“I think what happened with winning, is it will, as I said, really sort of free up to a different storyline,” Riley said, “that LeBron James is more than just a scorer; he’s a winner. And we saw what he did in the playoffs and his performance.
“And Chris Bosh and Mike Miller and Shane Battier, and all these guys, now you don’t have to talk about, ‘Well, you never won one.’ So let’s free it up now and just be a team, and just be a team and not have to worry about that kind of thing.
“I’m sort of excited of just being able to hopefully go through something that’s normal, that a great team would go through, and sort of growing.”
Photos: Check out pictures from the Miami Heat NBA championship parade
But Riley also appreciates lessons need to be heeded.
He said that dark place his team inhabited before this ultimate jubilation should be remembered as vividly as the celebration following Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
“One of the things that you need to think about, all of us, after last year, how did we feel when we got beat by Dallas here?” he said in the postgame interview room at AmericanAirlines Arena. “You saw guys falling down in the hallway here, because of their disappointment and how discouraged they were.
“So whatever the players did last summer, I would advise them to try to go back to their caves and hibernate again. Or whoever they talked to, at least get back to that state of mind. And I think you learn so much as a team that’s been to the Finals and you lose it and then you win it.”
At a time some expected him to scale back, Riley said having a championship core in place takes him back to his days as Los Angeles Lakers coach, when Lakers General Manager Jerry West unceasingly maintained championship success.
“I was with a Laker team that had a 12-year run with a bunch of guys,” Riley said. “Jerry West was adding pieces to it. [Bob] McAdoo was first, and then there was A.C. Green and Maurice Lucas, and then there was Mychal Thompson. And that’s my job.
“My job is to keep trying to add pieces to it. I know we’re in a different time now, but that’s what I want to do. This is the beginning of time to build something that I think can be very unique.”
The championship ultimately left Riley in a conflicted place, appreciating how close he was to already overseeing a two-time defending champion. Again, that’s where his Lakers lineage entered.
“Last year was a major disappointment and maybe the best thing that ever happened to the team,” he said. “But I never look at it that way. When you get a chance to win the title and you don’t, it’s an absolute, not failure, but it’s not good and it doesn’t help anybody. But born out of that adversity came this great year.”
The last time the Heat won a championship, in 2006, the franchise careened, not to win another playoff series until 2011, falling to 15-67 along the way.
Riley doesn’t envision a repeat, not with this group.
“I think they want to win so badly that any kind of real selfishness like that, that can get in the way of that, will be snuffed out quick,” he said. “They’re too smart. There’s some real smart guys in that locker room that aren’t going to let any of that stuff happen.”
IN THE LANE
EVERYONE PLAYS: In addressing the lineup dynamic his team developed during the postseason, where the lane was cleared for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade by playing Chris Bosh at center and Shane Battier at power forward, Heat President Pat Riley in essence may have acknowledged the end of an era of the Heat featuring non-scorers in the lineup, such as Joel Anthony and his defensive-minded predecessors in the middle. “Small ball is becoming a big thing in the league,” Riley said, “and I think it’s going to become even bigger in how you can find space for your great players, with one big that can be an offensive-minded player that has to be guarded.”
WHAT POSITION?: To Riley, even positional delineations might become moot. That notion was offered after James, 27, said he did not know if he would be as comfortable playing as much power forward as he did in the playoffs as he draws closer to 30. Countered Riley, “There’s no four anymore, there really isn’t,” he said of the numerical designation for a power forward. “Offenses have evolved in a way that conventional center/power forwards that we had for years, and the offenses that were run to be able to deal with these lineups – ‘small forward,’ ‘off guard,’ ‘point guard’ — it’s no longer that way.” All Riley knows is James looked good operating at the position formerly known as power forward. “At the end of the playoffs, he was very effective, very impactful from the post and from the elbow,” he said, “and his game sort of looked like it changed.”
INSIDE INFLUENCE: So how involved will the Heat’s stars be in the free agency? Riley was careful to not necessarily cede any power. “I mean, we would probably talk to our key guys, if only because players really know the other players,” he said. “Whatever we get from scouting reports or things like that, or background checks and stuff, players really know other players and also they have their opinions. So you would respect that, but that wouldn’t be something you would really, totally rely on. But we would definitely run names by them, because I’d want to know what they think of ‘em.”
MINDING MINUTES: Among concerns of potential Heat free-agent targets could be the lack of openings in the lineup. Riley said Battier, the team’s prime 2011 offseason acquisition, stood as an example of such worries being overstated. “Shane knew coming in last year, he knew we didn’t make an agreement with him guaranteeing playing time,” Riley said. “But we said we felt he would play a significant role, a real significant role with this team, and it become one of the most important roles.”
TAXING CONCERNS: While Riley downplayed the potential use of the one-time amnesty clause this offseason, he said it doesn’t mean than the luxury tax will not eventually be addressed. Owner Micky Arison made it clear that bypassing a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft had nothing to do with the luxury tax, and Riley said Arison remains open to paying the tax in exchange for championship contention. “We do talk about what might happen two years from now, with the recidivist tax and the fact that, you know, obviously we’re in the tax,” Riley said. “He loves winning championships, but there’s also a limit, regardless of that, and we have to be very conscious of it.”
34. Playoff victories by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, which ties him with Pat Riley for the franchise record.
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