In an inside look at 2015 Free Agency, Yahoo Sports NBA scoopmaster Adrian Wojnarowski outlined how a dinner with Riley made Aldridge’s decision an easier one when he was ultimately deciding between the Spurs and the Phoenix Suns.
The Heat didn’t have cap space and “Riley’s wish” was for LaMarcus to sign a one-year deal with Portland and “wait for the Heat’s space in 2016.”
… Riley made a case to Aldridge that turned out to be an immense blessing for the franchise that had obliterated the Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. As the idea of joining the Suns gained real momentum, Riley’s message would go a long, long way toward validating the Spurs’ cause. Truth be told, Riley’s words resonated as deeply with Aldridge as anyone’s in the process.
Riley’s vision was a frontcourt juggernaut featuring Bosh and Aldridge, two floor-stretching bigs with quick feet. Can you even imagine the possibilities?
“He told me, ‘You’re a good player, but you can be great,’” Aldridge told Yahoo. “I’ve had good seasons on my own, but to win, you’ve got to have other big-time guys with you. When you have other guys who are willing to take that sacrifice with you – maybe you all go from averaging 23-24 points to 18-19 points – and you can all do it together.
Riley sold Aldridge on the Bosh parallel, sacrificing numbers for championships.
“He was saying, ‘Hey, you might have to take a lesser role, but at the end of the day, you want to be known as a champion. Champions have to do different things.’ He brought up Chris Bosh, how he was averaging 21 in Toronto, and came to Miami, and people tried to say he wasn’t important. He told me, ‘We don’t win any of those championships rings without him,’ [and] that [Bosh] wouldn’t trade those rings for anything.
“Eventually, it becomes a road in your career, whether you have to decide whether you want to keep having these crazy stats, or do you want to win a championship?”
On the night of July 2, with Popovich returning for a lunch meeting the next day, Riley had delivered an unintended assist to the Spurs. He had turned Aldridge’s mind back toward San Antonio, setting the stage for Popovich to close the deal. “Yeah, the things [Riley] said were definitely more positive for me coming to San Antonio,” Aldridge told Yahoo.
So there it is.
The Heat czar and No. 1 closer in the history of the league unintentionally played a role in convincing the premier free-agent big man to sign with Pop and the Spurs, the Heat’s nemesis in the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals.
Suns fans must REALLY hate the Heat.
Not only did Riley fleece them in a trade for Goran Dragic at last year’s deadline, but he helped pop their dream of making Aldridge their franchise player.
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