Winderman: Miami kicks-off "We Want Wade" recruiting campaign

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wade_layup.jpgApparently the dogs and ponies are at the starting gate.

And, apparently, retaining free agents has come down to a civic duty.

Last week, lost in the speculation he created by opening the door on a possible coaching return, Heat President Pat Riley addressed free-agency recruiting and all the silliness that might ensue.

“We’re going to figure out who wants a dog-and-pony show and who wants, ‘I just want to come.’ We’ll know that early,” Riley said at the time. “So we’ll go ahead and start building. And I say that, with all due respect, you might have to recruit.”

The dogs and ponies have won out.

Thursday, the Heat, a team that largely has refused during Riley’s tenure to campaign for postseason awards, began the most massive player campaign in the franchise’s 22 seasons:

“We Want Wade.”

Apparently they really do.

Not only has the Heat created a website, there also is the opportunity to leave voicemails at a We Want Wade hotline at 786-777-3333, where the recorded message ends with, “and we’ll make sure D-Wade hears you loud and clear.”

In addition, the team has begun distribution of We Want Wade fan kits, which can be requested at the newly established web site, but only from those in the Miami area. The kits include window clings, an oversized placard, rubber wrist bracelet and stickers. In addition, the Heat has launched a related billboard campaign at major intersections in Miami.

For his part, Dwyane Wade said Thursday, “I didn’t expect anything like that. I just found that out. I thought it was hilarious. But I appreciate it. I do, I really do.”

While the Heat generally has shied from such overt approaches, the sense is that other teams will begin their own over-the-top recruiting once it is allowed on July 1 and the Heat, by currently having Wade under contract, has the advantage of moving forward with such an approach immediately.

Of course, the Heat also has an even more significant advantage under collective-bargaining rules, one that surely will ultimately outweigh websites, hotlines and billboards.

A team is allowed to re-sign its own free agent for up to six seasons, with annual raises at 10.5 percent. Outside teams can only offer five-year contracts with 8.5-percent raises. For a player with Wade’s experience, that would allow the Heat to offer a contract worth roughly $125.5 million, compared to $96.1 million less by an outside team.

That is, of course, unless the Heat already has spent the $29 million difference on oversized placards, rubber wrist bracelets and stickers

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.

Kevin Durant with huge dunk on visiting Fenerbahce Ulker

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Welcome to America, Fenerbahce Ulker.

The Turkish powerhouse was in America playing some exhibition games this preseason, and they got a first-hand reminder that Kevin Durant is back. KD had 13 points in the Thunder’s easy 111-81 win.

Not to be outdone, Russell Westbrook got in on the act.