If LeBron James wants to come back to play for the Miami Heat, Josh Richardson certainly isn’t going to fight it.
The Heat’s 24-year-old starting small forward — and arguably its most enticing trade chip — said Wednesday he’s excited about the possibility of James, a four-time MVP, making his way back to South Florida this summer.
“I mean I think we have great pieces to offer to play around him,” said Richardson, who is out in Santa Barbara, California, training and looking to add some bulk to his 6-6, 205-pound slender frame this offseason. “We play with a lot of intensity. We’ve got a lot of dog in us. You need that in the trenches. That’s all I can really say about it.”
After the Heat was eliminated in only five games in the first round of the playoffs, team president Pat Riley said his goal this summer was to try and find a way to add “a transformational player” to the roster. He said nobody on the team was off-limits via trade.
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But Miami faces a lot of obstacles in upgrading the roster. The Heat has 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $120 million (including a couple undesirable deals). That puts the Heat way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line.
James has to decide by June 29 if he’s going to opt into the final year of his contract with the Cavs ($35 million) and potentially force a trade or hit free agency. The Heat’s only real chance at landing James is via sign and trade.
So what if the same roster from last season comes back? Can the Heat improve? Richardson believes so.
“I think Dion [Waiters] brings a lot of things to the table. He brings a lot of creation, a lot of defensive intensity, and just a lot of things that we were kind of lacking a little bit at the end,” Richardson said. “You never know what the front office is thinking or what they want to do. I feel like a lot of the NBA is just a waiting game at this point.”
▪ Considered one of the best young defenders in the league, Richardson said it took him a couple days to get over not being selected to the NBA’s All-Defensive team last month.
“I was pretty pissed about it,” said Richardson, who signed a four-year, $42 million contract extension last September to stay with the Heat and is due to make $9.367 million this coming season. “I thought I made a good case for it. I still think I’m one of the best defenders in the NBA but I can’t sit around and sulk about it. I’m not too bent out of shape about it anymore. But it’s definitely one of my goals to make those teams.”
▪ After saying Sunday he thought close friend and former Heat teammate LeBron James would make his decision regarding his basketball future more about his family than ‘teaming up with three All-Stars,’ Dwyane Wade tried Monday to hammer home the point he doesn’t know for sure what the four-time MVP will ultimately do.
“Let’s let the record show… I don’t have any inside information whatsoever about his decision!” Wade tweeted.
James, 33, reportedly will speak to the Heat — amongst a handful of other teams — before making a decision about his future. But he said himself after the Cavaliers were swept in the Finals that he would like to be around his three children more. His eldest son, Bronny, 13, is reportedly going to enroll at Sierra Canyon School in Los Angeles according to Black Sports Online.
▪ Wade, meanwhile, has yet to make a decision on his future, but reiterated Sunday he would prefer to continue playing with the Heat if he does return for a 16th NBA season. Wade is eager to be around more often to watch his 16-year-old son, Zaire, a 6-2 point guard at American Heritage School in Plantation.
If you were wondering, in his interview with former Heat teammate Caron Butler and Yahoo Sports NBA writer Chris Mannix for Fox Sports, Wade said there’s yet to be a 2-on-2 matchup between the Wade and James father-and-son duos.
“Just being a Dad, you just want to see your kids [do] something they love and give everything to it,” Wade, 36, said of Zaire. “My son, he’s 16-years-old now. I’m just watching him give everything to it man – and for me that’s enough. I’m just enjoying being able to go on official college visits with him and things of that nature.
“The one thing he has that I have and he has it better than me because he has it at a younger age is his vision. His vision is special. It’s real special. I saw it in third grade. It’s crazy. Me and LeBron went to Zaire’s first game out here in Miami when he moved here. He got in, came off the bench. He got the ball. Someone took it out and threw it to him at halfcourt. He made a no-look pass to a big underneath the rim. This is third grade. I said ‘Oh. He got it.’ He’s just got to put everything else with it now. And he’s a lefty.”
HEAT SUMMER LEAGUE SCHEDULE
The NBA on Tuesday released its schedule for the Las Vegas Summer League from July 6-17. The Heat, which will also play three games in the Sacramento Summer League July 2-5, will play a minimum of four games in Vegas and seven games overall this summer.
July 2: vs. Warriors, 9 p.m.
July 3: vs. Lakers, 9 p.m.
July 5: vs. Kings, 5 p.m.
July 7: vs. Pelicans, 5 p.m. (NBA TV)
July 8: vs. Hornets, 5 p.m. (NBA TV)
July 10: vs. Jazz, 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
July 11-17: Playoffs, consolation round