Decisions made by LeBron James, and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, will largely make or break this Heat offseason. But decisions also must be made on most of the eight Heat players whose contracts are expiring.
Of those eight, one ( Shane Battier) is retiring, two ( Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis) said Sunday they aren’t sure whether they will continue their NBA careers and four ( Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Toney Douglas) expressed a desire to return, though it remains to be seen whether the feeling is mutual. Greg Oden has declined to say whether he wants to return.
Several, but not all, might be invited back on low-money deals.
A ninth player, Chris Andersen, will become a free agent by bypassing his $1.44 million option for next season, Yahoo! reported.
If Allen, 38, chooses to return, he might need to take a pay cut from $3.2 million to the $1.4 million minimum. He said he will decide in the coming days whether to retire.
“I’ve had a great career,” Allen said. “I’m content with what I’ve done. In the next couple of days, I will think about it and see where my true heart lies. To make [a decision] on my terms is the most important thing. Whether that is me retiring or staying here or going somewhere else, it will be on my terms.”
Lewis, 34, said simply “I don’t know” when asked whether he wants to continue playing. Despite his lack of playing time, Beasley said: “Why wouldn’t I want to come back?”
Though a return by Chalmers isn’t out of the question, the Heat likely will explore an upgrade at point guard.
“If it’s an option, definitely I would love to come back with this team,” Chalmers said after Game 5, when he was replaced by Allen in the starting lineup.
There’s no decision for Battier, who is becoming a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
“When I’m old, fat and gray, and my grandkids say, ‘You never played in the NBA,’ I can tell them I did it at a high level,” said Battier, who kept a diary of sorts this season to use in a book. “I gave everything I had to this game, and I don’t have any more to give.”
Privately with his team and publicly with the media, coach Erik Spoelstra took the glass-half-full perspective afterward.
Udonis Haslem said Spoelstra told the players: “Keep your heads up. You’re champions. Four straight Finals. We have a lot to be proud about. We just ran into a better team.”
Spoelstra told reporters: “Even as painful as it feels, you have to have perspective. Even the team we’re playing against has never been to the Finals four straight years. You can’t be jaded enough not to appreciate that.”
Notable numbers• The 70-point total scoring differential between the teams was the largest for an NBA Finals series of any length.
• The Spurs produced the highest shooting percentage ever in an NBA Finals (52.76). The old record: The Bulls shot 52.72 percent against the Lakers in 1991.
• James has scored 30 or more points in each of the last six games he has played with his team facing elimination. His teams are now 5-1 in those games. James is eighth and Wade 17th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.
• Allen’s 55 career three-pointers in the Finals are one short of Robert Horry’s record.