Pat Riley’s offseason message to LeBron James is simple: Don’t give up now.
In an effort to proactively begin his courtship of James before other suitors, the Heat’s president of basketball operations called a news conference Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena that was carried live by ESPN and NBA TV. After 52 minutes of sermonizing and storytelling from Riley, it’s clear now that there is no guarantee LeBron James will be staying in Miami. In classic Riley fashion, he summed up the uncertainty of this offseason by referencing song lyrics.
This time, Riley said the R&B classic Just Once by James Ingram fit just right.
“Just read those lyrics,” Riley said.
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Among the song’s more poignant messages:
Seems nothing ever changes, we’re back to being strangers; Wondering if we ought a stay or head on out the door.
And then this: Just once, can’t we find a way to finally make it right; To make the magic last for more than just one night.
And finally: Why can’t we get ourselves in hand and admit to one another; We’re no good without each other.
For four years, the Heat’s core of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have been very good together. They made it to four consecutive NBA Finals and won two. Riley’s pitch to James emphasized the positive.
“I think we need to have a perspective about things. I think everyone needs to get a grip: media, Heat players, organization, all of our fans,” Riley said. “We’ve got to get a grip on greatness and on teams.”
The Heat’s historic run began in the summer of 2010 with a skewed perspective, of course, when the team organized an offseason pep rally to celebrate its free agency coup. James then famously declared the Heat would win multiple championships. Four years later, Riley’s message is quite the opposite.
“What cements a forever bond is what we went through this year and staying the course,” Riley said. “We’re going to find out what we’re made of here. It’s not about options. It’s not about free agency. It’s not about anything.
“It’s about what we have built over four years here, and we have a chance to do something significant. But losing is just as much a part of it as winning, and when you’re a team you deal with it.”
It is very much about player options and free agency, though. James, Wade and Bosh have until the end of the month to exercise early termination clauses in their contracts.
If they opt out, they could explore free agency or re-sign with the Heat for more money.
Theoretically, the players could also opt out and re-sign for less money, but Riley seemed doubtful of that scenario. There have been reports of James, Wade and Bosh restructuring their deals to add Carmelo Anthony, but Riley called those rumors “pipe dreams.”
“It’s just looking around the room now and finding out who’s going to stand up,” Riley said. “And this time you go home and take care of yourself, and look at yourself, and what are you going to do to come back and make the team better because we have a tremendous opportunity here for long-term success, but don’t think that we’re not going to get beat again.
“Get a grip, everybody. That’s my message to everybody, and that’s my message to the players also.”