Most professional sports teams would be outraged if it lost a top minor league prospect without receiving some form of compensation in return — especially if it had invested time and energy making that player better.
But that’s not the way Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he felt after former point guard Briante Weber signed a 10-day contract Saturday with the Golden State Warriors, who released veteran center Anderson Varejao to make room for the D-League’s top-ranked prospect.
For Spoelstra, this was just another example of how the Heat is continuing to sign undrafted or undervalued players and making them better. And, in the long run, he believes having that kind of reputation around the league has value.
“You can’t be jaded by that and you can’t be hurt,” Spoelstra said of Weber, who was named the D-League’s Player of the Month for January, and who has spent the better part of his two-year pro career either playing for the Heat or its affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, after going undrafted in 2015.
“You have to enjoy someone else’s success and their opportunity. We invest and we tell them early on, we are going to do everything we possibly can to help you reach your dream. We really hope it’s with us, but we’re constricted by the rules.
“Next year, this probably won’t be as much of a problem. We’ll be able to keep guys and develop them longer. But we push our guys that if it’s not with us, we’re making calls to try to help them get somewhere else. It’s all part of our player development and there’s a karma to it. If we help enough people out that we’ll benefit from it. But you get to know these guys, you want to help them. You want to serve them and allow them to realize their dreams.”
Spoelstra said he sent congratulatory text messages to Weber and Warriors coach Steve Kerr Friday night “just wishing him all the best.”
Weber, who was beat out by Sioux Falls teammate Rodney McGruder for the Heat’s final roster spot coming out of the preseason, confirmed Saturday that the Heat and Charlotte Hornets also put forth offers to sign him. In the end, he felt the Warriors were the best fit.
“Charlotte has three point guards. Miami, of course, has 17 guards, period,” Weber told Warriors beat writers Saturday.
“So I just felt like I've been with Miami and they haven't picked me up by now, then why continue to go down the same road? I figured I should pick something new and actually a team with a spot. They actually let somebody go to fill me in. That says a lot about the organization and about how they feel about me being potentially being here for longer than just 10 days. So I kind of picked a spot that was going to give me the best opportunity to expose myself and put myself on the radar where everybody else can see.”
While losing Weber, 24, certainly stings, the league’s new collective bargaining agreement will help teams like the Heat with strong D-League affiliates from losing its top prospects. Beginning next season, each team will be allowed to sign up to two players on two-way contracts, which allows those players to play up to 45 days in the NBA before they have to be signed to a league minimum contract for the remainder of the season.
Had the rule been in place this season the Heat likely would not have lost Weber and wouldn’t have to worry about losing forward Okaro White, whose second 10-day contract with the team expires on Sunday. White (6-8, 215) has played well since the Heat signed him off its D-League roster, but the franchise would have to cut somebody on the roster — likely forward Derrick Williams — to keep White after Sunday.
White, who said he spoke to Weber Friday night on Face Time and congratulated him for signing with the Warriors, said he would be disappointed if the Heat does not keep him, but also said he’s happy to have had the opportunity to play with Miami and develop in the Heat’s system.
“Whatever happens my career goes on,” White said. “So, I’m just happy for these 20 days I got.”
▪ Point guard Goran Dragic compared White to former Heat forward Shane Battier because “he’s long, how he can space the floor and because he’s a good defender.”
▪ Spoelstra said it “seems very harsh” forward James Johnson received a similar $25,000 fine for throwing a forearm to the chest of Hawks rookie forward Taurean Prince after he forcefully pulled down center Hassan Whiteside in Miami’s blowout victory Wednesday. Johnson said Friday he would not appeal any fines. Whiteside also offered to pay Johnson’s fine.