Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Arison’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 8


Riley: ‘We move on’ from Wade | How Magic nearly flubbed drafting Shaq in ’92 | Towns on Wolves: ‘We’ve got to make the playoffs’

No. 1: Riley has ‘no regrets’ as 2016-17 season nears — The Miami Heat have retooled their roster this summer and as part of it, watched as franchise icon Dwyane Wade left in free agency to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Team president Pat Riley knows a new era is afoot in Miami and acknowledged as much in an interview with the Palm Beach Post‘s Tom D’Anglelo:

Heat president Pat Riley is looking forward to Sept. 27, the start of yet another era in his 22 years with the Heat. While the expectations have been lowered, that does not mean Riley and the organization will approach this year any differently.

“No apologies, no regrets – except for one – no tears,” Riley told me today, obviously referring to losing franchise icon Dwyane Wade to the Chicago Bulls. “Good luck. We move on. Players come and go, but franchises move on.”

The reason for our conversation was to speak about Shaquille O’Neal’s induction into the basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Riley took the time to speak from San Tropez where he and Heat owner Micky Arison are on a five-day journey through the Mediterranean to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Magic and Cookie Johnson. (More in this below)

Riley, 71, does not sound like a man ready to cruise into retirement. He clearly is looking at ways to rebuild this team into one that can one day compete for the organization’s fourth title.

The Heat have been remade since losing Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson among others. They are a mix of young athletic players with fewer veterans than Heat teams of recent years.

“I’m excited for our new guys,” he said before already talking about the next move. “Maybe we make a deal or catch lightening in a bottle again next summer (in free agency) like we did in 2010.”



Morning shootaround — July 30


Team USA continues rolling | Wade, Bulls a convenient fit | Report: Monty Williams to return to sideline with Spurs

No. 1: Team USA continues rolling — With the Olympics now a week away, Team USA continued their exhibition schedule last night in Chicago, where they squared off against Venezuela. As our own Steve Aschburner writes, Team USA managed to overcome poor shooting to still coast to an easy 80-45 win…

A miserable shooting night by both teams kept highlights to a minimum, but the USA Basketball men’s national team beat Venezuela 80-45 Friday night at United Center.

A sellout crowd eager to see both the Chicago Bulls’ Olympic representative, Jimmy Butler, and newest acquisition, Dwyane Wade — watching from the front row after his Bulls introductory news conference earlier in the day — did most of its noise-making during introductions.

At least, that’s how it went until DeAndre Jordan‘s alley-oop throwdown of a pass from Kevin Durant gave them something to roar about, putting Team USA up 62-37 with 6:47 left. Then Butler threw one down with 1:47 left to satisfy the locals.

Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson scored 13 points each for Team USA.

Heading into that final quarter, though, the teams had combined to shoot 29-of-104 (27.9 percent). The Venezuela team was pesky enough defensively to disrupt Team USA’s offense, which had purred along shooting 49.8 percent in its first three tuneups.

The Americans won those games — the opener against Argentina, followed by two against China — by an average of 45.3 points, outrebounding those opponents by an average of 21.0. By halftime Friday, they were on pace in both those categories — leading by 18, with a 37-12 edge on the boards — but their scoring was way down due to abysmal shooting.

Their 36 points through two quarters came the hard way: 12-of-40 on field-goal attempts, including 2-of-18 on 3-pointers. The NBA stars even missed six of their 16 free throws.

The Venezuelans hung tough deep into the first quarter, trailing 13-12, before USA ran off the game’s next 12 points across the quarter break. Venezuela’s John Cox, who led all scorers with 12 points in the half, got his crew as close as 28-18 before Team USA closed the half with eight unanswered points.


No. 2: Wade, Bulls a convenient fit — One of the more surprising signings of the NBA free agency period was Dwyane Wade leaving the only team he had ever played for, the Miami Heat, in order to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls. As our own Steve Aschburner writes, Wade met with the media in Chicago on Friday, and Wade said that this was not about money as much as it was a return to where he watched the Bulls play as a kid…

Wade was introduced Friday — wait, that’s the wrong word for one of the NBA’s most familiar faces, so let’s say reacquainted with Chicago media at a news conference at the Bulls downtown practice facility. The theme of the 45-minute “presser” was hometown-kid-returns, and strictly speaking, there’s no denying the truth of that. Wade was born in Chicago, grew up in the south suburb of Robbins, and went to Richards H.S. in neighboring Oak Lawn.

But he left Chicagoland after graduating to attend Marquette University in Milwaukee. After leading that school to the Final Four, the 6-foot-4 guard was drafted fifth overall in 2003 by Miami. And over the past 13 years, Wade established himself as the face, heart and soul of the Heat, stacking up 12 All-Star appearances alongside those three Larry O’Brien trophies.

Because Wade’s Miami teams were in direct conflict with the Bulls for much of his career, his roots mattered less to the fans at United Center than the city and logos on his uniform. He routinely was booed and, more than once, rather awkwardly, he was cheered when he fell or was knocked to the floor and it appeared he might be hurt too badly to continue. Wade even let on how that stung, coming in the building where he once had dreamed of playing and winning.

That was the dream-come-true of which he spoke Friday.

“I’m a Chicago guy, Chicago kid. I grew up here,” Wade said, before a fleet of cameras, a gang of reporters and lots of family. “I remember sitting on the floor when I could sit Indian-style and watching the Chicago Bulls win their first championship. I was 9 years old.

“We had this little-bitty TV — it’s about as big as an iPhone now — I remember looking at it and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to be. I want to be a champion and that’s who I want to do it with.’ My dream of becoming an NBA player started here in my hometown.”

No one wants to be overly cynical, so if Wade really is scratching an itch — and maybe extending his brand to another major market for the growing conglomerate that he and many of his peers have become — by playing next season in Chicago, good for him.

That doesn’t paper over suspicions, though, that he signed with the Bulls out of spite when the Heat and president Pat Riley didn’t make him a higher priority when free agency opened July 1. Or that the Bulls had ulterior motives in their own right besides landing a player whom they’d had in their sights twice before.

Wade tamped down a few questions Friday about the breakdown in his negotiations with the Heat. Reminded that Riley later expressed — sincerely or not — some regrets that he hadn’t been more involved in the talks, Wade said he had been fine hashing out particulars with owner Mickey Arison and son Nick.

“This year, the direction and focus for that organization in Miami — which I have nothing but respect for and love for — was a little different than it has been in years past,” Wade said. “My focus and direction was a little different than it’s been in years past. … I had a contract offer in Miami I could have took. I decided not to take it. It was my decision to be selfish and live out a dream of mine.”

“So let’s clear up the notion that Pat Riley orchestrated me getting out of Miami because he didn’t offer me the money I wanted,” Wade added. “This was not a money deal for me.”


No. 3: Report: Monty Williams to return to sideline with Spurs — After his head coaching gig ended with the New Orleans Pelicans, last summer Monty Williams joined the Oklahoma City Thunder as their lead assistant coach. But tragedy struck midway through the season, when Williams’ wife was killed in a traffic accident. Williams took off the rest of the season to focus on their five children, but he recently returned to work with USA Basketball, and as ESPN’s Marc Stein writes, Williams is expected to return to the NBA next season as an assistant for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.

Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.

The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.

One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.

Williams’ in-laws live in San Antonio and have been assisting him with the couple’s five children in the wake of Ingrid Williams’ death after a Feb. 9 collision in which a car crossed over onto the wrong side of the road and struck her vehicle head-on.

The children also have been traveling with Williams during Team USA’s domestic stops on the road to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The team has played exhibition games in Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Oakland, California; and Chicago entering the final warm-up game in Houston against Nigeria on Monday.

The start of USA Basketball’s preparations for the Rio Olympics on July 18 in Las Vegas marked Williams’ return to the sport after five months away in the wake of the accident. In a SportsCenter interview with Hannah Storm that aired Friday, Williams said he’s “so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

“I’ve only had peace about a few things,” Williams told Storm. “I knew I had to take care of my kids and stop coaching, but also knew that I wanted to be a part of USA Basketball, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

“I can’t wait to get back and start coaching. I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to. My kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back.”

Last season was Williams’ first as the lead assistant in Oklahoma City under Thunder coach Billy Donovan. Williams previously posted a record of 173-221 in five seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. After the Thunder’s seven-game exit to Golden State in the Western Conference finals this postseason, Donovan confirmed that Williams would not be returning to the Thunder bench.

Williams got his start in coaching under Popovich as a Spurs intern in 2004-05 before making his debut as an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Reflecting on the accident that claimed his wife’s life, Williams told Storm, “I got the call that nobody wants to get. And I knew when I was talking to my daughter, because she answered the phone, I knew at that moment that my life was going to change. I can’t explain it, but I knew that everything was going to be different. I didn’t know what was going on at the hospital; I just knew that my life was going to change. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. I just felt that in my heart like this phone call was different.

“It’s one of those things you never get rid of. You never forget where you were. You never forget what you were doing. It’s the phone call you don’t want anybody to ever get. Certainly [it] could’ve broken me to the point of quitting. But God and his graciousness has given me the strength and good people to help us go forward.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Atlanta Hawks starting point guard Dennis Schröder joined this week’s Hang Time Podcast … The Warriors will reportedly offer JaVale McGee a chance to make the team in training camp … Nets guard Greivis Vasquez has withdrawn from the Olympics and the Venezuelan National Team … Jarrett Jack says he’s about a month away from returning to full-contact workouts

Reversal of fortune for Heat down stretch

VIDEO: Wade gets a tough shot to drop in a losing effort

So this is what the post-LeBron James verdict looks like for the Heat: A losing record in a powderpuff conference, Dwyane Wade‘s brain trying to overcompensate for his body, a costly loss Saturday at home to Toronto and another day or two before their absence from the playoffs becomes official.

Yes, this is a rather steep drop from four straight trips to the NBA Finals and two championships and lots of bubbly being uncorked at LIV, the South Beach playpen for a franchise that owned the NBA since 2010. There will be no celebrating the 2014-15 season, one in which the Heat hoped for the best but was served with a worst-case scenario come true.

An injury to Chris Bosh and the LeBron defection will cause Miami to become the first NBA Finalist to miss the playoffs since the 2004-05 Lakers, and this will also be the first Erik Spoelstra-coached team to hit the golf course early. Well, you could understand. No team could survive the loss of two-thirds of a Big Three and expect to live happily thereafter. Although Wade was brilliant at times, especially after healing from a nagging hamstring issue, the Heat couldn’t overcome all the losses or a chance to avoid a losing season.

A critic could nit-pick and say Miami shouldn’t made a stronger stand in the East, where the Celtics (!) could make the playoffs. Remember, not only did Miami have Wade, but Bosh made the All-Star team before a blood clot was found on his lung and ended his season. Plus, Miami stumbled upon the discovery of the year in center Hassan Whiteside and also traded for Goran Dragic at the deadline.

Yet: Miami got too much inconsistency from Luol Deng and Dragic has been a mild disappointment. Here’s all you need to know: Miami leaned on Michael Beasley down the stretch. Seriously.

And now, the question becomes: How long will this non-playoff stretch last for the Heat? Assuming they get good health form their key players, the easy answer to that is: Not for long. They’ll have Wade, Bosh and Dragic (if he re-signs as expected) next season, and if Whiteside doesn’t suddenly turn into a pumpkin, then they’ll have a double-double center as well. In the East, that’s a team worth 44 wins.

It would be dangerous to underestimate Pat Riley and Micky Arison, especially with the free agent class of 2016 coming soon. LeBron isn’t walking in that door again, but eventually, someone else will.

Riley needs new approach for face-to-face meeting with LeBron

VIDEO: Pat Riley issues a stark challenge to LeBron and the Big 3

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As impressive and entertaining as Pat Riley‘s first public words about LeBron James, the Heat and free agency were a few weeks ago, I think we can all agree a different approach is needed now.

Riley’s scheduled face-to-face meeting with LeBron today in Las Vegas probably won’t touch on anyone cutting and running now that the things have gotten a little more complicated. The tough guy routine won’t make it through the door of whatever luxury hotel they turn into the center of the basketball universe.

Riley’s “stay the course” diatribe in the aftermath of the Heat’s Game 5 defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals last month was epic, an instant classic. But it’s useless now, especially with rumblings that LeBron and his camp are seriously considering a return to their Cleveland and Northeast Ohio roots in free agency.

James hasn’t spoken to Riley face-to-face since exiting the premises after The Finals and before free agency began, when his agent, Rich Paul, took control off the process. Paul met with officials from the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers while James stayed away and spent time with his family.

Now the Heat family — a contingent including Riley, Dwyane Wade, Heat owner Mickey Arison and head coach Erik Spoelstra — will give their best recruiting speeches to convince James to stick around and help keep the Heat’s Big 3 together.

If we are to believe all of the smoke that billowed into the free-agency air over the weekend, it could be a tougher sell than the one Riley and Co. made four years ago when they convinced LeBron to leave Cleveland for South Beach and the lure of multiple title chases.

Notably absent from the Heat’s guest list is Chris Bosh, who like James and Wade is an unrestricted free agent. He has a max contract offer from the Rockets that he’s seriously considering, at least until he hears what James is going to do in regards to the Heat.

Riley has expressed all this confidence that the Heat’s Big Three will indeed return intact, and yet they are coming at James full force today. Something doesn’t add up. Which is exactly why I suspect Riley’s tone to change dramatically from what we hard from him weeks ago, when he compared James, Wade and Bosh to some of the great dynasties the NBA has seen and challenged them to do what Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers did and Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics did two generations ago.

“Don’t run,” Riley said then, before anyone had opted out of a contract and the Heat still seemed to be operating from a position of power.

“I’m not going to drop any rings on the table …,” he continued.

A kinder and gentler approach might be more prudent, especially at this juncture. The basketball world has changed a bit since July 1. Perspectives have changed, too.

While the Heat remain LeBron’s most viable option to get back to The Finals in 2015, provided the band comes back together again with a few tweaks, they are certainly not his only option for making repeated trips to The Finals in the future.

So it’ll be interesting to see how Riley’s tone changes now, with LeBron in complete control of the futures of so many.

Morning Shootaround — July 9

VIDEO: Howard Beck of Bleacher Report discusses Carmelo Anthony’s free agency


Heat ready for Vegas meeting with LeBron | Lakers, Knicks in ‘Melo race | Key moment arrives for Jazz’s front office | Van Gundy wants Monroe back | Report: Brooks meets with Gasol

No. 1: Big day for Heat in Las Vegas — Say this much for LeBron James and his free-agency mulling this time around — it’s the complete opposite of his 2010 “The Decision” special. Other than a few social media posts here and there, James has been a recluse since opting out of his deal a few weeks ago and news surrounding what team he’ll sign with next has been sparse to say the least. That may all change today, though, as James will reportedly meet with the Miami Heat’s braintrust. According to’s Chris Broussard, James will meet with the Heat today in Las Vegas:

LeBron James and Pat Riley will have their long-awaited face-to-face meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, according to league sources.

James is in Las Vegas for his annual basketball camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Riley has flown in for the meeting.

The meeting with Riley on Wednesday is believed to be the first meeting James has participated in since opting out of the final two years and $42 million of his Heat contract.

Some other Heat heavy-hitters will be at the meeting too, as Broussard tweeted this morning:

And, per The Associated Press, some more details about how LeBron has spent his free agency period have emerged:

Asked by The Associated Press how free agency was going when his afternoon meeting agenda was apparently complete, the four-time MVP said “no complaints.” He offered a quick greeting, and provided no hints of anything – including when his next “Decision” will be known – before leaving with a wave.

The entire exchange lasted about eight seconds. James, who has been relatively quiet while weighing his options, never broke stride.

He was upstairs in an exclusive part of a Las Vegas hotel Tuesday, holding court for a little more than three hours before emerging in the lobby, walking toward his assembled brain trust – including longtime manager Maverick Carter and Nike representatives, a sponsor of the LeBron James Skills Academy he’ll be hosting in Las Vegas starting Wednesday – and got whisked away.

James is expected to meet with Miami Heat President Pat Riley before making a final decision on his NBA future, and a person close to the situation said that meeting had not happened as of Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one has publicly announced the date of the meeting.

Some of James’ representatives have met with several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After filming a TV commercial in Coral Gables, Florida on Monday, James flew to Las Vegas, which was planned because of his academy. Later this week, he’s expected to travel to Brazil to the World Cup final.

He took time Tuesday morning to work out with Dwyane Wade in Las Vegas before his meetings, another person close to the situation told the AP. Like James, Wade has also not announced his plans for next season and beyond, though it is still largely expected that the 2006 NBA Finals MVP and three-time champion will remain in Miami.

VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down the latest news on LeBron James’ free agency


It’s Still Heat And Everyone Else

VIDEO: Chris Bosh’s game-winning 3-pointer sinks the Blazers

Dwyane Wade flips a behind-the-back pass with a move that is slicker than anything on a South Beach dance floor and Chris Bosh lets fly a 3-pointer that would have sailed over the top of a palm tree.

Bosh’s game-winner did not just serve as the deciding margin in the most entertaining NBA game of the season to date, but as another difference between the two-time defending champs and everybody else.

The Heat have it figured out.

Even with the Trail Blazers rising to the challenge against a full-throated home crowd. Even with LaMarcus Aldridge showing why he belongs in the MVP conversation. Even with Wesley Matthews lighting it up. Even with LeBron James left to only play the role of world’s roughest, toughest cheerleader.

As we prepare to flip the pages another calendar year, the one thing that doesn’t change is Miami’s ability to survive and thrive. Is it myopia or jealousy or sheer boredom that keeps running new contenders up the flagpole and ignoring the resolve and sheer talent of the Heat’s Big Three?

This is, after all, why Pat Riley went to such great lengths to put them in the same uniforms, so that they wouldn’t ever be forced to rely on just one of them?

Here was yet another season that began with yet another set of questions about Wade’s knees and Bosh’s guts and whether James was already peeking ahead to next summer and a chance to return to the Cleveland. And here they are looking like anything but a trio that is ready to surrender its championship grip or prevailing aura.

The standings may show the Heat currently with the fourth-best record in the league, behind the Pacers, Thunder and Blazers and yet you can have the entire field of 29 teams as long as I get to keep Miami.

The Pacers are a fierce and committed blend of burgeoning youth and smart veterans who have made it their goal to finish with the best regular season record and grab home-court advantage all the way through the playoffs into late June. Paul George is an MVP-in-waiting, only the year(s) in question, Roy Hibbert brings the inside bulk and power of a road grader and the rest of the Pacers lineup is filled with weapons.

Yet after beating Miami in Indy on Dec. 10, they let a 15-point lead slip away eight nights later in a rematch, even on a night when James and Mario Chalmers were jawing at each other on the sidelines.

The Thunder were in the spring of 2012, and are still, supposed to be rising young challengers whose games swell with growth and confidence each season. But it’s that swelling in Russell Westbrook’s right knee that has now once more required surgery and could stop OKC from ever reaching its full potential. With James Harden in Houston, they don’t have the three-way luxury of the Heat lineup, and the 2013 playoffs demonstrated that as good as he is, Kevin Durant likely can’t finish the job himself.

The explosive rise of the Blazers behind Aldridge and Damian Lillard and Nic Batum has been as fun and exciting a story as any in the league this season. Yet even on a night when they drop in 11 3-pointers and out-rebound the Heat, they couldn’t close the deal.

The Spurs are still piling up wins against the lesser lights in the league, but may have permanently lost their grip on any chance for a fifth franchise championship in those fateful 28 seconds of Game 6 in The Finals.

The fretting over or knocking of Miami arises any time the Heat lose two straight games, a leftover product of the hype and expectation that greeted their coming together. But if the past three seasons should have taught anything, it is that James, Wade and Bosh are the ones who have assumed nothing and put themselves to the task.

While the Pacers, Thunder, Blazers and the rest are trying to figure it all out, the Heat have amassed what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich calls “the corporate knowledge” of what it takes to play with each other, trust each other and get the very most out of each other.

The result is an offense that is second-best in efficiency this season and a defense, rated eighth, that can close like a fist around a windpipe and choke off opponents when it’s time.

There is no doubt that, at 32, Wade’s knees require the delicate care of hothouse orchids, yet he can still bloom and take your breath away. Bosh continues to have his inner strength and his consistency questioned, but explodes for 37 points and leaves nothing untapped in Portland. James, well, simply plays the game on a planet where he is the only inhabitant.

So while everyone else around them in the NBA is wondering how Riley and team owner Micky Arison can — and whether they want to — keep the band together after next summer, the Heat keep knocking out hits and asking the only question that matters: Why not?

Cuban Says Heat As ‘Bad Guys’ Is Good


Villains is how Mark Cuban thinks fans still view the two-time champion Miami Heat, and that’s great for the NBA, he says.

The owner of the Dallas Mavericks on Friday compared the LeBron James-led Heat to the Oakland Raiders in their glory days — saying fans either love ’em or hate ’em, and that polarization makes for a far more intriguing league for fans, and heightens the competitive juices of rivals.

Cuban’s 2011 Mavs remain the lone team to beat Miami in the postseason since James took his talents to South Beach before the 2010-11 season.

“With the two titles, they’re still like the bad guys,” Cuban said. “There’s a confidence bordering on arrogance that is good for them as a team and good for us as a league because it also makes them the team that everybody wants to knock off.

“They’re kind of in some respects the Oakland Raiders … when they were winning. I don’t want to compare [Heat owner] Mickey [Arison] to Al Davis, that’s not fair, but you either love them or hate them. That’s always good for the NBA when you have a team that everybody looks forward to beating. It’s just like when we beat them, I would go in places I’ve never been and people would give me a standing ovation. That’s good for the NBA.”

In 2011, the Mavs had the city of Cleveland and, seemingly, an entire nation behind them against the villainous Heat in their inaugural season as the Big Three, with James and Chris Bosh having joined Dwyane Wade through free agency. Basketball fans recoiled at James’ disastrous “The Decision” on ESPN when he infamously announced his departure from Cleveland for Miami. Fans who once worshiped James had turned fiercely against him and the Heat.

That wasn’t the case in 2006 when Shaquille O’Neal helped Wade win his first championship as the Heat rallied from a 2-0 hole to beat the Mavs in six games.

On Friday, Cuban made a rare appearance at the Mavs’ practice court. His visit came two days after having spent the previous two weeks fighting a different kind of court battle. On Wednesday Cuban was exonerated in a SEC insider trading case. Cuban said his attorney fees to fight the government’s charges were far greater than the fine he faced if found guilty.

“It wasn’t a maxed-out contract,” Cuban said, “but it was in shouting range.”

Luxury Tax Reality: Heat Amnesty Miller

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat are not immune to the harsh economic realities facing the league’s biggest spenders under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The waiving of veteran shooter and surprise 2012 Finals hero Mike Miller via the amnesty provision this afternoon is proof. Miller joins Metta World Peace, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers and now a member of the New York Knicks, as the most prominent players to be amnestied this summer. The Charlotte Bobcats also used the amnesty provision on Tyrus Thomas last week.

(You can see all of the players who have suffered the same fate on’s Amnesty Tracker.)

The move came as something of a surprise after Heat boss Pat Riley addressed the possibility of this happening by saying there would be no need for the Heat to use this one-time measure to clear salary cap space.

“After many discussions internally and a sincere effort to explore the trade market, we made a very difficult decision to use our Amnesty provision on Mike Miller,” Riley said in a statement. “Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat; helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back world championships. This was a very difficult decision for me personally, the Arison family, Erik and the entire Miami Heat organization. Mike was one of the best we have ever had here, and will be sorely missed. We wish Mike, his wife Jennifer and their family nothing but the best.”

This was a purely economical move for the Heat, who could save $30 million in luxury tax payments over the nest two seasons simply by removing Miller’s $12.8 million in salary from the books for the 2013-14 season and the 2014-15 season. The Heat still will have to pay Miller the salary he is owed but it won’t impact their own salary cap bottom line.

Miller, whose penchant for knocking down big shots at big moments in both of the Heat’s title runs, was clearly wounded  by the move.

“I understand the business side of basketball,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s a combination of being very, very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had, but it hurts that we had a chance to do something very, very special and I’d love to have been a part of it.”

This is the strictly business portion of the program for veterans like Miller and World Peace, guys who helped their now former franchises to championships.

“I know I can be very, very productive for a couple years for sure,” Miller said. “But at the same time, it would be very difficult to go into a situation where you’re not competing for a title. So I’m going to have to weigh those things, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Miller’s time in Miami was well spent. He leaves having been an integral part of a Heat crew led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that made three straight trips to The Finals and walked off with Larry O’Brien trophies in back-to-back years.

Heat fans will surely never forget some of his most memorable moments from the title runs, and that includes his shoeless 3-pointer from Game 6 of last month’s Finals and certainly the seven 3-pointers he made in the title-clinching Game 5 win over Oklahoma City in 2012.

“I love Mike. We all love Mike,” Wade told The Associated Press. “It’s tough to lose one of our brothers. But I think we all understand it’s not personal. It’s a business decision.”

It’s strictly business these days for the NBA’s biggest spenders.

Small Markets Scrap For Success


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – When a couple small-market Western Conference teams battled for seven grueling games in the semifinals of the playoffs two years ago, who could have foreseen that they would meet again this postseason — after each was forced to deal with the inescapable repercussions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Rudy Gay was injured and out of that postseason two years ago. But at only 24 and locked into a lucrative contract, the No. 8 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft was a central figure for the fast-rising Memphis Grizzlies. Yet on Jan. 30, 2013, Gay, the team’s leading scorer, was traded to Toronto.

In Oklahoma City, the Thunder were coming off a loss to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals when, days before this season began, Thunder general manager Sam Presti dealt former No. 3 pick James Harden, just 23 and an integral part of the team’s success, to Houston.

In a postseason marked by a surprising domination of small-market teams — all four teams remaining in the playoffs are in the bottom half of the league in market size — the second-round showdown between the Grizzlies and Thunder (won by the Grizzlies in five games) demonstrated just what many teams have to do to thrive in the era of the still-new CBA.

“With the rules set up the way they are, there’s minimal room for error,” said Jason Levien, the first-year CEO of the Grizzlies under a new ownership group led by one of the world’s youngest tech billionaires, Robert Pera. “You’ve got to be very thoughtful in your approach to how you build your team, how you build a roster, and you’ve got to keep the cap and the tax in mind.”


Avoiding the taxes

Cap and tax are at the forefront of the strategy the Oklahoma City management team is using under the ownership of billionaire energy mogul Clay Bennett. Presti, who has managed to re-sign superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus emerging power forward Serge Ibaka, to long-term deals that fit within the team’s cap structure, chose to hold firm to a policy of not commenting on matters related to the CBA.

In Memphis, where the Grizzlies will look to start digging out of a 2-0 hole against the San Antonio Spurs in Saturday’s Game 3 of the West finals (9 p.m., ESPN), Levien has defended the trade of Gay (for veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and youngsters Ed Davis and Austin Daye) as being made to improve the team.

While that might be true — Memphis won a franchise-best 56 games after a strong start with Gay — the Grizzlies also got out of the $37.2 million owed to Gay over the next two seasons. Memphis will pay Prince, Davis and Daye a combined $26 million over that span ($22 million if Daye is not retained beyond next season). With Zach RandolphMarc Gasol and Mike Conley owed a combined $40.9 million next season, keeping Gay and a payroll under the tax line (this season it was $70.3 million) would have been a near-impossibility. (more…)

Red Hot Now, Heat’s Shelf Life Up In ’14


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Loving the Miami Heat’s dominance or loathing it?

Revel or wallow while you can because the LeBron JamesDwyane WadeChris Bosh Heat are a short-term dynasty, a manufactured championship club stamped with an expiration date: June 30, 2014.

As the Heat seek a 24th consecutive victory in their chase to 33 tonight at Cleveland (7 ET, League Pass), the team’s life span, as projected through the lens of contract kill clauses and a screw-tightening collective bargaining agreement, is approaching 15 months and ticking.

Consummated under the old CBA rules in the summer of 2010 by the free-agent signings of James and Bosh and the re-signing of Wade, the Heat have a chance to secure not three, not four, not five … but just two more titles, this season and next, before the franchise is left without its core to (potentially) go for four.

Following the 2013-14 season, James, Bosh and Wade each have an early termination clause that, if exercised, will nullify their respective contracts one season short of completion. Despite all three set to collect in excess of $20 million for the 2014-15 season, it is already being speculated — if not already accepted — that James, if not all three, will terminate and become free agents on July 1, 2014.

James and Bosh, both of whom make $17.5 million this season — less than Joe Johnson, Pau Gasol and Amar’e Stoudemire — agreed to sign with Miami for less money to join Wade, who also took less ($17.2 million this season). That made the union possible and gave president Pat Riley the flexibility to put pieces around them.

Each could have garnered the maximum amount from another team with cap space. Recall the Knicks, like the Heat, dumping salaries solely to carve room to woo James? Now, on his way to a fourth MVP trophy in five seasons, James is nearly certain to cash in his maximum value by taking his talents elsewhere as the league’s teams adjust to the new CBA.

Even if exceptional Heat owner Mickey Arison dreamed of keeping all three together beyond the 2013-14 season, the new CBA makes it painfully, and impossibly, expensive. James, Bosh and Wade, who will turn 33 during the 2014-15 season, would eat up more than $60 million of the roster, already putting the Heat at or close to the salary cap, and about $10 to $13 million short of the luxury tax.

With luxury tax fines that are no longer dollar-for-dollar, but rather increase with each $5 million over the luxury tax line, crippling limitations on trades and devaluing the important mid-level exception for teams over the luxury tax “apron” — $4 million over the tax line — and the looming hammer of the “repeater” tax for chronic high rollers (a tax that a team with more than two high-dollar, long-term contracts can’t dodge), the three-star roster model is being downgraded to a more economical two-star configuration by the CBA the owners and players agreed to over Thanksgiving 2011.

As Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen wrote in December, if the Heat kept the Big Three, plus the four other players under contract for the 2014-15 season, then filled out the roster with minimum-salary players, the Heat could be looking at a summer 2015 tax bill, including the “repeater” tax, of $48 million for a total one-season roster cost of $141.3 million.

So, where will James play next? That speculation has already begun. Maybe he’ll usher out the Kobe Bryant era and begin a new Lakers reign with Dwight Howard. Or maybe he’ll return to Cleveland to re-conquer his home territory and pair with rising All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Wherever he lands, the writing is on the wall for this unbeatable Miami Heat team.

Love them or hate them, enjoy them or loathe them while they’re still intact. Because after next season, the Heat’s Big Three will almost undoubtedly go their separate ways.