Things appear to be falling into place for Heat president Pat Riley as his meeting with LeBron James approaches.
After striking out on several top free-agent targets, Riley and the Heat agreed to terms with two valued veterans Monday, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. Now Riley must hope those two offseason moves, packaged with perhaps a couple more, are enough to convince James to remain in Miami. Riley is meeting with James later this week to discuss James’ future with the Heat.
Riley landed commitments from McRoberts and Granger on Monday in quick succession, and the Heat then, in a symbolic gesture, issued press releases to announce the contractual negotiations. Free agents cannot sign with teams until Thursday, and it’s rare for teams to officially announce their non-binding agreements with players. The message was clear amid the confusing swirl of free-agency madness that has gripped the league in the last few days: the Heat wants to put all rumors to rest.
On Monday, there were plenty, including one report that Chris Bosh was considering an offer from the Houston Rockets. Bosh’s agent, Henry Thomas, who also represents Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, declined to comment on the speculation. According to the ESPN.com report, Bosh was only considering Houston’s offer after speaking with James, who apparently gave no indication he would be staying in Miami.
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Houston reportedly offered Bosh a max contract worth around $88 million for four years on Monday, but Bosh has said several times that he would like to remain in Miami and would even take a pay cut to do so.
James opted out of his contract with the Heat before the June 30 deadline, but it is widely believed he is favoring a return to Miami, where he has advanced to the NBA Finals in four consecutive years and won titles in 2012 and 2013. Bosh, Wade and Haslem also opted out of their contracts, leaving backup guard Norris Cole as the only player currently under contract for the Heat.
That fact, of course, is expected to change this week with the signings of McRoberts and Granger.
Riley lured McRoberts, a skilled 6-10 power forward, away from the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. McRoberts' deal would be for four years and $23 million with a player option for the final year of the contract, according to a report by ESPN. Those numbers indicate that the Heat is planning to use its mid-level tax exception on McRoberts.
The Heat’s free-agency options began taking shape after news of its deal with McRoberts became public. Using the full mid-level exception on McRoberts would indicate that the Heat is no longer pursuing veteran free agent Pau Gasol, who was also considering offers from the Spurs and Thunder.
Minutes after news broke on Monday that McRoberts was headed to Miami, a report linked Granger, a former Pacers and Clippers forward, with the Heat. Yahoo!Sports reported the deal between the Heat and the 6-8 small forward at two years and $4.2 million. That would indicate that the Heat is using its bi-annual exception on Granger.
Operating as a team over the cap, the Heat would have one more exception in its pocket to help build the roster. The team can still use the trade exception worth $2.2 million that it acquired in trading Joel Anthony to the Celtics during the 2013-14 season. The Heat could use that exception to sign a point guard, or perhaps use it on Ray Allen or Chris Andersen.
Riley will remain busy this week before meeting with James at an undisclosed location, but his self-proclaimed mission to “retool” the team took a major first step on Monday. It’s easy to project McRoberts’ skill set in Erik Spoelstra’s offense and defense. A talented passer for a big man, McRoberts was often used as the fulcrum of Charlotte’s offense in its first-round series with the Heat last postseason. McRoberts delivered a passionate and standout performance against the Heat, averaging 11.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in four playoff games. He also picked up a hefty fine for an aggressive foul on James.
James has had memorable playoff run-ins with Granger as well. The former Pacers star was released by Indiana last season before being picked up by the Clippers.
Granger didn’t contribute much to the Clippers’ postseason run, but a summer of rehabilitation for knee problems could make him a positive contributor as a spot-up shooter.