LAS VEGAS – Derrick Jones Jr. will not play Tuesday when the Heat face Utah in their third game in the Las Vegas summer league, but the Heat have seen all they need from this jumping-jack forward.
Jones sprained his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Hornets. Although the Heat list him as day-to-day, it’s doubtful Jones will play again in Las Vegas. Miami already has seen Jones’ game and confidence progress, something he says that has come because of demands that are non-negotiable with the Heat.
“I work harder than I did ever in my life when I’m with this team,” Jones said after the Heat’s practice Monday on the UNLV campus, where he spent one year of college. “They hold you to a higher standard. It’s like everybody in the organization is working hard so you don’t want to be that one guy that’s singled out – ‘He’s just in here BS-ing it and going half-ass.’
“I want to be that one that they say ‘Yeah, he’s in here every day, he’s working hard, he wants to be better.’ That’s the player I planned on being. That’s the player I am now.”
But Jones, 21, blames himself. He joined the Phoenix Suns at 19 after going undrafted out of UNLV. He played in just 36 games with the Suns over about 1 ½ years before being waived. He signed to a two-way contract with the Heat on Dec. 31.
During his time with Suns, Jones was assigned or recalled from their G League team 23 times.
“I should have held myself (with more) accountability when I was in Phoenix.” Jones said. “But I was a young kid, fresh out of college. I just had turned 19 years old. It’s something that I should have been doing. I’m doing it now.
“I realized I had to work harder. I feel like I’m one of the hardest working players on the team. I’m going to keep it going until whenever my day is done. I want to be able to feel like I worked my tail off every day, never took any days off.”
The Heat saw that commitment and rewarded Jones with a two-year standard contract he signed less than two weeks ago.
“This summer he really took it upon himself to get in the gym and work and grind,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “He became obsessed with the game. He just dominated every game he was in whether it was on the offensive boards, on the defensive end, his leadership, his attacking, he was on a different level than most of the other guys on the court and were really happy to see that.”
Jones averaged 21.3 points on 22-of-42 shooting in the three summer league games in Sacramento last week. He added 22 rebounds, six steals and four blocks.
Glass said Bam Adebayo will return for Tuesday’s 4:30 p..m. game after getting a break on Sunday. Adebayo said he played the “UD” role, referring to veteran Udonis Haslem who has been a leader and mentor in the Heat locker room for several years.
“They wanted me to be the UD of the team,” Adebayo said. “UD sits over there to be vocal and be loud, just help everybody out when they come off the court.”
LAS VEGAS – More than one week into the start of a new NBA fiscal year and, as expected, the Miami Heat remain the same team they were when free agency kicked off July 1.
The Heat are one of the handful of teams who have yet to make a move since the calendar turned to July. The only announcement coming from the Heat in recent weeks was the signing of forward Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard NBA contract.
But any future moves by president Pat Riley will be made with the luxury tax in mind. With about $120 million committed to 11 players for the upcoming season, Miami is about $4 million away from crossing that luxury tax threshold and that is something the Heat would like to avoid, especially for a team that is not a contender.
The luxury tax comes into play in several scenarios.
The Heat are one of three teams that have been linked to Carmelo Anthony, who will part ways with Oklahoma City. If the Thunder is unable to trade Anthony, who is due $27.9 million this season, he could be available for a minimum contract. The Heat’s issue is two-fold: Where would Anthony fit in with a roster that is deep with rotational players and where does Miami stand with Wayne Ellington?
Ellington remains a free agent, and the top unrestricted free agent according to some. The fact that Ellington, one of the top 3-point threats in a league that values 3-point shooters, remains on the market is surprising. The Heat could still be hoping to make a trade to shed some salary to bring back Ellington at a higher price (but certainly not close to the $10.9 million they could pay him). If not, will Ellington settle for something close to the $6.3 million he made last season, whether it is with the Heat or another team?
For every dollar the Heat exceeds the $123.733 million luxury tax threshold up to $4,999,999 they pay a tax rate of $1.50. From $5 million to $9,999,999 over they pay a tax rate of $1.75, from $10 million to $14,999,999 they pay a tax rate of $2.50.
If the Heat matches Ellington’s contract from last season and pays him $6.3 million, he would in essence cost them about $9.8 million because of their luxury tax bill. If they were to give him his max of $10.9 million he would cost them more than $23 million.
That is not happening.
And remember, money has dried up around the league. Just three teams – Atlanta, Brooklyn and Sacramento – have space remaining of any significant. With all three building with youth, it is unlikely they would have a need to sign the 30-year-old Ellington?
One caveat: Every team has until the end of the season to get back under the luxury tax line. So, Miami could be willing to go over that line at the start of the season to a certain point with the confidence they can make moves by the trading deadline to get back under.
Other things to watch as the summer progresses when it comes to the Heat:
Kawhi Leonard: This story will not go away even though many believe Leonard could play out the year in San Antonio. Still, talks can continue for months, which means we will be hearing Leonard rumors throughout the summer. Whether the Spurs turn to the Heat and the Heat are willing to give up most of their good young players remains to be seen.
Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem: Both players are contemplating retirement and the Heat are awaiting their decisions. Haslem would return on a $2.4 million veterans minimum and the Associated Press reported Wade is seeking the Heat’s $5.4 million mid-level exception. That decision could be tied to what happens with Ellington and any luxury tax implications.
Hassan Whiteside: It is looking more and more unlikely that the Heat are able to move Whiteside and the remaining $52.5 million on his contract. Two teams that could have been trade partners for a 7-foot center came off the board this weekend. The Trail Blazers brought back Jusuf Nurkic on a four-year, $48 million contract on Saturday and today it is being reported the Bucks are signing Brook Lopez to a one year deal.
Veteran minimums: The Heat already have too many rotational players but Riley still will look for any bargains that might fit this roster. And several intriguing names remain on the market including Parker, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas and Rodney Hood. Parker, Smart and Hood are restricted. The possibility of any landing with Miami is remote unless moves are made to free up cap and roster space.
MIAMI — The Heat entered the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding their roster and very little financial flexibility to make significant changes.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.
Unable to sign players into space because the Heat are capped out, they will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird rights or even trades to fill out their roster.
The NBA starts a new fiscal year at 12 a.m. Sunday, which also signals the start of free agency and what once again will be a busy offseason. The Miami Heat may not be as big a player as usual this offseason because of roster and payroll limitations, but president Pat Riley still will be busy trying to find a way to upgrade his roster, however difficult that may be.
This week we take a look at the biggest offseason questions surrounding the Heat. Today’s question: What will Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem decide to do this summer — retire or return for a 16th NBA season? We’ll shift to a different question each day leading up to the start of free agency.
MIAMI – Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade have not had conversations about the Heat legend’s future, but Riley said now is the time to start to “focus” on all these decisions that impact next season.
Wade, 36, completed his 15th season in the league in 2017-18 after returning to Miami in a deadline day deal with the Cavaliers. He was effective coming off the bench and was one of the Heat’s two best players along with Goran Dragic during their short stay in the playoffs, averaging 16.6 points on 44.3 percent shooting in the five games.
Wade said following the Heat’s Game 5 loss in Philadelphia he will decide this summer if he will return, but if he does it will be with the Heat. He has not put a timetable on his decision.
Riley said he and Wade have “shared texts” and that Wade has “communicated on a regular basis with a lot of people in the organization but nothing has been decided with Dwyane. We want to have Dwyane back obviously but there’s been no discussion about next year.”
Wade has been busy this summer, jetting around the world, working on business projects and, yes, working out to stay prepared in case he returns. His most recent comments on this future came on Fox Sports Radio in an interview with former teammate, Caron Butler.
“If I decide to come back and play the game of basketball, I would love for it, obviously, to be in Miami,” he said. “It’s just crazy because in this league you never know what will happen. I never thought I would leave Miami. Caron knows that I thought I would be here forever, but things happen.”
Wade left Miami two summers ago and returned after one season in Chicago and a little more than half a season in Cleveland. He played on a minimum contract last season after agreeing to a buyout on his $23.8 million salary with the Bulls. Wade reportedly will seek the Heat’s $5.4 million mid-level exception if he decides to return for a 16th season.