UPDATED FROM MY EARLIER STORY SAYING THAT CHRIS BOSH WOULD BE RELEASED THIS WEEK:
The Heat released Chris Bosh on Tuesday and announced his jersey number would be retired, clearing the remaining $52.1 million of his contract off its salary cap and ending a seven-year relationship that including the exhilaration of two championships and the numbing news of multiple blood clots that ultimately ended his Heat career.
Miami needed to make the move Tuesday to push its available cap space from $9 million to a bit over $34 million in time for the end of the NBA’s signing moratorium on Thursday.
Players with guaranteed contracts (such as Bosh) must be given 48 hours to clear waivers in order for that player’s salary to removed from a team cap. So the Heat needed to make the move Tuesday to maximize its cap room, with players eligible to sign contracts beginning at noon on Thursday.
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“Chris changed his life and basketball career when he came to Miami,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “And he changed our lives for the better, in a way we never would have imagined, when he joined the Miami Heat. We will forever be indebted to CB for how he changed this team and led us to four trips to the NBA Finals and two NBA Championships. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise.
“The number “1” will never be worn by another player and we can't wait to someday hang his jersey in the rafters. Today, we are both moving on but we wish Chris, Adrienne and their family nothing but the best. They will forever be part of the Miami Heat family.”
Because of a change in the new labor agreement, Bosh would not go back on the Heat’s cap or luxury tax calculations even if he plays for another team during the next two seasons. Under the old agreement, Bosh’s cap hits would have returned to the Heat’s cap if he played 25 games with another team.
In order for Bosh to be cleared from the Heat’s cap, a doctor jointly chosen by the Heat and NBA needed to rule that Bosh’s injury was career-ending or at the very least, would put him at risk if he plays again. That ruling happened in the past two months.
But an associate said Bosh has by no means ruled out playing again.
Bosh will receive the remaining money on his Heat contract - $25.3 million next season and $26.8 million in 2018-19, with insurance paying a substantial chunk of that.
Bosh, 33, averaged 18 points and 7.3 rebounds and shot 49.6 percent from the field in 384 games over six seasons with Miami.
He also averaged 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in 78 playoff games for Miami, helping lead the Heat to four Finals and two championships in the Big Three era. He was named to the All-Star team in all six of his seasons playing for Miami.
Among Bosh's most memorable moments: He grabbed an offensive rebound with 6.3 seconds remaining in regulation of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals and passed to Ray Allen for his game-tying 3-pointer, forcing overtime. The Heat won the series in 7.
But he was diagnosed with blood clots in February of both 2015 and 2016, ending both of those seasons prematurely.
The Heat was prepared to allow Bosh to play this past season, but a preseason medical exam revealed more clotting, and the Heat at that point decided that it would no longer be open to a Bosh comeback.
Bosh’s final game for the Heat was on Feb. 9, 2016; he scored 18 points in an 18-point loss to Sacramento.
He was voted to play in the All-Star Game that month and selected to compete in the Three-Point Contest, he withdrew from both because of a calf injury. Soon after, he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg and never played for the team again.
Bosh, who relocated to Los Angeles last month, told Larry King in an April interview that he believes he will play in the NBA again.
"Yeah, I think so. At heart. I'm still an athlete. That is not how I want it to end.”
Though Bosh was initially angry with the Heat for not allowing him to play, the Bosh/Heat relationship ended on good terms, according to an associate, with contact between Bosh and owner Micky Arison.
“Yeah, I understand what they have to do as a team," Bosh said. "It is a business. I know we -- as athletes and owners and people involved with the NBA -- never want to say it's a business, and things like that. It's is a business. And hurt does come in with that. But as president of the Miami Heat, I understand what he has to do."
Bosh, during the interview with King, declined to disclose specifics about his health.
"It's complicated," he said. "It's very, very complicated, and that's why I haven't been able to play this year."
Asked if he misses playing, he said: “I do, but a part of me doesn't. Yeah. I've come to enjoy different aspects of life. There's a lot of life out there.
"I mean only because as basketball players, we do that, and that's really it. I've enjoyed spending time with my kids, enjoyed spending time with my wife, and just kind of relaxing and working on my mind and my soul….
"It's been a very interesting time for me. only because I'm used to playing basketball. I'm used to practicing. I'm used to the schedule. That's kind of what I was born to do. That's what I've been doing my whole life. And over the last year, I have not been able to kind of fall back on that. So it's forced me to grow in a lot of different ways."
Though he worked for several weeks this spring as a studio analyst for TNT, he said he hasn’t attended NBA games because “to watch the game without me in it, is just no point doing that.”
Bosh ranks among the Heat’s all-time leaders in free throw percentage (3rd), double-figure scoring efforts (4th), points (5th), scoring average (5th), free throws made (5th), defensive rebounds (5th), field goal percentage (6th), field goals made (6th), free throws attempted (6th), total rebounds (6th), starts (6th), field goals attempted (7th), blocked shots (7th), minutes (10th), three-point field goals attempted (10th), double-doubles (11th), offensive rebounds (11th), games played (11th), steals (11th), three-point field goals made (tied-14th) and assists (20th).
"There isn't anybody in this organization that feels worse for C.B. than I do,” Riley said in April. “It got a little sideways at the end because of feelings and things of that nature."
• The Heat, as of noon Tuesday, will still awaiting a decision from Gordon Hayward, who was mulling offers from Miami, Boston and Utah.
The Heat cannot proceed with other free agent business until Hayward decides his next team.
An ESPN report said Miami is believed to be out of the race. I haven’t heard optimism from a Heat standpoint today. We’ll see.
• The Heat has been fortunate that neither James Johnson nor Dion Waiters has received a highly tempting offer from another team. But here’s the concern with Waiters:
With George Hill agreeing to a three-year, $57 million contract with Sacramento (according to multiple reports), the Lakers - who had been talking to Hill about a one-year contract - still have $17 million in cap space and could possibly offer much or all of that to Waiters. The Lakers also have been linked to Rajon Rondo.
For now, both Waiters and Johnson remain uncommitted, and the Heat is expected to circle back to both whether it lands Hayward or not.
If Miami gets Hayward, the Heat likely would be able to afford only Johnson or Waiters (but not both) unless it starts shedding salary in trades.
• Rudy Gay remains interested in the Heat and looms as a possibility if Hayward eschews the Heat.