During a summer of jaw-dropping contracts, Dion Waiters was the exception: a talented player who took seemingly below market value.
Waiters, speaking to reporters for the first time since joining the Heat in July, said Monday he could have signed elsewhere for more than the $2.9 million he will make this season, with a $3 million player option for 2017-18. That $2.9 million is less than half he was due if he hadn’t opted out of his Oklahoma City contract.
But a conversation with team president Pat Riley convinced him to sign here.
“What stuck out to me is he really cared about me being in great shape, taking my game to the next level,” Waiters said. “I believed in him. At that moment, I didn’t really care about the money…. It was where I felt comfortable going and being happy. That is what it’s about with me, being happy.”
Waiters, 24, said in three weeks he has dropped his weight from 234 pounds to 222 and his body fat from 10 percent to 7.5 percent.
Waiters, who averaged 9.8 points for Oklahoma City last season and 12.8 in a four-year career, said he isn’t thinking about filling Dwyane Wade’s shoes as Miami’s potential starting shooting guard.
“Just know I’m a man on a mission,” he said.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said: “He has committed to get in world class shape, better shape than he’s ever been in his life. That’s the first step…. We were excited to add him. He doesn’t need to fill anybody’s shoes.”
Riley, who has been with the franchise for 21 years, said Monday that he “has had thoughts the last couple years of moving on… but I woke up this morning and I was just excited…. about another season, another build, another group of young guys that have been coming in here since Aug. 1.”
Riley, 71, said “every single time I've always thought about [my wife] Chris and I just moving on, there's always something else that pulls you back in…. But after 50 years of being around the NBA, I think you can leave at any time on your terms whenever you want to do it. But there's a couple things that have to happen as far as I'm concerned.”
Riley explained how Heat decisions are made: “I'm not the only leader in this front office. The smartest guy in that room is [GM] Andy Elisburg…. Without him we wouldn't be anywhere. But he's not the smartest guy on the court. So, we have a ying-yang, Andy and I.
"Nick [Arison] as the CEO ..., when we sit in meetings, Nick will sit and listen and then… he'll say something and I'll say: 'Wow, I didn't think of that in that way.' So, there's a lot of wisdom Nick has. I think a lot of that comes from his father [owner Micky Arison]. His father is in the meeting and Spo is in the meeting, too. So, there's five of us that are sort of in the decision making process.”
But Riley said a plan of “succession” is needed: “I think that's important. I want to make sure that Micky is comfortable with everything before I make that decision. We've had a discussion about that. And when you're 71 years old you have a right to talk about that with you boss.
"I'm not going to leave this damn thing until we have the right people running it. I think I could right now and there would still be the right people running it. But I think we're one person short probably. The one that knows as much as that game out there as he does about this stuff right here."
• Riley hasn’t had contact with Dwyane Wade since Wade signed with Chicago. Riley said he has finished an e-mail to Wade but “I just have to send it. I will. I love Dwyane.”
• Erik Spoelstra reiterated a desire to play up-tempo and “maximize” Goran Dragic’s skills: “You saw how we played the final three months of the season. You can probably expect something similar to that. We are not going to compromise the defense.”
• Of training camp that begins in the Bahamas on Tuesday, Spoelstra said: “I will be doing more evaluation in this preseason than any training camp I’ve had before, at least recent history.”
• For the first time, the Heat has hired a full-time shooting coach: Rob Fodor. “As talented as anybody I've ever seen in that space, a really unique basketball mind," Spoelstra said.
Fodor, who previously worked at Spoelstra’s youth basketball academy, was praised by several players on Monday, including Justise Winslow, who has tinkered with his shot under Fodor’s guidance.
For everything notable Spoelstra said today in his first interview since April, please click here.