Pat Riley reminds Udonis Haslem 'he works for the Heat' after recent comments about Tyler Herro

Riley also discussed what comes next for Herro.
Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat / Mark Brown/GettyImages

While Pat Riley’s frustration over Jimmy Butler’s recent public comments has garnered headlines, the Miami Heat boss also took issue with Udonis Haslem over a recent TV appearance. 

Haslem, who is now in an executive role with the team and spent time with players and coaches during several practices last season, said on ESPN that Tyler Herro would be best as a sixth man.

“The best role for him is to probably be a sixth man,” Haslem told ESPN’s First Take in an appearance last week. “That’s taking nothing away from what Tyler does as a basketball player. But for our chemistry, we are better when we got Duncan Robinson in the starting lineup.”

Riley, however, made it clear that Haslem does not speak for the organization and reasserted that “Tyler is a starter.”

“That’s a narrative that’s out there,” Riley said. “Is that going to be something you are going to ask a player one day, whether it’s he or Terry Rozier one day? That’s where a coach has a job to do.

“Whatever is in the best interests of the team,” he continued. “We won’t know until we have everybody available how the whole thing works.”

Riley said he told Haslem, who has commonly made appearances on various sports shows and launched a weekly podcast since retiring last year, that he should have kept that opinion to himself.

“What Udonis has to understand is he works for the Heat,” Riley said. “We have one voice. One guy is going to distribute that information, and that’s Erik [Spoelstra].”

So, on the topic of Herro being a sixth man, Riley kept the door open but didn’t go as far as Haslem in saying definitively that it’s Herro’s best role for the team.

‘He’s been fragile’

Riley spent most of his 45-minute press conference commenting on players’ limited availability this past season, so it wasn’t surprising when he discussed Herro missing 40 games, mostly with a knee and foot injury in the second half of the season after hyper extending his knee during a game in New Orleans.

“He has been fragile a little bit,” Riley said. “Broke his hand last year in the playoffs, had injuries earlier in his career.

“His major injuries are real,” Riley added. “We hope to get through a season where he’s playing in that 72- to 82-game basis. Maybe one day he will surprise us and play every game.”

While it’s true that Herro has been snake-bitten by injuries throughout his career, the Heat rarely question his work ethic. Coaches rave about the time Herro puts into his skill and body development.

“There isn’t anyone who works harder at his game,” Riley said. “He puts the time in. He puts the time in the weight room. He’s gotten stronger. He’s got to make some adjustments definitely.”

By the end of the season, when Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier were sidelined for Miami’s first-round series against the Boston Celtics, Herro stood alone as the Heat’s lone perimeter shot creator.

“He’s a shot taker and maker. We have to do more to give him that kind of space. But he has to do more to be able to deal with a defense that is committed to stopping you,” Riley said. “He got overloaded [with Boston’s defense] with [Jrue] Holiday and [Derrick] White and [Jaylen] Brown and [Peyton] Pritchard. They were like, ‘no, not him.’

“It’s always going to be about getting stronger and getting your body ready for that kind of physicality,” Riley said.