Hyde: Riley faces toughest challenge of his great run with Heat | Commentary

President Pat Riley was asked about Hassan Whiteside’s disappointing year, and he sounded just as confused about it as the rest of us. He said “an intervention” was needed between Whiteside and coach . Riley promised to be “the intervene-ee.”

“The disconnect between he and Spo, that’s going to take a discussion between them, and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan,’’ Riley said.

The intervention, of course, started just past noon on Monday, with the Heat president delivering a post-mortem on the season, which started with a pile of questions that will take a summer to sort out. If they even can be. If Riley, as smart as he is, can solve this problem.

The Heat had exactly the season everyone saw coming, including Riley. Especially him. He tried to get last summer, after all, and settled on a Plan B of re-signing a competitive team.

Now this full roster needs an intervention, It doesn’t work if you want more than a playoff cameo. You don’t need to walk around the Whiteside-Spoelstra issue to see that. Look at a more fundamental problem like shooting guard.

Namely, who is their shooting guard? returns next year. It’s Josh Richardson’s natural position, Riley said. Tyler Johnson makes $19 million next year. Unsigned is the only pure 3-point shooter on the team.

“We would love to sign Wayne back,’’ Riley said. “He’s pure Heat.”

Then there’s Dwyane Wade and his decision to return or retire. He was the best Heat player in the dismal Philadelphia series, the only to come through with a game on the line. He’s also 37 next year.

“I don‘t like to talk to a player about retirement because when you start talking to a player about retirement, guess what?” Riley said. “He retires.”

So the Heat have five shooting guards they like. But none they love. That’s the prime problem. It’s an expanded version of the old line about having two quarterbacks in football. You don’t have any. The Heat doesn’t really have a shooting guard until it chooses one or two. But who do you choose?

More to the point: What style do the Heat choose?

“In the old days, I made sure that [Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn] all got 14 to 20 shots a game,’’ Riley said. “That’s it. I made sure those guys got [their shots]. But it was a different time. And so with today’s equal-opportunity and we-win-through-numbers, some night guys get buried.”

They don’t get buried on great teams. But great teams have great players. The Heat has a roster of average. That makes Spoelstra’s job that much more difficult. It also makes Riley’s challenge this summer as clear as it is difficult:

Find a team willing to take an average player on a big contract in return for a player with a big upside.

Just that. Just pull off that sleight of managerial hand. Riley went through a litany of past big trades with the Heat on Monday, starting with when he came through the door in 1995 and traded for Alonzo Mourning. He’s made enough great moves to be this era’s Don Shula in South Florida. That won’t change. Nor should it.

This is his greatest challenge yet. Make something from nothing. No salary cap room. No great player. Not even a draft pick to trade. Riley said no player is “untouchable,’’ on the roster, because which one should be?

He also said this team could make the playoffs again next season, if that was the prime goal. But Riley has never been about making the playoffs. He isn’t starting now. That’s why the intervention of Whiteside is where this offseason starts.

Can he fit better into Spoelstra’s design? Should Spoelstra change his design — is Whiteside seen as that kind of player? We’re going to find out what Riley really thinks of Whiteside and Spoelstra this summer. We’re also going to see if Riley can work more magic.

“I always go back to that very first trade I made here to get Zo,’’ Riley said. “There are more of those out there.”

This is no guarantee from Riley. No tough-guy sound bite. It’s how he runs his business. And his business has never been tougher than it is right now.

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