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1 posts from July 3, 2014

July 03, 2014

10 p.m. LeBron news; Heat free-agent chatter on players Miami has called about, Heat's own free agents; Beckham/MLS news

An evening Heat free agency update, including tonight's developments, can be found below. First, a quick David Beckham/MLS note:

Though Beckham's group has made clear that Beckham wants his proposed MLS team to play in downtown Miami, Broward County commissioner Stacy Ritter told me today that the team has now expressed willingness to speak to Broward County about a soccer-specific stadium.

Ritter said Brian Ballard, one of the team's lobbyists, conveyed that Beckham's group is now willing to listen to what Broward officials have to say. Those talks are expected soon, she said.

It's too soon to tell the level of the Beckham group's interest in this idea, but at least they told Ritter that Beckham & Co. are open to considering it.

Ritter said county-owned land near the Panthers' arena (BB&T Center) would be a "great fit" for the stadium.

"Beckham's group was very unhappy with the parcel that Miami-Dade wanted to provide," Ritter said. "We're easier to deal with than the county to the south."

Beckham's top two choices for a stadium --- the Port of Miami site and the boat slip site next to AmericanAirlines Arena --- were both rejected by local government officials, and Beckham's group has said it's not enthusiastic about a site near Marlins Park because the land is "spiritually tainted" in the wake of  the Marlins' controversial ballpark deal.

Beckham's group has said it's assessing its options regarding Miami.

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Heat free agent chatter:

### Amid news that LeBron James’ agent has been listening to pitches from several teams, the pressure has escalated on Heat president Pat Riley, who --- along with coach Erik Spoelstra --- is meeting with center Pau Gasol and others in Los Angeles, hoping to convince a high-end free agent to take considerably less money to sign with Miami.

Problem is, James to this point hasn't made a commitment to return to the Heat, and his agent, Rich Paul, this week met with at least four teams (Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and Cleveland), according to ESPN, which also reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is flying to Cleveland to meet with Paul. Yahoo! said Houston was not granted a meeting, spoke to Paul by phone and has moved on.

Yahoo! reported that Paul suggested to Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix that they might be brought back to Cleveland to meet with James next week if Riley doesn't quickly improve the Heat's roster. James was on vacation this week and did not meet with any teams.

The Heat fully expects James will re-sign.

One associate of James told me that he still makes the Heat the clear favorite to keep James but also that the four-time MVP is "weighing all his options" and "wants to see how things play out" with the Heat's roster, which he wants upgraded. As has been reported, James wants the maximum money allowed, and the Heat is fine with that.

But that associate also said it's very difficult to envision him signing with Phoenix or Houston. (Dallas did not come up in the conversation with the associate.)

The associate reiterated that the idea of playing again in Cleveland again at some point appeals to James and said the Cavaliers cannot be ruled out this summer. 

The Cavaliers don't look ready to win big now, and that's critically important to James, but that would change quickly if James commits and if Cleveland trades Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, who reportedly would be receptive to signing with the Cavaliers longterm if James is there.

If Riley cannot lure a high-end free agent such as Gasol or Trevor Ariza or Luol Deng, the Heat instead will focus on adding several reasonably-priced players.

The Heat’s cap space is projected to be substantially less than the $12 million cited in one national report.

If Chris Bosh accepts a first-year salary of $15 million and Dwyane Wade $13 million, the Heat would have in the range of $6 million to $7 million in space, presuming James signs at the maximum $20.7 million. (About $2 million more could be added by dumping Norris Cole.) The Heat also would have a $2.7 million "room" salary cap exception in this scenario.

Yahoo! reported tonight that Bosh and Wade have not agreed to salaries and are reluctant to taking severe pay cuts, though they will take reductions. Still, Bosh has told associates he plans to return to the Heat, and Wade also plans to return, of course. 

Unless the Heat can convince one of the pricey free agents to take considerably less than market value, the Heat might be better served by operating as a capped-out team.

Under that scenario, the Heat could not use cap space but could use a $5.3 million midlevel exception, a $2.2 million trade exception and a $2 million bi-annual exception and also preserve Bird Rights to re-sign its own free agents, which would allow Miami to give raises to Ray Allen (who made $3.2 million last season) and Chris Andersen ($1.4 million).

### The Heat has strong interest in adding one or two veteran wing players. Among free agents that Miami has reached out to, according to people with direct knowledge: New Orleans’ Anthony Morrow (8.4 points, 45.1 percent three-point shooting last season); Oklahoma City’s Caron Butler (10.5, 39.4) and Utah’s Marvin Williams (9.1 points, 35.9 percent).

Other affordable wing players potentially in play include Alan Anderson, Shawn Marion, Jordan Hamilton and restricted free agent PJ Tucker. The Heat and Nick Young’s agent also had a preliminary conversation.  Chandler Parsons would help, but he's restricted (giving Houston a chance to match) and will get better offers elsewhere, perhaps $10 million a year or more.

The Heat so far has not pursued Dallas free agent Vince Carter beyond an initial inquiry.

### Among point guards, the Heat has been in communication with representation for a few veterans, including Jameer Nelson and Kirk Hinrich. Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas, a restricted free agent, is also on Miami's radar. (Teams have three days to match an offer in restricted free agency.)

An initial inquiry was made on Ramon Sessions, but the Heat has taken it no further, and nothing had materialized with Steve Blake as of Thursday. Miami didn’t pursue Darren Collison before he agreed to terms with Sacramento on Thursday.

### Among power rotation players, the Heat called to express interest in Charlotte power forward Josh McRoberts, among others, but he might be too costly if the Heat uses its primary exception money on a wing player. Chris Kaman, who has attracted Heat interest in the past, agreed to terms with Portland tonight, according to reports. The Heat likes Lakers power forward Jordan Hill --- who could command mid-level type money ---- but is focusing on bigger names for now (Gasol, Deng, etc.).

### Besides Gasol, Riley is trying to meet with others in California, Yahoo reported! The Heat also might meet with Ariza, but Gasol and Ariza are seeking considerably more than what Miami can offer.

Oklahoma City, San Antonio and New York also are trying to obtain Gasol at a bargain-basement price. Yahoo! reports Gasol wants $10 million but hasn't ruled out taking the $5.3 million exception.

Ariza has instructed his agent to try to work out a deal with the Wizards before engaging other teams, The Washington Post reported.

The Heat is interested in Deng, and Deng likes the Heat, but agent Herb Rudoy said “we don’t know yet” if the Heat will be a serious contender for him or whether Deng will even meet with the Heat.

“We haven’t talked money [with Miami],” Rudoy said. “We’re waiting for the Big Three to sort out.” Deng also has interest from the Clippers, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas, among others.

### Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer would have interest in the Heat if Chicago uses the amnesty provision on him, according to an associate. The Bulls have until July 18 to decide whether to wipe Boozer’s $16.8 million salary off their cap.

But if the Heat uses all its cap space before the amnesty period, or if it uses its cap exceptions instead of cap space, then the Heat would not have the money to make a bid for Boozer in the amnesty process (at more than the minimum, obviously) unless it somehow got back under the cap, according to cap expert Larry Coon. The team with the highest bid would claim him, and he would become a free agent only if there were no bids.

### Ray Allen has been leaning toward playing (he likes playing with LeBron) but hasn’t informed the Heat definitively. He and Andersen will be invited back.

James Jones also is expected to be asked back, though that has not been conveyed.

The Heat called about Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley early in free agency and indicated interest in speaking further next week or beyond.

“They didn’t commit to bringing Greg back but they were happy with his progress,” said Oden’s agent, Mike Conley Sr.

All three players have interest in returning.

### As for Mario Chalmers, the Heat called him and made clear the door has not been closed to a possible return. But Chalmers is unsure of Miami’s level of interest, according to a very close associate. Several teams have inquired about Chalmers. 

### Though the Heat inquired about Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat --- who resigned with Toronto and Washington --- Miami never made an offer to either, according to someone with direct knowledge.

Please see the story on the sports home page for details on Dion Jordan's suspension.... Also, Fort Lauderdale Gibbons three star Class of 2015 DE Richard McIntosh orally committed to UM, opting for Miami instead of UF, Wisconsin and others.