Sometimes when you come across a good thing the timing just isn’t right.
Willie Reed found himself in that situation last summer.
The 6-11 center found what seemed like a perfect match with the Miami Heat. He starred on Miami’s Summer League team for four games before the Brooklyn Nets approached him with a one-year, $500,000 deal and a chance to make his NBA dreams come true.
“It was definitely difficult, but I had to take care of my family,” said Reed, who after playing 39 games with the Nets last season found his way back to the Heat this summer, signing a two-year deal with Miami at the veteran’s minimum last week.
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“Obviously I had played in the D-League three years prior and just being able to have an opportunity like that — some excitement for my wife, my two young boys — I had to make sure I made the right decision to be able to take care of them. Now that I was able to do that, I was able to come back [this summer] and make a decision that I thought was going to best fit myself.
“I’m more than excited. Obviously I have a great opportunity here, something I’m familiar with.”
The Heat, in the midst of a roster revamp after the loss of starters Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson in free agency, has become one of the better teams in the league at turning former D-League players into real contributors.
That’s something Reed, 26, is banking on for his future and was a big reason why he told his agent when free agency began to get a deal done with Miami the moment they offered him a minimum contract.
Reed also said he likes the young core of players the team has with Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. Reed said he already has spoken with Winslow, Richardson and Johnson since signing and is looking forward to talking and learning from Whiteside, who went from playing overseas and in the D-League to signing a four-year, $98 million maximum contract with Miami this summer.
“I realized I got better in that short span in those couple of weeks [I was with the Heat last summer] than I did most of [last] season [with Brooklyn],” Reed said. “I knew [the Heat] did a great job of being able to develop players. They had a way with the players, being able to communicate with them as well as get the best out of them, and I thought, ‘What better opportunity [will] I have this summer than to go to a team that helped me grow so much?’ ”
Reed made an impression with the Heat in the 2015 NBA Summer League, making four starts and averaging 13.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 25.5 minutes while shooting 60 percent from the field. He led Miami to a 4-0 record while leading the team in rebounds (31), blocks (seven) and field goals (21).
But then the Nets signed him. He ended up making two starts for Brooklyn while averaging 4.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 10.9 minutes. He scored in double figures six times and led the team in blocks 13 times, second-most on the team.
Reed’s impact might have been bigger with Brooklyn had he not sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb in a preseason game against the Boston Celtics. He underwent surgery and didn’t make his NBA debut until Dec. 4. But Reed’s minutes became sporadic from late January on after the Nets fired coach Lionel Hollins, who liked Reed a lot.
Reed said he has been working out with the Heat’s training staff four days a week and returning home for the weekends. He plans to continue that schedule — with a couple of breaks in between — until training camp starts.
“Obviously my defense is ahead of my offense at this point,” said Reed, who spoke to a collection of local kids Tuesday while participating in the Heat’s youth basketball camp at Nova High.
“So I’ve been working extremely hard to make sure I get better on the offensive end. I think working with [assistant coach] Juwan [Howard] and some of the other coaches on the coaching staff will help me get even better with my offense.”
Reed went undrafted out of Saint Louis in 2011 and played in Spain and the Dominican Republic between stints in the D-League. He tried out for the Kings, Grizzlies and Pacers before he ran with the Heat and eventually signed with the Nets.
Reed was a D-League All-Star in 2014-15. In three seasons in the D-League, he appeared in 144 games (101 starts) and averaged 15.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 31.4 minutes while shooting 58.4 percent from the field.
His path to NBA has been rough, but that’s part of the message he wanted to convey to some young players Tuesday.
“I’m trying to start a foundation I’m calling No Excuses just to give underprivileged kids a chance to go to college,” Reed said. “I know growing up like that it was going to be tough for me. But I didn’t want to make excuses for it. So I continued to work.
“I thought I was going to be a draft pick and be in the NBA. I had to go through the D-League, spend some time there and then I finally got my opportunity. It’s not over yet. I still have to make my story. Everyone’s road is different. Like I always say, I took a road most people wouldn’t take but took an opportunity most people would die for. So I just want to be able to keep pushing through and I want them to keep pushing through and never give up on their dreams.”