Former Heat center Amar’e Stoudemire announced his retirement on Tuesday and did so after signing an honorary one-day contract with the New York Knicks.
“I want to thank [Knicks owner James] Dolan, [team president] Phil [Jackson] and [general manager] Steve [Mills], for signing me so that I can officially retire as a New York Knick,” Stoudemire, 33, said in a statement released by the Knicks.
“I came to New York in 2010 to help revitalize this franchise and we did just that. Carmelo [Anthony], Phil and Steve have continued this quest, and with this year’s acquisitions, the team looks playoff-bound once again. Although my career has taken me to other places around the country, my heart had always remained in the Big Apple. Once a Knick, Always a Knick.”
Though his role with the Heat wasn’t quite what it was when he was with the Knicks or the Phoenix Suns, Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star, did make an impact in Miami.
After agreeing to a one-year, veterans minimum contract to chase a championship with the Heat last summer, Stoudemire played in only three games prior to Christmas. But his role expanded significantly after Hassan Whiteside went down with an injury on Jan. 20 at Washington.
He started 36 consecutive games — even after Whiteside returned — and averaged 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game over the stretch. The Heat went 23-13 with Stoudemire in the starting lineup.
But after the first two games of Miami’s opening-round playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets, Stoudemire’s role diminished. He didn’t play in Games 5 through 7 against the Hornets, and then sat out the final two games of Miami’s season-ending series loss to the Raptors — even with Whiteside out with a knee injury.
Stoudemire expressed his dissatisfaction with his lack of playing time after Miami was eliminated.
In 14 seasons, Stoudemire averaged 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds and played in 846 games for the Suns, Knicks and Mavericks. He was named to five All-NBA teams (two first teams, three second teams) and was the 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year. He played for the United States in the 2004 Olympics.
Stoudemire spent his first eight seasons in the league with the Suns and made five All-Star appearances with Phoenix, but obviously felt a closer connection with the Knicks.
New York went to the playoffs three times with Stoudemire on the roster but never got out of the first round, getting swept by the Boston Celtics in 2011, losing 4-1 to the Heat in 2012 and then losing 4-2 to the Indiana Pacers in 2013.
WHY WAITERS TOOK LESS
New Heat shooting guard Dion Waiters explained on Instagram on Tuesday why he took Miami’s $2.9 million room exception instead of a more lucrative offer elsewhere.
“I didn’t do it for the money. I did it for the opportunity to go out and ball and have fun,” said Waiters, who after being taken fourth overall by the Cavaliers in the 2012 NBA Draft reportedly struggled to get along with teammates in both Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
“Everything else will take care of itself!!! I just felt like it was the best situation for me and my family. I could have waited and got [what] I wanted. But I rather be happy than miserable at the end of the day!!! Meaning you can have everything and still not be happy. #heatnation let’s get it. #provethemwrong.”
In a statement released by the Heat, team president Pat Riley said, “Dion is not a Room Exception player.”
“He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization,” Riley said. “We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”
Waiters, 24, is expected to be the front-runner to replace 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade in the Heat’s starting lineup. But he’ll face heavy competition from former Nets guard Wayne Ellington, whom Miami signed to a two-year, $12 million contract this summer, and returnees Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson.
Riley said on July 16 the Heat was going to save its remaining $2.9 million cap room exception for February or March. But that was two days before the Thunder rescinded its $6.8 million qualifying offer to Waiters making him an unrestricted free agent.
Waiters, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal that includes a player option for the 2017-18 season, averaged 9.8 points for the Thunder last year, but had several big games as part of Oklahoma City’s second unit in the playoffs.