HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As impressive and entertaining as Pat Riley‘s first public words about LeBron James, the Heat and free agency were a few weeks ago, I think we can all agree a different approach is needed now.
Riley’s scheduled face-to-face meeting with LeBron today in Las Vegas probably won’t touch on anyone cutting and running now that the things have gotten a little more complicated. The tough guy routine won’t make it through the door of whatever luxury hotel they turn into the center of the basketball universe.
Riley’s “stay the course” diatribe in the aftermath of the Heat’s Game 5 defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals last month was epic, an instant classic. But it’s useless now, especially with rumblings that LeBron and his camp are seriously considering a return to their Cleveland and Northeast Ohio roots in free agency.
James hasn’t spoken to Riley face-to-face since exiting the premises after The Finals and before free agency began, when his agent, Rich Paul, took control off the process. Paul met with officials from the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers while James stayed away and spent time with his family.
Now the Heat family — a contingent including Riley, Dwyane Wade, Heat owner Mickey Arison and head coach Erik Spoelstra — will give their best recruiting speeches to convince James to stick around and help keep the Heat’s Big 3 together.
If we are to believe all of the smoke that billowed into the free-agency air over the weekend, it could be a tougher sell than the one Riley and Co. made four years ago when they convinced LeBron to leave Cleveland for South Beach and the lure of multiple title chases.
Notably absent from the Heat’s guest list is Chris Bosh, who like James and Wade is an unrestricted free agent. He has a max contract offer from the Rockets that he’s seriously considering, at least until he hears what James is going to do in regards to the Heat.
Riley has expressed all this confidence that the Heat’s Big Three will indeed return intact, and yet they are coming at James full force today. Something doesn’t add up. Which is exactly why I suspect Riley’s tone to change dramatically from what we hard from him weeks ago, when he compared James, Wade and Bosh to some of the great dynasties the NBA has seen and challenged them to do what Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers did and Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics did two generations ago.
“Don’t run,” Riley said then, before anyone had opted out of a contract and the Heat still seemed to be operating from a position of power.
“I’m not going to drop any rings on the table …,” he continued.
A kinder and gentler approach might be more prudent, especially at this juncture. The basketball world has changed a bit since July 1. Perspectives have changed, too.
While the Heat remain LeBron’s most viable option to get back to The Finals in 2015, provided the band comes back together again with a few tweaks, they are certainly not his only option for making repeated trips to The Finals in the future.
So it’ll be interesting to see how Riley’s tone changes now, with LeBron in complete control of the futures of so many.