Pat Riley certainly sounded convincing Thursday when he candidly spoke with Heat beat writers in advance of this weekend's opening of training camp.
He certainly said what he meant. But did he truly mean what he said? Too tough to tell right now.
When the subject shifted to whether the Heat would have any interest in signing potentially released point guards (League rules prohibit Riley from discussing players on other teams, so he didn't mention anyone by name) Stephon Marbury or Jamaal Tinsley, Riley essentially played the "we're broke" card.
"I am not going over the tax to sign anybody," Riley said. "Unless my boss approves that. We paid a huge tax bill last year and we’re not going there again. We’re going to have to manage our team from where we are. If there are some trades that we can do that can really help the team, then I’ll do them. But right now, we’re not in the market for anybody because we really can’t afford to sign anybody."
Riley said the Heat stood just $415,000 from triggering the league's luxury tax penalty for payrolls in excess of $71.2 million. So that might be the reason why the Heat would pass on landing a much-needed veteran at point guard. While there are plenty of other valid reasons for teams to pass on Marbury and Tinsley, money issues shouldn't be among them.
Not when both - upon their release from New York and Indiana, respectively - could probably be had for the league's veteran minimum, which wouldn't exceed $1.3 million for either player. On top of that, about half of that salary would be picked up by the league. So the total a team would have to commit in salary would be about $700,000. Theoretically, those figures would double for teams over the tax.
But it's hard to imagine Riley (or owner Micky Arison) allowing $300K to come between the Heat landing a battle-tested veteran point guard who could mean the difference between 5 to 10 more wins this season at least. That could mean the difference between a No. 6 or 7 seed and a No. 4 or No. 5 in the playoffs, if everyone stays relatively healthy (mind and body).
Another $300K might not be enough to get you a Miami-Dade school superintendent these days. But the Heat shouldn't let relative peanuts prevent them from landing a point guard that could make a huge difference on a team that has a huge need at the position this season.
At these budget-basement prices, either Tinsley or Marbury (with buyouts in tow from their prospective former teams) would be the fourth-highest paid point guard on the Heat roster based on Miami's partial payment of the minimum.
Today we heard what Riley said about running a team that's committed to balling on a budget short of the luxury tax - by just about any means necessary.
But did he really mean it?