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Lewis signing with Heat; Summer-league microscope on Cole, Pittman, Harris

Rashard Lewis is joining the Heat, his agent told us moments ago. He is signing a two-year deal and will earn the $1.35 million veteran's minimum this season. (The second year of the deal is at Lewis' option, for $1.45 million.)

He also has considered overtures from Boston and Atlanta, but felt most comfortable with Miami. And salary was not a big issue to him because he will collect $13.7 million from a New Orleans Hornets buyout this coming season.

Lewis was very impressed by the Heat's presentation on Sunday. A skilled three-point shooter, Lewis will share power forward duties with Udonis Haslem, starting small forward LeBron James and Shane Battier, who can play either forward spot.

The addition of Lewis and Ray Allen will give Miami 13 players under contract. I'll have a full story up next to this blog very shortly.

Meanwhile, veteran forward Grant Hill is considering overtures from the Heat, Lakers and Thunder, as first reported Tuesday by TNT's David Aldridge.

Hill's mid-range game declined last season but he still averaged 10.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 49 games for Phoenix.

The Lakers have been considered the favorite for Hill, even more so because of their impending sign-and-trade for Steve Nash, Hill's former teammate in Phoenix.

But Aldridge said Hill, 39, is also considering the Heat and Thunder. Miami could offer only the $1.3 million veteran's minimum.

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For the three Heat veterans on Miami’s summer league roster, the euphoria of winning an NBA title has been replaced by the stark reality that they must polish and augment their skills this summer to either retain or carve out more significant roles on a veteran-laden team.

For Norris Cole, improvement is essential to give Erik Spoelstra incentive to give him regular minutes instead of using a steady three-guard rotation of Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen.

For Dexter Pittman, development is critical to have any chance of unseating Joel Anthony for the primary backup center job.

And for Terrel Harris, growth is vital to motivate the Heat to offer him a new contract.

Because the Heat did not make him a qualifying offer, Harris is an unrestricted, not a restricted, free agent. Though president Pat Riley said “we like him a lot,” Harris said Tuesday the Heat has “not really” indicated if it wants to keep him.

“I guess they’re evaluating me still,” Harris said after he and the Heat’s other summer-leaguers practiced at AmericanAirlines Arena in advance of five games in Las Vegas, beginning Sunday.

“I want to stay here and they appreciate my talent. I talked to coach Spoelstra and Pat Riley and I understand they like me as a player. I don’t sit here and stress about, ‘Am I going to be here or not?’”

Harris, 6-4, averaged 3.6 points in 22 games, shooting just 34.9 percent from the field (29 for 83) and 20.5 percent on three-pointers (8 for 39).

“We would like to see him improve his long-range shooting and play-making ability,” Riley said. “Can he handle the ball? Yes. Can he bring it up the court and enter us into an offensive set? Yes. Can he be a point guard? That would be a stretch. But I would play him as a scoring point guard if I had to.”

Harris said developing his point guard skills will be the summer priority.

“We won’t have him play point a lot, but we will have him handle so we’ll get the ball to him in the halfcourt offense and let him initiate some offense,” said Heat assistant David Fizdale, who is coaching the Heat’s summer league team. “So if we wanted to play him with Dwyane and LeBron and no point guard, even though we know LeBron is really the point guard, T-Harris can enter some offense and get them off the ball a little.”

As for Pittman, his $854,369 salary for next season has already been guaranteed, and Riley expects improvement in his third year: “We are going to give him a great shot and we expect this year he might be able to really contribute.”

The 6-11 1/2 Pittman, who said Tuesday he weighs 280 pounds after ballooning to nearly 400 in high school, has been told to reduce his body fat from 12.75 to the 10 to 12 percent range.

“Anytime we can get him lighter, we want to,” Fizdale said. “It’s important he stays on top of his diet and exercise. We want him to be able to play more minutes, get his conditioning to a high level. The lockout really set him back.”

Though his only playoff start (Game 3 against Indiana) was forgettable (three minutes, no points), Pittman showed signs of growth in a few late-season games, including a 16-point game against Charlotte. He ended up averaging 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 8.6 minutes in 35 appearances, including six starts.

Eager to expand his shooting range and “basketball IQ,” Pittman said he returned to the gym three days after The Finals. He has been studying tapes of Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard and views this summer “like I’m auditioning for a job.”

Though Cole ended the season well – with eight key points in the first half of Game 4 of the Finals – he must give Spoelstra reason to carve out regular minutes for him, instead of using Wade or Allen as the ball-handler when Chalmers is out of the game.

His summer to-do list includes improving on reading defenses when he comes off screens, finishing more efficiently in the paint and working on his jumper after shooting 39.3 percent from the field as a rookie.

“He’s a quiet kid, and I got on him yesterday at practice about being more vocal, yelling out the plays,” Fizdale said. “There’s a kid that helped us big time in the Finals with 17,000 in the arena. He’s got to have a bigger voice.

“The offense is in his hands to really quarterback the team. We’re breeding Norris a different way. Norris is a hunter. Norris doesn’t care about people coming after him. We’re developing him to be an attacker.

“He’s going out to Vegas with the intent to destroy whoever he’s playing against. I don’t want him to ever think he has arrived to the point where he’s now being hunted. He has to stay hungry and play this summer like a guy that did not win a title.”

Cole, who returned to his hometown of Dayton after the Finals, noted: “My popularity has increased a lot, but I’m getting used to it as much as you can. Most of the people say congratulations and want pictures. You can never tell a kid no.”

Cole said “Allen is a great addition – he is going to help us spread the court even more.”

### Former UM forward Adrian Thomas said “putting on a heat jersey feels crazy, surreal. I didn’t get much sleep.”

FOR OUR LOOK at Heat second-round pick Justin Hamilton, see our last post. Check back this evening for the Wednesday buzz, including lots of Dolphins, Marlins and other stuff.