loyalty. And that is where the irony is in all of this.
Pat Riley wasn’t loyal. When he offered Wade $10 million, he was telling Wade you don’t matter anymore.
According to reports, Riley sent Wade some e-mails. But four months after the fact and the day Wade comes home feels a little bit opportunistic and calculated, something for the media to chew on so Riley’s image as a bully and dictator would be softened a bit.
Riley is a smart man, a genius motivator and a master builder. He played in the league and won and lost. He coached in the league and won and lost. He built teams that weren’t very good and he built teams that were historic. He isn’t sorry. He did what he did on purpose.
He and every other G.M. is pissed at Jeanie Buss for what they gave Kobe Bryant. It set a precedent. Every agent of a Hall of Fame player on the backside of his career is going to want what Kobe got. The G.M.’s see the result. The Lakers never made the playoffs. They weren’t competitive. But this is what also happened.
The summer after the Kobe contract, the Lakers drafted high in the lottery and grabbed Julius Randle. In the second round, they bought Jordan Clarkson from the Wizards, the 46th pick. The second year and another Kobe injury, this one to his shoulder, they drafted D’Angelo Russell and Larry Nance Jr. The third year, Kobe’s retirement year, they drafted Brandon Ingram. Collectively they are 21 years old, 24 years old, 20 years old, 23 years old and 19 years old. What are they doing this year?
57.1 points. 47.3% field goals. 44 offensive rebounds. 104 assists. 38 steals. It affects the team positively. The Lakers are 3rd in points, 6th in field goal percentage, 3rd in offensive rebounds, 12th in assists and 3rd in steals.
Were the Lakers a disaster for three seasons of Kobe’s contract? Yes. Yes. Has it paid dividends now? Yes.
To get good you have to be willing to be a disaster. What Pat Riley wanted was Wade to go away and to get Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin and avoid purgatory and the top of the lottery. And so this is the team he is stuck with. He may indeed have the negative benefits of the Kobe contract, a lottery team for three years. But unlike the Lakers, he will have no superstar to fill the seats and give a loving farewell to.
Riley can only see what Riley sees. His way. These are his results. He wants to go the nice route now so the Heat fans can forgive him. But Riley isn’t that type of man to make a decision and then feel regret. He is the type of man who makes a decision and then lives with the consequences.
photo via llananba