The Heat might be interested in roster moves that would further break up its championship teams from 2012 and 2013.
Norris Cole, Chris Andersen, Luol Deng, Mario Chalmers, Josh McRoberts and Udonis Haslem all have been mentioned in trade rumors over the past few days and weeks, and activity around the league could trigger changes soon. It’s no secret the Heat is in the market for a power forward after losing Josh McRoberts to a season-ending knee injury, but team president Pat Riley might also be looking to add a guard.
Nothing was imminent before Friday’s game in Sacramento, but the Heat has options and by all signs the team seems determined to improve for a playoff push. The Heat was seventh in the Eastern Conference entering Friday’s game at Sleep Train Arena, and new hope emerged throughout the locker room and front office during this five-game road trip with the quick development of center Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside, who had three double-doubles in five games before playing the Kings, has transformed the Heat’s defense and given Riley and general manger Andy Elisburg more flexibility in which to upgrade the roster. The trade deadline is Feb.19, but trade season is already here and, with many two-year contracts on the books, the Heat could package several players in multi-team deals.
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Trade speculation at this point in the season is a reality for most teams, but the Heat avoided much of that drama during its years with LeBron James.
“Welcome to the NBA,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Once you get to this month, rumors and stories out there are wild, and 99 percent of them don’t come true. So, you control what you can control. That’s part of being mentally tough.
“We talk about it all the time. Does that affect your paycheck? Does that affect you doing your job? No. Does that mean it’s easy? Probably not.”
On Thursday, it was reported by Yahoo!Sports that the Heat recently offered Cole, Andersen and McRoberts to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez. That specific deal never materialized, but others likely will be proposed by and to the Heat’s front office in the coming days and weeks. At the very least, the Heat has a $2.6 million exception available to replace McRoberts.
With three point guards on the team, and rookie Shabazz Napier now starting, the Heat could be preparing to move Cole, who is in the last guaranteed year of his contract with only a qualifying offer after this season. Cole is an elite perimeter defender and a two-time NBA champion, but his three-point shooting has dipped this season to 29 percent. The Heat’s new slow-tempo offense works best with consistent shooters.
Cole is aware that the Heat might be shopping him around, but he said on Friday morning that it’s not a distraction.
“Until I hear something and see the writing on the paper, I’m a member of the team I’m on now,” Cole said. “I want to help my teammates and help us to win, and that’s all I concentrate on. Until it’s in black and white, I really don’t consider it.”
Cole and the Heat couldn’t agree on a rookie-scale contract extension in October, so he will be a restricted free agent this summer.
“I have to remain professional,” Cole said. “It wouldn’t be fair to my teammates if I become a problem or anything, so I remain professional and play to win. I’m a winner. I’m a champion.”
Cole’s uncertainty comes at a time when the Heat is down its starting shooting guard. Dwyane Wade missed his second consecutive game on Friday after straining his hamstring against the Lakers on Tuesday. Spoelstra said Wade’s current left hamstring injury isn’t as severe as a similar injury that sidelined him for seven games earlier in the season. Still, Wade’s absence adds difficulty to the role of Mario Chalmers, who is now starting alongside Napier.
Chalmers began the season as a reserve but had been starting at point guard until Wade’s injury. Now Chalmers is the team’s fill-in starting shooting guard but with some point-guard responsibilities as well.
“It has been an adjustment,” Chalmers said. “As the point guard of the team, you’ve got to be able to adjust and still be able to make plays and still be aggressive. It’s something we’ve got to figure out when it comes to each and every game.”