James Johnson

Heat Notes: Culture, Whiteside, Waiters

A lack of communication may be behind Miami’s sub-par start this season. As Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes, the Heat hashed things out in real, raw terms Sunday morning and seem to be in better spirits as a result of it.

We had our discussions this morning,” forward James Johnson said. “We aired it out this morning. A lot of people took heat. I think it was the best thing for us to do, even more important than film. That’s what this culture is about, that’s what we’re about — staring guys in the eyes, telling guys the truth and that’s how you show you really love somebody.”

The Heat started famously bad last season before rallying from an 11-30 start to compete for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. That comeback was built largely on the culture that Johnson refers to.

There’s more out of Miami this weekend:

  • Dion Waiters will still get an opportunity to be a closer for the Heat, despite the fact that he struggled mightily against the Celtics this weekend. Head coach Erik Spoesltra told the Sun Sentinel that, despite a lingering ankle issue that occasionally appears to impede him, Waiters will continue to be fully in the mix heading forward.
  • The Heat have been without Hassan Whiteside since their season opener. Point guard Goran Dragic considers the 28-year-old center to be the heart of the team, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel reports. The big man has missed four games with a bone bruise on his knee.
  • The Heat haven’t started their campaign how they would have liked to and emotions are starting to ramp up. “I love all the emotions that players go through,” head coach Erik Spoelstra told the media, including the Sun Sentinel. “I don’t even care if it boils over. It means you care.”

Heat Rumors: Hammons, Liggins, Olynyk, Waiters

Rodney McGruder‘s injury could force the Heat to address the imbalanced roster, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. McGruder is out 3-6 months with a stress fracture in his leg, swinging the door open for Miami to keep or add another wing player, Jackson continues. The bottom of the roster is filled with power forwards and centers — Bam Adebayo, Udonis Haslem, Jordan Mickey and A.J. Hammons — and the Heat may have to waive Hammons and his guaranteed two-year contract to fortify the wing positions. Miami could keep either DeAndre Liggins or Matt Williams Jr. from its training-camp roster to fill the void, Jackson adds.

In other developments concerning the Heat:

  • Kelly Olynyk has made a strong case to be the starting power forward, even though James Johnson came into camp as the favorite to win the job, Jackson reports in another story. Olynyk has meshed well with center Hassan Whiteside in preseason action, which is making the decision tougher for coach Erik Spoelstra, Jackson continues. “Their skill sets really complement each other,” Spoelstra told Jackson and other media members. “Kelly does a lot of things very similar to JJ in his own personality, in his own way. We think it fits. We think it works whether he comes off the bench or not, I like the dynamic.”
  • Dion Waiters had to wait out the Gordon Hayward free agent saga before the Heat committed to him with a four-year, $52MM contract, Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni notes during an in-depth feature on Waiters. A confident Waiters opted out of his deal this summer and the gamble ultimately paid off when Miami lost the Hayward sweepstakes and instead spent a chunk of their free-agent money on Waiters. “He likes to say he bet on himself, but he also bet on the organization,” Spoelstra told Nadkarni. “We bet on him as well. We’re not only about reclamation projects. We wanted to develop a relationship that would last longer than a year.”

Heat Notes: Winslow, Olynyk, Adebayo, Wade

For a team that brought back nearly all its key players over the offseason, the Heat head into training camp with a lot of unanswered questions. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald examines position battles and several other topics in his latest column:

  • The starting small forward position will be wide open when camp begins Tuesday, with Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder all having a shot at it. The Heat exercised their fourth-year option on Winslow this week as the former first-rounder tries to battle back from a shoulder injury that limited him to 18 games last season. Miami was only 3-12 when he started last year and he wasn’t part of the team’s surge after the All-Star break. Richardson, who received a four-year extension this week, came into the league as a guard, but played 80% of his minutes last season at forward.
  • James Johnson is the favorite to start at power forward, but free agent addition Kelly Olynyk will be an intriguing addition because of his outside shooting. Olynyk shoots .368 from 3-point range for his career, compared to .296 for Johnson, although he raised that number to 34% last season. Olynyk, who was used mainly in a reserve role in Boston, will see plenty of minutes in Miami whether he starts or not.
  • Johnson, Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside will take up most of the center/power forward opportunities, leaving little for first-round pick Bam Adebayo, whom the Heat believe has a bright future. Winslow may also be utilized as a stretch four in small-ball lineups, so Adebayo will need a strong showing in camp to earn playing time.
  • Okaro White and Jordan Mickey are likely to make the roster, with A.J. Hammons holding a slight edge for the 15th spot. However, the Heat have concerns about Hammons’ work ethic and he will be challenged by shooting guard Matt Williams. Former Michigan point guard Derrick Walton has been impressive over the summer, but he has a two-way contract and can’t spend more than 45 days in the NBA.
  • The front office isn’t unanimous in wanting Dwyane Wade back if he agrees to a buyout with the Bulls. There are concerns about his defense at age 35, and the Heat already have five guards who can make a case for playing time.

Southeast Notes: Incentives, Gortat, Kidd-Gilchrist

The Heat found a creative way to pad the contracts of their offseason signees, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes, by loading the deals with impressive bonuses and incentives. Dion Waiters, for example, can net over $1M in addition to his traditional $11M deal by simply appearing in 70 or more games this season.

While Waiters only appeared in 46 contests last year, thereby making this an “unlikely” incentive, he played in 70-plus in each of the four seasons prior to 2016/17. Other sorts of bonuses offered include one that would reward Kelly Olynyk should the Heat make the playoffs and another that would sweeten James Johnson‘s deal provided he meets certain body-fat measurement requirements.

Such contractual maneuvers aren’t new for the franchise, Winderman writes, noting that the Heat employed similar tactics, tying routine weigh-ins to retired point guard Tim Hardaway‘s deals.

Incentives are officially classified as “unlikely” if the condition was not met in the previous season. Unlikely incentives do not count toward a team’s salary cap at the time of the signing but they do at the end of the season if the conditions are met. This allowed the Heat flexibility to successfully juggle their returning free agents.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards decided this offseason to stick with their plan of gradually developing their young core, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. While they may have been able to skip the line in the East by going out and acquiring an additional star, the Wizards’ patience could pay off in the long run.
  • A healthy Ian Mahinmi will eat into Marcin Gortat‘s role with the Wizards, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. At the end of last season, Gortat expressed doubt about his future in Washington, though he said last month that he’s fully committed to the franchise.
  • Without being asked, head coach Steve Clifford has reiterated that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will start at small forward for the Hornets, Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer writes. Concern over the 23-year-old’s offense has some wondering if he may be better suited for a reserve role.

Southeast Notes: Richardson, Wizards, Babbit

The contract extension that 2015 second-round pick Josh Richardson is eligible for with the Heat would value him similarly to NBA role players Matthew Dellavedova and Cristiano Felicio, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes.

Considering that Richardson is an established high character rotation piece already familiar with the Heat’s system, such an investment wouldn’t exactly be excessive.

Through two seasons with the Heat, Richardson has averaged 8.4 points on .374 shooting from beyond the arc. His length and ability to contribute on the defensive end make him one of the team’s most well-rounded assets.

As we wrote earlier this week, Richardson may be wise to wait until the June 2018 deadline before making his decision. If he doesn’t accept the four-year, $42MM extension with the Heat he’ll be a restricted free agent come July 1, 2018.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

 

Cap/Salary Notes: Heat, Clippers, Sixers, Chalmers

When the Heat agreed to deals with Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk, and James Johnson earlier this month, the reported terms of those agreements looked a little too high for the club to fit within its available cap room. At the time, it appeared the reported salary figures on those deals – $52MM for Waiters, $50MM for Olynyk, and $60MM for Johnson – could be inflated by possible incentives, while the base values ended up being a little smaller.

In the case of Waiters and Olynyk, that’s indeed the case. As Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders details, the overall base value of Waiters’ four-year deal is approximately $47.3MM, while Olynyk’s is worth about $45.6MM overall. Pincus doesn’t yet have details on the unlikely incentives included in each contract, but if the terms reported initially are to be believed, it appears each player will have the opportunity to earn more than $1MM in incentives in each year of his new contract with the Heat.

Here are a few more cap, salary, and cash details courtesy of Pincus:

  • The Clippers sent $1.3MM to the Hawks as part of the three-way deal that landed Jamal Crawford in Atlanta, tweets Pincus. Meanwhile, the Clippers also paid $3.2MM to the Sixers to land the second-round pick that became Jawun Evans (Twitter link). That leaves the Clippers with just $600K available to send out in trades for the rest of the 2017/18 league year.
  • The Sixers can no longer receive cash in trades during the current league year, which runs through June 30, 2018. In addition to receiving $3.2MM from the Clippers, they were sent $1.9MM by the Bucks in exchange for the No. 46 pick (Sterling Brown), per Pincus (Twitter link). The limit for cash received in trades this season is $5.1MM.
  • Mario Chalmers is back in the NBA, but his contract suggests he doesn’t necessarily have job security quite yet. According to Pincus (Twitter link), only $25K of Chalmers’ minimum salary deal with the Grizzlies is currently guaranteed.
  • The Knicks sent $400K to the Kings as part of their “trade” that allowed them to hire Scott Perry away from Sacramento, tweets Pincus. Pincus adds (via Twitter) that the Kings and Knicks are now ineligible to trade with one another through the 2017/18 season. We saw that same restriction occur with the Clippers and Celtics a few years ago after L.A. sent Boston compensation to land Doc Rivers.

Celtics Officially Sign Gordon Hayward

JULY 14: Ten days after Hayward made his decision, he has formally signed his new maximum salary contract with the Celtics, the team confirmed today in a press release. Boston cleared the necessary cap room earlier today by waiving Jordan Mickey.gordonhayward vertical

JULY 4: Gordon Hayward has made it official. In a piece for The Players’ Tribune, Hayward has announced that he has decided to join the Celtics as a free agent. Hayward will receive a four-year maximum salary contract from Boston with a player option on the final year, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter links).

“After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics,” Hayward writes. “I know that will be tough to hear for Jazz fans — and I really want you all to know that you mean the world to me and my family. Over the past few days, I’ve been genuinely torn. And I know that this process isn’t easy on the fans, either. So I just want to be as straight-up as possible about why I’m coming to Boston.

“There were so many great things pulling me in that direction,” Hayward continued. “There was the winning culture of Boston, as a city — from the Sox, to the Pats, to the Bruins. There was the special history of the Celtics, as a franchise — from Russell, to Bird, to Pierce, and it goes on. There was the amazing potential of this current Celtics roster, as a team — from ownership, to the front office, to a talented roster with Isaiah, and Al, and everyone else. And of course, there was Coach [Brad] Stevens: Not just for the relationship that we’ve built off the court — but also for the one that we started building on the court, all of those years ago, in Indiana.”

It has been an eventful day for Hayward, as a report from Chris Haynes of ESPN indicating that Hayward planned to sign with the Celtics was shot down by other outlets, with Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein issuing a statement confirming that his client hadn’t finalized his decision. However, Haynes’ scoop proved accurate, with Hayward formally announcing his new team a few hours later.

By joining the Celtics, Hayward will be in line for a four-year contract worth $127,829,970, though he may end up not opting into that fourth year. By that point, he’ll have 10 years of NBA experience, which would put him in line for a new max deal worth 35% of the cap instead of his current 30%. That potential desire to opt out after year three reduced the importance of Utah’s ability to offer a fifth year.

Before they finalize the signing of Hayward, the Celtics will have to make a series of salary cap moves to create the necessary cap room for his lucrative new deal. In addition to renouncing their free agents, the C’s figure to pull Kelly Olynyk‘s qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson are candidates to be waived, and Boston will likely have to make at least one trade — Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, and Jae Crowder are among the candidates to be moved. Teams are already engaging the Celtics on possible deals, tweets Chris Mannix of The Vertical.

By adding Hayward, the Celtics made a big free agent splash for the second straight summer, having signed Al Horford a year ago. The team wasn’t able to land a second star like Jimmy Butler or Paul George via trade, but the reigning No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference has added an All-Star forward in Hayward and the No. 3 overall pick in Jayson Tatum, and still has a collection of future draft picks at its disposal, setting the franchise up very well for the future.

Hayward’s move to the Eastern Conference also comes at a time when most of the league’s stars who are changing teams are heading west. Butler is now in Minnesota, George is headed to Oklahoma City, and Paul Millsap will land in Denver. The talent drain in the East should give Hayward a clearer path to a spot in the NBA Finals, though Boston will still have to overcome LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

As for the other two teams involved in the Hayward sweepstakes, the Jazz are hit the hardest, having lost both Hayward and George Hill today. The team was able to add a replacement for Hill by acquiring Ricky Rubio last week, but replacing Hayward’s production will be much more difficult.

Still, now that they no longer need to accommodate a max deal for Hayward, the Jazz have some options. According to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), Utah has scheduled a meeting with Wizards RFA Otto Porter. However, Utah currently doesn’t have the cap space for a max offer for Porter, and moving contracts to open up that room would be risky, since the Wizards could match any offer.

Meanwhile, the Heat have a chunk of available cap room that they can now use on other players as well. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports (via Twitter) that Bartelstein, who also reps Miami free agent forward James Johnson, is “working on something” for Johnson and will talk with Pat Riley tonight.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Officially Sign James Johnson

July 7, 7:47pm: The Heat have officially re-signed Johnson, the team announced over Twitter.

July 6, 10:00 PM: Johnson’s deal will be for four years and $60MM, Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter links). Scotto adds that the contract contains a player option in the fourth season.James Johnson vertical

7:59 PM: The Heat and James Johnson have agreed on the framework of a four-year deal, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Johnson was widely expected to return to Miami.

Johnson floated around the league before signing a one-year deal with the Heat last offseason. He played a key role for Miami, earning 27.4 minutes per contest while serving as the team’s top perimeter defender.

The 30-year-old averaged double-digit scoring for the first time in his career (12.8 PPG) in 2016/17, and set new career-highs in RPG (4.9), APG (3.6), and 3PT% (.340).

The Heat struck out on bigger stars, such as Gordon Hayward, but rebounded by bringing in Kelly Olynyk and re-signing their own free agents.

The organization needs to clear cap space to accommodate lucrative deals for Olynyk, Johnson and Dion Waiters, and the team is working on moving Josh McRoberts to the Mavericks in order to do so.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Sign Kelly Olynyk To Four-Year Deal

JULY 7, 3:19pm: The Heat have officially signed Olynyk, the team announced today in a press release.

“As soon as Kelly Olynyk became an unrestricted free agent, we pursued him,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “He is not only a post player, he can also play away from the basket. What we like the most is that he is a playmaker, tough defender and rugged rebounder. At just 26 years old, he fits in perfect with our young core that will play together in their primes.”

JULY 6, 6:45pm: The Heat have reached an agreement on a four-year contract with free agent center Kelly Olynyk, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that the deal is worth $50MM. Olynyk’s new deal will include a fourth-year player option, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter).Kelly Olynyk vertical

Because the Celtics withdrew Olynyk’s qualifying offer earlier this week, he’s an unrestricted free agent and can sign outright with Miami. Boston needed to clear the big man’s cap hold from its books in order to help create enough space for Gordon Hayward‘s new maximum salary deal with the team. Until Olynyk’s QO was rescinded, he had been a restricted free agent, but becoming unrestricted helped accelerate his market.

Olynyk, 26, appeared in 75 regular season games for the Celtics last season, averaging 9.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG and once again showed off an ability to make an outside shot (.368 career 3PT%). His most memorable performance in Boston came in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Wizards, when he helped the C’s seal the series with a 26-point outburst.

By signing with the Heat, Olynyk will join a frontcourt that needed a little depth, given Willie Reed‘s free agency. Veteran power forward James Johnson also reached the open market over the weekend, but Olynyk’s deal won’t preclude a new agreement with Johnson, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, who tweets that the team still intends to get something done with the unrestricted free agent.

Having now reached eight-figure deals with Olynyk and Dion Waiters, the Heat only have about $6MM in cap room left over, but could open up another $6MM+ by waiving Wayne Ellington‘s non-guaranteed contract and another $4MM or so by stretching Josh McRoberts‘ deal.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) that the Mavericks and Heat have had discussions about a trade that would create more space for Miami, so it’s possible that Dallas is willing to take on McRoberts — Tyler Johnson would be the other logical trade candidate on the roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Celtics, Heat, Cavs, Wolves

Having landed Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have shifted their focus to adding a rim-protecting big man, and are showing interest in several free agents who fit that bill, tweets Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. Currently, the Celtics could only offer the $4.3MM room exception, but if they clear more than the minimum space necessary for Hayward’s deal, they could potentially make a bigger offer.

Speaking of Hayward, Jody Genessy of The Deseret News talked at length with agent Mark Bartelstein about how and why his client’s free agency announcement turned into such a mess on Tuesday. As Genessy details, via Bartelstein, Hayward went back and forth between the Jazz and Celtics before making his final decision.

Here are more free agency updates from around the NBA:

  • Having reached a deal with Dion Waiters, the Heat have interest in bringing back James Johnson and Luke Babbitt as well, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Bartelstein, who is also Johnson’s agent, will talk to Pat Riley tonight, according to Jackson.
  • While Richard Jefferson, who is under contract for 2017/18, plans to return to the Cavaliers, James Jones may not, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Agent Joel Bell says that neither the Cavs nor Jones have made any decisions, but a source tells Vardon that Jones – who is a free agent – won’t be back in Cleveland next season.
  • The Timberwolves have touched base with veteran free agent Vince Carter, but there’s nothing “concrete” happening with him for now, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.
  • The Mavericks are considering adding German power forward Maxi Kleber, per Sportando (Twitter link). Kleber expects to continue playing for Bayern Munich if he doesn’t make the jump to the NBA.
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