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June 16, 2006

Pat Riley

MIAMI, FLORIDA: Practice Day

Q. Could you talk about your team defense, there's been so much talk all season about your one-on-one perimeter defense being a bit shaky. Has it gotten to the point where the team defense makes up for that, was last night an anomaly or are you guys capable of that in sustained stretches?
PAT RILEY: There's no doubt that we're capable of it. I think we have a lot of good defenders. You know, I mean, by the time players get to this league, they are drilled and they know exactly, have great technique, they understand the rules. The rules have changed somewhat, what you can do in containing players. However, I think individually, we're a little bit better catching the move, sliding, standing plays, but you need to help more than you've ever helped before. And last night, our help defense was really good, especially in the fourth quarter.

Q. Before yesterday's game, you said that you were enjoying the journey a little bit more. I was wondering how much of that is because of maybe the lesser expectations on this team, as opposed to the Laker teams that were expected to make The Finals every year, how much you've changed as a person, and how much of it may be some of an "I told you so" aspect of what you did with the team last summer.
PAT RILEY: I've never felt more expectation on a team than any team I ever coached than this one, even more so than with the Lakers. There was a sense of serenity in Los Angeles in the '80s with that team, and that was a decade. We all grew up together from the very first Magic Johnson, 19-year-old championship, 42-point, 50-rebound performance in Philadelphia right to the '90s when we got swept out of it by Detroit. This is a team in it's first year -- second year with Shaq, but it's first year together.
I think all of these guys, you know, I've really come to appreciate them more and more as I've gotten to know them over the course of the season. I think that's the one thing that you learn to appreciate as a coach is that you've got guys who really care, who are really hanging in there, they really, really, really want it, and when you're in that situation as a coach, it makes the whole thing that much more pleasant.
I mean, that's how I feel about this group.

Q. Have you noticed a particular edge your team is gaining in the sense of after Game 2, Shaq got beat up quite a bit, we think this was sarcasm but Dwyane said after the game last night that they shouldn't be guarding him because he can't make a jumper anyway. Have you noticed a difference in your team a little bit that way?
PAT RILEY: I think it just sort of grows. This is the fifth game now and all of the sort of niceties and genuine respect that each side has for one another dissipates with the competition and as we get closer to the result and the outcome. It always happens, it always happens in all sports.
So the first thing I'm going to do today is when I walk into the locker room, is I will take all the newspapers and drop them in the trash can and advise them not to read anything, not to look at anything, stay off the laptop, you know, until Sunday. Because what's going to be said about Dallas is what was said about us after the first two games. So it all doesn't mean anything.
The only thing that counts is getting yourself right and ready without getting, you know, propagandized or however you want to do or get soft in the mind with what's out there and how this thing is being covered. It really is, it gets to a very important time that we don't do that.

Q. Can a series turn on a sequence like in Game 3, six and a half minutes left, where it seemed like it was over; can you recall a series turning on circumstances?
PAT RILEY: Well, we made a point about it the other night. You know, our season was hanging in the balance. And wherever it came from and how players summoned it up is why we're all here. That is what I think people get connected to, and they hope that they will see in a major event, you know, whether it's a heavyweight championship fight or a World Series or a Super Bowl or a Stanley Cup. There's always that opportunity that somebody can do something that nobody is going to expect. Yes, it could be the defining moment. We'll only know either eight days from now or less. We'll see.

Q. Can you describe the learning curve that Dwyane has had over these last four games and just how good he is at that kind of thing?
PAT RILEY: Well, he had two I think difficult games in Dallas. He got off to a great start. He was six out of seven, really played well, and then he was like 10 out of 38 or something. They really did a great job on him. He was driving incessantly to the rim, getting a lot of layups, getting contested on a lot of layups, and I thought he was going at 100 miles an hour or faster. He had to slow down and just relax and see the game better, and I think he's done that. I think he's really just taken a good look at the game as it's being played and not rushing things.

Q. Almost no team has ever swept the three games at home since they have gone to the 2-3-2, and can you discuss, what are the challenges of trying to win all three at home?
PAT RILEY: The level of competition. You know, the edge that the opponent has. They are playing right now at the very top of their game, they really are. I mean, they wouldn't be here, Dallas wouldn't be here after going through the same thing we've gone through.
I mean, trying to beat a team like Dallas three times in a row anywhere or them beating us three times in a row anywhere I think would be hard. That's the challenge. I think that's why over the years it's never really happened. It's very difficult to come home, and have three in a row and beat a team that is playing for a world championship. But we have to do it. That's something we're going to have to do.

Q. Can you talk just a little bit about James Posey and his evolution, a lot of guys have a very difficult time moving from the starting lineup to a reserve role, but he seemed to thrive, not made a peep about it and has the crescendo of last night's play?
PAT RILEY: During the season, I never really handled that well. You know, I just didn't handle the Posey/Walker situation. I think I sort of said, "let's just go with it." James is the starter, Antoine coming off, and not really being sensitive to a number of things. There was a lot of criticism about James during the regular season and also a lot of criticism about Antoine coming off. I think it's probably best right now the way it is based on how it's developed.
But James to me is all of a sudden becoming such a vital component of energy and defense and timely shot-making coming off the bench; not that he couldn't start. But to me, for what he's doing for us, he's really made a tremendous I think growth spurt in really accepting that, because he knows that I and his teammates really appreciate it.
So he doesn't have a problem with it now. He's all about -- I think if there's anybody who really wants to win now, I mean, when we come back to a time-out huddle, I'll just say, "Pose, you talk to them." He's so into this and hyper -- not hyper but vigilant about keeping his guys in it; it's a pleasure to watch.

Q. All season defensively you guys have talked about trusting each other and pulling triggers. How much of what we've seen recently is good, individual defense and how much of it is the team concept?
PAT RILEY: We were very active last night. I mean, our defensive numbers, how we rate them, we had a fourth quarter of a 91 and an 81 which is almost unprecedented. When you're playing that hard and you're playing that hard with the effort and also defensively with your schemes, then things are going to work. You're going to make it hard. We had 54 close-outs last night, which really, it's a playoff high for us, closing out on jump shooters. And we had 34, 35, what we call hard contest, hand-to-the-eyeball. I don't know, maybe that has an impact on a team that's shooting a lot of jumpshots. So our defense really went to another level last night.

Q. In your experience with certain teams and players, have you found that the toughness is something you can teach, or it has to come from someone, kind of emanates for the entire team?
PAT RILEY: I think guys, certain guys, you know, have it. They just have, "it." There's a personality, a characteristic that they carry. Udonis Haslem, he's not a tough guy; he's got toughness. He doesn't go out there looking to pick fights with anybody. He's a very aggressive player who has great toughness, great courage. And we have a number of guys like that.
Some guys show it because it's their role as an enforcer or something, while other guys will just show it in how hard they play and the fact that they will never back down. I think Dwyane shows it in a whole other way. His toughness comes from being competitive; knowing that he's going to be attacked defensively and he'll find a way around it.
But we have a lot of guys that have that trait, all of them, Zo, Gary Payton, Shaq. They all carry that.

Q. Even at this level, how critical is it for everybody to have the utmost confidence, and how insidious can even just a little bit of doubt be in a series of this magnitude?
PAT RILEY: We just have to go back and put on the board, you know, six minutes and 34 seconds, because that's when it changed for us and it can just turn like that the other way.
So there's not much margin for error. We over the next couple of days, I really have a hard time now waiting 64 hours or however long it's going to be to play the next game. You're always a little bit concerned about that. But they have to wait themselves. We have to make sure that we're really ripe and we're ready to win on Sunday.

Q. At this point of your life and your career, what would winning two more games and winning this championship mean to you personally?
PAT RILEY: I don't even want to get ahead of that thought, okay, David, so let's reserve that for two more wins. (Laughing).
I'm liking this competitive challenge that we're in right now. This is a great series. I think it's right where everybody wants it to be, 2-2, best-of-three. We know that we're facing an incredible challenge because if we're going to win one or win this, it's going to have to be on the road. And so we're not steeling ourselves for that but we're getting ready for Sunday night to put ourselves in a position to be one game away from being the champion, and that's what it's about.

Q. For someone who has said winning and misery are the only two states, what have the last 18 years been like for you then?
PAT RILEY: It's been that. It's been a lot of winning, a lot of misery. I'm trying to get rid of the misery part of it. That's beginning to -- you know, my daughter e-mails me a lot now about that word, or texts me right before the game. She always sends me a text. I've got it on vibrate and she gives me a message. It's always some very positive thing, regardless of what happens, that she still loves me, so that's important. (Smiling).

Q. Can you talk a little about the adjustments that Kareem made as he got into his 30s in the '80s, and perhaps wasn't as dominating a physical force, but maturity began, and do you see any parallels now to Shaq and the way his game is developing as he gets into his mid-30s?
PAT RILEY: I think it's just beginning for Shaquille. Maybe last year it started to begin.
In 1986, I think it was in 1986, we got beat by the Twin Towers, you know, by Samson and Olajuwon. And the very next year in '87, there was a great swing to Magic and to Worthy and to Scott. As a matter of fact, Scott was our leading scorer, I think, in '87.
And Kareem, you know, understood this and accepted that, and the fact that he had the one unstoppable weapon, even in spite of his age, he was in great condition. He was great, mentally tough, and he was always still thought of as the finisher for us. So even though we would play around him and everybody would score, when it came down to, you know, needing a big, big basket, we always still threw it into him and he had the one shot that he could convert.
So he was able to play from '87 until he retired, you know, with other guys supporting him, averaging 14 points a game. I think Shaquille is going to eventually make that adjustment, and he's going to have to improve in certain areas of his game that are more of a finesse game that he can do, and he's starting to show it; jump-hook inside that I think will become more lethal, more lethal, and not always a power game. But his presence will always be the one that will be there regardless of who we put around him.
So he's going through that process right now, starting to change, and even though I think he's fighting it a little bit, he's starting to change and accept it mentally because that's just the way it is and we're going to have to keep current surrounding him with players that can bring his level to a real high importance, also.

Q. Last year when Michael Coopers coached the Nuggets, he quoted a lot of Rileyisms and one of them is "if you want to win a championship you have to talk about winning a championship." Is that something you regularly talk to your teams about, especially players who have not been in the Finals?
PAT RILEY: I think it's important that they keep their eye on that prize. You can't get ahead of yourself, but if you want it, you have to take responsibility for it. There's nothing wrong with talking about it. You can't be arrogant about it.
Yeah, you know, if you have a mission and the mission is to win a championship, then there has to be an image of what it's going to look like and feel like if you ever get there, and you've got to see it every day. And to me, that's what determines a player's behavior, and it fuels and inspires the image of "I'll be there." They could see it every year, they could be sitting in their living rooms whatever they are doing, there's 28 teams right now, and they are going to watch one team, either Miami or Dallas, celebrate, and they will see what it looks like. I think that's what you have to put in their minds.

Q. Do you talk to them a lot --
PAT RILEY: Not much about it.

Q. About your Laker days?

Q. No, you leave those behind?
PAT RILEY: I'll let ESPN Classic take care of that. We'll just put a memo, there's a program on tonight, might be a little interesting. Don't watch the 1984 one, though. (Laughter).

Q. You refer to the toughness of your team. If this is becoming a more physical series, how much of an advantage is that for your team?
PAT RILEY: I don't think it is. I think a couple of hard fouls last night took it to that level. But I didn't think last night's game was any more physical than the first three. I mean, everybody is trying to do what they can do to stop each other defensively or attack the basket offensively. Guys are taking liberties in post-up situations. And defensively, we're trying to stop them, they are trying to stop us.
What happened with the Shaq foul last night and maybe a couple of other fouls, Dallas took six charges last night. I mean, they stepped in front. They are taking the hit. They are just as physical as we are from that standpoint. They are a great defensive team. And I know Avery and I know how he was and I know where he's learned basically a lot of his philosophy. That's the way they are. They wouldn't be here without having that mentality.
We took, as a matter of fact, four hits last night, four charges, Shaquille had three of them, that were all charges that were called blocks. So the game has taken on a level of physicality, but not the kind that's going to escalate into anything else. That's sort of how I look at it. It's just two teams that are competing at a very high level and both teams are very tough mentally and physically, and the one that sort of outrules the other I think is going to win.

Q. Going back to Bob McAdoo, we've seen star players whose best chances to win rings have come sort of as role players. What are the challenges to you and what are the advantages to working with those kinds of guys?
PAT RILEY: I remember when we were considering bringing Bob in. Bob had been around I think two or three teams at a time. He had come off an injury and he was hanging out basically in New Jersey at that time and I met with -- Jerry West called me into his office and he said, "what do you think about him?" And I said, "yeah." Then I went to Kareem and Magic and we sort of talked about it.
Sometimes when you bring a real major personality into the team that was an MVP and a leading scorer and a superstar, you know, is he going to come off the bench. All of the players were ecstatic about it. I think that level of acceptance by having a player like that accepted in by the other guys is, hey, we need him. I think a lot of the veterans that we have on our team that we have brought in that had his kind of -- his background as a guy that did it and was the leading scorer and was an all-pro and all those things, it's a little dicey at times, but all our guys have accepted that.

Q. Would you have expected an easy transition for the players --
PAT RILEY: It's not. I think some guys have a problem with it. But I think if there's a genuine respect on the part of the other guys and there's an acceptance factor, you know, those kinds of players who have always been in the middle of the mix want to do more. And sometimes when they are not doing more, even when you're winning, they feel like they are not doing enough.
It's a tough -- I think it's a tough step to take. But our guys have accepted it. We've had our moments this year, you know, where guys that played in major roles wanted to play more, but it's all born out of them just wanting to compete. So we've been very lucky with it so far.

Q. You mentioned earlier that Dwyane just had to see the game in front of him. What exactly has he been seeing these last two games?
PAT RILEY: Well, I think now he sees, and through watching film, how they are defending him, how they are shading him, how much pressure they are going to put on him. Three or four situations that we like to run with him, he's taken a good hard look at it. So when he's coming down the sort, he's got exceptional vision. That's the one thing that I think a lot of people don't give great players credit for. Like last night, Shaquille was incredible in seeing cutters and baiting double-team, their eyesight and ability to see everything. Dwyane has incredible vision.
I had tunnel vision, it was about like this, I could never see anything out anywhere, you know. But he sees the game and feels it, and that's one of his great strengths.

Q. Last night it seemed like you went to the zone in the second half. Did it work well enough when you watched it on the film today and will you go back to in Game 5?
PAT RILEY: We overadjusted a little bit. I said we wouldn't do this when they went down with Nowitzki and Van Horn or Nowitzki and Josh playing small, it's sort of a threatening lineup because if you don't watch it, they can score eight, ten points real quick. So how do we match up with it if I have Zo or Shaq out there, that we're probably going to go to zone and not just let them attack the matchup that they want. So that's the reason why we played a little bit more last night and I think he knows we're going to do that.

Q. Something you probably saw in the '90s going against Michael in so many post seasons, what does it do to a team's spirit when they have lost control of a guy the way Dallas has with Wade?
PAT RILEY: I don't know. You have to ask him that. I mean, Dwyane had some great playoff performances, so scouted him, they know. They probably think they have not lost control of him. They will come up with a plan, put more pressure on him, try to trap him more, get the ball out of his hands, something that he's seen all year and he's going to have to make the adjustment if, in fact, that happens. That's something they will spend the next couple of days deciding what to do.

Q. I'm just wondering, as this year's gone on, how you've kind of learned to watch Jason Williams, who always seems on the brink of out of control and sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not a good thing for your team?
PAT RILEY: He's been great from day one. The day that he came in, as a matter of fact, in training camp I was a little bit concerned, I thought, "did you forget how to play?" That's all he was trying to do was pass the ball, make everybody happy, run the offense.
Our guys continued to encourage him, really encourage him to be aggressive and to be who he is as a player. Because when he gets on a real confident roll and he can drive and kick and dish and pull up on his jumper or even better, I don't really just like him to be deferential and get everybody else involved. It's sort of a little bit like what we had with Tim Hardaway when Tim Hardaway was here. He was a scoring point guard, but probably, you know, 60/40, he still was a point guard and he would take over whenever he had to take over.
Jason has the ability to be explosive and we need that. But he's been great all year. Our guys have really encouraged him, and I don't mind him being a little bit out of control.

Q. Regardless of whether Stackhouse's foul was a suspendable offense or not, can you speak about his importance and the kind of player that he is that can shoot you back into a game or go the other way sometimes?
PAT RILEY: Well, after he was 1-for-9 the other night, we made a big point about it; that he's probably going to come out strong. And Avery goes to him immediately off the bench. They run a lot of things for him. So he's not somebody who just comes in and lives off of Dirk or Terry or anybody like that. But he has to be contained. We cannot let him do, you know, what he did to us in 79 seconds. He has the ability to do that.
So you have to be very vigilant around him and take away his airspace and make him put it on the floor and contain his drives.

Q. When you were watching Dwyane in college, how close to the player he is now did you think he could become and did you consider drafting anybody else?
PAT RILEY: I saw him late in the season. I think his story has been out there now. I was in Milwaukee watching him play against Kentucky in the NCAA Finals and he had an incredible game. Also, when I watched some tape on him before the draft, at the end of a game against some other NCAA teams, 14 or 15 possessions in a row, he would control the ball and make a play on every single one whether he scored or an assist.
So he was very impressive to us obviously. At that time when we drafted him, we needed a big man, and a point guard. We needed both those positions, basically. But when we got to pick No. 5, it was a consensus that we would take the best player, and it was him.

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