The holiday season became a little more hectic for a few executives within the Miami Heat’s front office Monday.
An off day for the team turned into a chance to upgrade the roster when it was announced that power forward Josh Smith was waived by the Detroit Pistons.
With Smith expected to clear waivers Wednesday and become a free agent, the Heat contacted Smith’s representatives to gauge the interest of Smith filling a major hole in the Heat’s frontcourt, the Miami Herald learned.
Houston and its loaded lineup was the top suitor to land Smith on Monday, according to reports, but the Heat made a compelling case for the talented and versatile player who fell out of favor with coach and team president Stan Van Gundy in Detroit.
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With power forward Josh McRoberts likely out for the season with a knee injury, the Heat is lacking at the position and Smith could fill the void.
Smith’s sizable contract with the Pistons was guaranteed, which will make him a coveted free agent. Teams will be able to pay Smith a fraction of his $13.5 million contract for the remainder of the season; he is in the second year of a four-year, $54 million deal with the Pistons.
The Rockets, Kings, Grizzlies, Heat, Mavericks and Clippers all expressed interest in Smith on Monday.
The Heat is limited in what it can offer Smith, and it’s impossible to project whether he would be a long-term fit with the franchise, but there’s no debating that he could help the team make the playoffs this season.
The Heat (13-15), which plays the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena, is one of several teams in the Eastern Conference that are expected to fight for a low playoff seed throughout the season.
“We’re in the Eastern Conference,” Dwyane Wade said last week. “You’re not that far out.”
The Heat is seventh in the East standings and one game back of the Milwaukee Bucks, which recently lost rookie lottery pick Jabari Parker for the season with a knee injury.
Smith has had a dreadful start to the season with the young and rebuilding Pistons, but with veterans such as Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Luol Deng on the team, there’s confidence within the Heat’s organization that any player could experience a renaissance.
The Heat took a chance on Chris Andersen during the middle of the 2012-13, and that gamble paid off. Andersen resurrected his career and provided the Heat with the inside presence the team needed to repeat as NBA champions.
On the other hand, the Heat rolled the dice on Michael Beasley last season and the team’s former first-round draft pick was a bust in Miami for a second time.
The Heat has made a commitment to the future with the young players populating a third of the roster, but Smith at a bargain price might be too much to pass up. To make room for him, one of the young players would need to be released. What’s more, the team would likely need to give up hope on McRoberts rejoining the lineup later in the season.
McRoberts, who tore his meniscus last week, was scheduled for surgery either Monday or Tuesday. The Heat can apply an injured-player exception for McRoberts to give them $2.65 million to sign Smith, but McRoberts would then be unable to rejoin the team until next season.
How Smith would affect team chemistry is also a concern. The Heat is just now beginning to show signs of gelling. On Sunday, the Heat defeated the Celtics 100-84 without Wade and Bosh. Bosh missed his fifth consecutive game with a strained calf and Wade sat out due to a sore right knee.
It was the second game in a row that the Heat showed signs of improvement. The team played well in a loss to the Wizards on Friday.
“It was just good for the guys to show real cohesiveness when we could have felt sorry for ourselves,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You felt like a real cohesion, a real connection. Guys were encouraging each other when they were coming back to the bench.
“We just built on [Friday] night. Everybody that played had a positive impact and it was the same thing. You felt a real cohesion. Guys would go into the game and other guys were encouraging them, ‘Hey give us four or five good minutes.’”
Tuesday: 76ers AT Heat
When/Where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV/Radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM, and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).
Series: 76ers lead 52-51.
Noteworthy: The Heat can tie the all-time series record at 52S with a victory. The 76ers are dead last in the Eastern Conference standings and have only won three games this season. Heat guard Dwyane Wade is questionable with a bruised knee. Chris Bosh is doubtful. He has missed five consecutive games with a strained calf. Reserve centers Hassan Whiteside (toes) and Justin Hamilton (headaches) are questionable.