Pat Riley wasn’t sleeping as rivals around the league added pieces to challenge the Heat for Eastern Conference and NBA supremacy.
Turns out, he was prowling.
Nor is he planning to stop, even though most of the premium free agents are gone.
During a 20-minute conference call with local media Friday, the Heat president revealed that, in his ongoing attempt to add to the squad rather than subtract, he offered the mini-midlevel exception of $3.2 million to “some people who were out there.”
Riley said those players had moved on to “bigger and better situations.” Which ones? Riley wouldn’t say, although he did acknowledge that because of the advanced age of the Heat roster, Miami targeted a few “mature” perimeter players in their mid-20s.
That would seem to suggest the likes of O.J. Mayo (25) and Martell Webster (26), and perhaps even J.J. Redick (29), all of whom got roughly or more than double what the Heat could offer. Mayo went to Milwaukee and Redick to the Clippers; Webster stayed with Washington.
“I’m not sure that the people who are available out there are people that we would offer it to now,” Riley said of the $3.2 million slot. “We are going to save it. We will use it if we have to use it, if the right player pops up.”
It is possible that center Greg Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick, will be that player. While Riley said that he never reached out to oft-injured center Andrew Bynum – who ultimately signed with Cleveland – he reiterated his interest in Oden, who hasn’t played since Nov. 17, 2010, due to knee injuries.
Riley said he texted with Oden’s agent two weeks ago, and cited Kurt Thomas and Zydrunas Ilgauskas as players who started their careers with major injuries and had long, productive tenures.
Regardless of what happens with Oden, Riley’s promise to keep spending casts another decision in an interesting light. Miami currently stands roughly $16 million above the luxury tax line for next season, which – if it doesn’t remove some salary now or during the season — would require the team’s managing partner, Micky Arison, to stroke a check of more than $33 million at season’s end.
That has caused many to speculate that Riley, in consultation with Arison, will shed the contract of Mike Miller or Joel Anthony via the amnesty clause during the amnesty window, which opened Thursday and extends to July 17. Arison would still need to pay either player the remainder of his two-year contract, but the excised player’s salary would no longer count against the tax total. Without compelling you to pull out a calculator, just know this much – waiving Miller would save Arison nearly $17 million this year, and waiving Anthony would save nearly $9 million.
Still, Riley stood by his late June statement that he does not intend to use the amnesty clause on either, although he did add a caveat: “As of now.”
He said he would huddle with team officials next week, prior to Wednesday’s closing of the amnesty window, to make a final determination. If he cuts Miller or Anthony, he could try to find someone to take a veteran minimum contract – sources say the Heat have modest interest in former L.A. Lakers forward Antawn Jamison – even before landing someone with the more lucrative mini-midlevel.
While he said that he still hasn’t discussed economics at length with Arison, Riley again expressed confidence that the owner shares his viewpoint of wanting “to keep this team intact as long as I can, because we have a championship basketball team here. Continuity being the most important thing when it comes to winning championships, I would hate to break any part of it up.”
Riley added that he believed he had Arison’s endorsement to even supplement the core “if it’s the right basketball deal that can bring us a player who can really help this team.”
What of the cost?
Riley noted that, during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 rebuilding seasons, Arison lost “tens of millions of dollars (for) a losing team. Now, that we’ve won back-to-back championships, I think you understand what I’m saying. In order to continue to win, if it’s the right situation, the right player, that he has proven to step up to the plate.”
So the prowl goes on.