Miami Heat president Pat Riley appeared to take a veiled shot at LeBron James on Monday, saying that Miami would enter the offseason “clean” – and with “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas.”
When asked about Riley’s comments, James responded, “Whatever he said, that’s not my concern right now.”
Wow, what do we make of all this? Riley, 70, has always been the ultimate business man, but is it possible that he took James’ departure last summer a little personal?
“I’m sure it’s deeply personal,” Sports Illustrated senior writer Lee Jenkins said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Whenever you lose a player like that and you lose a chance to build, to establish a legitimate dynasty like they had in Miami, I think it is a personal blow.”
In hindsight, though, James’ return to Cleveland wasn’t stunning. Surprising? Sure. But stunning? Not quite.
“I think that if you put a lot of the pieces together and you looked at all the bread crumbs that were dropped in the last few years, I find it hard to believe that the Heat can be that shocked,” Jenkins said. “There were little things along the way that LeBron said about Cleveland, about missing it – things that somebody would say almost who’s away at college. He even dropped comments about the fans, about the announcers, about what it would be like to have a championship parade there. That was while he was a member of the Heat. So for the Heat to not believe that Cleveland presented a threat (during) that time would have been a little bit naive.”
As James gears up for another run to the NBA Finals – he’s played in five of the last eight of these things – you have to wonder: Is he mentally all-in with Cleveland, or are there things he still ponders about Miami, about leaving the Heat?
“I’m sure there is,” Jenkins said. “I think it was way worse the first time. I think there was more of those lingering feelings the first time because of that reaction, because of the way it was done. I think there was a lot of soul searching that he did back then when he first left Cleveland and when he was in Miami. I can’t speak for him, but I think he feels as though he has all the tools. He has everything at his disposal right now to make a championship run in a place where it would carry great meaning.
“I’ve never really known how a player would calculate winning a championship at home, especially in a place like Cleveland where they haven’t won, versus winning it in a place like Miami,” Jenkins continued. “The one title in Cleveland, I think, would carry so much weight that any of those thoughts he might have had – Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, the professional relationships – I think the one championship in Cleveland would sort of overwhelm the stakes in any other situation.
“I still believe that’s why he went back there – the carrot of that, the possibility of that – what that would do for sort of his legacy and his reputation. I think that kind of outweighs everything else for him.”