CHICAGO -- Making room for a possible veteran big man before the playoffs, the Heat rid itself of little-used center Dexter Pittman on Thursday in the final hours before the trade deadline.
Miami traded Pittman to the Grizzlies for next to nothing. Instead of receiving a player in return, the Heat acquired the rights to a former second-round pick playing in Argentina just to make the deal go through. To sweeten the deal, the Heat threw in cash considerations (the balance of Pittman’s contract) and a second-round pick in June’s draft.
In other words, the Heat really wanted that 15th roster spot open for any veterans who might be available after the March 1 buyout deadline. “I want to thank Dexter for his hard work and professional attitude,” Heat president Pat Riley said. “Unfortunately, in order to gain roster flexibility we had to trade someone. We wish him nothing but the best.”
The Heat now has 14 players on its roster and a new veteran’s minimum contract to lure a player.
“It’s the business side of the NBA, and it made the most sense to us right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Drafted in 2010 as a long-term project, Pittman improved gradually with the Heat but could never break through playing on a team of mostly veterans. His biggest opportunity came in Game 4 of last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers when Spoelstra, in a surprise move, started Pittman.
The Heat played badly from start, and Pittman really never got another look in a Heat uniform. Pittman bounced between the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Sky Force of the D-League and the Heat this season before finally being dealt. Perhaps Pittman’s most memorable moment with the Heat was during that same hard-fought playoff series against the Pacers. In Game 2, Pittman received a flagrant foul for leaving his feet to forearm Pacers reserve Lance Stephenson in the throat.
“We’ll always be grateful for Pitt and his contribution to our championship last year,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a young talent who we enjoyed developing. This move was all about roster flexibility.”
The Heat acquired the rights to 6-11 center Ricky Sanchez from Memphis in the deal. Drafted in 2005 by the Trail Blazers, the Puerto Rican national is currently playing for Libertad de Sunchales in Argentina.
Riley was in Los Angeles on Thursday for the memorial service for Jerry Buss, the Lakers owner who passed away this week. Riley spoke along with other legendary Lakers, including Jerry West and Magic Johnson. “You were either in or out. You were with us or against us. You didn’t ride the fence. There was no in between,” Riley said during his speech. “Jerry’s leadership and how he led forged the trust that bonded the team and the organization as one.”
Buss hired Riley as coach in 1981, and they worked together until 1990. During that time, the “Showtime Lakers” won four championships (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).
“We weren’t just the best of the best,” Riley said. “The Lakers were unique and they still are. The Lakers separated themselves from the pack and left footprints to follow.”
• Unable to fly because of an ear infection, Mike Miller missed his second game in a row Thursday. He could meet with the team Friday in Philadelphia. The Heat plays the 76ers on Saturday.