MIAMI — Dion Waiters could be willing to give the Heat a hometown discount in free agency this summer.
During an appearance on WSVN’s 7 Sports Xtra on Sunday night, Waiters was asked about the possibility of re-signing with Miami for less money than market value. The 25-year-old guard didn’t rule it out, but also was non-committal in his answer.
“It depends,” Waiters said Sunday. “Yeah, I would, though. But, like I said, it depends, just being the right thing, at the right time. It’s just got to be right. It’s got to be equal.”
Waiters has already informed the Heat he intends to opt out of next season’s $3 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He made $2.9 million with Miami this season.
After averaging 15.8 points and 4.3 assists in a career-best season with the Heat, Waiters is expected to get contract offers that could reach the $15 million per season range this summer.
“It’s exciting at the end of the day,” Waiters said Sunday of entering free agency. “You get a chance to just go through that process and see what teams are talking about and things like that. Just the little things. This is exciting times. You know how hard you worked and it’s exciting.”
Waiters has made it known in the past that he wants to return to the Heat, but that decision could come down to money.
“I want to be there,” Waiters said during a radio interview on WQAM in May, reiterating his desire to return to Miami. “When that time comes and we sit down, we just got to make it happen. Let’s get it over with as quick as possible.”
The Heat are expected to have about $38 million in cap space this summer after it clears Chris Bosh’s contract off their salary cap. Along with trying to bring back Waiters, the Heat have some other players to worry about this offseason, too.
James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem are set to be unrestricted free agents this summer, and Willie Reed has already informed the Heat he intends to decline the player option in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Miami also has a decision to make regarding Wayne Ellington, as it has a team option worth $6.3 million to bring him back.
Since Miami’s season ended, Waiters has posted videos of himself working out in South Florida with Haslem. It’s just a continuation of the work he put in during the season, as Waiters took advantage of the Heat’s program to get his body in better shape and proved it by posting a before-and-after photo to show off his new physique.
Waiters made his appearance on Sports Xtra in a T-shirt with a picture of the “arms crossed pose” he used to celebrate his game-winning shot against the Warriors this season. When asked how hard it’s going to be to knock off a Super Team like Golden State, Waiters gave a quick answer.
“We are going to be good, too,” he said.
By “we,” does Waiters mean the Heat?
“That’s the goal,” Waiters answered when asked that follow-up question by host Steve Shapiro. “But you never know how things go.”
The NBA free-agency negotiation period begins July 1, with the signing period set to start at noon on July 6.