Mario Chalmers has been hearing his name in trade rumors since the summer.
They sparked up again Tuesday afternoon after ESPN reported the Heat’s 29-year-old backup point guard has been discussed in a potential trade with Memphis. The Grizzlies are reportedly looking to find a spark after being blown out by the Cavs and Warriors to start the season and are disappointed in the play of 33-year-old current backup Beno Udrih.
By trading Chalmers (he’s making $4.3 million this season) the Heat could not only slice its luxury-tax bill, but find a way to get more playing time for second-year pro Tyler Johnson and rookie Josh Richardson, who was finally active for the first time Tuesday against the Hawks with Gerald Green (illness) out.
Chalmers declined comment before Tuesday’s game, saying he would be available after the game. But he told ESPN earlier this week his future with the Heat is out of his control.
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“It’s definitely been tough, but I’m built like that … for tough moments, to deal with things,” said Chalmers, who has been a part of two championship teams with the Heat and ranks fourth all-time in games played with Miami, third in assists and second in steals. “I’ve always had the odds stacked against me. That’s what made me who I am.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra has been very complimentary of the way Johnson has played this season, and the way he has been unselfish about his minutes.
“He’s the epitome of coming in every day with an approach to get better,” Spoelstra said Monday after practice of Johnson, an undrafted free agent the Heat signed last January from their D-League affiliate. “It hasn’t been overnight. It’s been a year and change of consistent focused work every single day — in our D-League, in our training camps, pre-practices. He’s earned the confidence of this coaching staff, but more importantly of his teammates.
“When he gets his number called he makes the most of his opportunity without having expectations or entitlement for more even though you can make the case that he’s earned it.”
Teammate Chris Bosh said Johnson played “great basketball” in Sunday’s come-from-behind win over the Rockets and praised his energy and defensive ability.
“In think in the offense, he’s getting a lot more comfortable making plays for other guys,” Bosh said. “We know he can score on his own. He’s very talented doing that. But the next step is always getting other guys open shots, especially at that point guard position. He’s been doing an excellent job.”
CHARITY STRIPE SUCCESS
After finishing tied for 22nd in the league in free-throw shooting at 74.1 percent last season, the Heat entered the fourth game of the season Tuesday leading the league at 87.5 percent.
There’s a reason Miami has gotten better at the charity stripe, Dwyane Wade explained after practice Monday.
“Coach puts us on the line in the middle of practice and he puts us on the line after practice,” Wade said “This is the first time we’ve done it like this. We normally shoot afterward. Now, we stop in practice and shoot them when we’re tired in the middle of scrimmages, etc. And we compete. Every day it’s red versus white, who has the highest percentage. The other team runs. Coach made it fun, made it competitive.”
Said Spoelstra: “You can shoot 200 free throws after practice, but if you’re dry and not fatigued and not really even focusing on imagining it would be in a game-like situation, then they’re really kind of useless. So we actually try to shoot less reps, but with a little bit more focus.”
Wade entered Tuesday 20 for 20 from the free-throw line. The Heat as a team had just eight misses in its first 64 attempts. Even center Hassan Whiteside bragged how he made 46 of his 50 free throws in Monday’s practice.
“In these first three games we’ve shot it well. But we’re going to go through a point where guys are going to miss,” Wade said. “For the whole season we’ve got to try to get to a percentage that’s pretty good where when the game is on the line we step up and knock them down.”