Heat president Pat Riley’s summertime mission to further strengthen the NBA champion already has landed him one future Hall of Famer in Ray Allen, could land him a useful rotation piece in Rashard Lewis, but might fall short in the pursuit of center Marcus Camby, who postponed Saturday’s scheduled visit with Heat officials in Miami.
Saturday morning, Camby decided not to visit because the Heat gave its $3.1 million mini midlevel exception to Allen, and Camby first wants to see if there’s a realistic possibility that the Heat and Houston Rockets could work out a sign-and-trade that would deliver him a salary in that range. The teams have discussed a trade, but the Rockets might be able to acquire more appealing assets elsewhere, and the Knicks hold great appeal to Camby.
Regardless, this will be a successful offseason simply with the addition of Allen, one of the elite long-range shooters of his generation.
“Great pickup for the Heat,” former Magic and Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said in a text message Saturday. “Ray Allen is a great veteran player. Can play a Mike Miller role as a shooter. Mike has more size and is a great rebounder, but Ray is a great shooter and has stayed healthy, which Mike can’t do.”
Van Gundy’s brother, ABC lead analyst Jeff Van Gundy, also praised the move, though he added, “As you get up to that age, you don’t know how health is going to treat you. I was surprised. I thought he would go back to Boston, to stick with what they had started.”
Allen, who turns 37 on July 20, underwent surgery June 14 to remove bone spurs in his right ankle but is expected to be fine for the season.
“I coached Ray, and you’re talking about one of the fittest players to ever play,” NBA TV analyst Sam Mitchell said. “He can run all day. I can see him playing even better than last year. He’s going to get even more wide open looks now.”
Allen’s three-point accuracy last season (45.3 percent) was the best of his career — a product not only of his natural gifts, but his impeccable work ethic. Allen, whose 2,718 three-pointers are the most in NBA history, typically arrives at arenas five hours before games to hoist jumper after jumper.
“Ray Allen is the ultimate professional, a great player and a great team player,” ESPN Radio analyst and Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay said. “He’s great moving without the ball, and he knows how to get open.”
The Heat can’t discuss Allen until he is allowed to sign Wednesday. But coach Erik Spoelstra is expected to use Allen in a guard rotation with starters Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers.
The Heat can pair Wade and Allen together for significant minutes because Wade has experience at point guard, and “Ray is very good with the ball” also, Ramsay said. “There were times he served as the point guard.”
James and Wade were thrilled with the pickup. “Heat Nation continues to grow,” Wade tweeted Friday night.
James sent out two tweets — one showing Allen, through Photoshop, in a Heat uniform and another that read: “Heat Nation, please welcome our newest teammate, Ray Allen.”
Earlier in the day, James told reporters covering the United States Olympic team practice in Las Vegas: “Who wouldn’t want a dead-eye shooter like that, a complete professional and a champion?”
Does Allen’s acquisition significantly help Miami’s chances of winning multiple titles? “I already thought that,” Jeff Van Gundy said. “You admire their aggressiveness.”
Camby, meanwhile, has told teams he is not interested in accepting the $1.3 million veteran’s minimum. In any potential sign-and-trade with the Heat, the Rockets are believed to like Norris Cole, but it’s unclear if Miami would give him up. Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman and a future No. 1 pick also could be used in a deal.
But the Rockets reportedly prefer what the Knicks have to offer, potentially including Josh Harrellson, Toney Douglas and Dan Gadzuric’s nonguaranteed contract.
The Rockets might try to accommodate Camby’s wishes. He will visit with the Knicks on Sunday in Houston, then plans to speak with the Nets before determining whether to meet with Miami.
As for Lewis, he is scheduled to visit the Heat on Sunday and also has drawn interest from the Spurs, Knicks and Hawks. Lewis, 32, is due $13.7 million in a buyout from New Orleans next season and might be receptive to taking the $1.3 million minimum.