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Wayne Ellington returning to Miami on one-year deal

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LAS VEGAS — Wayne Ellington is returning to the Miami Heat, after nearly two weeks of waiting and wondering if he would get his wish to be back with the club for a third season.

A person with direct knowledge of the terms said Thursday night that Ellington accepted a $6.3 million, one-year offer that exactly matches his salary from last season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been signed.

Keeping Ellington was a top priority for the Heat this summer, and the veteran guard made clear that he wanted to be back in Miami. On Day 12 of free agency, a deal finally got struck.

“I feel great here in Miami,” Ellington said. “I’ve built very strong relationships with a lot of people. These guys that I go to war with every night, we’ve gone from strangers to teammates to brothers. This is where I wanted to be.”

Ellington set a Heat record with 227 3-pointers last season, and established career highs of 11.2 points and 26.5 minutes per game.

When he was good, Miami was really good a year ago. Ellington appeared in 77 games – the Heat went 29-13 when he made at least three 3-pointers, and went 13-22 when he failed to connect on at least that many.

And he made it clear many times, both during the season and even in the offseason, that he wanted to remain with the Heat.

Miami was the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, falling to Philadelphia in the first round. Miami’s roster, for now, is fairly similar to what it was last season – though the Heat are still waiting to see if they will be bringing back veterans Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, two players whose status for 2018-19 remains unclear.

“I don’t think we showed everything we were capable of last season,” Ellington said. “Already this summer, guys have been working. Guys have improved. That’s what it’s about. You’ve got to get better from within, from inside your team. And naturally, I think we’ll continue to get better.”

Miami is Ellington’s seventh team, and just the second club that he’s been with for 100 games. He was changing addresses annually for a five-year stretch before arriving in Miami – his career started with three seasons in Minnesota, followed by short stints with Memphis, Cleveland, Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn that preceded his signing with the Heat in 2016.

“I feel like this is home now,” Ellington said.

Top 20 free agents still on the market

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There wasn’t much money available in the free agent market this season, and that message got through to players — they were grabbing the cash in a Piranha-like feeding frenzy starting on July 1. More than 50 players agreed to contracts in the first five days of free agency, and more than half of those were one-year contracts.

That’s bad news for anyone without a chair as the music stops — there is not much money out there for the guys still on the free agent market. Restricted free agents, in particular, have found the market dry and now have almost no leverage (every player can’t use the Kings as leverage, although they may try).

Those restricted free agents dominate the top of our list of the 20 best players still available as of Friday morning. If your team is looking to round out their roster, these are they guys they are considering, and most are going to sign for a lot less than they expected.

1. Clint Capela (Houston Rockets). He’s a max or near max player but there have been no offers for the restricted free agent because Rockets GM Daryl Morey made it clear he will match any offer and bring Capela back. That has left Capela with no leverage. Capela averaged 13.9 points, and 10.8 rebounds a game last season (with a 24.5 PER), plus was a crucial part of the Rockets starting lineup and switching defense (because he can handle himself on the perimeter fairly well, plus protect the rim). The Rockets were 4 points per 100 better with him on the floor, and he was a big part of their playoff run. Houston needs to make a fair offer, low-ball him and he can play for the qualifying offer then walk as a free agent in a year.

2. Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics). He’s frustrated that no offers sheets have come in that would force the Celtics to match (he’s a restricted free agent), and “hurt and disgusted” by the fact the Celtics have not not made a big bid (the two sides, have talked, despite reports). Boston is letting the market set the price, and Smart isn’t seeing what he expected. Smart is one of the better defensive two guards in the league who can guard one through three. He can switch, he plays with a high motor and gets loose balls, he can get steals. But on the other end of the court, you can help off him and not guard him on the perimeter, daring him to shoot. He wanted more than the $12 million a year or so the Celtics had offered, now he’s likely going to take a lot less.

3. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls). UPDATE: He was the one restricted free agent able to use the Sacramento Kings as leverage — he signed a four-year, $80 million offer sheet with the Kings. The Bulls decided to match it, so he remains in Chicago. LaVine has a world of potential, but his game is based on athleticism and he is coming off an ACL surgery, then had to be shut down last season with knee tendonitis. It’s a concern, but if healthy he has the tools to be a quality two guard in the NBA.

4. Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks). Coming off two ACL surgeries, interest in Parker has been lukewarm (the Kings reportedly have had talks, but nothing came of them yet). He’s a versatile scorer who was a 20-point-a-game guy before the second surgery. That scoring made up for his poor defense in the past. Expect the Bucks to keep him, the only question is at what price and for how many years (Parker may want a short contract to prove himself and get back out on the market).

5. Isaiah Thomas (Los Angeles Lakers). His fall from near max player to today has been hard to watch (or imagine from when he was with the Celtics). However, the combination of his hip injury that sidelined him for the first half of last season, and perceived attitude problems in Cleveland that helped lead to a trade, has teams hesitant. He likely will have to take a one-year deal for a few million — maybe the minimum — and prove he deserves more money.

6. Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers). UPDATE: Nurkic has reached terms on a four-year, $48 million contract to stay in Portland. He’s a solid big man who averaged 14.3 points, and 9 rebounds a game with a very efficient 19.2 PER. While teams have moved away from more traditional centers he provides the inside balance, scoring, defense, and rebounding to allow Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum work on the perimeter. They needed to keep him.

7. Wayne Ellington (Miami Heat). Every team could use more shooting, and Ellington shot 39.2 percent from three last season, so it’s a surprise he’s still on the board. Ellington doesn’t bring much defense, rebounding, or anything else, but if a team is looking for a sniper Ellington can be their guy.

8. Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets). The switchable wing defender was a key part of the Rockets’ regular season defensive success — the team was 4.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court last season. Plus he shot 36.4 percent from three. It’s a little surprising there have been no offers, the Rockets would like to bring him back.

9. Kyle Anderson (San Antonio Spurs). The Spurs want to bring him back, but they have a lot of other balls in the air right now, and no other team has stepped up with an offer for the restricted free agent. “Slo-mo” is a crafty pick-and-roll ball handler and a long, switchable defender, he’s got an unorthodox game that fits well with what the Spurs will do, but would it work as well with another team? He averaged 8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists this past season.

10. Jamal Crawford (Minnesota Timberwolves). Even at age 38, he can still get buckets. Not as efficiently as he once did, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year can still score the rock. He’s also good in the locker room. He opted out in Minnesota and some team is going to get him to bolster their bench (the Warriors have long been rumored with a minimum deal, Crawford is waiting to see if anyone else will offer more).

11. Rodney Hood (Cleveland Cavaliers). Another player (like Isaiah Thomas) who saw his stock fall — went into last season as the expected go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz, and by the end of the season couldn’t get off the bench in Cleveland.He’s 6’8” wing who can get buckets, more than a few teams could use that. Is Cleveland one of them?

12. Brook Lopez (Los Angeles Lakers). He has some versatility, he can shoot the three (34.5 percent) and took 41 percent of his shots from deep last season. Plus, he’s an efficient scorer around the basket, hits the boards hard, and uses his size and length to defend the paint. A lot of teams are not looking for his style of traditional center, but a lot of teams could use him for depth off the bench.

13. Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers). This may be too low for him on this list. L.A. liked Harrell, a restricted free agent who found his scoring touch last season and averaged 11 a game for the team. He was very efficient with a PER of 24.7 for the Clippers. Other teams have not made an offer on the restricted free agent because it is assumed the Los Angeles would just match, but he may choose to play for the qualifying offer then hit the open market in a year.

14. Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs). UPDATE: It’s hard to picture, but Parker will be wearing teal on the court next season after reaching a two-year, $10 million deal with Charlotte. Parker admitted it was hard to leave San Antonio, where he has played for 17 seasons, but with the franchise in a state of change he went to the East where he felt wanted and where he could play a bigger role on a team gunning for the playoffs. Parker will backup Kemba Walker (unless Walker gets traded, then…).

15. Michael Beasley (New York Knicks). The man can still get buckets — he averaged 13.2 points per game and shot better than 50 percent overall, plus 39.5 percent from three. He’s not the most focused guy, not much of a defender, but for a mid-level or near-minimum contract coming off the bench he could help a lot of teams.

16. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat). The real question here is does he retire? If not, if Wade returns, it will be to the Miami Heat for one more season. He’s not chasing a ring with LeBron James (not that the Lakers are winning one next season anyway) or anyone else, he’ll play for the Heat until he hangs it up.

17. Greg Monroe (Boston Celtics). Monroe has game — a below-the-rim game where he can score in the post efficiently and get some boards. Problem is, that’s not what teams want in a center now. He had some value for Boston last season (after falling out of the rotation in Milwaukee) but his style of play has him limited. New Orleans has been rumored, another team could jump in.

18. Kyle O’Quinn (New York Knicks). UPDATE: Literally as this story was going live online, O’Quinn messed it up by accepting a one-year, $4.4 million deal with the Pacers (they are using their room exception, so he got more than the $4.2 million he opted out of with the Knicks. He averaged 7.1 points per game for the Knicks last season, plays within himself, can hit midrange jumpers and can pass.

19. Shabazz Napier (Portland Trail Blazers). The unrestricted free agent had a strong first half of last season and looked like he and his game had grown up, but he struggled after the All-Star break and slid out of the rotation. With Seth Curry in house a return to Portland is unlikely. He should land a deal as a bench point guard somewhere, but for the minimum.

20. Dante Cunningham (Brooklyn Nets). The veteran forward gave Brooklyn and before that New Orleans about minutes and some points (5.7 average) a night last season. He’s not a classic shooter but he can hit a three and will keep defenses honest. Can provide solid depth for a team and a fair price.

Report: Pacers signing Tyreke Evans to one-year, $12 million contract

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Victor Oladipo‘s takeoff season hit turbulence when the Cavaliers double-teamed the Pacers star in their first-round series. Oladipo shot 7-for-35 in Game 4 and Game 5 losses. Though Oladipo wasn’t used to being trapped to that degree, Indiana also lacked a reliable secondary playmaker to exploit the advantage situation if Oladipo passed ahead.

Enter Tyreke Evans.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Evans was the top unrestricted free agent available. That crown now goes to Isaiah Thomas if you’re swinging for the fences or, if you prefer a safer bet, Luc Mbah a Moute, Wayne Ellington or Brook Lopez.

The Pacers also agreed to terms with Doug McDermott on a three-year, $22 million contract. They eagerly spent their cap space to upgrade a surprising 48-34 win team and still have the $4,449,000 room exception to use.

Taking another step forward could pay off even bigger next summer.

Evans, Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph all have expiring contracts. Oladipo ($21 million salary) and McDermott are the only Indiana players due more than a rookie-scale salary. The Pacers could hit free agency hard again next year.

In the meantime, Evans can play all three perimeter positions, though he’s probably primarily a wing on this team. He might start at small forward, though I suspect Bogdanovic or McDermott will. The Pacers struggled whenever Oladipo sat, and Evans fits as a spark off the bench.

Clippers’ Lou Williams wins NBA Sixth Man of the Year

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This was a runaway.

There were other good sixth men this past season — Eric Gordon, Fred Van Vleet, Will Barton — but Lou Williams was in a class of his own. With Chris Paul gone and Blake Griffin traded mid-season, more and more responsibility fell on Williams, and he lived up to it, averaging 22.6 points and 5.3 assists per game, at times carrying the Los Angeles offense.

Monday night in Los Angeles, Williams was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year for the second time in his career.

Williams is one of those forgotten second-round picks that turns out to be a special player in the league for a long time. At age 31 and after 13 NBA seasons, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Williams ran away with the voting, having 97 first-place votes out of the 101 cast by select media members. In second was Eric Gordon (3 first place votes) followed in order by Fred Van Vleet (1), Will Barton, and Wayne Ellington.

Heat president Pat Riley on Hassan Whiteside’s postseason: ‘He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape’

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MIAMI (AP) — In the case of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic Heat center who was a nonfactor in the playoffs and complained about how he was being utilized by coach Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the entirety of the situation.

Whiteside dealt with injuries during the season and didn’t want to wear a knee brace that the Heat insisted upon, and Riley said that if Whiteside and Spoelstra need an intervention to solve their relationship issues – if any – he’ll handle it.

Riley also didn’t mince words, saying Whiteside needs to make changes.

“By the time we got to the playoffs I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He, and we, got our head handed to us. The disconnect between he and Spo, that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.

“How will Hassan transform his thinking, 99 percent of it to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense and minutes or whatever?”

That word – transform – was a theme of sorts for Riley’s meeting with reporters. He started with a 15-minute monologue on how change has been a constant throughout his 23 seasons with the Heat, how the team landed transformative superstars like Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal in trades and Dwyane Wade through the draft and LeBron James and Chris Bosh in summertime deals.

Come July 1, the Heat will be active on those fronts again – noting that the fan base is clamoring for more.

“Well, we’ll give them more,” Riley said. “We’ll try to give them more. That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. That’s what Micky has been doing, trying to give you more if we can. But we’re not going to do anything that isn’t smart. We will never do anything that’s really going to hurt the franchise.”

Here’s what Riley is not going to do this summer: quit.

Everything else is on the table.

The Miami Heat president said Monday in his annual end-of-season assessment that no player on the team’s roster will be considered untouchable this offseason – if the right deal presents itself, that is – but quickly added the caveat that the franchise is not looking for a total revamp after going 44-38 in the regular season and making the playoffs.

“Show me the right name, and I could be all-in on everything,” Riley said. “You know me. But it’s got to be the right name … that doesn’t happen very often. Our core guys, we would like to keep together, there’s no doubt. We would like to keep them together and we’d like to add something to it, but that’s going to be a challenge.”

He also was clear on his own future: The 73-year-old Riley, who has spent a half-century in the NBA as a player, coach and executive, isn’t going anywhere until managing general partner Micky Arison tells him it’s time to vacate the president’s office.

In other words, the Hall of Famer’s competitive fires are still burning.

“There’s always something that brings you back in,” Riley said. “There’s something that sucks you back in. … I’m an active participant, and I’m going to stay that way to the chagrin probably of some of you and probably people in the organization.”

Riley held exit meetings with players Friday, three days after the Heat’s season ended in a five-game first-round ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. He said he hasn’t yet broached the topic of retirement with Wade, for fear of planting that seed. He reiterated that the team wants to try to keep Wayne Ellington, even with the Heat somewhat handcuffed right now by salary-cap and luxury-tax challenges. Miami has $111 million already committed to the as-of-now seven highest-paid players on its books for next season.

NOTES: Before Riley spoke, the Heat said guard Tyler Johnson had surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Johnson was hurt in the opening seconds of Game 3 of the series against Philadelphia but finished the series. He will be in a cast for six weeks. The Heat expect him to be ready to begin camp in September.