Miami Heat

Expect Johnson, Waiters On Short-Term Deals

If the Heat are to retain James Johnson and Dion Waiters, it will likely be on short-term deals, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his weekly mailbag.

Both Johnson and Waiters saw their careers take off this season after years of bouncing around and each were instrumental in the Heat’s impressive push for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

That said, while the pair seem to be a good fit with the Heat, the franchise will look to maintain flexibility by committing only to short-term deals. Eventually, Winderman writes, the club could explore signing them to a longer term deal when their Heat Bird Rights take effect.

Waiters averaged 15.8 points in 46 games for the Heat this season while Johnson added 12.8 points, 5.0 rebounds per game while providing a sense of toughness that fit the traditional Miami mold.

Dion Waiters Discusses Heat, Thunder, Pat Riley

Dion Waiters can become a free agent this offseason by turning down his player option for next season. Even if he chooses that route, he hopes to return to Miami. “Hopefully, we found a home down here,” Waiter writes on The Players’ Tribune.

The Philadelphia native didn’t expect to sign with the Heat last summer. He was a free agent and heard that Miami was interested, but wasn’t sold on the fit. “I wasn’t really seeing it at first. Nothing against the Heat, but I didn’t know how I’d fit there,” Waiters writes. “Then I met Pat Riley.”

Waiters explains how Riley spoke with him about life and not just basketball during a free agent meeting. Riley also told him that if he came to Miami, the organization would get him in “world-class shape.” Waiters said he didn’t know it at the time, but now he realizes that taking the meeting with the Heat president was the best thing that happened to his basketball career. He writes:

When Pat said “world-class shape,” I thought it sounded cool, but in my head, I was like, Yeah, I got this. I’m in world-class shape. You already know. So I show up for camp, and after one week, my body is shot. I was damn near throwing up in trash cans like in the movies. And I realized, You know what? Pat was not just talking that smooth talk. This Heat thing is the real deal.

Miami came up one game short of making the playoffs after starting the season with a record of 11-30. Waiters believes that the Heat could have done serious damage as an eighth seed in the east, but regardless, he feels the season was special.

The Syracuse product also discusses how he enjoyed competing with Kevin Durant in practice and how he loved his Thunder team during the 2015/16 season. Waiters thought he was going to return to Oklahoma City after the team lost in the Western Conference Finals. “I genuinely thought I was going to be back in OKC this season, and we were going to make another run at it. But things didn’t work out that way, because basketball is a business,” he writes.

Waiters’ article is one of the publication’s best pieces and it’s worth a read. In addition to the aforementioned, he discusses his life growing up in Philadelphia, his younger basketball days, and his public persona, which includes the notion that he thinks he’s the best on the court and that he has irrational confidence.

“Listen, now you know where I’m from. Picture yourself walking into a South Philly playground at 12 years old, with [grown] men, bleachers packed with people, trying to get a run in.” Waiters writes. “You think you can survive in Philly without irrational confidence?”

Pat Riley Talks Wade, LeBron, Future, More

At his season-ending press conference last week, Heat president Pat Riley admitted that this season was a difficult one for him, and that he was disappointed his club wasn’t able to nab a playoff spot after its incredible second-half run. In a fascinating piece for ESPN The Magazine, Wright Thompson takes a deeper dive into Riley’s year, examining the 72-year-old’s reluctance to retire, his thoughts on the end of the Heat’s Big Three era, and much more.

As Thompson details, despite Riley’s plans for his eventual retirement, the Heat president remains committed to his work with the team, joking that the idea that he’s retiring to Malibu is the “greatest lie in the world.” According to Thompson, Riley signed a new five-year contract with the Heat last year that allows him to work from anywhere, meaning he’s able to spend a little more time in Malibu and less time in Miami. However, he’s determined to win at least one more title with the Heat before riding off into the sunset, even as he recognizes that last championship “will be the toughest to get.”

Here are a few more highlights from Thompson’s feature on Riley:

  • According to Riley, Dwyane Wade‘s agent asked to deal directly with Heat ownership last summer, so Riley honored that request. However, he wishes he could have done things differently, especially after hearing that Wade was put off by Riley’s lack of involvement. “I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” Riley said. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. … I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”
  • When the Heat made their pitch to LeBron James during his free agency in 2014, Riley became worried that it was something of a courtesy meeting — Thompson notes that LeBron and his reps had their eye on a World Cup game during the meeting, and that Riley asked at one point to mute the volume. After flying home from the Las Vegas sit-down, Riley received a call from James and agent Rich Paul indicating that LeBron would be leaving Miami.
  • Riley on his initial reaction to LeBron’s decision: “I was silent. I didn’t say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like [Cavs owner] Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.”
  • Riley on ultimately recognizing and respecting LeBron’s decision: “He went home because he had to go home. It was time. It was really time for him to go home, in his prime. If he’s ever gonna do anything in Akron again, this was the time to do it. Otherwise, he’d have had a scarlet letter on his back the rest of his whole life.”
  • With James gone to Cleveland, the Heat were at risk of losing Chris Bosh to the Rockets, prompting Riley to sign Bosh to a long-term, maximum salary deal. According to Thompson, Riley wishes in retrospect that he had said no to Bosh and given that lucrative long-term contract to Wade instead.
  • For more, be sure to check out Thompson’s full feature, which is a great read for Heat fans and non-fans alike.

Heat Notes: J. Johnson, Waiters, Cap Space, Whiteside

Using their cap space to keep their own free agents is a better option for the Heat than chasing Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, argues Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Miami will have about $37MM to spend this summer if it declines a $6.3MM option on Wayne Ellington. Issuing a max contract of more than $30MM would severely cut into that total and make it impossible for the team to re-sign James Johnson and Dion Waiters. The Heat may try to trade Josh McRoberts, who is expected to exercise a player option worth a little more than $6MM, but Winderman doesn’t expect them to find any takers. He recommends using that $37MM to keep Johnson, Waiters, Ellington and Willie Reed.

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • The Heat’s decisions this summer will shape their roster for the next few years, Winderman writes in a separate piece. If Johnson and Waiters both sign three- or four-year deals, they will join Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson, who are all under contract through 2019/20. Those three already take up $62.7MM of Miami’s cap room for 2018/19, when the cap is projected at $102MM. Even assuming team-friendly contracts for James Johnson and Waiters at a combined $28MM, the Heat would be at $90.7MM, without considering $5.2MM cap holds for Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. Miami’s front office will have to decide soon if that core is worth locking up the salary cap for the next three seasons.
  • Despite recent comments from team president Pat Riley expressing loyalty to his players, the Heat would be willing to trade anyone on the roster, Winderman states in another column. The writer adds that Riley handled his press conference much better than Knicks president Phil Jackson did, but notes that if Dwyane Wade was allowed to leave last summer, then anyone is expendable.
  • After giving Whiteside a four-year, $98MM deal a year ago, the Heat want him to become a better low-post scorer, Winderman relays in another story. Whiteside continues to be among the league’s best rebounders and shot blockers, but the organization wants him to expand his offensive game and become a “championship” center. “Once you feed him that, he may be able to go there,” Riley said, “but you have to put him in that position. I think he has the ability to put up bigger numbers.”

Pat Riley Talks Heat, Offseason, Haslem, Bosh

At his season-ending press conference today, Heat president Pat Riley expressed optimism and enthusiasm about his team’s future, despite the fact that he was disappointed Miami wasn’t able to sneak into the playoffs.

“While we’re not in the playoffs, we’re ahead of the game,” Riley said. “The table is set, with the pick. We obviously know we have flexibility in free agency. We will see how that works out with our players and other players.

“I was pissed. They deserved to get in and they didn’t get in…. We won four out of our last five games against the best teams in the conference and we still didn’t get in. It was a great disappointment, but at the same time it was a lot of success.”

In addition to suggesting that he’s not sure how many more non-playoff years he can take, Riley weighed in on several items of note relating the Heat and their summer plans. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights, courtesy of Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald

  • Asked about possibly pursuing a star free agent – as the Heat did a year ago with Kevin Durant – Riley downplayed that possibility, suggesting that “we are going to focus on our guys” rather than the “whales” he has talked about in the past. In addition to Dion Waiters and James Johnson, one of those guys is Udonis Haslem — Riley said today that he wants the longtime Heat big man back on the roster next season, calling Haslem “invaluable.”
  • The Heat may also go the trade route rather than making a massive free agent signing, according to Riley, who added that Justise Winslow is not “going anywhere.”
  • On the subject of Chris Bosh, Riley said there have been discussions within the organization about Bosh’s situation, but there’s no resolution yet.
  • Riley doesn’t mind not being at the very top of the draft, since he feels like he can get a solid player in the middle of the first round, and points out that seven of the top prospects are point guards, which he doesn’t need (Twitter links via Jackson).
  • The Heat president indicated that he was happy the team invested heavily in Hassan Whiteside last summer, adding that he believes the young center is capable of developing into the sort of player who averages 25 PPG, 17 RPG, and 6 APG.
  • Riley called the issue of resting healthy players an “absolute travesty” that needs to be addressed by the league, noting that the Heat don’t take part in that practice.
  • Riley also said that Miami’s goal is to establish a D-League affiliate within 100 miles of the NBA team (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel). Currently, the Heat’s NBADL team plays in Sioux Falls, which is more than 1,800 miles away from Miami.
  • Be sure to check out Jackson’s recap for several more comments from Riley.

Chris Bosh Talks Future; Dion Waiters Talks Free Agency

  • Appearing on Larry King Now on Sunday, Heat big man Chris Bosh – who missed the entire 2016/17 season due to blood clot issues – reiterated that he hasn’t closed the door on attempting an NBA comeback. Bosh also said that he doesn’t have any real interest in coaching basketball after he officially retires as a player. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel has the details and the quotes from Bosh.
  • James Johnson referred to Miami as “home” on Monday, and the Heat‘s other key free agent, Dion Waiters, also also expressed a desire to stay put this offseason, as Shandel Richardson of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Still, Waiters acknowledged that he “can’t predict the future,” so it remains to be seen what his free agency holds.

Heat Notes: Spoelstra, Johnson, Winslow

Heat players recently cleaned out their lockers, having failed to make the playoffs, and many of them will have an opportunity to go elsewhere this summer. James Johnson, Udonis Haslem, and Luke Babbitt will be free agents. Willie Reed, Josh McRoberts, and Dion Waiters all hold player options and Wayne Ellington could join the free agent market if the franchise declines his $6.27MM team option.

Coach Erik Spoelstra wants his players to feel comfortable returning to Miami, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. “This is clean-up day, not clean-out day,” the coach said.

Spoelstra added that his goal is to move forward with the team’s current group and compete for a championship. “Our organization is not going to change. We’re hard-wired to play and compete for championships,” he said. “Hopefully this is dot-dot-dot continued and we can build on this.”

Here’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat are thrilled with Hassan Whiteside‘s growth this season, as Winderman relays in the same piece. “I think his growth has been staggering,” Spoelstra said of the big man. “You can define it how you want. He can become one of the greats.” Whiteside signed a four-year, $98.4MM contract with Miami last offseason.
  • Johnson may consider taking a discount to stay with the Heat if it means keeping this year’s group together, Winderman passes along (Twitter links). “I’m home. That’s what it feels like. I love it here,” Johnson said of Miami.
  • Justise Winslow is recovering from shoulder surgery and is “way ahead of schedule,” according to Spoelstra, as Winderman relays via Twitter.
  • Prior to the injury, the Heat strongly believed Winslow would become a quality starter due to the work he put in last summer to improve his shooting, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Winslow admits that being sidelined hindered his ability to get comfortable with his new shooting mechanics, but added that he’ll continue to work on that part of his game.
  • Spoelstra feels Winslow would have helped Miami this season because of his efficient play, as Jackson passes along in the same piece. “He can generate threes for you offensively because he puts a lot of pressure in the paint, off the dribble, in transition. He’s an aggressive, bruising, physical type of player and he sees the floor. That helps create your three-point game,” the coach said.
  • In his latest mailbag, Winderman explains why it’ll be hard for the Heat to add a major free agent, such as Paul Millsap, and bring back the core of this year’s squad. The team can feasibly carve out approximately $37MM in cap space this summer and that may not be enough for Miami to add a max player in addition to own free agents.

Will Heat Retain James Johnson, Dion Waiters?

James Johnson and Dion Waiters were among the players that helped kick-start – and sustain – the Heat‘s 30-11 second half run, but both players are eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason. Johnson and Waiters combined to earn less than $7MM in 2016/17, and with both players in line for sizable raises, Heat owner Micky Arison seems ready to pay up to retain them. As Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald details, Arison published an Instagram photo this weekend that shows him posing with Johnson and Waiters. The caption? “The @miamiheat future looks very bright.”

Of course, an Instagram photo in April doesn’t mean that Johnson and Waiters are guaranteed to re-sign with the Heat in July. Team president Pat Riley will have a major role in that decision, and many teams with cap room could make things difficult for Miami.

  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel takes a look at the Heat‘s roster from players one through 15, attempting to determine which guys the team will prioritize this summer. In Winderman’s view, Miami should try to re-sign Waiters, but Johnson should be the priority if the team has to decide between the two.

Latest On Carmelo Anthony

Knicks president Phil Jackson didn’t mince words when addressing his long-simmering dispute with Carmelo Anthony in a press conference Friday. Making his intentions clear to end their relationship, Jackson said, “I think the direction with our team, he’ll be better off somewhere else.”

The problem is that there’s no easy way for a break-up to occur. Anthony is under contract for $26,243,760 next season and $27,928,140 in 2018/19 with an early termination option. There is also a 15% trade kicker that must be paid by whatever team acquires him, along with a no-trade clause that Anthony can use to block any deal he doesn’t like.

With that in mind, several NBA writers have taken a look at where Anthony might wind up:

  • Anthony has three options for the offseason, writes Tom Ziller of SBNation. He can waive the no-trade clause and accept a deal, although Ziller says he shouldn’t feel obligated to do so just because Jackson wants him gone. He can submit a list of teams that he would agree to be traded to, which would presumably include joining friends LeBron James with the Cavaliers, Chris Paul with the Clippers or Dwyane Wade with the Bulls. Or he can make a stand and tell the Knicks that he won’t leave until his contract expires. Ziller favors the last option, noting that Anthony likes being in New York and has earned the power he obtained through the no-trade clause.
  • The Cavaliers, Clippers and Celtics, whom the Knicks reportedly contacted about moving Anthony before the February deadline, are listed as possible destinations by The New York Post, along with the Heat and Wizards.
  • Miami may have interest in Anthony, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel, who notes that team president Pat Riley pursued the Knicks star in free agency three years ago. With more than $25MM expected to be freed in cap space once the Chris Bosh situation is resolved, Miami could add Anthony with a simple trade, and Winderman suggests Justise Winslow as a possibility. However, that would leave the team unable to re-sign James Johnson and Dion Waiters.
  • The Bulls “will steer completely clear of whatever Carmelo does,” predicts Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. In a video posted on CSNChicago.com, Friedell suggests that if Anthony had come to Chicago three seasons ago, Tom Thibideau probably would have been kept as coach and current Knicks Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would still be with the Bulls.

Udonis Haslem Wants Another Season In Miami

Veteran forward Udonis Haslem hopes to play at least one more season and he wants to stay with the Heat, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel.

The 37-year-old, who has spent his entire 14-year career in Miami, was motivated by the team’s near miss in its run at a playoff spot.

“I would love to be here,” Haslem said. “I would love to be a part of these guys’ process and maturation. And when the time does come, I want to be in a situation where I was able to help those guys get to the playoffs. Not making the playoffs is not the way I want to end. I’ve still got a lot of gas in the tank. We will see what happens.”

Haslem played sparingly this season, getting into just 17 games and averaging 7.6 minutes per night. But he understands his role as a mentor on a rebuilding team and is willing to continue it to remain in Miami.

Haslem is the last link to the Heat teams that dominated the Eastern Conference in the early part of the decade. He says he was never tempted to look elsewhere, even after Dwyane Wade departed for the Bulls last summer.

Haslem played this season on a one-year, $4MM contract, but will probably have to take a cut in pay if he returns. Between the Heat’s cap concerns and the salary structure in the new CBA, Winderman states that Haslem can expect something close to the veteran minimum of $2.3MM next season.

Keeping a roster spot open for Haslem could also be an issue, depending what happens with the Heat’s large contingent of free agents. However, coach Erik Spoelstra loves having what amounts to a player/coach on hand and is expected to be an advocate for keeping Haslem.

“I love U.D. … How else can I say it?” Spoelstra said. “He’s the last one, the last Samurai from the championship years. He has always embodied everything that we want from a Miami Heat player.”

Haslem will spend the summer working with James Johnson and Dion Waiters, even though they are headed toward free agency, as well as Tyler Johnson.

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