Published On: Tue, Sep 21st, 2010

Word of advice, don’t mess with the Godfather

By: Pedro Heizer

Since his much-anticipated free agent signings this summer, Pat Riley hasn’t been talking too much, instead, he’s been listening quietly to criticism of his players and his franchise.

Now, after hearing all the haters have spoken, he is talking, lashing back, and laying the groundwork for the mentality his team will need to win a championship this season.

Riley started by calling out television analyst Charles Barkley for his a-little-too-personal criticism of LeBron James. Riley then took exception to remarks from Magic general manager Otis Smith and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

He also made it very clear what he thought about any other haters of his Dynasty: “They can sit on it.”

“I take a little umbrage to some of the things that came from people in our game who, all of a sudden, have become the moral conscious or moral authority on the decision of every team or some individual might make,” Riley said Friday during a conference call with South Florida writers. “I know one thing: Our team will be ready. And I think that’s the way we can answer all the critics.”

Barkley was the one who started it all earlier this summer by being openly critical of the way James handled his free agency, along with the celebratory press conference with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who also signed with the Heat the same day. Barkley called the celebration: “Punk moves.”

It was his long time bench coach and former Miami HEAT head coach, Stan Van Gundy who referred to Bosh as Wade’s “lapdog,” for the way he followed him through the free agent process. And it was Smith, Orlando’s General Manager, who said he thought LeBron James was more of a competitor after he left Cleveland to play in Miami.

“Charles Barkley, to me, went way, way, way over the top taking these personal attacks. Calling these guys a bunch of punks is a personal attack,” Riley said. “For him to say that is wrong.”

“I thought that (what Smith said) was an absolutely stupid remark. He never made any kind of comment like that when he signed Rashard Lewis and brought him from Seattle (in 2007) with a $128 million contract,” Riley said.

Even though Barkley, Van Gundy and Smith were mentioned by Riley, their comments were indicative of the criticism from around the league, much of it stemming from Riley’s unprecedented success in the free agent market.

Riley already had proven himself as one of the league’s all-time great coaches, and now had proven himself to be one of the league’s all-time greatest executives.

His remarks are sure to fuel the once-simmering but now flaming rivalry with the upstate Magic, taking it to a level that could make it one of the league’s best.

It’s the first time that the Heat and Magic both will be among the elite teams in the league at the same time. Their relationship has been strained since 2007 when the Heat temporarily tried to block Van Gundy (who was still on the Miami payroll) from becoming the Magic coach. Even though it was Riley who brought Van Gundy into the league as an assistant coach in Miami, their relationship since has been an uneasy one.

It won’t take long to see how the two teams react to each other this season. They meet during the exhibition season Oct. 22. And they meet again the next week in the regular season in Miami.

Let’s put it this way, to all the people out there that talked the talk, it’s time to walk the walk. Pat Riley has never been the one to back down from anything and he sure won’t back down from protecting his beloved team that he single-handedly put together. So word of advice, don’t mess with the Godfather.

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