For the first time since putting last season to rest, Miami Heat President Pat Riley spoke in depth Friday about where his team stands coming off its NBA Finals loss and where it is headed in this lockout-shortened 66-game season that opens Dec. 25 on the road against the Dallas Mavericks.
Of primary interest in Riley’s annual preseason state-of-the-franchise media session at AmericanAirlines Arena was the status of fourth-year coach Erik Spoelstra, who had been heading into the final season of his contract, and the team’s inability to land a proven big man.
The coaching issue, Riley revealed Friday, has been resolved.
“Erik’s contract has been extended,” Riley said, declining to give the length of the extension. “We have one of the great young coaches in the league.”
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Upon last week’s start of camp, Spoelstra said he did not view his status as an issue, saying, “I’ve been here for 16 years and I plan on being here for a while. . . . I don’t think any of the things we go through will be a distraction, certainly not my situation.”
Friday, Riley said, “We want him to become a Hall of Famer. So we took care of that.”
Riley declined to say when the deal was completed, saying only, “recently. It’s been in the works for a while.”
“He’s the perfect coach for this team. He never would have been a lame-duck coach,” Riley said.
Riley said he also is allowing Spoelstra to find his own way.
“Contrary to what people might think,” Riley said, “I am not a helicopter flying over him all the time. I give him freedom and space.”
When asked if he plans to continue in his role, Riley said, “Me? What am I going to do? I love this team. The lockout drove me crazy.”
As for adding size in the middle beyond returning center Joel Anthony, Riley said at the end of last season, “We would like to get size. We would like to get length. Joel Anthony has done an incredible job and he will get better. But we’d like to get size.”
Instead the Heat are in camp with Anthony, free-agent Eddy Curry, who has played only 10 games over the past three seasons due to injury and conditioning issues, and second-year Dexter Pittman, who played 11 total minutes as a rookie.
Ultimately, the Heat found themselves priced out of centers on a free-agent market that delivered a $ 7 million, one-year deal to Kwame Brown.
“We’re looking and we will wait for something to develop, but guys are going to have to do more,” Riley said. “We are definitely on the lookout for players. We hope that Eddy Curry (could) get back to a game we think could be very effective. The improvement of Dexter Pittman . . . we have to go in that route right now.
“We will continue to try to tweak the team.”
Riley said Curry remains absorbing.
“He’s a talent: huge body, quick feet, great hands,” Riley said. “He’s an intriguing player for us.”
On other issues:
– Of improving his capped-out team, Riley said, “You’re going to see us either make trades or you’re going to see us find a diamond in the rough, we hope.”
– On returning his roster mostly intact, Riely said, “Continuity for us is going to be a little easier.”
– On the NBA studying HGH testing: Riley said, “I hope I’m not tested. I’d flunk it … That’s a joke. I’m 66 years old.”
– On first-round pick Norris Cole, the point guard who was so impressive and Thursday’s scrimmage, Riley said, “I haven’t said a word to him this week, because he is so focused, so mature about how to get better.”
– When asked if the Heat had interest in Gilbert Arenas and James Posey, who are now free agents through amnesty, Riley said, “not right now.”
– Riley said Heat never considered an amnesty move with Mike Miller. “We love Mike,” he said.
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