The Miami Heat may be starting to sweat just a little bit now that we’re five days into free agency, with LeBron James having long since opted out of the final two years of his deal, and it appearing more and more likely that he’s seriously considering other options.
The pressure is increasing by the moment for the Heat to come up with a plan to upgrade the roster by adding some free agent talent, and the early contracts that have been given out to guys like Kyle Lowry and Avery Bradley might mean that the market will be more expensive than anticipated originally.
But Heat president Pat Riley is pressing on, and has plans to meet with at least one high profile free agent on Saturday.
Miami president Pat Riley plans to meet with free agent Luol Deng in Chicago today, league source tells Yahoo.
Deng is a two-time All-Star and an unrestricted free agent who played nine full seasons with the Bulls, before being traded to the Cavaliers midway through his 10th in a move made strictly to dump salary. He’s a capable two-way player who would provide much-needed depth and production on the wing, especially in light of Dwyane Wade’s durability questions over the long grind of the regular season.
The problem for Miami is that Deng isn’t believed to be willing to take a significant pay cut just to play alongside James, Wade and Chris Bosh, and while it’s unclear just how much cap space the Heat will have to spend once those three restructure the finances of their next deals, Deng would appear to be out of the team’s price range.
But Riley has always been known as a master motivator, and as the team gets more desperate to improve, he may be able to come up with the right combination of dollars and sense to convince Deng that signing with the Heat, even for less than market value, is ultimately what’s best.