The Miami Heat had a great season that ended one missed Jimmy Butler three-point attempt short of their second trip to the NBA Finals in three years. Heat President Pat Riley addressed the media this week to close out the year, and addressed many concerns for the team moving forward. Two of the more attention-grabbing topics he touched on were the status of Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry.
Although Riley left the sideline over a decade ago, he still has Heat players’ undivided attention and respect, more importantly. Anyone who’s been around long enough to remember Riley as coach of the Heat, Knicks, or Lakers knows he isn’t one to hold his tongue. When Riley has something to say, you can count on it being heard, whether it’s in public or said privately.
So, when Riley answered the question about Herro becoming a Heat starter, he did what he always does and kept it real.
“The next step for him — and I think we’re seeing this in the league — if you want to win a championship and you wanna be a starter, you really have to become a two-way player today,” Riley said Monday. “You have to improve in certain areas of your game. I saw improvement in his defense this year, he’s got great, quick feet ...
“But as far as being a starter, come to training camp and win it. Sometimes it’s that easy, and sometimes the fit was better for us coming in, balancing the energy of scoring and having somebody who can really control the ball. If he wants to be a starter, we’ll see in October. That’s something that you earn. There’s no doubt he has the qualities to be that.”
Hopefully, Herro took no issue with Riley calling him out and challenging him to go take a starting position. Tyler had a great year off the bench, winning Sixth Man of the Year honors averaging just under 21 ppg and shooting 40 percent from three-point range. As good as that was alongside Herro’s growth as a pro, the big NBA dollars go to starters, stars, and superstars. So, if he wants to take his career to that next level, Riley is exactly right about what he needs to do.
Lowry’s name also came up and addressing his conditioning this offseason sounds like it’ll be a focal point for Riley and the Heat. Another thing well known about playing for any Riley-led team is you are expected to be in great shape. Lowry just wasn’t in the shape he needed to be in this season, primarily due to injuries.
“The bottom line with me and for me as far as hoping you can get the most out of a player…is that you have to be in world-class shape, you just have to be.
“He’s definitely gonna have to address that, and it will be addressed.”
Lowry missed 19 games this year and has missed 45 over the past two seasons between Miami and Toronto. During the Heat’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Lowry suited up for only 10 of their 18 games. Lowry showed in spurts during the postseason that he can still be an effective player if he gets his conditioning on track. Many injuries can be linked to a lack of conditioning, as was evident with Lowry for most of the 2021-22 campaign. I think we’ll have a rejuvenated and slimmed-down version of Lowry next season.
This Heat team feels like they’re in a good position, having surprised many this year with such a deep run on top of capturing the No. 1 seed in the east. There weren’t many who predicted that coming off a sweep in the first round of last year’s playoffs at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.
As Riley also discussed, adding more pieces would be ideal but not at the risk of harming the chemistry already in place. With Donovan Mitchell seemingly on his way out of Utah, I think he’d be a great player for Miami and would fit right into the ‘Heat culture’ we hear so much about. If Mitchell decides to force the Jazz’s hand on a trade, don’t be shocked to see Miami step up as a favorite to land his services.
Stranger things have happened, but don’t be surprised to hear about this potential move this offseason. Mr. Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade is a minority owner of the Jazz, and if Mitchell comes forth and wants out that badly, I could see Wade helping to broker a deal to get him to the Heat. Around the NBA, the Knicks are seen as a frontrunner to acquire Mitchell when the time comes, but we know how this usually works out for the Knicks. Most times, the big-name free agent ends up elsewhere.