Miami Heat president Pat Riley insists his franchise has recovered well from LeBron James' stunning return to Cleveland in free agency, but admits that it remains a difficult blow to accept.

"I went into it with the notion he was coming back, so I was selling that to players," Riley said Wednesday. "I let him know that. He never said, 'Don't do that.' "

Addressing questions from reporters for the first time since James opted to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after four successful seasons in Miami, Riley reiterated throughout a 40-minute conference call that he's confident the Heat will remain a top competitor in the East without the four-time league MVP.

James led the Heat to four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and championships in 2012 and 2013, but decided to walk away after Miami suffered a lopsided loss to San Antonio in five games during the Finals last month. Riley said he expected James to return to Miami after James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all opted out of the final two years of their contracts to enter free agency.

At the same time, Riley said he never felt he was misled by James during the free-agency process but also suggested he was never discouraged by James or his representatives in the days leading to James announcing in a Sports Illustrated essay that he was going back to Cleveland.