Friday , Nov , 17 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Pat Riley Calls Out Miami Heat

Pat Riley Calls Out Miami Heat

Although my experience has led me to believe that Shaquille O’Neal’s teams should never be judged on their early-season play, the man with the world’s most flammable hair appears to disagree with me. With Miami’s record standing at a disappointing 3-4, Pat Riley cut loose and publicly shamed the Heat, citing shoddy defence as the cause of their current woes.

"Right now, we are one of the worst defensive teams that I have ever coached," Riley said. "Maybe it is the system. Maybe it is the coach. I’ll know in the next month."

Ugh. Riley could have sent the same message by lining the squad up and bashing their heads together, Stooge-style. While other coaches make every effort with their phrasing to avoid calling the team out directly, it’s clear that Project Pat doesn’t play around. Still, it’s quite a jump from “Fifteen Strong” to calling them, in effect, a “Bunch of Big Bitches”. At least he followed it up with some incisive commentary on the issues to be addressed.

"It is awareness to make an effort first and then the effort," Riley said, "really anticipating, communicating and talking."

Actually, I take that back. I’m not sure “an effort first and then the effort” means anything to anyone. Still, with a physical appearance that suggests close ties with a Venezuelan drug ring, I’m not going to say too much about Pat. I have people in Miami; I don’t want to be finding toes in my mailbox.

Fortunately, it seems as if Riley’s gangsterish invective has had the desired effect, and the players are finally talking as if they want to add to their jewellery collection.

"I don’t who was the worst before us, but that is probably pretty bad," Haslem said. "I would hope everybody on our team would take that to heart and get to work."

"The bright side is we have 75 games left to get it right," Mourning said, "and as hard as we work, it is going to get better. After 25-50 games, if it isn’t better, then it will be time to worry."

Hold up: “25-50 games”? Waiting that long would be like giving Isiah Thomas two seasons in charge of a basketball franchise before deciding that he was as competent as a GM as Keith Van Horn would be as a spokesmodel for Hawaiian Tropic. Nobody would be stupid enough to do that. Nobody.