The Heat saw one of its developmental players, Briante Weber, plucked by the Golden State Warriors last week. Miami wasn’t going to let that happen with Okaro White.
The Heat signed White, the emerging rookie forward, to a two-year contract on Monday, creating a roster spot by releasing veteran forward Derrick Williams.
According to a league source, White will be guaranteed 25 percent of his $1.3 million salary if he’s on the team July 1, another 25 percent if he’s on the team Aug. 1, and be guaranteed his full salary if he’s on the opening night roster next season.
The Heat had been carrying White as a 16th player after receiving an injured player’s exemption, but the NBA said Miami needed to create a roster spot to keep White beyond Sunday. Miami is now back to the traditional 15-player roster limit.
The Heat explored trading Williams in recent days, but was unable to find a taker.
The Heat knew Williams wanted to play, and he appreciated Miami releasing him, sources said. Washington is among teams expected to have interest.
“Pat Riley is a man of his word,” Williams tweeted. “Ultimate respect.”
Williams, who joined the Heat on a one-year, $5 million contract last July, averaged 5.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 25 games, including 11 starts. But he played only 13 minutes in Miami’s last 12 games. He accompanied the team to Minneapolis on Sunday and was released Monday morning.
“It didn’t work out exactly how we wanted it to,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Williams, noting James Johnson’s emergence contributed to Williams’ lack of playing time. “We want him to find a place he can be maximized.”
As for White, Spoelstra said he “came back a different player” after playing for the Heat’s D-League team in South Dakota after spending last summer and training camp with the Heat.
Over the course of two 10-day contracts with Miami, the 6-foot-8 White averaged 4.1 points and 2.6 rebounds and 16.4 minutes per game in nine appearances. He shot 48 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three-point range.
“He’s committed to embracing our emphasis on defense,” Spoelstra said. “He’ll get better. He’s going to be a very good shooter, but that’s not the emphasis right now. Being a committed, effort energy defender [is the emphasis]. I will never tell him not to take an open shot, because I think he’s a very good shooter.”
Heat guard Goran Dragic compared White’s skills to Shane Battier’s.
“He’s not the same player but he’s got similar game,” Dragic said Monday. “Long, good defender, good shooter.”
▪ Guard Josh Richardson, who missed his 14th consecutive game with a sprained left foot, is with the team on this four-game road trip and doing everything except contact work.
Asked if contact work might come this week, Spoelstra said: “We’ll see. That’s why he’s with us, to find out.”
SUPER BOWL PARTY
Heat players bonded during a Super Bowl party in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday night, and Spoelstra said New England’s historic rally brought to mind one of the most significant moments in Heat history.
“It certainly reminded us, that have been around, of the yellow ropes,” Spoelstra said of the 2013 NBA Finals, when the NBA started placing ropes around the AmericanAirlines Arena court in anticipation of a post-Game 6 San Antonio Spurs championship ceremony, before Ray Allen’s late three-pointer rallied the Heat in a series that Miami eventually won in seven games.
“It crossed my mind,” Udonis Haslem said of that Game 6. “I saw the owner down there [Atlanta’s Arthur Blank] on the sideline getting ready to celebrate.”
Heat players and coaches watched the game at CityWorks, a popular sports bar. Attendance for players was mandatory.
Haslem, the only active Heat player who was on that 2012-13 Heat team, said he was the only Heat player who stayed at CityWorks until the end of Sunday’s game.
Guard Goran Dragic said he left the gathering at halftime. “They were up [21-3 at halftime],” Dragic said of Atlanta. “I said, ‘This is boring, man.’ ’’
Hassan Whiteside said the lesson learned for anyone Sunday was “don’t bet against [Tom] Brady.”