After a week of uncertainty on two fronts for the Miami Heat — trade rumors involving Mario Chalmers and the strange hospitalization of Gerald Green — some clarity arrived Tuesday.
Chalmers and reserve swingman James Ennis were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a multi-player swap to help trim the Heat’s luxury-tax bill. And Green, who was hospitalized last week after fire rescue and police were called to his Miami condo to deal with a “combative patient,” will return to the Heat on Friday. That’s after he’s done serving a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I want to apologize to my family, fans and the Heat organization,” Green said in a statement released by the team. “I accept the suspension and look forward to rejoining my teammates this weekend.”
Green missed his fifth game in a row Tuesday and fourth since he was hospitalized last Wednesday. A source confirmed to The Herald that Green was treated for dehydration at his apartment by a team official Nov. 3, the first game he missed (against the Hawks) with what the team referred to as an “illness.” Green was hospitalized the following morning.
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Beyond that, though, there are few answers.
Tuesday, Chalmers — whose name had been linked to trade rumors since the summer — finally got answers about his future. In a move that trims the team’s luxury tax by nearly $6 million, Chalmers was shipped off alongside Ennis, the team’s 2013 second-round pick, to the Memphis Grizzlies for 33-year-old backup guard Beno Udrih and 6-9, 263-pound backup power forward Jarnell Stokes. The Heat also received a $2.1 million trade exception in the deal, which they are unlikely to use.
“This is a tough day for myself and the organization in trading Mario Chalmers and James Ennis,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “Mario was a part of two championships with us and Ennis is a solid young player, but it is part of the business and it was a move necessary to make because of our crowded backcourt.”
The NBA’s tax line this season is at $84.7 million. To avoid the luxury tax, the Heat, which had the fourth-highest payroll in the NBA at $93.3 million before the trade, would have to bring its overall payroll down below that number. A team’s payroll is not computed until the end of the season.
Miami did not pay luxury last season, but was over each of the previous three seasons, which puts the team into the luxury-tax-repeater bracket this year. As a repeater, for every dollar Miami is over the tax level, it pays between $2.50 and $4.75 in luxury tax (depending on how far over the team is).
With Udrih and Stokes on the roster, the Heat’s payroll would be roughly $91.24 million. That would put Miami at $6.5 million over the luxury level and in line to pay $17.86 million in luxury tax at the end of the season.
Reserve center Chris “Birdman” Andersen could be the next player to go. If the Heat is able to find a trade partner for the 37-year-old Andersen, it could wipe his $5 million salary off the books and get close to being under the tax line.
Chalmers, who ranks fourth all-time in franchise history in games played (545), second in steals (791) and third in assists (2004), was averaging 5.5 points, 3.2 assists, 1.5 turnovers and 1.3 steals in 20 minutes a game this season. Ennis played a total of seven scoreless minutes over three games.
“We’re excited about the trade,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It cleans up a lot of things with our backcourt. We also add an experienced veteran point guard that we think will fit into how we want to play.
“It doesn't mean that it makes it easy to make these kind of deals. Rio can hold his head high leaving on a great note here. He will always be remembered as a two-time champion point guard here in Miami, always welcomed here in Miami from here on out.”
Udrih, a teammate of Heat point guard Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team, was averaging 5.9 points, 3.3 assists, 1.4 turnovers and 0.4 steals in 15 minutes per game off the bench for Memphis. Stokes, a former teammate of second-round Josh Richardson at the University of Tennessee, has played four scoreless minutes over two games this season. The Heat was interested in Stokes before the 2014 NBA Draft.
By dealing Chalmers, the Heat is opening the door for more playing time for former Development League pick-up Tyler Johnson and Richardson.
Johnson entered Tuesday averaging 7.0 points, 1.6 assists, 0.3 turnovers and was plus-30 for the season in 18.3 minutes per game. Richardson, whom the Heat likened to a bigger, younger version of Chalmers, was active for only the second time this season Tuesday. He went scoreless in seven minutes last Thursday against the Timberwolves.
“I think it gives us a lot of clarity,” Spoelstra said of the trade.
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson and columnist Ethan J. Skolnick contributed to this report