Officially, the Miami Heat can’t talk to free agents until the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns to July 1. (Well, midnight on the East Coast, but for this a lot of players and agents head to Los Angeles because it’s only 9 p.m. so they can get in a meeting or two and still hit a club if they want.)
Who will be Heat president’s first call come 12:01 a.m. July 1?
Hassan Whiteside. Retaining the free agent center — which will eat into the Heat’s cap space — is the team’s highest priority, Riley said when addressing the media Wednesday, via Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
“He will be right there at 12:01 a.m.” Heat President Pat Riley said Wednesday of the shot-blocking center and the July 1 start of NBA free agency. “I want to build a team that can win and he’s got to be part of that…
“I really believe it’s important for him to be a part of that. Now, when you get to the other part of negotiations, then you find out how much he wants to win, too. That doesn’t mean anybody needs to take a haircut or anything, but it’s all part of the game.”
Someone is going to have to take a haircut — the money matters.
Miami’s July is going to be interesting because of money, even though they will have more than $40 million in cap space. It starts with landing Whiteside. Not only is Whiteside an unrestricted free agent, so are Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson. Then there is the question about Chris Bosh‘s future — he’s likely back, but that’s not a lock.
Then there is this complication: The Heat do not have Whiteside’s Bird rights. What that means is they can’t go over the salary cap to re-sign him (as they can Wade). Whiteside made $769,881 this season and he is in line for a four-year, $80 million contract, if not a full max — Miami has to take that out of their salary cap space. You can be sure other team’s will come calling with a Brinks truck as their ride, Riley has to be prepared to pay to keep his star. Then with what’s left over in the till he needs to lure other players to fill out the roster, and re-sign Wade and the other key guys they want back.
Riley is a magician who has convinced players to sacrifice for the greater good, but with the league awash in cash and big dollars being thrown about this summer, that becomes a much harder,