Among the Big Three’s supporting cast, no player has more on the line financially during these Finals than impending free agent Mario Chalmers, who’s trying to make a case for the Heat to give him a sizable salary next season, luxury tax penalty be damned. It’s highly questionable if the Heat will oblige.
But Chalmers’ uneven postseason doesn’t necessarily doom his chances of returning because it might damage his bargaining position such that he becomes more affordable to Miami.
Because the Heat will pay an especially onerous repeater tax next season (for teams in the tax three of the past four seasons), paying Chalmers even $4 million again next season could --- on top of his salary --- result in a luxury tax bill of at least $10 million, perhaps a few million more for 2014-15, depending on to what extent the Heat surpasses the tax threshold.
Chalmers insists his looming free agency hasn’t clouded his mind or affected his play. But he knows his performance late in postseason will impact his value.
“It’s always the last impression you make,” he said. “It’s something I’m aware of, but I’m not thinking about.”
Though Chalmers prefers to return, the belief in the Heat locker-room is that he also wants to cash in, and a team that has cap space but doesn’t have the ability to lure marquee free agents could make him a decent offer.
With Norris Cole under contract next season at $2.15 million, the Heat could pair Cole with a veteran point guard willing to accept modest money.
If Miami cannot strike a deal with Chalmers, it could try to convince Kirk Hinrich (who said he wants to stay in Chicago) or Steve Blake (he and Hinrich each earned $4 million this season) or Ramon Sessions (earned $5 million) or Devin Harris (shot just 30 percent on threes) or reincarnated Shaun Livingston (shot just 1 for 6 on threes) to take the minimum, which tops out at $1.4 million, or part of Miami’s $3.27 million taxpayer midlevel exception.
Blake previously has been open to returning to South Florida, where he grew up, but his interest always has exceeded Miami’s, and Knicks executive Phil Jackson is expected to pursue him next month. Free agents Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry will be out of Miami’s price range.
Other impending free agent point guards: improved Patty Mills, the Heat’s Toney Douglas, Luke Ridnour, Jerryd Bayless, Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, Jordan Farmar, Beno Udrich, Earl Watson and MarShon Brooks.
Cole said he “definitely” wants to be a starter eventually, though that should not be interpreted as Cole trying to push his friend Chalmers out the door.
ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy has said he believes Cole could be a capable starter on a playoff team, and ABC’s Jalen Rose said Cole “has become a starting point guard in this league.”
But Cole’s play since the All-Star break (including sub-36 percent shooting) has been neither convincing nor starter-worthy.
To ever start here, Cole must overcome the perception he’s better coming off the bench.
“Norris is great for our team; he’s a change of pace from… Rio,” LeBron James said. “That’s what you need with guys off the bench. You need energy guys. He makes his mark defensively. Offensively, whatever what he gives us is extra.”
Cole insists his skills are well suited to starting. “We have two different skills sets and our team needs both of them at certain times,” he said of himself and Chalmers. “His pace is different from my pace. I’m more of a quicker, lateral guy, more of a quick attacker. Things are working.”
Chris Bosh believes Chalmers “tries to do too much” when he’s struggling, but Chalmers says some other point guards could not handle playing with this team, playing off the ball as much as much he does.
The positive of that, Chalmers said, is that "playing here has taught me more about moving without the ball, choosing my spots better.”
### The Heat could draft a point guard 26th --- ESPN’s Chad Ford has Miami taking Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier --- but it’s difficult to envision entering next season with merely Cole and a rookie.
### Why did Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com leave LeBron off his All-NBA first team ballot – the only one of 125 voters to do that?
Sheridan, who listed MVP Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin as his first-team forwards, explained to me that he put Griffin ahead of James because Griffin helped lead the Clippers to a better record than the Heat “in a better conference” --- though Chris Paul and others had a lot to do with that, too.
A Heat executive told Sheridan that in retrospect, he could have put James on his first team as a guard if he felt strongly about including Griffin on the first team.
### Joe Philbin says Dion Jordan is “playing faster” because he’s “doing less thinking,” something Jordan also said Monday. Philbin wants to keep using him on special teams because “he’s a big guy that can run and is hard to block.”…
Lamar Miller remains with the starters and Philbin said he is having a “very good” camp…. Jason Fox shifted to left tackle this week, behind Branden Albert, after Nate Garner struggled in the role earlier in OTAs. That suggests the Dolphins, for now, have a comfort level with Ja'Wuan James holding down the right tackle job.
### One characteristic of Bill Lazor’s offense is a lot of pre-snap motion, but Philbin explained this week there are positives and minuses to that approach: “If you’re stationary and you’re sitting at the line of scrimmage and your ducks are in a row as we like to say, it’s a little bit easier from an offensive perspective, but you’re not challenging the defense probably as much.
"There is give and take. I think, as a coaching staff, we have to examine whether all of this motion and shifting a detriment or is it a benefit? And what’s the right blend and what’s the right balance.”
### Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has been showing his players tape of Seattle’s defense partly to demonstrate how much emotion and enthusiasm with which they play, according to a player. What’s ironic about that: Another veteran Dolphins player says the Dolphins, during the past two years, have taken on Philbin's unemotional, at times detached personality.