MIAMI — The Heat and Chris Bosh have officially parted ways.
Miami announced Tuesday that it has waived Bosh, clearing his contract from its salary cap. After an NBA doctor ruled in the Heat’s favor and agreed with the organization’s belief that Bosh’s blood clot issues are considered a career-ending illness, officially releasing the 11-time All-Star was the final step for Miami in receiving cap relief from his contract.
In a statement announcing the news, Heat president Pat Riley called Bosh “one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise” and added that his jersey number “1” will never be worn by another Heat player and will eventually be retired.
“Chris changed his life and basketball career when he came to Miami,” Riley said in a statement. “And he changed our lives for the better, in a way we never would have imagined, when he joined the Miami Heat. We will forever be indebted to CB for how he changed this team and led us to four trips to the NBA Finals and two NBA Championships. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise. The number “1” will never be worn by another player and we can’t wait to someday hang his jersey in the rafters. Today, we are both moving on but we wish Chris, Adrienne and their family nothing but the best. They will forever be part of the Miami Heat family.”
The love was reciprocated by Bosh.
“Thank you Miami Heat, Micky Arison, Coach [Pat] Riley, The Heat Staff inside and outside of the arena, HeatNation Fans, and City of Miami,” Bosh posted on Twitter on Tuesday night.
The move removes Bosh’s $25.3 million salary for the 2017-18 season from the Heat’s books. Without Bosh, Miami now has about $35 million in cap space this summer.
The Heat are still waiting to see if they will spend some of that money on sought-after free agent forward Gordon Hayward. A report from ESPN’s Chris Haynes indicated Tuesday afternoon that Hayward had opted to sign with the Celtics over the Heat and incumbent Jazz.
However, just minutes after that news surfaced, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted: “Gordon Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, tells ESPN: ‘Gordon hasn’t made a decision yet. We are still working through it.’” And NBA.com’s David Aldridge tweeted: “Another league source says Boston hasn’t heard yet directly from Hayward. Again: doesn’t mean he cant pick [Celtics] later; he just hasn’t yet.”
A source confirmed to the Palm Beach Post that Hayward has not made a decision yet and the Tuesday afternoon reports of him choosing the Celtics “are all erroneous.”
One thing is for sure, though. Whether Hayward decides to join the Heat or not, Miami now has about $35 million to spend this summer with Bosh off the Heat’s salary cap.
The Heat have been eligible to apply for salary-cap relief from Bosh’s contract since Feb. 9, but they made it clear they weren’t going to release him until they felt they needed the additional cap room. The timing of the move makes sense, with the free-agency signing period set to start Thursday at noon.
Bosh, 33, missed the entirety of the 2016-17 season after failing a preseason physical due to ongoing issues with blood clots, and also sat out the second half of the previous two seasons due to blood clots.
The agreement struck by Bosh, the Heat, the NBA and the players’ union will allow the Heat and Bosh to part ways without his salary ever returning to Miami’s cap even if he plays again. Bosh could still return to the NBA if he provides medical evidence that meets league approval.
Under the old NBA collective-bargaining agreement that expired on June 30, Bosh’s cap hit would have gone back on the Heat’s books if he were to return and play 25 total games in a single season for another team. But with the new CBA that took effect on July 1, the timing of the Heat-Bosh situation allowed for a unique agreement that allows Miami to operate without having to worry about Bosh’s cap space ever returning to its cap.
Bosh, who left the Raptors to join the Heat in the summer of 2010, has not played in an NBA game since Feb. 9, 2016 because of recurring blood clotting issues. Although it won’t count toward the Heat’s cap, Bosh is guaranteed the remainder of his current contract with Miami — $25.3 million for 2017-18 and $26.8 million for 2018-19 — but a lot of it will be covered by insurance.
Bosh was hopeful he would be healthy enough to play this past season, but the failed team physical in September changed those plans. Just after the failed physical, Heat president Pat Riley said that Bosh’s career with Miami “probably is over.”
When this all unfolded just before the start of the season, it didn’t seem like Bosh understood the Heat’s position.
“I want to tell Miami, everybody in Miami, this is not how I planned it to be,” Bosh said in an episode of his self-directed original series of digital shorts for uninterrupted.com.
“They don’t want to hear Dwyane’s gone,” he continued, referring to Dwyane Wade, who left Miami after 13 seasons last July to sign with Chicago. “They don’t want to hear Chris is never going to play for the Miami Heat again. People don’t want to hear that. I just feel for the fans. I wanted to give them more. I wanted to give them something better. Because they deserve better than what they’re getting right now.”
But recently Bosh sounded like he understood the Heat and Riley’s role in this situation, saying in April that he does “understand what they have to do as a team” in an interview on “Larry King Now.”
“It is a business,” Bosh said in the April interview. “I know we — as athletes and owners and people involved with the NBA — never want to say it’s a business, and things like that. It’s is a business. And hurt does come in with that. But as president of the Miami Heat, I understand what he has to do.”
As part of Miami’s Big Three, Bosh helped the Heat win two NBA titles in 2012 and 2013. He averaged 18.0 points on 49.6 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds in 384 regular-season games with the Heat.
“Look, there isn’t anybody in this organization that feels worse for C.B. than I do,” Riley said in April at his season-ending press conference. “It got a little sideways at the end because of feelings and things of that nature. … I think in due time it will run its course and it will take care of itself.”