Miami joins forces with D-League team
by Terry Vandrovec, USA TODAY Sports
Clearly, the Sioux Falls Skyforce hope that their exclusive affiliation with the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat – cemented over the summer – will pay significant and tangible dividends. But the little stuff has value, too.
That was apparent Tuesday when Heat president and NBA legend Pat Riley reached town to speak at a Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce banquet.
Beforehand, the nine-time NBA champion fielded questions from the media, dishing out opinions on the future of basketball and serving up stories from his legendary career before ending the session with, “Go Skyforce.”
It ranked high on the unofficial list of ain’t-it-cool moments in the 25-year history of the franchise.
“It’s a little surreal to pick him up at the airport, see him walk out of the plane into my car and then just usher him around – and then have him be knowledgeable about the Skyforce,” Sioux Falls team president Mike Heineman said. “On the way to the Pentagon we were talking about the (D-League) draft and who he hopes to see down here.”
Riley checked out the Sanford Pentagon – the new home venue for the Force – after the media session and before addressing a crowd of about 1,900 at the chamber event, the former first-round pick showing glimpses of agility even at age 68.
He came away impressed in an understated way. He expected the building to be done right; the Heat wouldn’t otherwise have entered into a partnership with a minor-league team that’s so far from South Beach.
“We’re at a time in our history in Miami (that) it’s about championships right now,” said Riley, a New York native who won titles as a player, an assistant, a coach and an executive. “But we also know that on the backburner a key to our future is going to be the development of players. After this season, not only in the draft, but finding young players wherever you can – we’re going to need a place to put them to develop them so we feel like the Skyforce will be a good partnership for us.”
To that end, Riley praised (and in … [For more on Miami Heat join forces with NBA DLeague team Sioux Falls, click here.]