Pat Riley wants Heat younger, faster
MIAMI -- Miami Heat president Pat Riley wants his team to get younger.
During a Friday conference call with the media, Riley said that the Heat's draft selection of speedy point guard Norris Cole is part of the organization's offseason strategy to get younger and faster heading into next season.
"There's going to be two roster spots left, maybe three, that we want to save to make sure that when free agency comes, that we have an opportunity to fill them with young, energetic, veteran players," Riley said.
With Cole, the Heat have nine players under contract for next season including LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who officially opted in for 2011-12 on Wednesday.
As part of his two-year deal with the Heat, signed in the summer of 2010, Ilguaskas, 36, held a player's option for 2011-12.
As part of the effort to restock with younger players, Riley indicated that he is holding a three-day workout "this week" involving 15 players, including free agents.
"We're trying to get something in early," Riley said. "We're just trying to get in under the gun here and take a look at some players."
Mario Chalmers can leave as a restricted free agent, but Riley included Chalmers in his outlook for next season, although the Heat still need to re-sign the third-year veteran once he hits the open market. The Heat have already extended a qualifying offer to Chalmers, which enables the club the right to match any offer from other teams in free agency.
If House, Jones, and Chalmers return to the Heat as Riley expects, Miami will have 12 spots filled on the 15-man roster.
The Heat fielded a notoriously aging roster last season, electing to fill the open spots with veterans on the league minimum instead of taking fliers with younger players. That gave the Heat more experience, but all the miles slowed them down and made them more susceptible to injury.
Despite boasting two of the most potent open court players in the league in James and Wade, the Heat ranked 21st in pace factor last season, which is a measure of possessions per 48 minutes. When asked about whether the Heat are looking to play more uptempo next season, Riley said he expects head coach Erik Spoelstra to step on the gas.
"That's going to be up to Erik and I think he will try to generate more of a running game next year than we had this year," Riley said. "But we haven't really sat down and discussed it since the end of the season. But we do want to get some quick players."
All four players were on veteran minimum contracts last season and will hit free agency this summer. Riley gave no indication that any of those veterans will return to the Heat next season, but did emphasize that the Heat want to turn back the clock.
"That's how we've been built thus far," Riley said about the Heat's experienced roster. "We're going to add more young players to the mix through free agency if we can."
Although Ilgauskas opted in for next season, Riley said he wouldn't rule out the center's retirement.
"I personally think he has a lot left in the tank," Riley said. "We plan on having him on the roster next year, but he still could retire. I encouraged him not to retire because I still think he can help somebody and I want that somebody to be us."
The NBA's collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on June 30 and if the players and owners can't come to an agreement before then, there will be a lockout beginning July 1.
There is a possibility that the Heat won't have the luxury of using a mid-level exception under the next CBA, which would severely hinder the Miami's flexibility to sign free agents. There is no word on whether there will be a hard or soft cap going forward.
Riley said he will have to wait and see how the labor talks affect his plans. "Once we know what we're dealing with and what the rules are, then we're going to try to be as aggressive as we've ever been in the free agent market to add to this team," Riley said.
"That's the only way we're going to be able to do it."
Tom Haberstroh covers the NBA for ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine.
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