Miami Heat

Ray Allen will return to Miami Heat next season

Shooting guard Ray Allen is exercising the player option in his contract and will return to the Heat next season, agent Jim Tanner told The Miami Herald.

If he had opted out, Allen, 37, could have earned as much as $3.7 million from the Heat next season, as opposed to the $3.2 million that he will instead make.

He also would have been eligible to sign for as many as four seasons, with 4.5 percent annual raises.

But Allen preferred to return on his existing contract, which is in the final year of a two-year deal. The Heat is thrilled with the news, considering it keeps a valuable piece and doesn’t have to pay much more than the $3.1 million he earned last season.

Coming off the bench full-time for the first time in his career, Allen averaged career lows in points (10.9) and minutes (25.8 minutes), shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 41.9 percent on three-pointers, which ranked 15th in the league. His 139 threes were 29th-most in the NBA, and he was fifth in free-throw percentage at 88.6.

But Allen’s signature moment was his season-saving three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Finals — a shot that sent the game to overtime.

“That was the defining moment for us — probably the biggest shot I ever hit in my career,” he said after the Heat won the series in seven games.

“Where would we stand if that shot didn’t go in? None of this is possible. That’s something I’ll think about, other people will talk about, forever.”

Allen has said playing for the Heat was even more enjoyable than he expected, and this was the best locker room he has ever been a part of.

“In the first two weeks, it felt like I’ve been here for two or three years,” he said.

Allen’s decision means the Heat will enter free agency Monday with 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts: Allen, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Norris Cole, James Jones, Joel Anthony and Rashard Lewis.

Center Chris Andersen also is an unrestricted free agent, and the sides hope to work out a new deal.

Center Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed contract worth $789,000 and will compete with several other prospects for potentially one roster spot. A veteran free agent might get the other roster position, replacing Juwan Howard.

Though trades are possible, Heat president Pat Riley said he wants to keep the team mostly intact and does not want to use the amnesty provision on Miller unless he receives a mandate.

Ennis has upside

Riley said Long Beach State 6-7 forward James Ennis, whom the Heat acquired in a draft-night trade, has a “huge upside.”

Atlanta picked Ennis 50th overall late Thursday night and traded him to the Heat for a conditional 2017 second-round pick. He was the Big West Player of the Year last season and consistently filled the boxscore, averaging 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks.

Ennis shot 49.1 percent overall and 35.7 percent on threes (55 for 154). But his ball-handling is a weakness — he had 99 turnovers and 70 assists last season.

“We were happy to get into the draft,” Riley said, having entered the night without a pick. “We feel that James Ennis, with his size and athleticism, has a huge upside and [is] someone we hope can develop into a high-quality NBA player.”

Considered a skilled defender and excellent finisher at the rim, Ennis played two years in junior college and then two seasons at Long Beach State.

“He’s a complete player. He’s a stud,” Cal State Fullerton coach Andy Newman told the Los Angeles Times in March. “He’s one of those guys who can score in a lot of different ways. He does everything.”

Ennis had mixed success in four games last season against teams ranked at the time — all blowout losses. He had 18 points and eight rebounds against North Carolina and 17 and seven against Arizona but struggled against Syracuse (10 points, 3-for-14 shooting) and Ohio State (12 points, 5 for 15).

Ennis will join Varnado and others on Miami’s summer-league teams in Orlando and Las Vegas.

Among undrafted rookies who committed Friday to one or both of the Heat’s summer-league teams: UNLV guard Anthony Marshall (10.4 points, 5.8 assists); Memphis guard D.J. Stephens (7.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks); and Texas guard Myck Kabongo, who was considered a potential first-round pick last year before the NCAA suspended him for 23 games for allegedly working with a professional trainer. When he returned, he averaged 14.6 points and 5.5 assists in 10 games.

UM update

Guard Shane Larkin, traded from Atlanta to Dallas, was the University of Miami’s only draft pick Thursday. But summer league invitations were accepted Friday by forward Kenny Kadji (Cleveland) and guard Durand Scott (San Antonio).

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