MIAMI — The Heat found a way to keep last season’s core pretty much intact this summer.
But there’s at least one key piece of the rotation who won’t be returning — Willie Reed. The 27-year-old center signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with the Clippers in free agency this offseason.
This came after Reed declined his 2017-18 player option with the Heat worth $1.6 million to become a free agent. Many believed Reed would earn a much bigger payday, but the market dried up before he came to an agreement with the Clippers 18 days into free agency.
“It is always tough in this league because it is a business,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of losing Reed during a conference call in advance of his involvement in Saturday’s NBA Africa game in South Africa. “But ultimately, you still want to be able to build relationships, communicate through the process of business. I called Willie right after he signed in L.A. and wished him luck and thanked him again for everything he did with us and his contributions this year. And obviously that relationship will continue. We’re always going to root for him.
“I think he’ll be a great fit there, coming off the bench. I think you’ll see a lot of what he provided us, but out there. So my philosophy on that is we’re always in the business to help players while we’re trying to build championship-level, competitive teams. But we’re here to help players reach their dreams, as well. So if players do sign somewhere, I just hope it’s in the West and not in the East.”
Once the market dried up, the Heat could have come back to Reed and signed him to an affordable contract. But after Miami used its first-round pick to draft center/forward Bam Adebayo and went on to sign center/forward Kelly Olynyk in free agency, the frontcourt was too crowded for Reed and the Heat to come to an agreement.
Reed, who served as starting center Hassan Whiteside’s backup, averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in a bench role with Miami last season. Reed’s most impressive performances came as a starter with Whiteside sidelined, as he recorded 22 points and 18 rebounds in a loss to the Suns on Jan. 3 and contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers on Jan. 6.
“To The Heat Organization, Coaches, teammates, Arena staff, and fans I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me grow over this year,” Reed posted Thursday on Instagram. “The love you guys showed my family and I was incredible and we truly appreciate it. A new opportunity has arrived and my family and I are looking forward to this new journey.”