Heat president Pat Riley has accumulated assets on reasonable contracts. Look out!

Heat president Pat Riley has accumulated enough chips to go all in if an opportunity arises to made a major trade. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

MIAMI – In the summer of 2004 Pat Riley’s chips were all on the table. … Well, all but one.

Looking to land a transcendent player to help put the Miami Heat over the top in their quest for their first title, Riley assembled enough assets to pique the interest of the Los Angeles Lakers.

After giving the Lakers their pick of any combination of players on the roster with the exception of Dwyane Wade, Riley changed the course of Heat history by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal.

Riley had not acquired Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler with the idea of peddling them for the original ‘whale,’ but the opportunity was there. Which brings us to Monday, and Riley’s characterization of his current team.

“This team sort of reminds me of that team,” Riley said about the 2003-04 group. “Just something about it reminds me of that kind of team and that kind of spirit. So I have a good feeling about it.”

The unintended comparison was to what happened in that summer of 2004. Riley had accumulated assets with reasonable contracts and put himself in position to make a franchise-altering trade.

The notion that Riley has lost his fastball because he could not land Gordon Hayward, or even his mind because he spent about $162 million of Micky Arison’s money (with GM Andy Elisburg’s help) on three four-year contracts for James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk is misguided. Riley knew exactly what he was doing after learning Hayward was headed to Boston. He quickly recovered and re-signed his top two free agents (plus retained Wayne Ellington) and added Olynyk.

Three players that at the time were among the top 10-15 free agents still on the board.

Riley said the long-term contracts were by design to “tie up our young guys.” But later he touched on the biggest advantage the Heat have moving forward.

Considering the largest contract of the three is for $60 million (Johnson) that means all three players are signed for an average annual amount of $12.5 million to $15 million.

All reasonable. All valuable pieces if another superstar becomes available.

In a climate in which the salary cap will climb above $100 million next summer and keep climbing and Otto Porter Jr. is averaging $26.5 million, Jrue Holiday $25 million and Tim Hardaway Jr. $18 million – all nice pieces but not super stars – Johnson, Waiters and Olynyk will become more of a bargain as each year passes.

In the last two weeks 15 players have signed deals with a higher per year average than Johnson. And 19 greater than Waiters and Olynyk. To take it further, 57 players averaged more than $15 million last season, 73 more than $12.5.

Do you really think there are 72 players in the NBA who are better than Johnson or 92 players better than Waiters and Olynyk?

Riley said Monday he does not like to define players as assets. But then he did.

“They are assets,” he said. “If something comes along somewhere along the way, there are opportunities to do other things. I don’t have plans to do that, but you need those kinds of assets.”

Then, the man who wrote the book on motivational tools, knew he had found another.

“That will give them something to think about,” he said laughing.

And Riley had no choice. All three Heat free agents were looking for their first big contract and one- or two-year deals did not appeal to them. And if they would have, the annual salary would have been much higher (Waiters reportedly turned down $17 million for one year from the Lakers) making it impossible to sign all three under the cap.

O’Neal becoming available in the summer of 2005 was totally unexpected. One year ago nobody would have thought Indiana would trade Paul George but the Pacers unloaded the four-time All-Star to Oklahoma City for an unimpressive package of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

And last summer the trade winds around Jimmy Butler started blowing, another player who two years ago no one expected would be moved. The Bulls finally pulled the trigger on a Butler deal to Minnesota last month.

Now, with his chips back on the table, do not doubt that Pat Riley would be all in if another star hits the market.

[Mailbag: Will the Heat have enough salary cap room to keep Josh Richardson next summer?]

[What will be James Johnson’s first purchase after signing his new contract? Gym equipment for his home]

[Mailbag: With free agency winding down, where do Miami Heat rank in the East?]

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Mailbag: With free agency winding down, where do Miami Heat rank in the East?

The Miami Heat should move ahead of teams who have decided to rebuild, like the Chicago Bulls. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Even with about 90 players remaining on the market, free agency is winding down.

The Miami Heat lost out on Gordon Hayward, their main target, but Pat Riley re-signed James Johnson and Dion Waiters, picked up Wayne Ellington’s contract and added Kelly Olynyk.

Where does Miami stand in the East? We answer that and more in today’s mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question, send them for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From: ChrisHypeTrain: How serious of contender do you see the heat being in the east?

I don’t know if anybody other Cleveland and Boston are contenders, but let’s take the question a bit further and examine where Miami ranks in the East.

The first thing is to look at the teams that finished tied or ahead of Miami last season that the Heat have passed. That list includes Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta. All three teams are in full rebuild mode.

That leaves five teams ahead of Miami from the final standings. To me, the top four – Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Milwaukee – have the edge. The Cavs remain the team to beat. The Celtics added Hayward, although they took a hit losing Avery Bradley and Olynyk. Toronto and Washington bring back the core of teams that won 51 and 49 games, respectively.

That leaves Milwaukee, which is where I believe the Heat also fall in. The Bucks won one more game than Miami last season. They will be boosted by having Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton (barring further injuries) each for a full season, but are they appreciably better than Miami?

The Heat had the second best record in the NBA the second half of the season and basically return that entire group plus add Olynyk and first-round pick Bam Adebayo.

To me, the Heat enter the season battling the Bucks for the fifth best team in the East. Could they finish in the top 4? It’s possible but barring a major injury to any of the top four teams, that will be difficult.

From @bballin13: How do you think Bam is doing in the SL and do you think it will keep going in the regular season?

The Heat are very pleased with what they have seen so far from the 14th pick in the draft.

Bam turned heads in Orlando with his athleticism and versatility. We knew he was a finisher around the rim, had the ability to block shots and could run the floor. But he has shown intriguing ball handling skills that typically defy most players who are 6-foot-10. It seems like every game we see a clip of Bam clearing a rebound and taking the ball coast-to-coast. Coach Chris Quinn at times even has instructed Bam to take the ball down the court and initiate offense.

As for stats, Bam was fifth in Orlando with 17.5 points per game, second with 8.3 boards and tied for second with 2.3 blocks. He did shoot just 35.2 percent, but that number is skewed by his worst offensive game of the summer when he was 1-of-10 from the floor against the Knicks.

Bam followed that game up with a double-double in the Heat’s first summer league victory in their first game in Las Vegas. He scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.

As for the regular season. Mid-first round picks typically do not make an immediate impact. Look for Bam to get his minutes but Miami will be patient, especially after adding Olynyk and bringing back Johnson, which gives it nice depth up front.

[Chris Bosh to Miami: ‘You showed me how to stay strong and push through in the toughest moments’]

[Patience and confidence paid off for Dion Waiters: ‘I’ll bet on myself any day’]

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Versatile forward James Johnson will return to Miami Heat

James Johnson (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Even with a brief flirtation with the Utah Jazz, the sense was James Johnson never was leaving Miami.

Johnson, the versatile power forward, and the Heat agreed Thursday to a four-year contract for $60 million, including a player option, assuring that the team’s biggest breakout player from last season will remain in Miami. The deal, confirmed by the Palm Beach Post, was not unexpected as Johnson was  not linked to another team until Utah’s name came up Tuesday after Gordon Hayward agreed to sign with the Celtics. Additionally, Johnson was part of the Heat contingent that met with Hayward on Saturday in Miami.

But while Hayward decided to join Boston, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Johnson is remaining in South Florida.

The Heat have recovered nicely after losing Hayward by holding onto their top two free agents, Johnson and shooting guard Dion Waiters, who agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal Wednesday.

In addition, Miami also signed former Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk.

Johnson, 30, came to the Heat a year ago on a one-year, $4 million deal and put himself in position to ink the most lucrative contract of his eight year career. He had a breakout season, averaging career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.9) and assists (3.6) while playing an important role off Miami’s bench.

In post-season award voting, Johnson was fifth for Sixth Man of The Year and sixth for Most Improved Player.

Johnson, though, did start the final five games of the season and became the Heat’s go-to guy because of his ability to create his own shot. Coach Erik Spoelstra put the ball in his hands with the game on the line late in the season at Detroit and Washington. Johnson missed a jumper against the Pistons that Hassan Whiteside rebounded and put back for the game-winner. He hit the game-winner against the Wizards on a spinning move at the rim.

Now,  Johnson is expected to become Miami’s starting power forward.

And as much as Johnson improved last season, the Heat believe there is more room to grow.

“He can get better,” Heat president Pat Riley said following the season. Riley added he told Johnson there was another level he could reach efficiency wise at the end of the game.

“He knows exactly what I’m talking about,” Riley said.

Johnson said many times the Heat are the first team that did not “put him in a box,” allowing him to show his versatility.

Johnson displayed skills that could be compared to Golden State’s versatile power forward Draymond Green. He can facilitate the offense as a point forward and play center when the Heat go small. His defensive skills allowed him to guard every position on the floor and Johnson responded by holding the man he was guarding to 5.0 percent below his normal field goal percentage. Among power forwards whose opponents took at least 10 shots per game, only Green, the Defensive Player of the Year, was better.

Following the season, Johnson continued to work out with his teammates at AmericanAirlines Arena, never acting as if he would not be a part of the team’s future.

During an appearance on WTVJ-Miami’s Sports Final last month, Johnson said the Heat gave him “the stage to work on and the opportunity to go out there and to become the best player I can be. They definitely gave me that stepping stone or eight stepping stones.”

[Chris Bosh’s jersey will be the fourth retired by the Miami Heat. Who will join him in the future?]

[Mailbag: After missing out on Gordon Hayward, where do Miami Heat rank if they bring back last year’s team?]




Mailbag: After missing out on Gordon Hayward, where do Miami Heat rank if they bring back last year’s team?

The Gordon Hayward free agency drama has ended and the Miami Heat came up short.

So what now?

Pat Riley will attempt to bring back most of the old gang with a free agent or two. If so, where does that put Miami in the Eastern Conference? We answer that that among other questions in today’s mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From ChrisHypeTrain: Where do the Heat rank in the east if they bring back JJ and Dion Waiters and sign one or two other free agents to improve their bench?

Miami was looking at climbing to No. 2 in the East if it was able to land Hayward. That dream is gone. But Riley said he had a Plan B, which presumably is bringing back the major pieces of a team that had the second-best record (30-11) in the league the second half of the season.

That’s probably what we will get, and perhaps another solid rotation player along with rookie Bam Adebayo. Still that should be enough to put the Heat in the playoffs. But how high can they go?

Miami tied with Chicago for the eighth-best record in the East last season, missing out on the playoffs because of a tie-breaker. But three teams that finished ahead of the Heat – Atlanta, Indiana, Chicago – are in rebuild mode and will tumble in the standings.

That leaves Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington and Milwaukee ahead of Miami. The Heat could surprise and crack the top four but the guess is most of the preseason predictions will have them fifth or sixth.

From @CornDogsJackie: Will Pat try to deal TJ since his contract balloons next 2 years??

Tyler Johnson already has been the subject of trade rumors just one year into his four-year, $50-million deal and chances are his name will be floated many more times.

Johnson’s contract is a burden on the cap in 2018-19 and 2019-20. After making about $5.9 million this season his number climbs to $18.9 and $19.6 the next two years. Dealing Johnson likely will be at the top of the Heat’s wish list but the problem is finding a team willing to take on that contract.

The Brooklyn Nets are the team that made Johnson the offer last summer that the Heat matched. Brooklyn is in the game of offering restricted free agents but they typically are matched. Perhaps the Nets would circle back to Johnson this summer and seek a trade with the Heat.

    From @RjSonbeek: If Gordon Hayward really did eliminate Miami (Monday) night is it out of the ordinary that he waited to tell them?

We were told late Tuesday afternoon that the Heat had yet to be informed they were out of the running. It would be nice if players gave other teams the professional courtesy of letting them know they are not coming sooner, but that does not always happen.

Hayward plan then became obvious when his announcement appeared on the Players’ Tribune. But that plan backfired when it was reported hours earlier by Chris Haynes of ESPN he was headed to Boston. Hayward’s camp then tried to do damage control by deny the report but it became obvious Hayward knew then he was taking the Celtics’ offer and his handlers were upset because the new was broken before he could announce it in his article.

[With Gordon Hayward headed to Boston, what are the Miami Heat’s options?]

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With Gordon Hayward headed to Boston, what are the Miami Heat’s options?

Will the Miami Heat quickly turn to James Johnson and Dion Waiters if Gordon Hayward heads to either Boston or Utah?

Get ready James Johnson and Dion Waiters, your time finally could be coming.

With Gordon Hayward headed to Boston, Pat Riley certainly had a plan if he struck out on the former Utah Jazz forward. The Miami Heat still would be at least $35 million under the cap and the expectation is a good chunk of that (perhaps about $25 million) will to go to Johnson and Waiters, Miami’s top two free agents.

If the Heat bring back both Johnson and Waiters, they should have about $10 million to $14 million remaining – depending on the size of those contracts and if they stretch Josh McRoberts’ contract – along with a $4.3 exception available.

Riley then will have options whether it’s signing one of the remaining free agents to boost the Heat bench or pulling off a trade.

And the Heat might be able to snag one of those free agents or two for a reasonable price. Here are five players still on the market Miami could take a look at:

Rudy Gay, 6-8, SF, Kings

Gay will be 31 when camp opens. He opted out of $14.3 million after tearing his Achilles and averaging 18.7 points on .455 shooting, including .372 on threes, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists. His ESPN player efficiency rating was ninth in the league at 17.95. He has always wanted to play in Miami and could give the Heat a discount.

C.J. Miles, 6-6, F/G, Pacers

Miles, 30, would be a nice swingman pickup for the right price. He averaged 10.7 points while shooting 43.2 percent, 41.3 on threes, and is a solid defender. He’s looking for a raise from the $4.6 million he made last season but may be available for a reasonable price.

Tyreke Evans, 6-6, F/G, Kings

Evans, 27, averaged 10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 40 games between New Orleans and Sacramento. He has been limited to 65 games the last two years because of injuries. A former rookie of the year, his best years in the NBA were his first two. He can be had for a decent price.

Ersan Ilyasova, 6-10, PF, Hawks

Ilyasova, 30, played on three teams last season – OKC, Philadelphia. Atlanta – and averaged 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. He led the league with 34 charges drawn which means he’s a Heat type of player who would fit in very well.

Marreese Speights, 6-10, F/C, Clippers

Speights, who will be 30 when camp opens, averaged 8.7 points, 4.5 rebounds in just 15.7 minutes per game last season, while playing all 82 games. His 3-point shooting exploded, making 103-of-277 (.372). He had 43 3-pointers in his previous eight seasons. Speights made just $1.4 million last season.

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Gordon Hayward picks Celtics over Heat and Jazz. A look at a crazy day and where the Heat go from here

Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors defends against Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz during Game One of the NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals at ORACLE Arena on May 2, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

MIAMI — Pat Riley said the Heat had a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” entering free agency. It turns out they will have to turn to their backup plan this summer.

With a letter posted on The Players’ Tribune, Gordon Hayward announced his decision to sign with the Celtics on Tuesday evening to cap off a crazy Fourth of July. The All-Star forward picked Boston over the Heat and incumbent Jazz after holding free-agent meetings with each team over the past few days.

Hayward will reunite with his college coach Brad Stevens in Boston on a four-year deal worth $128 million with a fourth year player option, according to David Aldridge from NBA.com.

“My meetings with all three teams during this process — Miami, Boston and Utah — were just unbelievable,” Hayward wrote on The Players’ Tribune. “They couldn’t have been more impressive. Each meeting left me convinced that the team I’d just met with was the right fit.

“This was a life-changing decision for me and my family, and something we took really seriously. And from the very start of this process, one thing stood out as important: I knew that I wanted the fans and the organizations to hear my decision directly from me. After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”

This news was reported earlier in the day just after 2 p.m. when ESPN’s Chris Haynes indicated that Hayward had opted to sign with the Celtics.

But just minutes after that news surfaced Tuesday afternoon, 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 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.”

Jazz President Steve Starks then went to Twitter and posted, “We trust Gordon and his agent that no decision has been made. Good communication all day and a great relationship.”

A source told the Palm Beach Post on Tuesday afternoon that Hayward had not yet made a decision and the reports of him choosing the Celtics “are all erroneous.”

It wasn’t until after 7 p.m. that Hayward made his decision to sign with Boston official with a letter on The Players’ Tribune.

This comes after the Heat put the full-court press on Hayward, delaying their other free-agency plans until the sought-after forward made his decision. Miami had the first free-agent meeting with Hayward on Saturday, as the Heat welcomed him to Miami with a small banner outside AmericanAirlines Arena showing the 27-year-old in a Heat uniform.

Saturday’s meeting with Hayward included Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg, CEO Nick Arison and Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, coach Erik Spoelstra and part of his staff. Players also spoke to Hayward, including Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem and James Johnson.

Without Hayward, the Heat are left with about $35 million in cap space after officially waiving Chris Bosh. Miami is now expected to focus on its own free agents with Dion Waiters and Johnson still on the market.

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Knicks continue to speak with Waiters and the Lakers are also interested in him. There have been no reports of any free-agent meetings involving Johnson, who shares the same agent with Hayward.

Even if the majority of that cap space is used to retain Johnson and Waiters as expected, there should be some money remaining to sign another mid-level free agent or two. That’s the space the Heat can use to keep Wayne Ellington and guarantee his $6.3 million salary for the 2017-18 season.

If Miami decides to bring back Johnson, Waiters and Ellington, most of last season’s core will be kept intact. The Heat’s other free agents are center Willie Reed, and forwards Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem.

The Heat can also look at outside free-agent options like forward Rudy Gay, a name that has been linked to Miami, or use their cap space in a trade.

Free-agency negotiations began Saturday, but signings are not allowed until Thursday at noon.

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Mailbag: How will summer league Bam Adebayo adjust to his regular-season role with the Heat?

MIAMI — As the Heat wait on Gordon Hayward’s free-agent decision, Bam Adebayo flashed a glimpse of his NBA potential Monday.

Miami’s first-round pick recorded 29 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in a 86-83 loss to the Pacers at the Orlando Summer League. But is this the type of play we can expect from Bam even when the regular season begins?

We answer that question and more in the latest installment of the Heat mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo dunks the ball over Indiana Pacers’ T.J. Leaf, back left, during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 3, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

@DrJayOrtiz: Do you see Bam Adebayo transitioning into the big stage as well as he transitioned into the summer league games?

Anthony Chiang: Bam has opened some eyes at the Orlando Summer League. He’s averaging 19.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks through three games. But it’s also important to remember that Bam’s role will be different when the real games begin. The 19-year-old is averaging 15 shots per contest in Orlando. Bam will be lucky if he averages half of that number in the regular season. When playing alongside guys like Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, Bam is not going to be on the court for his offense. Instead, he’ll be asked to be a rebounder and strong versatile defender off the Heat’s bench. In other words, don’t expect Bam to average a double-double as a rookie. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Bam’s summer league flashes. He’s showing off his athleticism with some Eurostep finishes, and he’s showing off his shooting touch with a solid free-throw percentage. Most importantly, Bam is showing the potential to become a quality NBA player.

@desmond0520: Would it be a better idea for the Heat to try and pick up a marquee free agent in next year’s free-agent class as opposed to maxing out Gordon Hayward?

Anthony Chiang: I understand this thought process. I really do, especially when the list of 2018 free agents could include LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge. But when a player like Gordon Hayward is considering you as his free-agent destination, you have to pursue it. If the Heat miss out on Gordon, then they should keep next year’s free-agent class in mind when turning to Plan B this offseason. But there’s one thing the Heat have proved over the years. If the Heat want a player in free agency, they will find a way to make the money work. So even if Miami is capped out next summer, there are still ways to create some room if a star is interested in signing with the Heat.

[Gordon Hayward’s Free Agency Tour ends Monday; Heat, Celtics, Jazz await decision]

[Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?]

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UPDATE: Gordon Hayward’s Free Agency Tour ends Monday; Heat, Celtics, Jazz await decision


All that’s left for Gordon Hayward is The Decision. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

ORLANDO – Free agent Gordon Hayward had his final meeting Monday, sitting down with officials from the only team he has played for during his seven-year NBA career.

Hayward met with the Utah Jazz in San Diego for 3.5 hours, according to ESPN,  and left without a decision as to whether he will return to Utah or sign with the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. Included in the meeting was new point guard Ricky Rubio, who flew in from Spain.

Reports during the day indicated Hayward still laboring over the decision.

Hayward traveled to Miami and Boston during the weekend, but had the Jazz delegation travel to San Diego, where the Haywards have a home.

Most reports have Hayward making his decision Tuesday or Wednesday.

Utah’s pitch was different from those of Pat Riley and the Heat on Saturday and Danny Ainge and the Celtics on Sunday. The Jazz are attempting to retain a player who is very familiar with the organization, the coaches and players and the city.

     Miami and Boston pulled out stops to welcome the 6-foot-8 swingman, who is coming off his first All-Star season, and familiarize him with the organizations and the cities.

Hayward, 27, was greeted with a banner of his likeness as he and his wife, Robyn, drove up to AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. In Boston, they were taken to an empty Fenway Park where they were welcomed on the video screen and shown a video highlighting the franchise’s rich history.

The Jazz sent owner Gail Miller and her family, GM Dennis Lindsey, coach Quin Snyder, team president Steve Starks and a group of players to meet with Hayward in San Diego.

“We feel good because of the city and the organization, the level of the team, Quin, the development staff, Rudy,” Lindsey, referring to center Rudy Gobert, told the Deseret News prior to the meeting.

“We’re quite confident. We’ll see what that means. We’ll find out if that’s overconfident or appropriately placed.”

The Jazz did not have to convince Hayward that they have made significant strides. He has been a big reason the team went from 25 to 38 to 40 to 51 wins the last four years. Utah was fifth in the Western Conference last season and defeated the Clippers in seven games in the first round before being swept by eventual champions Golden State in the conference semifinals.

    Miami and Boston, meanwhile, spent a good portion of their meetings talking to Hayward about how he is a significant missing piece and how he will fit into their structure.

The Celtics attempted to sell Hayward how joining a 53-win team that advanced to the conference finals before losing in five-games to Cleveland could put them over the hump and into the Finals.

The Heat, meanwhile, had to convince Hayward they are more like the team that had the second-best record (30-11) in the league during the second half of the season – better than Boston – and not the one that started 11-30. Miami could also sell Hayward on the fact that he would be the No. 1 option and play with a point guard like Goran Dragic who is more apt to share the ball than Boston’s shoot-first point guard, Isaiah Thomas.

And both teams can gang up on Utah, pointing out how the West, already a much more powerful conference, got much stronger this summer with All-Stars Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap leaving the East either through trades or free agency.

Utah, with Hayward, could be at best No. 5 on paper in the West and even that could be debated. Put Hayward on Boston or Miami and both could have an argument they are No. 2 in the conference, the Celtics’ case being much stronger.

Hayward would be the lone Western Conference star to go to the Eastern Conference this summer if he joins Boston or Miami.

The wooing of Hayward has been played out in social media. Three star players, one from each team, became involved in an emoji war on Twitter over the weekend, each trying to promote his team.

Gobert kicked it off by suggesting the Heat are garbage, the Celtics are a pile of poop and the Jazz win trophies.

Boston’s Thomas countered by pointing out the Jazz have never won a title, the Heat have won three and Boston has 17 championships.

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside then limited that to titles won this century, of which Miami has three, Boston one and the Jazz none.

But emoji wars and fans’ takes on social media will not determine where Hayward signs. What will is everything he and his wife have heard in the last three days and soon they will share that with the rest of us.

[Miami target of a racist and ignorant taunt from Utah, Boston journalists]

[Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?]

[Mailbag: Could the Miami Heat pull off a sign-and-trade if they land Gordon Hayward?]

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Miami target of a racist and ignorant taunt from Utah, Boston journalists

Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward will be making a decision about his future in the next few days. But it will have nothing to do with the racist, ignorant views of some who are lining up in Utah’s or Boston’s corner.

Two takes, one from each city, hinted Hayward should prefer playing in Utah or Boston because Miami is a) too culturally diverse and b) too much of a party town.

Hayward, who visited the Heat and Celtics over the weekend and is meeting with his old team, Utah, today, is expected to announce his decision Tuesday or Wednesday.

Adam Kaufman, a morning-drive talking-head for a Boston radio station, last week reported he continues to “hear” that Hayward would not be a fit in Miami because he is “not a going out, partying type.”

First, Kaufman must have taken LeBron James’ “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” speech literally and believes the Heat and every other team plays on the tip of Miami Beach and that every athlete is forced to live on Collins Ave.

And unless Kaufman just finished watching Scarface or a Miami Vice marathon, there is no plausible explanation as to why an adult believes that Miami offers nothing but out-of-control parties and everybody who lives there stays out to 5 a.m.

Now, if Kaufman said Hayward and his wife, Robyn, are not good fits because they are not the types who want to live in a tropical climate where they can visit the beach and wear flip-flops year round without the danger frost bite, then he might have been on to something.

The attack on South Florida got worst when Ben Dowsett, whose Twitter account lists him as the Deputy Editor of Basketball Insiders and is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, sent out a tweet that he later deleted. It read:

  Heat fans seriously have trouble figuring out why UTAH is a more family-friendly place than Miami.


Dowsett then confirmed the tone behind the tweet when his apology read he “didn’t consider the implications of the wording.”

According to the Miami New Times, Dowsett’s mentions blew up asking for an explanation and he continued to hint Utah’s makeup of 81.6 percent non-Hispanic whites translates to more “family-friendly” than an area as culturally and racially diverse at Miami and South Florida.

And if Dowsett believes the Haywards would be turned off to an area because of its diversity, he has not seen Robyn Hayward’s Instagram that links to loveguatemala.org, an organization that “exists to give hope to Guatemalans through the gospel of Jesus Christ and vocational training.”

[Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?]

[Mailbag: Could the Miami Heat pull off a sign-and-trade if they land Gordon Hayward?]

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Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?

ORLANDO — As the Heat wait to hear Gordon Hayward’s decision, the Eastern Conference continues to weaken.

Even before the start of free agency, Indiana traded four-time All-Star Paul George to Oklahoma City and Chicago traded three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Since free agency began, Paul Millsap has left the Hawks to sign with the Nuggets.

Just with those transactions, the Heat have a chance to move past the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks in the East’s power rankings. After finishing as the ninth-best team in the conference last season, that would probably be enough to push Miami into the group of eight East teams that make the playoffs even if the Heat just brought back last season’s core. Continue reading “Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?”