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May 28, 2006

Pat Riley

MIAMI, FLORIDA: Practice Day

Q. Pat, when Antoine is attacking the basket like he did last night, can you talk about the pressure that it puts on the defense, the decision-making like for Ben Wallace, whether he leaves Shaq?
PAT RILEY: You know, going to Dwyane and going to Shaquille and how they load up on him defensively, we need other players when the ball has to go away from them, and the two of them to make the play have to be players and have the skill to put it on the floor and attack the basket and score, make kicks, and Antoine has been doing it. He's either been making shots, or now putting it on the floor and making plays, not always feeling like he's got to force the shot.
Yeah, it's crucial for him to make those kinds of plays. He's not really involved in first option things that much. We give him maybe half a dozen primary looks a game or whatever it is, but he's doing very well playing off those guys.
Q. Last night, was that all his decision?
PAT RILEY: That's what he -- a ball swings, closing on him, he's fronting Shaquille, and he's driving by guys. He's got Wallace closing out on him when he's at the 4 spot and he can take him off the dribble.
Q. This whole notion of when a team is up 2-1, the other team comes up you think rear and we've seen it through the playoffs, why?
PAT RILEY: That's an age-old question. It's human nature. Must be human nature. That's what I said to him this morning. I was listening in my office for at least 45 minutes, I could hear the glee, and they're just a bunch of guys in the locker room talking about the game, and there's a lot of levity, but that's how you feel after a win. I walked in and I said, "I know you're happy." I said, "you were happy after Game 1, too. Are you hungry?" That's my thing. "How hungry are you going to be tomorrow?" I rattled off the numbers and that's the hunger factor, our effort numbers, the number of shows. When we need a win, they're up here, and when we don't need a win, for some reason they drop 15 to 20 percent. I don't know, I'm trusting that they know what's at stake, and tomorrow is a great opportunity just to sort of close the door.
Q. One of the things the Pistons were talking about is they maybe didn't go to Rasheed enough and he might have been able to do more damage. How much more do you expect to see of him?
PAT RILEY: You see all four of them. When all four of them starting, last night it was Rip and Chauncey at the beginning and then Rip and Rasheed at the third quarter. I mean, if you go at guys and try to give them equal touches all the time, sometimes that's hard to do with four guys that are on the court a lot. But they might do that. We're aware of them wanting to post him up and trying to get the size advantage. We're working hard to try to keep that away from him.
Q. This morning we talked to Flip if they'd try to get into a spiral and try to double team a guy and make sure a third guy is not wide up. They said the most difficult thing is when Dwyane makes plays when there's no play, be it a transition or a broken play. He said there's somewhere between 12 and 16 points last night that he had that happen. I know you don't want to orchestrate those particular moments, but talk about his level of specialties all the time. How huge is that?
PAT RILEY: Well, when we came out of the time-out at 74-73 he made that transition three-point play. He was on the break, and he loves it out there in the open court and sees the floor. There's a lot of things that we run for him where we just allow him to make the decisions, and sometimes when you try to run too much offense and too many screens for him and too many things for him, the defense can load up on him even more instead of putting him in situations where -- go to Shaq on the strong side and then any time that Shaq is posting on the strong side, if we call weak, then he's on the weak side because there's defense that's not loaded to him, it's loaded onto Shaquille and he just goes. We have a couple of options that we run for him in those situations. Players are very aware of how to play with him, either get out of his way or screen him, flat screen, side screen.
Q. So you could plan unscripted moments for him?
PAT RILEY: Yeah, there's a lot of them. As a matter of fact, he'll wave off some calls. He'll wave off, and we know -- when we isolate him at the high post, there's a lot of thought in the isolation where players are, and we know who they're coming off of. But he has the ability to come around players and get into the paint and make plays. That's part of his greatness.
Q. How did what Shaq and Dwyane did last night exemplify what you hoped when you brought them here together?
PAT RILEY: First of all, last night I thought Shaquille is who we feed off of. If he comes with the kind of energy that he had last night posting up and rebounding the ball, and he was really, really good on pick-and-rolls, a lot of energy in his defense, and our players see him playing real hard with a lot of energy, they feed off his energy. Some nights when he's a little bit slow or fatigued, then they get that way, too. But when he's going, our guys are at a higher level.
Obviously having both of them is a blessing for us.
Q. How does how they've been doing or in a game last night exceed your expectations?
PAT RILEY: A 24 for 32, they had to be that good for us to only be ahead by one. If they're not that good and you're not making the effort, then we're fighting from 12 down like we did in Game 2. In order for us to beat the Pistons we have to play at a very high level, they have to play at a high level, we have to have a real high effort level to be close, so we might have a chance to win. I think that's the way it is.
Q. A veteran guy like Alonzo Mourning, what does he lend to this team besides what we see on the floor, maybe making your job easier or easing the team in tough situations? What is his role?
PAT RILEY: His role is that he's a leader, he's backing up Shaq, sparing him minutes. Right now he's not getting long runs. I want to give Shaq nine or ten minutes in the first quarter, then I want to start him at the top of the second quarter. I'm not going to keep him out for six, eight minutes like I did during the regular season. I'll try to give him another rest maybe at the five-minute mark and have him go out. So Zo is playing segmented minutes and probably three minutes or four minutes at the most. He's capable of making plays for us, but he's just been a leader, a great leader for us and a great backup center right now for Shaq.
Q. Does Dwyane Wade have the same effect on the team that you just described with Shaq?
PAT RILEY: If you've got both of them playing like they did last night, then I think our guys are very confident. I think Dwyane brings out a lot on his own because he's young, he's enthusiastic and it's just the nature of how he plays. But when Shaquille brings that level of energy, I think that amps up our team a little bit more.
Q. With the exception of a short stint in the third quarter when McDyess was guarding Shaq, Shaq was able to get into the paint and post-up very easily. Was it just a matter of Monday night he has to bring something else to the game?
PAT RILEY: Yeah, he's got to work at it. When they do certain things now in fronting him, front and back him, when they start doing things to double team him before the pass, then he just can't accept that because we can't get him the ball. He's got to then play with a lot more energy, he's got to get down the court quicker, he's got to get his head under the rim, he's got to offensive rebound the ball. He's got to run the design plays that we've run for them when they front him because we can't just accept not getting -- let's get to the weak side. He has to expend more energy when they are beginning to gimmick him. It's all about energy with him.
Q. Do you notice anything about the intensity of this Pistons defense compared to last year? Is it a case of Dwyane playing at a higher level and Shaq being healthy?
PAT RILEY: I think Dwyane played at a high level last year. I think one game he had 40, didn't he? The third game he had 40 or something.
But their defense, I think, is very intense. Their full court pressure, they're into Dwyane, they're into the ball. They haven't changed much. I think they've kept a lot of the same principles that they had there last year. Dwyane has seen it now two years in a row. He's familiar with it.
Q. How happy were you with the fact that you made it clear you wanted the team to play Tayshaun as a great player, and last night his impact offensively was different?
PAT RILEY: We were more conscious of him, but I think he got lost in the shuffle. They didn't go to him a lot. But I still think he's such an opportunistic player, even the shots he did get last night, he missed them. He just didn't get a lot of them. But an awareness of his driving ability, his offensive rebounding and the fact that he will make open shots, you've just got to be really aware of that. You don't want him to drive it to his left, and he's still very good at going to his right, but he really wants to go to his left.
At one time he was a player that a lot of teams would slough off on, and you can't do it so we're not going to.
Q. You mentioned offensive rebounding with Shaquille. He got four early. Talk about the impact it made energy-wise?
PAT RILEY: Keep his head under the rim, keep his head down under the rim. If he can't get the ball a lot of times on post-up -- he's got to get two to three baskets in transition, he's got to get two, three baskets on offensive boards, and he's just got to do it. We can't rely on just always throwing it to him and having him score.
Q. That's exactly what he said last night, he's got to do it.
PAT RILEY: He's got to do it, got to go get it.
Q. There are certain players that rise to a certain level where opposing coaches and player might fear him but they're concerned, even if they have a lead. Has Chauncey Billups risen to that level of a player?
PAT RILEY: Yeah, he gives me hives (laughter). Right here, right now I've got an itch. I don't know what's going on on this side of my jaw.
Any time he's -- he gets in a very offensive mode where I don't care how aggressive you are on him or how good you are on him, he's going to find a shot or a drive, and so hypervigilance with him is -- even last night I was telling Gary, he pulled up on him on threes, and I said you can't give him that kind of airspace. If you take away his airspace, he puts it on the floor, but I'd rather have him put it on the floor than just raise on him. He had five jumpers last night coming off pick-and-rolls, or four, and then he hit another long jumper off a pick-and-roll and then he hit another long one or just raising. In those areas weapon can't give him looks.
Q. The fact that Walker went 5 for 11, Haslem 5 for 10, Jason Williams was 3 for 4, how much did that play into the good shooting for Shaq and Wade, the other guys who are --
PAT RILEY: Just like we did in Game 2, we didn't make shots. A lot of those guys didn't make any shots, and last night they made shots, timely shots, and it's going to be the story of our season and our series with the eight guys that are playing. When Shaq and Dwyane are not, it gives Rip or Chauncey or whoever they're going to over there, other guys have got to make plays.
Q. How difficult for any opponent to overcome the type of dominance you had in the paint last night?
PAT RILEY: That's not their game I don't think. We're a post-up team and an attacking team. I think we're plus 40 in the three games in the paint, something like that. We're plus 24 on the boards. We're playing with fire with the turnovers. Numbers play a big factor. I think it's almost a push on free throws. But turnovers really bother me with this team and the fact that they can get on a real roll offensively. Shooting the ball bothers me.
Q. Do you go into a game with a plan of strategy of when to foul Ben Wallace?
PAT RILEY: There's a time, yeah. There's a time, if you need to do it, you'll do it.
Q. What circumstances bring that up?
PAT RILEY: I don't want to tell you because then you'll know. But he knows because he does it. We all sort of have the same kind of plan. When you're down or up -- if you're up and you're worried about a team coming back, you might do it. If you're down 46 points, you might do it. Dead balls, free throws, things like that.
Q. When you think of the different players you've had on your rosters over the years, the duo of Shaq and Dwyane when they're playing well, how dangerous or potent are they compared to other duos?
PAT RILEY: I mean, Magic and Kareem I think is equal, but I also had Worthy and Scott and Cooper and McAdoo. You talk about a great team, but I think that they're similar. So I've been very fortunate. Tim and Zo were great here, Patrick and John Starks --
Q. So are Dwyane and Shaq, Magic and Kareem?
PAT RILEY: I wouldn't say that one is better than the other. I love those guys in LA. I want them to talk to me when I get old. These guys will always talk to me because I'm paying them (laughter).
Q. Is there something about Dwyane's personality, coach, that allows him to sort of meld with Shaq the way he does? They've been extremely talented teammates in the past where the relationship wasn't as symbiotic.
PAT RILEY: The first thing that Shaquille did when he came here was met with Dwyane, talked to him. I'm sure that everything that went on in Los Angeles there with Kobe was exposed and everything. So I think the genuine respect level from Shaq to Dwyane, Dwyane to Shaq right in the beginning has made those guys a perfect duo. They really have a great feeling for one another and a great respect for each other.
I think the fact that Dwyane was coming, young, coming player, had not really established himself. I think we all saw that there was something there. Last year was the breakthrough year for him, and Shaquille just sort of gave the platform -- he really did, he just -- go get it, it's yours. I think when a player like Dwyane who's young knows -- Shaquille knows that he has this kind of greatness in him, I think he feels very confident. I think a lot of his confidence comes from Shaq.
Q. If Mitch had insisted on Dwyane, if he had said I will not trade you Shaq unless Dwyane is in the package, what would you have done?
PAT RILEY: He did.
Q. But at some point he relented and said, okay, we won't.
Q. If he had kept saying, no, no, I wouldn't do it.
PAT RILEY: I wasn't going to do it. I thought the deal was fair. I mean, giving him all three of those guys -- I don't know. Dwyane was the one guy that we didn't want to let go of because we really felt that -- not that we had a crystal ball, but there was something there that might have been better than what it even was then. I won't tell you the story, but there's an interesting story.
Q. Come on, tell us the story.
PAT RILEY: No, I won't do it. It's a funny story. My conversation with Shaquille about -- "who did you give up?"
Q. You're telling it to yourself now.
PAT RILEY: I don't want to get into that. We're very fortunate to have both of them.
Q. Certain guys are just inherently alpha male type personalities. Does Dwyane have that personality?
Q. He does. So it's a conscious effort on his part to suppress that in order to work within the team framework with Shaquille obviously --
PAT RILEY: He understands. As much as he knows, I think at times he knows it's his -- he talks about this all the time. I'm one of the leaders, my teammates trust me, they give me these opportunities, they put the ball in my hands, they allow -- I think deep down inside, he also suppresses it enough to know that Shaq is the leader of this team. I mean, he's strong enough, he really is as a person, in his makeup, to be able to do both those things. I think it's important that he doesn't try to just dominate the whole presence of this team.
I think his game does it, but I think what he says is true.
Q. When you made the roster changes last summer, a lot of people questioned it, maybe too much talent, too many egos. Did your experience in LA, you mentioned all the players you've had, did that kind of convince you that it could work with that many good players?
PAT RILEY: I never thought about that when I -- I mean, I knew all of these guys. I've coached against most of them. I read all the articles about them, and in LA we never had any problems, and we haven't had any problems this year at all. There's not been any problems.
There were times that I think the team was being judged very harshly, and the expectations of certain players, it wasn't working and all of that, and I think they felt bad about that but never to the extent where there was any kind of dissension or anything like that. I think we had one exchange -- there was an exchange between Gary and Dwyane in the playoffs that was nothing minor, but this team is working right now. It's working. We will find out if it has worked or will work one day. That's our goal.

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