As far as league-wide perception goes, few have established more credibility than Pat Riley. Eight NBA rings and assembling the most heralded superteam of the modern era will do that. But outside opinion aside, it appears that Riley’s aura didn’t extend to the most important player in that Heat locker room, LeBron James
Brian Windhorst joined Grantland’s Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons on his podcast earlier this week and of course the topic quickly shifted to LeBron, particularly his exit from Miami.
Simmons: “How much insight can you give us on Riley and LeBron?”
Windhorst: “I don’t think LeBron was ever really close to Riley and I don’t think that’s a departure from the way he likes to treat management. … He sort of treats management in text relationships. He’s open to communicating with them, but he keeps them at arm’s length. He’s never going to be a guy like Dirk with Cuban. It’s just never going to be his style unless he changes. I think Riley tried to do his bonding maneuvers over the years and I don’t think that they worked. At the end, I wonder how much Riley understood LeBron, because when he came out and made that fiery speech at the end of the season, that is not somebody who has a good vibe who would think LeBron would react well to that.”
Windhorst: “I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t think LeBron left because of that speech and I don’t think this was a big deal, but I think it’s a window into what he understands about LeBron. He just announced during that speech that LeBron was expecting a daughter and LeBron had gone to lengths to keep that quiet. He did not want that out there and several times he was asked about that in the media and he said ‘I’m not talking about that,’ and anybody that spent time around LeBron knew he kept that quiet … That he would say that, is an indication that he did not know Lebron and know that he was keeping that a secret … I really question how close they ever were. I’m just as guilty as everyone, I like the story of how Riley put the rings out on the desk in the presentation … I don’t think that’s why he went to Miami. He went to Miami to play with Dwyane Wade and Bosh. I think the Riley thing was a factor and certainly you believe in him and he’s a guy who gets things done, but Riley is not the guy that won him over. It was Dwyane Wade that won him over.”
Windhorst and Simmons also discussed whether LeBron would have signed with Cleveland without a guarantee that Kevin Love would be joining him, before moving on to Team USA and Paul George. The full interview is below.