Pat Riley stayed true to his word.
He said last month the Miami Heat would be “right there at 12:01 a.m.” to meet with Hassan Whiteside at the start of NBA free agency. And the Heat was there.
According to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, it was the Heat and not the Mavericks who first met with the league’s leading shot blocker in New York early Friday morning. But the Heat, Charania reported, left its meeting without an agreement.
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The Mavericks, expected to put forth a max contract offer for Whiteside, were due up next according to Charania. There’s no word yet if the Heat offered Whiteside the maximum — four years, $98 million — during its meeting.
Earlier Thursday, there was growing sentiment internally for the Heat to offer Whiteside a max deal (if Miami would not be able to land Kevin Durant), even though some inside the Heat do not view him as a max player.
The Heat had told Whiteside before Friday it was very interested in keeping him, but had a lot of moving parts to navigate through. Miami can still offer Whiteside more than any other team, which can pay him four years, $94 million.
Whiteside’s first-year max would be $22 million if the cap settles at $94 million, as projected.
Centers have come flying off the board early in free agency.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov, who averaged 6.3 points, 4.4 rebound and 17.4 minutes per game last season, came to an unexpected and quick four-year, $64 million agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Former Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who missed 68 games and averaged just 6.3 points and 9.4 rebounds over the last two seasons, is reportedly expected to finalize a four-year, $72 million deal with the New York Knicks as early as Friday.
With Mozgov and Noah garnering that kind of money, its only put more pressure on the Heat to give into Whiteside’s demands. After all, he finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, led the league in blocks and averaged 14.2 points and 11.8 rebounds last season.
With veterans and former All-Stars Dwight Howard and Al Horford in position to earn even more than Whiteside, the Heat might not be left with many quality options to turn to at center should Whiteside stray.
▪ The Vertical reported Riley and owner Micky Arison will represent the Heat in Sunday’s meeting with Durant in the Hamptons
▪ Forward Luol Deng, whom the Heat probably cannot afford to keep, reportedly will be pursued aggressively by the Utah Jazz. He’s also drawn interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers.
▪ Heat combo guard Tyler Johnson, a restricted free agent, will reportedly start taking meeting Friday in Chicago. The Bulls, Pelicans and Hornets have interest according to Wojnarowski, who said Johnson could command a hefty contract that would require the Heat to pay him more than $5 million the next two seasons and potentially more after that.