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Riley speaks out, insists Heat will be competitive

MIAMI (AP) -- One of the last things Miami Heat President Pat Riley told LeBron James before free agency began this summer was that he would be selling potential players on the notion of playing alongside a four-time NBA MVP.

And James never made him think otherwise, Riley said - until roughly the same moment that the entire world was made aware of his plan to go home.

Did The Big Three Meet Expectations?

Riley made that revelation Wednesday, shortly after the Heat completed the signing of Chris Bosh to a $118 million, five-year contract and essentially wrapped up their roster-rebuilding project for next season, the first of the post-LeBron era in Miami.

The Heat have 12 players locked in for next season, Bosh and Dwyane Wade foremost among them, and Riley expects the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions to compete once again this coming year. But much of his first session offering in-depth remarks about free agency revolved, predictably, about James - the MVP who got away.

"I went into it with the thought and the notion that he was coming back and I was selling that to players," Riley said. "I believed that firmly so I was selling that to players. And that's the only way I went into it. I let him know that. . He never said to me, `No, don't do that.'"

Riley, however, noted that he did not feel misled by James during free agency.

James is now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that he left for Miami in 2010, four trips to the NBA Finals and two championships ago. The Heat scrambled quickly to move on to Plan B, locking up Bosh (whose signing was agreed to weeks ago) and Wade before long and avoiding what could have been an absolute disaster otherwise.

Riley said he's become energized by the task of building a champion again.

"We are up to the challenge," Riley said. "We're going to be as competitive as anybody, I think, in the Eastern Conference. I feel great, right now, today, making sure that we got Chris signed, got him under contract, and got D-Wade back and Udonis (Haslem) and the core of our foundation and we'll go from here."

Before he announced his decision, James and his inner circle summoned Riley and Heat general manager Andy Elisburg to Las Vegas for a meeting.

Riley and Elisburg left believing they had done well.

A day later, James was meeting with Sports Illustrated, collaborating on the first-person essay that would come out and announce his decision to return to Cleveland. The Heat were told of the contents of that essay moments before it was released publicly.

"I don't get hurt," Riley said. "This is business. This is all business. As soon as something happens in this business, I had to react, we had to react as an organization, and we did."

Riley said Wednesday that once the Heat learned that James was leaving, it was too late to get involved in the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, who wound up re-signing with the New York Knicks.

Still, it was more than a salvage project. Wade and Bosh are both likely Hall of Fame players. The Heat wound up with some of their top free-agent targets in players like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, both of whom Riley raved about about.

Perhaps most importantly, the Heat not only figure to be good enough to compete now, but have the flexibility financially for Riley to go out in the already-anticipated free-agent summer of 2016 and try to build what he did when he got James, Wade and Bosh to team up.

And instead of blasting James - as Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did when he left Cleveland in 2010 - the Heat have taken the high road, with managing general partner Micky Arison writing an open letter to fans this week reminding them that even without James, the franchise's goal of winning more titles hasn't changed.

"We're going to try to make it another generational team," Riley said.

Join the discussion

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coatoam August 01 2014 at 6:21 AM

Riley is taking the "high road" because he knows LBJ only has a one year contract with Cleveland. One year from now if LBJ stays with Clevelamd Riley and Arison will be singing a different tune. Basically they are getting a taste of their own medicine, and that's the ultimate irony in this whole affair.

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mhcontain coatoam August 01 2014 at 3:46 PM

2 year

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mojo working July 31 2014 at 10:30 PM

THE heaT WON'T GET PAST INDIANA !~

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1 reply
onlitradehh mojo working July 31 2014 at 11:54 PM

Indiana should be the team to beat in the east I don't foresee much competition. They will hopefully mature from this past season. Under Bird's guidance he will lead them to the holy land. He has been there and knows how to get there. All they need to do is focus.

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1 reply
Dave onlitradehh August 01 2014 at 3:15 PM

???!!! Pacers are most definitely NOT the team to beat in the East. Without Lance Stephenson there are now a few teams in the East that will do more than just play them competitively- Chicago, for one.

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MAD_DAWG1 July 31 2014 at 7:44 PM

Lebron will NEVER BE GIVING ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP.

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3 replies
FAFIAN and Assoc August 01 2014 at 11:33 AM

At least LeBron did not fax in his departure as Riley did when he left the Knicks as coach.

After what he did leaving New York, Riley can never complain about how one of his players communicates his decision to leave a Riley team

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jdrpa August 01 2014 at 11:33 AM

I wish Lebron all the best - he is a mercenary in a game filled with mercenaries. As for Cleveland I have just one word - HYPOCRITES

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richcantwell109 August 01 2014 at 9:29 AM

I will never understand the over-rating of Bosh. He just isn't that good. Doesn't excell in any area of the game, yet he's given these huge contracts. Why? I thought San Antonio (Duncan) had exposed this.

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1 reply
sctt1746 richcantwell109 August 01 2014 at 12:33 PM

I totally agree!

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arizjoe July 31 2014 at 10:19 PM

I think Riles will try like heck to have a competitive team. But D Wade's knee is gonna ache more with another year. And some of these very good complementary players (like Haslem) have little left in the thank.

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1 reply
hugh4u2 arizjoe August 01 2014 at 5:16 AM

wade always needs somebody to carry him, he needed shaq first the LBJ. i bet he's crying like a baby now that he might have to play harder and lose. KARMA

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hugh4u2 August 01 2014 at 5:11 AM

riley and wade are only worried about their own NBA legacy, they used LBJ as a tool to make them look better.

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1 reply
jdrpa hugh4u2 August 01 2014 at 11:29 AM

WOW - I think thats what a GM is supposed to do - Donk

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belldn3 August 01 2014 at 9:03 AM

Stop playing the sympathy card Pat, you'll went to the championship game four times in a row. James owes you nothing.

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gasmanrobe August 01 2014 at 9:46 AM

what happened was that lebron was still looking for his dad and cleveland found him and told lebron that the´y will pay his dads child support money if he came back.money trumps.

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