Pat Riley insisted on draft night that he would be pleased this summer if the Heat merely kept together the key parts of a team that finished the season on a 30-11 streak.
The Heat’s president took steps in that direction Wednesday, forging a new deal with guard Dion Waiters and working toward a new contract with forward James Johnson.
Waiters’ deal is for four years and $52 million.
Johnson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said he planned to speak to Riley on Wednesday night, with both sides eager to complete a deal.
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Bartelstein said shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday that he spoke to Riley on Tuesday evening and said they will resume talks in the morning. Both sides are working toward a deal.
Waiters’ contract — which represents a substantial increase over the $2.9 million he made last season — would leave the Heat with about $23 million in cap space before re-signing Johnson. That amount would drop to $17 million if the Heat guarantees guard Wayne Ellington’s $6.3 million contract by Friday’s deadline.
As of early afternoon Wednesday, the Heat had not informed Ellington of a decision.
The Heat also has a $4.3 million cap exception that cannot be combined with cap space. Players can sign contracts beginning at noon Thursday.
Waiters, a linchpin in Miami’s 13-game winning streak immediately after the All-Star break, repeatedly said that he wanted to remain with the Heat.
“Whatever it takes [this summer], I just want to be here,” he told the Miami Herald in March. “What we’re building here, we have a chance to do something special. My mom loves it here. Would be mad at me [if I left]. My son loves it. My family loves it.”
Waiters — who also drew interest from the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks — was limited to 46 games because of injuries last season but averaged 15.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and a career-high 39.5 percent on three-pointers.
In an April essay for The Players Tribune, Waiters wrote: “When I got a call from Miami, I went down there and walked into the O.G. Pat Riley’s office. It was damn near the best thing that’s happened in my NBA career.”
He also appreciated the Heat pushing him to get in better shape.
“When Pat said, ‘world-class shape,’ I thought it sounded cool,” Waiters wrote, “but in my head, I was like, ‘Yeah, I got this. I’m in world-class shape.’ You already know.
“So I show up for camp, and after one week, my body is shot. I was damn near throwing up in trash cans like in the movies. And I realized, You know what? Pat was not just talking that smooth talk. This Heat thing is the real deal.”
Above all, Waiters said he’s determined to prove he’s a winner.
“Every day I’m in the locker room, I always look at the [Heat championship] pictures, always look at the champagne showers,” he said late in the season. “I have visions about that every day. I ain’t going to stop working until I get to that point.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra has spoken fondly of Waiters’ “irrational confidence,” and Waiters says that’s from “the Philly in me, that toughness, that mentality, everything I’ve been through in my life. When I’m out here, I’m free.”
That adversity was real. Born in Philadelphia, Waiters was raised by his mother, who gave birth to Dion when she was 17; his father was in jail at the time of his birth. Four hours after Waiters was born, his grandmother died.
The Heat also has begun exploring outside options. Forward Patrick Patterson, who appealed to Miami, agreed to a deal with Oklahoma City late Tuesday night, but the Heat and free agent forward Rudy Gay have been working on potentially setting up a meeting, according to a source.
Gay has interest in playing for the Heat, and the Heat has some level of interest, but any deal likely would need to be on Miami’s terms.
Gay would like to receive more than the $14 million that he opted out of with Sacramento, but it’s unclear how much Miami would be willing to offer a player coming off a torn Achilles in January, considering few teams with a need for a small forward are in position cap-wise to offer sizable deals.
Utah, which has been linked to Gay, could clear out $11 million in space.
The Heat returns Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder at small forward, with Waiters and Josh Richardson able to play the position in three-guard lineups.
Besides potentially adding another small forward, the Heat also is expected to add a veteran backup center on a low-money deal.