LAS VEGAS – Tom Crean, one of Dwyane Wade’s confidants and his former coach at Marquette, has told his former player he hopes he returns to the Miami Heat.
And while Crean isn’t sure if Wade will retire or return for a 16th season, there is one thing he is sure about.
“I think there’s still plenty left in the tank for him, no doubt in my mind,” Crean said today from the Las Vegas summer league.
The option comes from spending time with Wade before training camp last season and watching him play for Cleveland and then the Heat, who reacquired Wade on Feb. 8.
“I saw him last summer and I thought going into training camp he was ahead of where he was going back to the year LeBron (James) left,” Crean said. James left the Heat in the summer of 2014.
“I thought he was at that point. He works on his game, he works constantly on it, he gets better, his energy is high, he’s done such a great job of training. I think he looks really good.”
Although Wade has not announced whether he is returning, his social media accounts are full of posts of him working out this summer.
Wade embraced his role coming off the bench last season. He averaged 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 21 games before being one of the Heat’s better players in the postseason. Wade was Miami’s second leading scorer at 16.6 points per game in their five-game series loss to the Sixers.
“I think Dwyane is capable of so many different roles that he’s always going to put the winning role first,” Crean said. “If there was any doubt (if he’d come off the bench) there was absolutely zero doubt once he went back to Miami and did that.
“He’s always been about winning and you go back into that environment with a young team and you’re doing what is needed for the team to win and make the playoffs, that shows you’re about winning more than anything else. He loves the Heat but he loves winning more than anything else.”
As far as Wade’s decision, Crean said: “I think he’ll make his decision based on the different circumstances that come with it. I, for one, hope that he’s going to continue to play. He knows that but I don’t have a vote. I just have an opinion.”
SACRAMENTO – The Miami Heat face the Los Angeles Lakers tonight in their second summer league game. No, LeBron James will not be wearing a Lakers uniform, but he will be on their players’ minds.
James is taking his talents to Hollywood after agreeing to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers. The Lakers’ summer league team was in Sacramento when the news broke and it jolted two of LeBron’s future teammates out of bed.
Second year guard Josh Hart and first-round draft pick Mortiz Wagner both said they were chillin’ when they heard LeBron was coming to L.A.
“I was laying down in my hotel room,,” Hart said. “I really didn’t know it. …. ‘What they say?’ I was just kind of in shock. I was like, ‘Wow!’ This is the best player in the world coming to L.A. The opportunity to play with someone like that is amazing and it’s something you dream about. I’m anxious to get started.
Of course, Hart may never have that chance. If the Lakers pull off the deal for Kawhi Leonard, Hart could be one of the players headed to the Spurs. The 30th pick in the 2017 draft averaged 7.9 points in 63 games, 23 starts, as a rookie. He scored 23 points Monday in the Lakers’ 98-93 loss to the Kings in their summer league opener, sharing team-high scoring honors with Wagner.
Wagner, taken 25th overall last month, is anxious to watch LeBron as a teammate.
“I found out in my bed in my hotel room,” Wagner said. “Very excited. Anytime you get the chance to work with the greatest of all time in any job I think it’s very exciting and do and be a part of it and to see how he works and competes is exciting.”
Lakers summer league coach Miles Simon said he addressed the organization’s free agency frenzy. After agreeing with James, the Lakers also have brought on Rajon Rondo, Lance Stevenson, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and renounced the rights to Julius Randle, who is headed to New Orleans.
“Before the game I just let them know everybody’s reading the Internet, watching SportsCenter, and it’s an exciting time to be a Laker,” Miles said. “We are one of the greatest franchises in sports history.
“But I told them, ‘Block that all out.’ These next couple of weeks is all about these guys and their journey and how they’re going to start to make their mark and their footprint in the NBA. This is really truly about these guys we have in the locker room wearing this uniform so they can get better and establish themselves as NBA players.”
Meanwhile, Heat summer league coach Eric Glass has no such worries as Miami remains hamstrung this free agency season with a roster that is about $18 million over the salary cap. In fact, Heat president Pat Riley is in Sacramento to watch his young players. Riley, reportedly, is looking at some trades and likely trying to shed some salaries.
Miami’s biggest moves when it comes to free agency will center on their own free agents, Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.
SACRAMENTO – The Miami Heat are getting better by standing pat.
OK, that’s not what Heat followers, clamoring for Pat Riley to do something, do anything, just for the sake of making a change, want to hear. But the Eastern Conference, already considered the undercard to the heavy weight fight that is the Western Conference, just watched the Cleveland Cavaliers go from a team that has gone to four consecutive Finals to one that is headed for the lottery.
And everybody else will benefit.
LeBron James’ decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers will send the Cavs into another tailspin. The last time he left, Cleveland went from a team that won 127 games in the two previous seasons to 97 in the next four. And that means a bump for every team in the East, including the Heat.
Miami is, for the most part, free agency bystanders this summer with a roster that is about $18 million over the cap. The Heat won 44 games last season and finished sixth in a race in which the final three teams were separated by one game. Riley already has floated the idea that the Heat may have to suck it up for another offseason, bring back the same old gang and try to improve from within, which can happen with Dion Waiters expected to be healthy for a full season and young players like Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo trending in a position direction.
And with Cleveland falling back and none of the seven lottery teams in the East making any significant additions, the Heat not only clearly are one of the East’s top eight teams, their ceiling just got a bit higher and Miami will go into this season believing they are one of the top 4 teams in the East.
LeBron’s decision must have been met by some clinking of the glasses not only in Miami but in Boston (now clearly the Conference favorite), Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Toronto … especially in Toronto, which has been eliminated from the playoffs by the Cavaliers the last three seasons, the last two in sweeps.
But it could even mean more to the Heat. The Lakers are trying to swing a trade with San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard which would mean Philadelphia would not. The Sixers already have lost two key members of their rotation in free agency – Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilysova – and have struck out on LeBron. If Philly whiffs on Leonard (and somehow also loses free agent JJ Redick), then the Sixers will be holding a big bag of cash they will be desperate to spend, a scenario that could further weaken the conference and create even more distance between Boston and everyone else.
But LeBron’s decision may go even deeper. As July approached, several Eastern Conference teams were looking to make changes, tired of the same old stale results. Chief among them, Toronto and Washington. Now, what if each of these franchises feel as though they were given new life and decide a drastic move isn’t necessary?
The Raptors might just decide to stick with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and look at their 59-win season in a whole different light considering their kryptonite is out of the East.
And the Wizards might believe once again their nucleus of John Wall and Bradley Beal and Otto Porter (Washington already shipped center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers) is good enough to make a run.
As for the Heat, LeBron’s departure will not mean Riley is ready to close up shop and call it a summer. Riley knows he’s in salary cap hell and the only way to improve this roster is through a trade or two. If Riley can find a way to do that, whether that means moving a bad contract or even trading one of the Heat’s young assets, he will pull the trigger on any deal.
Just because Cleveland’s loss is the Heat’s gain does not mean the work is done.
Stars migrating from East to West is not new. Just a year ago, two of the East’s best players made the same journey, Paul George and Jimmy Butler.
Now, the West has all five players from the All-NBA first team, the top five scorers and seven of the top eight rebounders.
While the West has LeBron and Kevin Durant and Steph Curry and James Harden and Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis and we can go on and on and on, the East has. … Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and some nice young rising players who could one day get to that stage.
So, take a moment to celebrate Eastern Conference. LeBron is gone.
As LeBron James’ private plane was tracking from Anguilla to Van Nuys Saturday, backroom deals were being struck all over the NBA landscape.
The frenzy started minutes before the ball dropped on the NBA New Year at midnight and continued well into the morning. Within hours about 20 players reportedly agreed to deals, with most not allowed to sign before noon on Friday.
One team sitting out the madness: the Miami Heat. The Heat’s lack of flexibility makes it very difficult for Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg to become a major player this summer, other than through the trade market.
The biggest names – Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City’s Paul George, Houston’s Chris Paul, Denver’s Nikola Jokic – are returning to their old teams. The four will re-sign on deals ranging from two to four years and totaling more than $500 million. (And this is a summer in which the theme is fiscal responsibility.)
The most intriguing names on the move so far are DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers to Dallas, Trevor Ariza from Houston to Phoenix and two players who obviously do not Trust the Process in Philadelphia, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who will sign with Milwaukee and San Antonio, respectively.
Other than that, few names will tilt the needle as we enter the week, with, of course, one exception.
James spent most of last week holed up in the Caribbean, weighing his options. Saturday morning, he and his financial team boarded his jet for Southern California, where, let’s face it, all signs point to him ultimately staying put as a member of the Lakers. But on Sunday, James’ agent, Rich Paul, reportedly was set to meet with a high-level Sixers contingent in Los Angeles.
Before meeting with Philadelphia, the only reported contact James had with any team after midnight was a phone call with Cleveland general manger Koby Altman. James owes the Cavaliers nothing after delivering on his promise to bring Cleveland a title after returning four years ago but perhaps he learned from the embarrassing way he left his hometown team the first time with a poorly-planned, hour-long infomercial in which he declared he was “taking his talents to South Beach.”
James is not holding this free agent season hostage as he did eight and four years ago, when he bolted Miami and returned to Cleveland. A sign that many believe James’ decision has been made is so many deals being reported in the early hours of free agency. If James had a long list of teams he was considering, everything would have been on hold, much like it was two years ago for Durant and last year for Gordon Hayward.
But James has been trending toward the Lakers for weeks and that narrative become stronger Friday when James informed Cleveland he would opt out of the final year of contract, which realistically narrowed his choices to the Lakers, Cavs and Sixers. The biggest question now is who rides James’ coattails to L.A. With George staying put in OKC, the Lakers (and likely James) have targeted New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins.
Despite the early rush, this will be a tight market for free agents. Just eight teams have cap space of any significance and already two of them, Dallas and Phoenix, have made their big moves. Of those remaining teams, just the Lakers, Philadelphia and Indiana appear willing to hand out substantial contracts. The others – Atlanta, Chicago and Sacramento – could sign mid-tier players and/or use their space for trades.
Many teams are looking back at the summer of 2016 when spending got out of control and some of the worst contracts in league history were handed out, and ahead to next summer when the cap will rise to a projected $109 million and the market will be deeper with Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and Kevin Love among those all likely to be available.
As for the Heat, the first bit of news likely will involve free agent guard Wayne Ellington. Miami would like to retain the franchise’s record holder for the most 3 pointers in a season, but at what price? The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights and can pay him as much as $10.9 million next season but that could put them above the new luxury tax line, which was revealed last night as $123.733 million, unless other salary is shed through a trade.
Ilyasova, Belinelli and Doug McDermott (Indiana) are long-range shooters like Ellington and their contracts were in the $6-$7.3 million per year range. Ellington will receive interest as the market settles but expect him and the Heat to have several conversations.
Bigger and better things that almost certainly do not include the Miami Heat.
James informed the Cavaliers of his decision earlier today, according to several reports, and will hit the open market at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, which surely will add another layer of crazy to what every year is a fascinating NBA free agency period.
The decision (as opposed to The Decision III, which is coming soon) is not what Heat Nation wanted to hear. LeBron has essentially eliminated any teams over the cap as his future employer, which realistically reduces his options to the Lakers, Cavaliers and an outside chance Philadelphia jumps into the mix. The Cavaliers can offer James a five-year deal worth more a little more than $200. Any other team with space can sign him for four years and about $150 million.
LeBron taking his talents to South Beach for a second time in eight years had a much better chance of happening if he picked up that final year of his deal. That would have expanded the pool of teams to those over the cap, which would have put the Rockets and Heat at the top of the list, although Miami probably still would have been a distant second.
Miami is $18 million over the projected $101 million salary cap for the 2018-19 season and that’s with 10 players and before any decisions are made on Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Wayne Ellington. Just by rounding out their roster with minimum deals that would put the Heat close to $125 million.
James’ next max contract will come with a starting salary of $35.4 million. So, to add LeBron as a straight up free agent, and not in a sign-and-trade, the Heat would have to shed at least $53 million in salary.
As for a sign-and-trade, that, too, is very difficult because it triggers the hard cap, which is projected at $129 million. Teams receiving the free agent in the sign-and-trade deal — in this case the Heat — can’t surpass the $129 million apron at the end of the trade. Because of this, Miami would have to send out at least $31 million to take James’ $35 million salary back in a sign-and-trade.
Even if the Cavaliers wanted the Heat’s three youngest assets with the most potential – Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow – their 2018-19 salaries come to $16.7 million. The Cavs are not taking back another $14 million in long term salaries, especially if it is to help out the Heat. If Cleveland is going to lose LeBron, it certainly would rather see him go West.
If LeBron opted in it would have been a signal that a trade was lined up, probably meaning he was headed to either Houston or Miami. But even then, Houston is a much more attractive option with their backcourt of MVP James Harden and free agent Chris Paul, who, along with Wade, is part of LeBron’s inner circle when it comes to his peers. LeBron then would have formed a Big Three that could have challenged Golden State’s stranglehold on the league.
Some, though, might still believe the Heat have a chance and LeBron still could request a sit down with Pat Riley. And because we are talking LeBron and Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg’s magic calculator, perhaps it is foolish to completely count out the Heat until LeBron’s signature is on a contract with another team’s logo in the header.
Any news surrounding LeBron goes viral. But any LeBron news leading up to his free agency tends to break the Internet.
LeBron was in Miami last weekend, attending his son’s basketball game and the Internet was wild with speculation. He also was spotted in Brickell. The craziest speculation was an unconfirmed report that LeBron was involved in some clandestine meeting with Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra during the week.
But this is not 2010. The Heat are not flush with money and Miami does not have bargaining chips like a Wade in his prime or Chris Bosh to entice the best player on the planet.
Unless Riley can pull off a miracle that would make any other of the splashy moves he has made in his 23 years in Miami look ho-hum, it’s time to move on Heat Nation.
James has opted out of a $35.6 million player option in his current contract with the Cavaliers for next season, according to multiple reports. The decision means the 14-time All-Star will be an unrestricted free agent starting Sunday.
For those still hoping for a James-Heat reunion, this news makes it very unlikely he will end up in Miami.
With Miami capped out and just a few million dollars away from the projected $123 million luxury tax threshold, the cleanest and easiest way for the Heat would have been to land James through a normal trade. In order to facilitate this type of deal, he would have had to opt in to the final season of his current contract before Friday’s deadline and then convince Cleveland to trade him to Miami.
But now that James has opted out to become a free agent, it makes it difficult for teams without cap space to acquire him this summer. And again, the Heat are already over the cap.
Although very challenging, it’s not impossible for Miami to sign James even after his decision to opt out. It can still be done through free agency or a sign-and-trade.
Here’s why those options are so difficult for the Heat, though.
Acquiring James as a direct free agent signing will be extremely tough for the Heat. Miami is already $18 million over the projected $101 million salary cap for the 2018-19 season — and that’s before dealing with the Wayne Ellington, Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade situations — and James is expected to sign a max contract with a starting salary of $35.4 million.
That means in order to create enough space under the cap to acquire James as a direct free agent signing, the Heat would need to clear at least $53 million off the books. That’s going to be really, really hard.
As for the sign-and-trade scenario, there’s one big challenge the Heat would face. Teams receiving the player in the sign-and-trade deal — in this case the Heat — can’t surpass the apron at the end of the trade. That means the Heat would be hard-capped at the apron, which is projected to be $129 million.
The Heat already have 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $119 million, and will be close to $125 million if they round out their roster with just minimum deals. This puts the Heat really close to the apron. Because of this, Miami would have to send out at least $31 million to take James’ $35 million salary back in a sign-and-trade.
James’ decision to opt out narrows the numbers of options he has to choose from, realistically to teams that have cap space to sign a max player this summer. Realistically down to the Cavaliers, Lakers and Sixers.
Free agency starts at 12:01 Sunday. Barring any significant trades that allow them to shed salaries, the Miami Heat lack cap space to become a major player this summer.
More than 125 players are free to sign with any team, although several are restricted. Here is our list of the top players at this time at each position.
Chris Paul, Houston: The Rockets will try to find a way to bring back Paul – he can sign for $205 million over five years – and add LeBron James or Paul George.
Isaiah Thomas, Lakers: Thomas’ timing could not have been worse. He insists he is a max player but he won’t get close to that after a season in which his production fell and questions still persist about his hip.
Rajon Rondo, New Orleans: Rondo is no longer the player he was in Boston but he has rehabilitated his image in Chicago and New Orleans and continues to be a solid floor general.
Elfrid Payton, Phoenix: The Suns acquired Payton from Orlando at the trade deadline hoping he would be their point guard of the future. Not so and they are moving on from Payton.
Fred Van Vleet, Toronto (R): Van Vleet had a breakout year last season, his third in the league and will receive a nice pay raise from the $1.3 million he made in 2017-18.
Zach LaVine, Bulls (R): LaVine returned from ACL surgery and looked good in his half season in Chicago. If teams are not scared off by the injury he could get close to the max.
Tyreke Evans, Memphis: Evans had a solid year averaging 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists. At 28 he is looking at his last big contract.
Will Barton, Denver: An underrated player who has steadily improved the last four seasons had his best season heading into free agency. Mostly a reserve but proved last season he can be productive starting.
JJ Redick, Philadelphia: Redick made the most of his one-year, $23 million deal with the 76ers, averaging 17.1 points. Now, he is on the market again.
Marcus Smart, Boston: Smart has been a valuable reserve for the Celtics the last two years and helped his cause in the playoffs. One of the top defensive guards in the league.
LeBron James, Cleveland: Everything is on hold until James decides where he is headed – he first must decline his player option for $35.6 million. The Lakers appear to be in the lead but the Cavaliers are holding out hope he returns.
Kevin Durant, Golden State: Durant is expected to decline his player option for $26.2 million after signing a two-year deal last summer and re-signing with the Warriors. Durant said he’s ready to ink a long-term deal.
Paul George, Oklahoma City: The Thunder were hoping to retain George after the gamble it took last summer to trade for him and put together a team that could compete for a title. George opted out and will field offers, which doesn’t look good for OKC.
Trevor Ariza, Houston: The Rockets will make an attempt to somehow land James but that will take creativity and certainly would mean losing Ariza. Otherwise, the Rockets are in play.
Rudy Gay, San Antonio: Gay declined his player option for $8.8 million to test free agency for a second consecutive season. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in his one year in San Antonio.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando (R): Gordon is going to get paid – he is seeking a max deal – and the Magic have a big decision as to whether they match an offer to keep him, let him go or try to work out a sign-and-trade.
Julius Randle, Lakers (R): Randle’s future is as murky as anybody’s on the market depending on what happens in L.A. The Lakers are trying to land some combination of LeBron, Leonard and Paul George – or even all three – and how it unfolds will determine whether Randle returns.
Derrick Favors, Utah: Favors is an under-the-radar free agent who will be a nice pickup for somebody if he leaves Utah. The Jazz want him back but his future will have everything to do with how much money is left after the big names move.
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee (R): Parker struggled this season playing just 31 games after returning from a torn ACL. Not sure the Bucks are eager to give him a large contract which could limit his offer on the open market.
Montrezl Harrell, Clippers: Another underrated player who played an important role on the Clippers after being acquired last summer in the Chris Paul trade. An explosive player with great energy who is a tough matchup at 6-8. Can also play center.
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans: Cousins’ torn Achilles came at a bad time. He would have been a max player but likely will have to take less after suffering the injury in late January. The big question is if the Pelicans really want him back?
Clint Capela, Houston (R): The Rockets love Capela and matching an offer would be a no-brainer if it weren’t for their pursuit of LeBron. Ideally, Houston retains Chris Paul and Capela and somehow lands LeBron, but that will be difficult.
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: Jordan could exercise his player option and be traded to Dallas before free agency kicks off. He is a capable scorer, one of the best rebounders in the league and a huge asset defensively.
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland (R): Nurkic improved during his first full season in Portland but he remains an inconsistent player. The Trail Blazers will have a decision to make when he receives an offer.
Brook Lopez, Lakers: Lopez has expanded his game, making 246 threes on 34.5 percent shooting the last two years. He made just three threes in his first eight seasons. A return to L.A. is unlikely.