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June 10, 2006

Pat Riley

DALLAS, TEXAS: Practice Day

Q. As much as has been made about Dirk's poor shooting and Howard's shooting and even Shaq not getting the ball as much, could it be a case that the defenses are good enough that they might even be able to over even the long run take away what a particular team might want to do and Udonis might just play Dirk well and might just deny Shaq?
COACH PAT RILEY: We'll see in Game 2. Shaq had his normal touches, probably should get him some more, I think he had 35 touches. But the touches he did have at least nine or ten times, they double-teamed him and he got rid of the ball, scored four out of five times that he did that.
Both teams are excellent defensive teams, and I think we're pretty simple with our schemes and what we want to do. It's how hard we're going to do it. It's how much we are going to protect the paint. It's how hard we are going to close out once we force the ball to get sprayed to the perimeter.
You know, I don't think you can keep great players down on both sides for long, but usually, if somebody steps up, then maybe somebody else might be down and you've just got to make sure that everybody is not playing well. But I think it's just both teams are solid defensively, and I think both teams were prepared because they had a lot of time. I thought for 40 of the 48 minutes that we outplayed them. We had two bad spells. That happens in a game.
The last three minutes of the second quarter and then the last three minutes of the game, basically, the last five minutes of the game, both teams scored eight points in the last 7:50 of the game. We had eight and they had eight. It's these little skirmishes that happen throughout the course of the game that might get you down six or seven points.
We had a great run to get ahead by 11 and they came back and they had a great run to get ahead by ten and we came back, there has to be more consistency by us on both ends of the court.

Q. When Jason Williams has good scoring games early and hits shots, why is there not more of a thought of, we have 12 points in the fourth quarter, we could use another basket, maybe give Jason a chance instead of Gary --
COACH PAT RILEY: I wasn't counting the points in the fourth quarter. I should do that. (Laughter) I thought about it at one time. I was thinking about it because they went to their zone and both times, they went to their zone and bogged us down a little bit.
As a matter of fact, the two threes that Jason Terry hit sort of broke our backs, came out of when they were in zone defense and we were cross-matched trying to get back to people. We might need a little bit more shooting out there and I'll have to make that adjustment.

Q. What do you tell your players about the difference in importance of Game 2 in this 2-3-2 format?
COACH PAT RILEY: Well, I'm not thinking about the format. I think the format is what it is. Yesterday was a day of getting the frustration out of the loss. And everybody was very disgusted yesterday, not angry, but disgusted with how we played and finished the game.
Today is a day of focusing on and moving into the future for Game 2, and that's all that counts. It doesn't make any difference what the format is.
I'm not looking at it as, you know, must, must, must, or the world is going to end; it isn't. This is a seven-game series. We are definitely going to come to try to get a game and go back to Miami and be up. And that's the way we're looking at it.

Q. Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton have 29 seasons of experience between them. In what ways were they valuable in these two days between games?
COACH PAT RILEY: They are both vocal guys and introspective guys. They both desperately want to win.
You know, Zo especially is somebody who I think has been very vocal with the team as a leader. Gary is a little bit more, I think, even though he's a chirper, you know, Gary has been a little bit quiet. I don't think he's satisfied with how he's played. He had a great, great game against Detroit in Game 1 when we beat Detroit and broke through up there. He's been a little bit off offensively since then, and he thinks he probably needs to help us a little bit more at that end of the court.
So I think we are going to see a little bit more aggressiveness on his part while he's out on the court, take the ball to the basket and stuff.

Q. At one point during the Eastern Conference Finals you said the coaching staff had asked Gary specifically to talk to some of the other players just quietly. Have you done that with either of those guys this team?
COACH PAT RILEY: I don't make the specific point to have counseling sessions. We all meet every day and we talk. I think this is a team that self-polices itself. If a guy is down, they lift him up. If a guy is not playing, they will get into him, wake him up a little bit. They do a great job of that themselves. Their approach is a lot different than mine.

Q. How do you assess where Shaq is in his game now and what have you asked him to do compared to two years ago when he was in the Finals and can he maintain this level for another three years or so, or is it more difficult for a big player at this age to maintain it longer?
COACH PAT RILEY: He's definitely had -- we would not be here without him. There's no doubt, and he's had great games for us in the playoffs, and he's also had great facilitating games where we had control of the game and he sort of played the game and made sure we got the win. He's not caught up in numbers at all. He's only caught up in wins.
As long as he maintains his health and his conditioning and he still has the desire to play professional basketball for the next four years, and as long as we keep putting talented players around him, then I think he can be very effective. So that's why we signed him.

Q. Is there anything he can't do now that he did a couple of years ago where he's had to adjust his game to compensate for not --
COACH PAT RILEY: I think he's getting better, actually. I think he's made the adjustment to an absolute power, power game which they don't let him play anymore and his footwork is still as good as it's ever been. He's using multiple dribbles to be able to get what he wants, he's improved his jump hook, and that's going to get even better.
So I think he's actually improving because of the rules, he calls it a finesse, cute game, but he said, I've got to play that, I guess, in order to be successful.
But at one time, he simply with his size and strength, just dominated, doing whatever he wanted to do.

Q. Where did you guys have Josh Howard rated when he was coming out, and what he's done --
COACH PAT RILEY: We all picked him at 10.

Q. Sorry?
COACH PAT RILEY: We almost picked him -- it was in -- when we picked Caron Butler No. 10, we were not going to pick him at five, but of the guys that we had on the list, and when we were looking for athletic swing men, we had him rated very high. But we just couldn't pick him No. 5. But once it got past 10 or 11 or 12, I do think we had him rated 10 or 11 or 12, we thought he would go somewhere there. We were desperate, like I think a lot of other teams, were trying to move up ask and get a pick, pick him.
That's the one time I didn't say yes to somebody who asked for an outrageous deal. I should have said yes. I usually pay a nickel more, you know, and I didn't. They wanted a dime, and I should have done it. But we didn't. Dallas made a great pick.

Q. What has he done, is he the player you thought he would be or is he even better than you thought he would be?
COACH PAT RILEY: He's a multi-faceted player. He's a defender, he's long, he's getting better and better as an offensive player. He's gaining the respect of everybody in this league. He's just one of those guys that's becoming a star, period. That's the way it is.

Q. You had mentioned that Shaq did have 35 touches, how do you convert those touches into shots?
COACH PAT RILEY: Well, it depends on where he catches it. They do a good job of getting him off the lane a little bit, and just, you know, touches and catches, are they offensive or are they just catches where he's facilitating the offense. We sort of break that down, too.
We need to do a better job of getting him the ball in scoring position and they know that they are going to try to inhibit us from doing that.
But quality, quality touches we have to be better and he's got to be more active and more alive. I always say that to him, the sort of touch, is the word, it's the word. You know, when we lose and maybe he doesn't score enough, it's just the word.
But when he's alive, and running and moving and cutting across the lane and, you know, getting 15 to 16 rebounds and just being active, then he gets 10 or 11 quality touches just on his own. That's what he has to do against a good defensive team.

Q. How do you go about doing a better job of getting him the ball in the right spot?
COACH PAT RILEY: Well, we worked on it yesterday. We're going to work on it again today. Our players have to be very, you know, vigilant, I keep using that word, of seeing him. Can't miss him, you know. We always tell Shaq, when you're open and you put those hands out, we can see you then, okay. But sometimes his hands are down around his waist. But we have to see it and read it, and be aware of it.

Q. Dallas's run came at a time when they set up a zone for you, and when they put up a zone against you, was it a matter of the players not executing the coaching staff's instructions or leading up into Game 1 not focusing on that as much?
COACH PAT RILEY: Coaching staff instructions. That's not true, but I'll take the heat. I've got to do a better job of getting shots, okay. They know what they are supposed to do. They know the defense. But I've got to do a better job of making sure that we get into things quicker; that they know where we can attack it, and you don't see it that much. So we work on it, but we don't work on it like we work on a lot of other things. They play the same defense that we play, basically.

Q. You mentioned earlier about the power game that he no longer can play because they don't let him, do you mean the rules or other teams?
COACH PAT RILEY: No, it's changed over the years. I mean, just the placement of defenders first and how much they will allow defenses to sag on the strong side.
And so sometimes they make it difficult for you just to get the ball to him and you've got to do some other things to get the ball to him when teams are playing in front and also in back. They have also taken away his ability to catch and back in. You know, they have got the one double forearm or they have one forearm and a hand, and we see this (indicating a block) and so it becomes a back end game where the rule is that the offensive player cannot displace the defensive player, but it doesn't say much about the defensive player impeding the progress of the offensive player. It's always one way with Shaq. But that's the way it is, he's a very difficult guy to officiate.
We've had long conversations with the league about it. He's actually been on the phone with the league about it, not complaining, just wanting to clarify, because he's unique. He's the only one in the league like he is. And what they do with him, unlike what they do with guards, I mean, guards are backing guys in and displacing defenders and they never say anything about it. But with Shaq, it's a whole different thing because everybody sees it. So he's made the adjustment to it.

Q. On another subject, if hypothetically that 2003 draft had happened again, do you think Josh Howard would be there --

Q. If you had the ten, if he would fall that far?
COACH PAT RILEY: If it was a year before, instead of Caron Butler? We probably still would have taken Caron that year. But if I had the 10 pick, I'd take him. You know, after the fact, I'm brilliant. (Laughter).

End of FastScripts...

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