Thursday, February 09, 2017

"Why Heat players are so appreciative of Pat Riley and Riley’s message to fans"

YES, this is a homer plant to counteract the bad pub Riley has gotten since LBJ went back to Mistakeland and D-Wade decamped to Chi. Yes, Riley wants some credit and yes, he gets it here. But that credit is deserved and these quotes from the players are not the less real. Riley and Micky Arison have a helluva organization in Miami, one that is widely admired and acknowledged.

[Derrick] Williams said he would visit Riley in his office all season and Riley showed him “clips of guys he wants me to be like.” Williams declined to identify those players but said Riley spoke to him about once a week and tried “to help me do better. He gives encouragement, says he sees a bright future for myself and that nothing is easy.”

(Williams agreed to terms with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, according to multiple reports.)

While the Heat coaching staff has helped extract more from Dion Waiters, the fifth-year guard also raves about the impact Riley has had on him.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place and first and foremost, having a guy like Pat Riley, who’s seen it all,” Waiters said. “The whole coaching staff and organization, how we do things, just the talks I have with him, I needed it to shape me into who I am and who I’m becoming.

“Pat and I talk about off the court stuff: life, fatherhood. We talk about basketball stuff, too. I might go to his office if I haven’t seen him in a while, pick his brain. It’s great. Me and coach [Erik Spoelstra] have great communication too.”

Riley recently told Waiters that he’s proud of him.

“I never met him in person before this,” Waiters said. “The confidence he had in me before any of this was [key]. He said he’s been watching from afar, and that makes you smile because somebody acknowledges your talent.”

Hassan Whiteside said he and Riley have had at least five substantive conversations this season and “you can’t even imagine how much I value them. It’s 60 to 70 percent about life, 30 percent basketball. He's got so much basketball insight. It's not too many people where their office is always open for you like that.”

His message to Whiteside? “He says: ‘Trust the process. You're a great player; you know that. It will be up and down for you, but stay with it, and as long as you stay with it and stay a good guy, everything is going to work out for you.’”

For Willie Reed, Riley’s message has been to “continue to bring that high motor energy.”

For Rodney McGruder, the message is a simple one: “’Keep working hard.’ He likes my work ethic. I feel I should shake his hand every time I see him. You have to pay respect to a legend like that. [This offseason], I want to ask him, ‘What do you think I need to improve on?’ He’s coached the greatest of the greats.”

Tyler Johnson, after a lengthy one-on-one conversation with Riley earlier this season, said: “I try to stop by to talk to him as much as possible. Pat never has a shortage of things he has to tell you. Sometimes it's about ball. Sometimes it's about life.

“He gives you a different perspective of it because he's been a player, a coach, a GM. He understands basketball from all angles. He gives you insight you wouldn't otherwise have.”

So if you ask if Riley, at 71, can still relate to players like he once did, can still command a room, don’t have any questions about that.

Okay, Barry, we won't ask any more questions about that.

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