The best way to inflame a rivalry? Have Stan Van Gundy and Pat Riley involved.
After the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith were each publicly critical of the move — Smith said, “I thought [LeBron] was, I guess, more of a competitor,” and Van Gundy referred to Bosh as Wade’s “lapdog.”
In a conference call on Friday, Riley responded, calling Smith’s comments “absolutely stupid. He never made any kind of comment like that when he signed Rashard Lewis and he brought him down from Seattle with a $128 million contract.”
Of Van Gundy, Riley said, “Stan’s out there making comments about Chris Bosh being a lapdog to Dwyane Wade or something like that. I don’t know what happened to some of these guys along the way.”
Riley also took aim at the collective of former players who were critical of LeBron signing with Miami, a group that included everyone from Michael Jordan to Charles Barkley, who called the Heat’s post-signing introductory celebration “a punk move.”
“I take a little bit of umbrage to some of the things that came from people in our game that all of a sudden have become the moral conscience or moral authority on the decisions that every team or some individual might make concerning his life or his career,” said Riley.
On Saturday, Stan Van Gundy responded. Many of his comments, as reported here by NBA.com, were addressed directly to Riley, Van Gundy’s former boss.
“Whether it’s appropriate to do it or not (to pass judgments) is another issue, but if it’s OK for Pat to do it he shouldn’t be judging other people,’’ said Van Gundy said. “Pat was upset that he and his guys have gotten some criticism and he’s sensitive and the funniest part of the whole thing is him saying he doesn’t worry about what people say. My question is then, ‘Why did you go and call your own press conference?’
“Pat getting onto people for making moral judgments made me laugh. I was with Pat when we had all of those Knicks series and he had no problem making moral judgments on my brother. What I read into that was that I guess Pat is the only one allowed to make those moral judgments and the rest of us can’t do that. I guess we didn’t realize that Pat’s the only one allowed to do that.’’