Pat Riley has been blessed. Not just with basketball talent as a player, coach, or executive, but the Miami Heat president has also been lucky enough to count himself as a life-long NBA elitist.
The Heat, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers play on a different field than the rest of the league, one dramatically enhanced by weather, night life, and glamour that the majority of NBA cities don’t possess. And while Riley obviously contributed to each franchise becoming something far more than a destination alone, his perspective on team-building is jaded nonetheless.
Indirectly bemoaning tanking, the nine-time champion stressed his belief that stars are had on the open market as opposed to the draft. Here’s Riley via Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:
“For me, it’s not through the draft, because lottery picks are living a life of misery. That season is miserable. And if you do three or four years in a row to get lottery picks, then I’m in an insane asylum. And the fans will be, too. So who wants to do that?”
Well, nobody wants to do that. But the inevitable standing of most franchises in player circles can render want irrelevant and need the only thing that matters.
How else are the Philadelphia 76ers, for instance, supposed to get their hands on multiple stars other than through the draft? Philly lacks the storied history of the Boston Celtics or recent success of the San Antonio Spurs, not to mention the obvious draws of places like Miami, New York City, or Los Angeles. The Oklahoma City Thunder took an approach to long-term construction similar to the Sixers’, and have enjoyed a half-decade of title contention as a result.
And just because Riley struck gold in 2010 hardly means he will going forward, either. That was a unique situation for all parties involved; would LeBron James have really packed his bags for South Beach if Dwyane Wade wasn’t one of his closest friends? What if a max-level free agent of Chris Bosh’s caliber is unwilling to play second fiddle or third banana?
There’s no concrete way to manufacture championship legitimacy, basically. By refusing to acknowledge the prospect of benefits gleaned from tanking, Riley can’t see the other side of the coin. And while that’s not surprising considering his NBA pedigree, such willing negligence could still come back to bite the Heat going forward.