He started as the coach of the Showtime Lakers, but Pat Riley was always a blue-collar kind of a guy. All about tough, uncompromising commitment to leave everything on the floor, every single time. For Riley, if you weren't on the operating table, you were good to go.
We've all heard plenty about the Heat way, the body fat limits, and the militaristic organizational style Pat Riley enforces in Miami. Riley had the same mindset with the Knicks but couldn't enforce it to the extent he does in Miami. Still, players around the league knew what playing for Riley meant.
Dirk Nowitzki recently said he wonders if he should've retired a few years earlier. Unfortunately, he played on bad ankles and is dealing with the consequences to this day. Something as simple as playing a bit of soccer with his kids is a fantasy for Dirk. It's hard to know when it's time to say you're done, and some players pay the price. Unlike most, Doc Rivers was warned.
He got traded from the Clippers with Charles Smith. He was working out with Magic Johnson and James Worthy when he got the call. Magic told him right then and there, minutes after he got traded "He's gonna kill your career. You might win a title, but physically you won't have anything left."
Chris Herring, Bring It In
In 1993, Doc tore his ACL. To this day, you can see a limp in Doc's walking pattern, and playing for Pat Riley is a big reason why. He finished his career with the Spurs, but the miles Pat put on his body in those two years with the Knicks are like at least four years with anyone else.
Funny enough, the current coach of the Knicks is Riley's heir apparent in that regard. The phrase Thibs minutes is well known around the league - just ask Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler. The latter found a home in Riley's Heat culture, and even Butler publicly appealed to Thibs to consider reducing the workload in Minessota.
Players think about longevity a lot more these days, and signing up for a coach that takes away years of your career is a much larger factor than it used to be. That's an under-analyzed part of all the speculation around Zion Williamson joining the Knicks. Are we sure we want one of the most injury-prone players in the league playing under Tom Thibodeau?
Thibs might help Zion establish more discipline when it comes to being in shape, but the science is clear. Rest is the best measure in preventing serious injuries. As much as Thibs tried to convince everyone he's changed during his hiatus, the numbers say otherwise.