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Riley Eager to See How Champion Heat Can Improve

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MIAMI (AP) — Pat Riley’s approach to free agency has changed considerably since 2010, simply because the Miami Heat have nowhere near the same amount of money left to spend as they did during the coup that brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together.

Still, the sales pitch from the Heat president will remain the same.

“There’s a lot of room out there this year,” Riley said. “But there aren’t many teams that have a chance, really, to win a title. And I think a lot of veteran players might be interested in something like that.”

So again, when free agency starts on Sunday, Riley and the Heat will ask prospective newcomers to make a sacrifice.

They can also show those recruits that their current formula works — with this year’s NBA championship trophy serving as proof.

After draft night came and went without the Heat making any significant changes to their roster, Miami’s attention now moves to free agency. Because the NBA’s shopping window hasn’t opened, Riley didn’t discuss any of his specific targets by name. But it is widely assumed that the Heat will try to woo Boston guard Ray Allen, who when healthy remains one of the game’s best outside shooters.

James, the league’s reigning MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, shared that terribly kept secret on his Twitter account Thursday night.

“While watching the Draft my son Bryce ask ‘Is Ray Allen gonna play for the Heat,’” James tweeted. “I said ‘I don’t know. I hope so.’”

Let the recruiting begin.

Riley said the Heat have “five or six” guys targeted to open the free-agent period.

“If we could add a shooter that would help us, because we are that kind of a team,” Riley said. “If we could get a real big that had to be guarded and had some versatility, then we might try to go in that direction. If there’s a 3-point shooter that’s long and can defend, then we might go in that direction. So there is a lot of areas you can go. There isn’t one specific thing. I just know that we want to find as much space as we can on the floor for Dwyane and for LeBron and for Chris to be able to operate.”

The Heat spent years making sure they would have the spending capability to land a trio like James, Wade and Bosh in 2010. This summer, Riley and the Heat will go into free agency only able to offer the mini mid-level exception of $3 million, or a veteran’s minimum contract of about $1 million, or the ability to package some future draft picks in trades. Moving players through trades is another option, though Riley said the Heat are “not exploring” that yet.

Riley said there have been no discussions about using Miami’s one-time amnesty provision this summer, on Mike Miller — who made seven 3-pointers in the title-clinching win over Oklahoma City — or anyone else. Riley also said that Miller plans to take a couple weeks to decompress before making any decisions about his future or surgical options. Miller met earlier this week with Dr. Barth Green to evaluate his back, the primary source of his pain during the season.

Riley said the team will guarantee center backup center Dexter Pittman’s contract for next season, meaning he will earn about $885,000. Eddy Curry might factor into the team’s plans again, with Riley saying he would have a conversation before too long with the veteran center who appeared sparingly in 14 games this season, none in the playoffs.

He also said that the strained lower abdominal muscle that sidelined Bosh for nine playoff games was more daunting than previously thought.

“He’s still nursing an injury,” Riley said. “He had a significant abdominal injury that I’m sure that if we weren’t in the playoffs against Boston then he probably would not have played for another three or four weeks.”

Wade removed himself from Olympic consideration on Thursday, telling USA Basketball that he will need surgery on his left knee this summer. Bosh, who also played on the 2008 gold-medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics, said earlier this week that he is “all in for now” on participating in the London Games, but would reassess after speaking to doctors.

“Chris has represented his country already and that’s up to him,” Riley said.

Riley also said the celebration of the championship, at least for people like him, coach Erik Spoelstra and other team executives, is pretty much complete now. This past season was fueled in many respects by the pain of losing the 2011 finals to Dallas. Obviously, that pain was replaced by joy this time around — but Riley is still hoping the Heat find some way to sharpen the focus again, even after winning it all.

“One of the things that you need to think about, all of us after last year, how did we feel when we got beat by Dallas here? You saw guys falling down in the hallway here because of their disappointment and how discouraged they were,” Riley said. “So whatever the players did last summer, I would advise them to try to go back to their caves and hibernate again.”

He is not as brash as he once was — for example, he won’t guarantee that the Heat will repeat as champions, like he famously did when he was coaching the Lakers during their “Showtime” era.

All Riley will say now is that Miami believes it has built a team capable of contending for a long time.

“If you can win it, you enjoy it, you put it in your back pocket,” Riley said. “We’ve won two titles in the last six years. We have a compelling, contending team. It excites me to try to make it better. And so we’re a contender. We’ll be the defending champion next year, but as long as you have a chance and you feel like you can improve this team, then that’s all it’s about.”

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Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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