Willie Reed’s gamble did not pay off.
The Miami Heat’s backup center declined his player option for the 2017-18 season, turning down $1.6 million, hoping for a much bigger pay day.
Instead, Reed’s decision will cost him money after reaching a one-year agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers for just under $1.5 million, or his minimum salary.
Reed, 27 made just more than $1 million last season, and has earned just under $2 million in his two full seasons in the NBA. He signed with the Heat last summer after a season with the Brooklyn Nets.
The 6-foot-11 Reed averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 56.8 percent in 71 games. He took advantage of his five games filling in for Hassan Whiteside, averaging 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 68.6 percent as a starter. He recorded 22 points and 18 rebounds in a loss to the Suns on Jan. 3 and scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers on Jan. 6.
In Los Angeles, he will backup DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers primary backup last season, Marreese Speights, remains a free agent.
Reed said following the season that he wanted to return to Miami, even though he was expected to decline his option.
“We all want to be a part of something special,” Reed said in April. “I love this team, I love these guys in the locker room. Being here would be great. Hopefully something works out. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m just going to continue to do my part, continue to embrace this culture and embrace those guys that are around this summer as we continue to try to get better.”
But after drafting 6-10 Bam Adebayo and signing 7-foot Kelly Olynyk, both power forward/centers, the Heat no longer had a need for Reed.
Still, nobody questioned Reed’s decision and some believed he would even double his money after proving his value to the Heat. But the market was weakest at the center position. Among the nearly 75 free agents to sign, Reed is just the fifth center. Of those three have signed one year deals, Dewyane Dedmon signed for two-years and $14 million with Atlanta and Olynyk joined the Heat for four years and $50 million.
Last week, Heat president Pat Riley virtually dismissed the idea of Reed returning to the Heat.
“Anything’s possible but with our front line. …,” Riley said. “We talked to his agent. I hope he gets what he deserves.”