MIAMI – Pat Riley said he wakes up around 11 a.m. these days then heads into the office to chat with fellow Miami Heat executives Nick Arison and Andy Elisburg about nothing.
He's lying, of course.
There might not be anyone in the Miami organization who savors playoff time more than Riley, the Heat president with eight championship rings in his collection. And with Miami on the cusp of setting a franchise record for wins in a season — the team mark is 61, which this Heat club could match with a win against Milwaukee on Tuesday night — Riley sounds very much like he's ready for another postseason run.
"It's the ultimate dream for me," Riley said. "It really is."
Riley last coached on April 16, 2008, the end of Miami's miserable 15-win season. All that's happened since is the promotion of Erik Spoelstra to head coach, the acquisition of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and others to play alongside Dwyane Wade, two trips to the NBA Finals, one championship and 288 regular-season and playoff victories — third-most in the league over that span.
And barring all-out collapse, Miami will head into the playoffs later this month as the No. 1 overall seed in the league, guaranteed home-court advantage through the NBA Finals.
"They're ready," said Riley, who sits opposite the Heat bench during home games, rarely showing any outward signs of emotion. "They know that they have something to play for. They know they have the weapons to go out and play for it. They're so smart as a team. They're getting themselves ready on their own clock and Spo is getting them ready the same way. They'll be ready to play."
Riley rarely gives interviews about the state of the Heat anymore, preferring the overwhelming majority of the focus and spotlight remain on Spoelstra and the players. He issued a statement through a team spokesman late last month directed at Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who chided James for complaining about the way he is officiated. Riley's response was swift, direct and slightly profane, though it served as a reminder that there's plenty of fire still burning within him.
And when he met with reporters Sunday at a Heat charity event — one that had "the future" as a theme and raised over $503,000 for South Florida charities — Riley seemed to address his own future, indicating that his work in Miami is not over yet.
"I just want to keep helping them," Riley said. "I want keep bringing in pieces that's going to complement them and hope we can have one of those 10-year rides, you know? You think about every team, the Celtics in the '60s and the Lakers in the '80s and the Bulls and then again the Spurs, those guys have been together for eight, nine, 10 years. And if we can keep this group together for eight, nine, 10 years, we're all going to have some fun."
What happens down the road is secondary these days to Riley and the Heat, however.
For them, the priority is right now.
Since 1970, only four franchises — the Lakers, Chicago, Detroit and Houston — have been able to successfully defend an NBA championship. Miami will enter the postseason favored to become the fifth club on that list, which was Riley's goal when putting the core of this roster together in 2010.
At that time, he used the word "dynasty" when talking to season-ticket holders. For the Heat to get there, a second straight title would seem to be an obvious prerequisite.
"I knew after 2008, that 15-win season, that that was it," Riley said. "But I never realized that I would have an opportunity to watch and thoroughly enjoy just the players on the practice court, watch them warming up, watch them playing the game, watch them celebrate, watch them have fun. It's just been an absolute Godsend for me at this stage of my career."
NOTES: Miami will enter Tuesday's game with the Bucks with a magic number of two for wrapping up the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Any combination of Heat wins or San Antonio losses that add up to two would give Miami the right to host Game 1 — and, of course, any potential Game 7 — in the postseason. ... After Tuesday, the Heat head to Washington for a game on Wednesday, and the Wizards have won nine straight at home. Following that trip, the Heat return home to meet fellow playoff teams Boston (Friday) and Chicago (Sunday). ... Odd stat alert: James is currently third in the NBA in total points scored — not average per game — this season, behind Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. James has finished second in total scoring in each of the past eight seasons.