LOS ANGELES — The Heat found a way to keep most of last season’s core intact. But Willie Reed was part of the small group that didn’t return.
Reed, who impressed as Miami’s backup center last season, opted out of the 2017-18 season on his Heat contract worth $1.6 million in hopes of earning a bigger contract in free agency. Instead, he ended up signing for one season at the $1.5 million veteran minimum with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Reed, 27, faced his former team Sunday at Staples Center for the first time since making that business decision. The Heat defeated the Clippers 104-101, and Reed finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
Reed is averaging 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game in his first season with the Clippers.
With 11 Heat players returning from last year’s season-ending roster that recorded a 30-11 finish, Reed is one of just four players who didn’t come back along with Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Luke Babbitt. Reed shook hands with Heat beat reporters before Sunday’s game, but politely declined to be interviewed.
“I know he’s the kind of guy that whatever position he’s put in, he’s going to make the best of it,” Heat forward Okaro White said Sunday when asked if he feels like Reed regrets not returning to Miami. “I’m sure he’s here locked in and trying to make it the best possible situation he can.”
White, who is close friends with Reed, said the two keep in contact and usually speak about once per week.
“That’s my guy,” White said. “I’m here for him and seeing his kids and how much they got bigger over the year. Me and him, we’re like brothers. So it’s good seeing him and I’m looking forward to him having a successful season.”