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April 21, 2014

Arison addresses assorted topics; Heat could get increased flexibility

Some highlights from Heat owner Micky Arison’s interview on Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show today on 790/104.3 The Ticket:

### Le Batard asked him the percentage chance "this thing stays together next season" --- in other words, the nucleus of the team.

Arison's response: “100 percent."

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all exercise early-termination clauses this summer but haven't said if they will.

### The greatest challenge to keeping the Big Three together?

“I hope it’s not going to be a challenge at all," Arison said. "We’ll see…. Our focus is winning a championship. Hopefully, after that it will be a nice parade and a good summer.”

### What about people who say the Big Three era would be a failure without another championship this season?

“It’s not fair at all," Arison said. "Half the franchises in the NBA have never won one championship. The San Antonio Spurs, who have had a tremendous run, have never won back to back championships. To say it’s anything but a huge success is ridiculous.”

### Is the Heat good or bad for his health?

“Bad,” he said. “Don’t like to lose….. I go to bed grumpy and wake up grumpy” after losses. During games, “I will occasionally curse."

### On what happens if he and his son, team CEO Nick, disagree: “It hasn’t happened. We generally have pretty good consensus.”

### The number of times Pat Riley and Arison have had a loud disagreement?

“A handful. We’ve never had a loud disagreement. We’ve always found a way to find a middle ground and agree….

He also said: “I’m made aware of trades" before they are made. "More often than not, I wouldn’t have an issue.”

### Arison said: “I have a few times asked” Erik Spoelstra “why he did something. He will explain to me why he does why he does.... I’m no more than any other fan. If I see something I’m curious about, I’ll ask him. But it’s only happened a handful of times. It usually happens when I observe practice. More often than not, I would have that conversation with Pat.”

### The decision Arison had to make that hurt the most?

“Trading Caron Butler and Lamar Odom. I loved bringing back Shaq, but we loved those guys. We had to do it. The Mike Miller [amnesty] decision was made the day the collective bargaining agreement was passed, and we voted against it. Mike knew that too."

### Was the collective bargaining agreement put in place partly to break up Heat?

“Well definitely,” Arison said. “The lockout was summer of 2011. [The Heat signing James and Bosh and re-signing Wade a year earlier] was very fresh in everybody’s mind.”

Arison said the Heat, in the Big Three era, “has been great for the league. A lot of owners, and the league office would admit, it has been great for the league.”

### Hardest time to be the owner of the Heat? “The 15-win season” in 2007-08.

### On the difference with Adam Silver replacing retired David Stern as commissioner: “Over time, it will become a lot more transparent league. Adam is a very different person and will bring his own approach. It will be a more consensus approach and a more open approach. David Stern was a more dictatorial leader. I didn’t mean by that to say anything negative about David; he did an incredible job.”

### On Donald Trump as an owner (if he buys the Buffalo Bills): “As long as it’s football, I have no problem [with it].”


The NBA informed teams last week that its expects the salary cap and luxury tax threshold will increase by about $5 million next season, a development that will give the Heat a bit more flexibility in assembling a supporting cast around its stars.

If the Heat is able to keep James, Wade and Bosh, then they will be above the salary cap, which is expected to be $63.2 million, up from $58.6 million this season.

The NBA also projects the luxury tax threshold to rise from $71.7 million to $77 million, and the tax is a big deal to the Heat because it becomes a lot more punitive next season. Because the Heat was a tax-paying team this season and the previous two, Miami will have to pay a repeater tax next season, combined with the regular tax.

Bottom line: If the Heat is $4 million over the tax threshold next season, its tax bill would be $10 million. If the Heat is $10 million over, the tax bill would top $26 million.

So let’s say the Big Three stays in Miami at the salaries they are due to earn next season in their current contracts: $20.59 million for both James and Bosh, and $20.048 million for Wade. That would add up to $61 million.

Throw in the $2.15 million due Norris Cole, $4.6 million for Udonis Haslem (who assuredly won’t opt out) and $1.6 million for Chris Andersen (who might not opt out, either), and that’s $69.5 million.

And Miami would still have nine roster spots to fill, which would put it over the tax threshold. One could go to center Justin Hamilton, who has an $816,482 team option for next season.

But with a tax threshold of $77 million, the extra maneuverability could make it easier for Miami to re-sign Mario Chalmers and/or use its taxpayer mid-level exception (which will be $3.27 million) and/or use its $2.2 million trade exception (acquired in the Joel Anthony/Toney Douglas trade) without sustaining a crushing tax hit.

The tax hit on signing a 10-year veteran at the $1.4 million minimum is $500,000 below the $1.4 million figure, but only if it’s a one-year contract. That makes signing players to the minimum even more appealing for teams hoping to avoid a tax hit.

### If James and Bosh opt out, all three would be eligible to receive five years and 7.5 percent annual raises from the Heat, compared with four years and 4.5 percent raises from another team. So James could earn more by staying here. If Wade opts out, he likely would be taking less money in exchange for more years.

The original contracts signed by the Big Three were six-year deals, with opt-out clauses after the fourth and fifth years, meaning the next two summers.