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 Miami Heat have sent a qualifying offer to Derrick Walton Jr. for his two-way contract, making the 6-foot-1 point guard a restricted free agent starting Sunday.
The Heat will be allowed to match any offers Walton might receive.
The move was made with the intention of bringing back Walton on another two-way contract, similar to what the Heat did with Derrick Jones Jr., earlier this month. The Heat still could offer a two-way contract to another player but would have to release Walton or Jones.
A player can’t play under two-way contracts for the same team for more than three years total. Walton just completed his first season with the Heat under a two-way deal.
Walton was signed to his two-way contract last July after going undrafted out of Michigan in 2017. He split last season between the Heat and Miami’s G League developmental team in Sioux Falls. Walton appeared in 16 games for the Heat, averaging 1.8, points 1.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 9.2 minutes. At Sioux Falls he played in 27 games, all starts, and averaged 16.1 points, 7.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds. He shot 90.2 percent on free throws, which was fifth in the G League.
Walton and Jones will be a part of the Heat’s summer league teams which play in Sacramento and Las Vegas in July.
Miami’s next order of business before free agency starts at 12:01 Sunday is to guarantee Rodney McGruder’s $1.5 million contract for next season. That decision must come before Sunday.
The Heat now have seven players from the 2017-18 roster who will become free agents Sunday: Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington, Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade, Jordan Mickey, Jones and Walton.
Miami has 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $119 million, including McGruder if his deal is guaranteed.
That puts the Heat above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line.
The Heat will sit Dwyane Wade (right elbow, left wrist), Goran Dragic (left knee, left ankle) and James Johnson (left ankle) for tonight’s rematch against the Hawks. All three are dealing with injuries but none severe enough that it would prevent them from playing if this were, say, the playoffs.
“Each one of these injuries, whenever they happen and the next day is go time,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “These guys, they understood what was at stake. So, everybody was just green-lighting and going forward, regardless of how they felt.
“Right now, we think it’s smart just to take a day, get treatment and reevaluate.”
All three players said they expect to play Friday in New York.
“Right now, we’re not shutting everybody down,” Spoelstra said. “That’s not the thought of this at all. It’s we want to clear these things up and it might be cleared up so all of them can go on Friday. But we’ll see how the next two days go.”
The injuries forced Spoelstra to roll out his 24th different starting lineup: Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Luke Babbitt and Hassan Whiteside.
Wade’s injuries occurred during Saturday’s overtime loss to Brooklyn. He landed hard on his wrist late in the overtime and banged the elbow earlier in the game. Wade fractured the same elbow last March while playing for Chicago.
“(Tuesday) was just a game we needed to win,” Wade said. “I think everybody trying to just play through whatever your feeling and got a chance to get that clinched. Tonight, having a quick turnaround, get an opportunity to rest it.”
Dragic said he’s been dealing with tendinitis in the knee, which flared up about three weeks ago. He twisted his ankle on Tuesday.
When asked if he would be playing if this was a meaningful game, Dragic said: “Definitely.”
Johnson said his ankle has been an issue for awhile.
“Just been playing through it,” he said. “If you can you must, that mentality. Just been playing through it and today it hurts. I got treatment on it and I’ll get ready for New York.”
Johnson missed six games earlier this season with bursitis in his right ankle.
For the Heat, the goal is getting healthy for the playoffs, which start April 14, 15.
“In the playoffs, every player we want them to be healthy so we can compete at the highest level,” Dragic said. “I think it’s important.”
Still, the Heat are not dismissing their chances to finish sixth, even if their first-round opponent is Cleveland.
“We want to make noise in the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We’re definitely not satisfied with where we’re at.”
MIAMI – The last week has given us a glimpse of the Miami Heat team we are going to see in the playoffs.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has pared down his rotation to nine primary players with others like Bam Adebayo, Rodney McGruder and Luke Babbitt the security blankets.
With everyone healthy – and that has been a challenge for the Heat the last two seasons – Spoelstra will start Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside. That five has started nine games with the Heat going 5-4 in those games.
But the numbers when those players are on the court are startling.
That five has played 159 minutes together and has a plus-minus of a minus-30, which of third worst of all the five-man combinations used by the Heat this season.
Spoelstra is not a big fan of plus-minus statistic and will not allow it to influence his decisions. But by using this starting five he can keep a consistent second unit together of Dwyane Wade, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow. That four usually is on the floor with one of the starters or Adebayo.
The Heat have started the last two games completely healthy with the exception of Dion Waiters. Babbitt was inactive both games and in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Bulls, Adebayo, McGruder, Jordan Mickey and Udonis Haslem did not play.
“We’re healthy,” Spoelstra said. “We didn’t necessarily tighten up. We played a nine-man rotation.”
McGruder and Adebayo played in Thursday’s victory over the Bulls. McGruder entered late in the second quarter after Tyler Johnson rolled his ankle. McGruder then started the second half in Johnson’s spot.
Adebayo was called on during the first quarter of that game, after Olynyk picked up his second foul.
Spoelstra has tried to get to this rotation several times in the last five weeks. He had his entire complement of players (minus Waiters) for the first time on Feb. 27 but Ellington and Tyler Johnson both left that game after suffering thigh bruises.
The entire group was back on March 8 and finished that game but two days later Whiteside strained his left hip flexor during shootaround and Wade left that night’s game with a mild hamstring strain.
Finally, on the 76th and 77th games of the season, the Heat had all 14 of the 15 players on the roster available at the start for the first time in consecutive games this season. All are expected to be there again tonight when the Heat face the Hawks with a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
Still, that does not give Spoelstra comfort. Mickey was called on to start against Cleveland last week when Whiteside and Adebayo were unavailable. This is what he said he told Mickey recently as players were returning.
“The rotation is pretty much set right now but things will happen,” he said. “I’ve been around this league long enough that something will happen.”
Hassan Whiteside (hip) and Dwyane Wade (hamstring) continue to be listed as out and Josh Richardson, who missed his first game of the season Wednesday in Sacramento with a sore left foot, is doubtful.
As always, that report could change Friday depending on how the players respond to treatment and if any of them are able to participate in the morning shootaround.
Whiteside has missed three games since suffering a left hip flexor during shootaround before Saturday’s home game against the Wizards. And he has been missed, especially in the last two losses – Monday at Portland and against the Kings. Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic scored 27 points and the Kings had 58 points in the paint, 14 above their average. Bam Adebayo has started all three games at center in Whiteside’s absence.
Wade sat the last two after suffering a mild left hamstring strain late in Saturday’s game. The Heat especially missed Wade late in Wednesday’s close loss as they were held without a field goal after Wayne Ellington’s three gave them a four-point lead with 1:23 remaining. The Kings tied the game on a buzzer beater by De’Aaron Fox and won in overtime, 123-119.
Richardson’s injury was revealed hours before the Sacramento game. He, too, was injured against Washington and tried to play through the soreness at Portland but logged just 16 minutes.
Richardson was the only Heat player to have played and started every game before Wednesday.
Luke Babbitt took Richardson’s spot in the starting lineup against the Kings. Babbitt missed all three of his shots and went scoreless in 14 minutes.
The Heat (36-33) face the Lakers (31-37) in the third and final game of this road trip. The Heat are eighth in the East, one/half game behind No. 7 Milwaukee. Miami has lost nine consecutive road games.
SACRAMENTO – Don’t tell the Miami Heat the Sacramento Kings are tanking.
For the second time this season, the Heat fell to the Kings, this time 123-119 in overtime at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday, stretching Miami’s road losing streak to nine games. The Heat blew a late lead seven weeks ago in a one-point loss to the Kings in Miami.
Miami (36-33) has lost nine games this season to six of the worst teams in the league.
The Heat forced overtime after trailing by 16 points with 10:13 to play and took a four point lead with 1:23 remaining. But De’Aaron Fox forced the overtime with a layup in traffic at the buzzer. The Kings got the ball back with 3.0 seconds remaining after Kelly Olynyk made 1-of-2 free throws allowing Fox’s game-tying basket.
Fox hit the game-winner in the final seconds in the Kings’ victory in Miami on Jan. 25. Sacramento has swept the season series against the Heat for the first time since 2002.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The guys really battled, really put ourselves in the driver’s seat to get this game. In a different way, it just feels so much like that home game in Miami, where we’re up five and not able to close out. You do have to credit them. They played a great game. They played with tremendous energy. For most of the game, they played with more purpose and force than we did until that fourth quarter, where we really laid it all out there.”
Miami then went cold early in the extra five minutes, needing 2:10 to finally score and never were able to grab the lead.
While the Heat could point to an inept offense for the 89-88 loss to Sacramento in January, this defeat was totally on the defense. Miami allowed Sacramento (22-47), the team with the second worst offensive rating in the league, to shoot 51.1 percent.
Miami was led by Goran Dragic, who scored 33 points, 17 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Wayne Ellington added 22. Bam Adebayo, starting in place of Hassan Whiteside, pulled down 16 rebounds.
The Heat set a franchise record with 43 3-point attempts (making 18, which equals their season high) and Ellington set a franchise record with 17 3-point attempts. Ellington made six.
The Heat were without Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside. Richardson missed his first game of the season due to a sore left foot, an injury he sustained Saturday’s against Washington and played through in Portland on Monday.
Wade missed his second game with a mild hamstring strain and Whiteside sat for the third straight game with left hip pain.
Here are our five takeaways:
Blown opportunity: With Milwaukee losing at Orlando, the Heat had a chance to move back into the seventh spot and just a half game behind No 6 Philadelphia. Sacramento entered tied for the fifth worst record in the league but the Heat once again struggled against the younger Kings. Miami remains in eighth, one/half game behind the Bucks. The good news: Miami still is five games clear of No. 9 Detroit.
“We need to start playing sooner,” Dragic said. “We cannot just turn the switch on and try to come back when we’re down 16 or 12. Then [our] game needs to be perfect. Every possession needs to go your way. Tonight we were not right. We allowed them to score close to 60 points in the first half. That’s too much.”
Defense digs a hole: The Heat may have entered Wednesday with the 10th best defensive rating in the league allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions, but for the second straight game the defense was a big reason the Heat fell behind. Just as it did Monday in Portland, the Heat allowed 59 points in the first half against the Kings and trailed by seven. Sacramento shot 53.2 percent in the first 24 minutes. But it got worse in the third quarter as the Kings made 13-of-19 shots.
“We didn’t play Miami Heat basketball in the first half, it came back and got us,” James Johnson said. “You can’t be complacent. You can’t take nobody for granted. We’re not there yet to turn it on and off.”
Dragic’s big night: Dragic equaled his season high in points and shot 11-of-21, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. For the second straight game he set the tone early. Dragic had eight first-quarter points making four of his first five shots. He had 16 points at the end of three quarters and then spearheaded the Heat’s comeback with 15 fourth quarter points. Dragic then equaled his season high with two free throws in overtime.
“Yeah, he was terrific,” Spoelstra said. “He was so inspiring, making big plays and really generating most of the looks. It was just a high pick and roll between him and (Olynyk) and they found the weak points in that time and time again. He was just tremendous.”
Make that 22 different starting lineups: With Richardson out, Spoelstra was forced to go with his 22nd different starting lineup of the season, which equaled the number he used last season. Spoelstra went with Dragic, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Adebayo. That lineup, which had not played together all season, outscored the Kings by four points during its time together on the floor.
Not that team again: The Heat conclude this road trip Friday against a Lakers team that is playing much better than their record indicates. And nobody knows that better than Miami. The Lakers were 26-34 when they came into Miami two weeks ago and proceeded to run Miami out of the building. L.A.’s 131-113 victory marked the most points the Heat have allowed in regulation in a regular-season game since the Warriors scored 134 on March 7, 2008. The objective: Slow down the Lakers, who are expected to be without Brandon Ingram, who injured his groin in that win in Miami.
Richardson, the third-year swingman from Tennessee, injured his left foot Saturday against Washington, played through it Monday in Portland, and now is out as the Heat continue the road trip against the Kings.
Richardson, who played just 16 minutes in Portland (he also was in foul trouble), had just four points on 2-of-6 shooting.
“Going in I thought I could play through it,” Richardson said. “I did a lot of treatment to try and get it better, but once I got moving it still kind of hurt a little bit. I thought it would loosen up. It just never loosened up.”
Additionally, the Heat will be without Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside.
Wade will miss his second game since rejoining the Heat on Feb. 8. He injured the hamstring late in Saturday’s home win against the Wizards and sat out Monday’s loss in Portland. Whiteside will miss his third game since suffering a left hip flexor during Saturday’s shootaround.
Richardson missed 29 games last season, 27 due to various injuries, including 19 with a left foot sprain. This season, he came within a month of playing in all 82.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” he said. “There’s more seasons to play all 82. I’m still going to try to play as many as possible.”
Richardson is not sure how the injury happened and he does not know if he’ll play Friday when the Heat conclude their three-game trip in L.A. against the Lakers.
“I’m just going to feel it out as I go,” he said.
Richardson is averaging 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He leads the Heat with 33.3 minutes per game. He has started at shooting guard and small forward.
“We’re using him in a lot more ways and different ways,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But his versatility is something that we always valued, even when we drafted him and what you’re seeing is a player that’s been committed to developing his game and evolving and growing every single year.”
Spoelstra will start his 22nd different lineup. His options are Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellington and Luke Babbitt.
McGruder has assumed many of Wade’s minutes off the bench. McGruder had eight points and three rebounds in 26 minutes in Portland.
Rookie Bam Adebayo has started in Whiteside’s place the last two games, averaging 5.0 points and 8.5 rebounds. He had a tough game Monday against Trailblazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who had 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting and 16 rebounds. Adebayo, meanwhile, missed all but one of his 10 shots.
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Miami Heat were granted a $5.5 million exception by the NBA in January when the league determined Dion Waiters’ ankle surgery was season ending.
But that deadline is expected to expire at midnight tonight without the Heat adding a player.
General manager Andy Elisburg said the team had discussions about using the exception but after acquiring Dwyane Wade and Luke Babbitt at the trade deadline the organization decided to move forward with its current roster.
“We made different moves that didn’t require it,” Elisburg said about the exception. “We like the guys we got, we like what we did at the trading deadline.
“We like the team we have.”
The exception was granted because an independent medical panel determined that Waiters will be sidelined at least through June 15. Waiters underwent season-ending surgery on his left ankle on Jan. 22.
The Heat had half of Waiters’ contract to sign or trade for a player, but one only on an expiring contract. The signing would have limited to the rest of the season and could not have been combined with any other contract or exception.
And because the Heat are at the 15-man roster limit, they would have had to create a roster spot to add a player. Miami already cut A.J. Hammons in February after it acquired Wade from Cleveland for a draft pick and Babbitt from Atlanta for Okaro White.
Several players, including Joe Johnson, Marco Belinelli and Derrick Rose already have signed after being bought out of their contracts.
The Heat were fully healthy, with the exception of Waiters, entering the two games prior to facing Portland on Monday, giving coach Erik Spoelstra 12 players who would have legitimate claims to be in the rotation.
But that didn’t last long when Hassan Whiteside was ruled out of Saturday’s game against Washington and Dwyane Wade left that same game with a hamstring injury.