Before Erik Spoelstra could wish Pat Riley a happy 68th birthday Wednesday he first had to find him.
"Pat has actually been very busy," Spoelstra said. "Every game you put on TV, if there's a college game going on, he's at it. I don't care, he can be three places at once, but he's there."
While it hardly is surprising than an NBA executive would be out scouting during conference tournaments and then the NCAA Tournament, Riley's whirlwind is a bit remarkable when you consider that the Miami Heat not only don't have a first-round pick in the upcoming June NBA Draft, they also don't have a second-round selection.
In essence, Riley is scouting without any guaranteed payoff, with the Heat's 2013 first-round pick due to the Cleveland Cavaliers to complete the July 2010 LeBron James sign-and-trade and the Heat's 2013 second-round pick going to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the machinations to unload Dexter Pittman and his salary at the Feb. 21 NBA trading deadline.
Taken further, even without a draft pick, the Heat not only have committed to playing five games in the Orlando pro summer league in early July, but as many as eight in the Las Vegas summer league in mid-July.
So why the scouting binge followed by the summer binge?
Because when you're hard up against the onerous new NBA luxury tax while living annually with $60 million in combined contracts of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, few things hit the spot as well as cheap, undrafted, youthful, promising talent.
With the current focus on a second consecutive NBA title, the Heat's development program essentially is down to rookie center Jarvis Varnado, who currently is being developed elsewhere, on loan to the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce. Otherwise, second-year point guard Norris Cole is the lone player under contract to the Heat with fewer than five seasons of NBA experience.
But even now, there is an appreciation that the approach may have to change, with the Heat essentially tapped out on free-agency resources with several new wrinkles in the 2011 collective-bargaining agreement about to go into play.
Spoelstra said it therefore only makes sense for Riley and the Heat's scouting staff to be scouring the college landscape, even in the absence of draft picks.
"Absolutely," he said. "We invest so many of our resources in the draft, but we spend equal amount of resources on the free agents that either have been overlooked, passed aside as previous draft picks or non-drafted guys.
"So we want to use this summer to really take advantage of seeing if we can uncover somebody and develop, and we want to invest some time into [Varnado]. Having both summer leagues makes sense."
There was a time when the Heat development pipeline was particularly productive, with Joel Anthony just one example of making something out of undrafted nothing.
But Spoelstra said there also is another element to having a vibrant development program: It helps develop coaching talent, with Spoelstra himself evolving through previous such opportunities.
"It's one of the ways that I developed as a coach, was our summer program and coaching in the Orlando summer league," he said. "Pat started that from the very beginning, made it a priority for our organization to develop as coaches. And Pat always said that coaches should not be specialists, but rather you have to learn how to do all aspects of the coaching umbrella, player development, scouting, game planning, working with players individually, all that stuff. So a summer program is probably the most effective way for us to develop our staff."
IN THE LANE
BIRTHDAY GREETINGS: Speaking of Pat Riley's 68th birthday this past week (his hair is only 34), Erik Spoelstra joked that his coaching job has gotten him away from at least one aspect of that annual celebration. "I used to be in a charge of the special birthday video for Coach Riley," said Spoelstra, who broke into the organization in 1995 as a video coordinator just prior to Riley's arrival as coach and team president. "The team used to always have me do it. I think that's where I probably gained respect from Pat, was my irreverent approach to those videos, of mocking his birthday."
ONE MORE CHANCE: After spending last season in Russia and splitting the start of this season between Spain and the D-League, former Heat guard Chris Quinn has been given the chance to finish the season with the injury-ravaged Cleveland Cavaliers. "He's very steady," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. "He just knows how to play. He doesn't do anything he's not capable of doing when he's on the basketball court. He can run a team and he can make shots." Quinn, who went to training camp this season with the Utah Jazz, is from nearby Dublin, Ohio. "I'm sure I'll have more ticket requests being in Cleveland than I ever have," he said.
STAND IN: Count Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on the side of those who stand in against incoming dunkers. This past week he expressed his support of what former Mavericks guard Jason Terry did by making a play on LeBron James' violent dunk against the Boston Celtics, as well as a similar defensive bid by posterized Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight. "It's the gutless who worry about what they look like in a poster," Cuban told reporters, "and it's the real players who have no problem playing the game. I give credit to Brandon Knight; I give credit to Jet. You do your job and don't care about the posters or the tweets. That's the kind of guys teams want."
NEW LOOK: Two seasons ago, Dwane Casey was a Mavericks assistant when Dallas beat the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Last Sunday, as coach of the Toronto Raptors, he saw his team become the 22nd consecutive victim on the Heat's winning streak. "It's a different team," Casey said. "This team is moving the ball much better. It's taken them two years to get the ball zinging around. . . . The team back then settled more one-on-one."
RARE AIR: No sooner did Jeff Green score 43 points Monday as an injury replacement against the Heat then Celtics President Danny Ainge took to the airwaves to temper expectations. "That's like taking away from a pitcher that throws a no-hitter," Ainge said during a radio interview. "Obviously he's not going to be able to throw a no-hitter every time, and then the next outing he goes out and gives up six runs and you say, 'Which guy is he?' That's sports. That's the nature of the game. Jeff Green is not a LeBron James, not Kevin Durant, not Larry Bird. He's a really good player for us, and a very important player for us." Ainge, though, did say the expectation is for Green to emerge as the "heir apparent" to Paul Pierce at small forward for the Celtics.
.002 -- Winning percentage (5-2,013) of NBA teams over the past 15 seasons that had trailed by at least 27 points in the second half of games, with the Heat overcoming a 27-point third-quarter deficit to win Wednesday in Cleveland.
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