Miami Heat president Pat Riley has denied swearing at Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Heat and T-Wolves had been involved in negotiations over a trade for wantaway star Jimmy Butler since the player's trade request. And Riley was reported as having called Thibodeau a "mother******" before hanging up the phone on him after his counterpart attempted to get more for the shooting guard than was initially agreed upon.
No one would have changed their opinion on the Heat president - often referred to as "The Godfather" for his authoritative and shrewd negotiating skills - if they really believed he used the 'M' word in reference to Thibs. Riley is a respected figure around the NBA, but the frustration would have been understood. Plus it's not worse than what Butler has been saying to his head coach lately anyway.
But, on Friday, the 73-year-old issued a staunch denial of the reports, insisting that negotiations with the Timberwolves president had remained cordial at every juncture.
"As to what has been reported in the past 24 hours, I have too much respect for Tom Thibodeau and all that he’s accomplished in this league," Riley said in a statement issued through the Heat's media relations department ahead of the side's final preseason game.
"Our conversations have been nothing but cordial and I have never used that kind of language in negotiations, but I do admit to telling Danny Ainge to . . ."
Yes, that last part too, including the three periods. Riley was referring to the verbal spat he had engaged in with Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge back when LeBron James was still a Heat player and the rivalry with Boston was at its peak.
”...Our conversations have been nothing but cordial and I have never used that kind of language in negotiations, but I do admit to telling Danny Ainge to...”— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 12, 2018
The two team officials have been on poor terms since Ainge's playing days with the C's - Riley was coach of the Los Angeles Lakers at the time - and they have a go at each other every now and then.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Heat has revealed that Miami are no longer keen on pursuing a deal for Butler.
The player did not feature in the Timberwolves' preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, with Thibodeau claiming he had remained in Minneapolis for conditioning.