When Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday come to market and you come away with none while being linked in media reports to all three, the negative tends to resonate.
And it did for the Miami Heat, for months.
In the business long enough, Pat Riley appreciates how it works.
“If I was in the media, that’s how I would look at it,” he said of the summer swirl of speculation.
But he’s not in the media.
He’s entering his 29th season as Heat president, around long enough to appreciate a time before there was a Woj or a Shams or when failing to address the unfounded only further fueled the fire.
“When there’s a narrative out there that gets ignited through social media and the hypotheticals, of whether it was a failure, I don’t buy that at all,” Riley told the Sun Sentinel ahead of Wednesday night’s season opener against the Detroit Pistons at Kaseya Center. “Because I know exactly where this team is, from that standpoint.
“From my perspective and the ownership perspective and all the internal people with the Heat, we like our team.”
Which, of course, is what also would have been offered if there was a franchise-shifting trade.
And it’s not as if the Heat did not try.
With Beal, there was a no-trade clause that would have to be accepted by an acquiring team, a caveat the Phoenix Suns accepted.
With Lillard, there was a refusal by the Portland Trail Blazers to come off as cornered by Lillard’s demand to solely be dealt to the Heat. So instead, the Heat were ghosted, with Lillard dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks.
And with Holiday, there was a limit to the Heat’s perspective on the need for change, of a move to something decidedly older.
The latter is significant, because in many ways it speaks to why it never was about desperation, at least as Riley casts it.
While he declined to discuss specifics regarding Beal, Lillard and Holiday, there was one element that required no prodding.
Granted, defending one of your own, particularly one of your own who will be essential in determining if there is to be a fourth visit to the Eastern Conference finals in five years, is both practical and prudent.
But this was more. This was months of speculation that led to a unique, unspoken dance between the team and fifth-year guard Tyler Herro.
“I will say this, that we never offered Tyler in any trade, we’ve never shopped him to anybody,” Riley said, his conversational tone rising to something more. “It’s just part of the business.”
It was not the cleanest of looks for the Heat. A year ago, on the eve of the 2022-23 season, in this very time frame, the Heat announced a four-year, $130 million extension for Herro off his rookie-scale contract, an extension that begins with this season’s $27 million salary.
“The fact that Tyler has been involved in these discussions, he almost should wear that as a badge of honor,” Riley said. “I hate to see that happen. You can’t stop it. This one was a runaway train this summer. It couldn’t be stopped. It just was. And the more you would try to speak on it in any way shape or form, then it’s what it is.
“But definitely I communicated with the agents. I didn’t talk directly to Tyler. And I saw him in training camp. He dapped me up a little bit and that was it.”
It was a moment both awkward and necessary, after a summer of speculation and external repudiation.
“But, I’ll tell you again,” Riley said, “we have never shopped him to anybody. People call on him all the time, but we say, ‘Goodbye and thank you.’
“But there are instances with all players. Bam Adebayo was discussed in a trade this year. Not from us, we said no — no, no, no, no, no. So you have to get on the phone and talk to people.”
And then you get to start playing the games, which almost mercifully will allow the Heat — and Riley — to turn conjecture into competition.
“I like our team,” he said. “I’m not worried again, about what the narrative is, what the perspective is. I think we have a great chance.”