Barry Jackson

Hayward meeting goes well for Heat, with player turnout strong

AP

The Heat made a strong presentation to free agent Gordon Hayward on Saturday and emerged believing it went very well.

Hayward was greeted by five Heat players - Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and free agent James Johnson. He also met with president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning and several other coaches and executives.

Besides telling Hayward all of the obvious positives of playing here - weather, lack of state income tax, the Heat culture and championship pedigree - coaches also explained to Hayward how the offense would play to his strengths. The meeting lasted several hours.

The Heat plans to sit tight, and not make any significant moves, until Hayward makes a decision, which is expected a day or two after he visits Boston on Sunday and Utah on Monday.

The Heat would be left with $5.7 million in cap space if it signs Hayward to a max deal, starting at $29.7 million.

But that amount would be increase to $9.7 million if Josh McRoberts is released and his cap hits are stretched over three years - something Miami would be receptive to.

In that scenario, the Heat very likely would offer its remaining cap space to James Johnson or Dion Waiters, if both remain uncommitted at the time. The Heat could offer either a contract starting at that $9.7 million and worth close to $42 million over four years.

There’s strong support in the organization for both Johnson and Waiters, and it won’t be an easy call which one to target if Hayward commits to Miami. Johnson’s presence at Hayward’s meeting Saturday was another indication of his team-first approach.

Johnson has said he will wait out Hayward’s decision; Waiters hasn’t been interviewed recently and thus hasn’t said if he will do the same.

Waiters has been talking with the Bulls, Knicks and Kings, according to the Associated Press.

The Heat also has a $4.3 million cap exception, but that likely wouldn’t be enough to keep Johnson or Waiters. That exception cannot be combined with cap space.

Hayward has always been by far Miami’s No. 1 priority in free agency and the Heat doesn’t believe any of the remaining outside free agents warrant mega-deals.

If Hayward eschews the Heat, the Heat likely will try to retain most of last year’s team and also could make a play for a few veterans, with Rudy Gay among those interested in Miami.

But the Heat believes it left a very strong impression on Hayward, amid an earlier report by The Ringer and NBA TV that Miami is now considered the favorite by several people in the league.

• Boston’s meeting with Hayward on Sunday will include coach Brad Stevens, GM Danny Ainge, ownership, guard Isiah Thomas and center Al Horford, according to The Boston Herald.

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