LeBron James barked at Mario Chalmers for four years. Then, in the end, Chalmers was sent to the bench with James’ blessing.
In other words, you can count one guy, at least, who has already gotten over the news of James’ move back to Cleveland.
Chalmers is probably the only one, of course.
Heat president Pat Riley said all along that Chalmers would be back for next season, but there was a strong assumption that if James returned to the Heat, then Chalmers would be searching for another team. With James now long gone, the Heat announced officially on Monday that it had re-signed Chalmers. Reports put the deal at two years.
“It’s great to have Mario back,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “We’re happy that he wants to continue his career in Miami, he’s one of our core players, and I believe he will have a great season.”
The Heat also signed Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger on Monday. McRoberts and Granger agreed to join the Heat before James announced his decision to leave for Cleveland. Securing those commitments should be viewed as another minor victory for Riley over a four-day period that has been emotional for an entire city, and not just for the Heat’s management, coaches and players.
Riley re-signed Chalmers based on the point guard’s entire body of work for the Heat and not for his most recent postseason — and especially not Chalmers’ work in the Finals. Chalmers was completely outclassed against the Spurs and appeared distracted for much of the playoffs. He averaged 4.4 points per game in the Finals while shooting 33 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three-point range.
In the 2013 Finals against the Spurs, Chalmers shot better than 40 percent from three-point range. Clearly, something was bothering him, though he never noted an injury or mentioned any off-the-court distractions.
“We all have our days, man. You know, we do,” Riley said of Chalmers before free agency. “Mario, god bless him, we don’t win a championship last year without Games 6 and 7 with his performance.”
Chalmers has been a clutch performer for the Heat time and again, and it’s those memories that Riley rewarded on Monday.
“We don’t beat OKC, I think in Game 4 when LeBron went down with a cramp, and [Chalmers] made a three and then he made a drive,” Riley said. “He’s a player, and we have great respect for Mario, and he had a tough, rough Finals, OK? A lot of players have had tough, rough Finals.
“Go back and talk to [Manu] Ginobili after last year’s playoffs. And so it’s a reason for him to get motivated and get better.”
Like Chalmers this year, Ginobili was a nonfactor in 2013. Ginobili redeemed himself in the 2014 Finals with 14.4 points per game.
Chalmers will be returning to a team that needs him more than ever to be a consistent scoring option. Dwyane Wade missed 28 games during the 2013-14 season, and he might not have Ray Allen as a backup next year.
Chalmers basically has played a hybrid, combo guard position over the past four seasons, so he could be an option to start at shooting guard in games Wade does not play.
Either way, he will be asked to do much more and bounce back from a troubling postseason. At one point in the playoffs, Chalmers admitted his confidence had taken a blow. For a player whose self-belief has perhaps allowed him to play above his ability level, it was a huge blow for the Heat.
“He’s six years into the program, he’s the starting point guard on four consecutive Finals teams, and he has two world championships and he has a pedigree, but he’s got to take stock,” Riley said. “He’s got to take stock in why it happened and how it happened, and come back better.”
With McRoberts on board, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can now begin preparing for life after LeBron.
Last season, McRoberts averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three-point range. His toughness inside the paint should help Bosh transition into a primary scoring option for the Heat.
“We felt from Day One that he was one of our main targets,” Riley said. “We are delighted that this multifaceted player will help us immensely in being the kind of team that Coach Spoelstra wants with his versatility.”