Barry Jackson

Miami ‘is a potential destination that also appeals to Westbrook,’ report says.

‘I’m still chasing another championship,’ says Pat Riley

Pat Riley speaks about his future with the Miami Heat during an interview with Dan Le Batard on ESPN's SportsCenter.
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Pat Riley speaks about his future with the Miami Heat during an interview with Dan Le Batard on ESPN's SportsCenter.

We reported here earlier Monday that the Heat had expressed interest in a trade for Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook, and that interest has been conveyed to Oklahoma City.

And the interest appeals to be mutual. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported late Monday afternoon that not only has the Heat expressed interest, but Miami “is a potential destination that also appeals to Westbrook.”

Westbrook has four years and $171 million remaining on his contract, but that does not deter the Heat.

To complete a trade, Miami would need to send Oklahoma City salaries equal or slightly more than the $38.2 million that Westbrook is set to earn next season.

The Heat could do that with multiple packages, including a hypothetical package of Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard - who both have expiring contracts - and another player such as, hypothetically, Justise Winslow.

Miami cannot take salaries back in excess of what Westbrook is earning because the Heat is barely below the $138.9 million hard cap that it must operate under for the next year.

While the Heat can agree to trade Leonard at any point, the trade cannot be executed until the second week of September - two months after Leonard was acquired by the Heat.

Westbrook, agent Thad Foucher and OKC general manager Sam Presti have been discussing trade possibilities and all sides are “motivated to find a resolution sooner rather than later,” Wojnarowksi said.

Westbrook, 30, has played all 11 of his seasons with the Thunder and has averaged a triple double each of the past three seasons.

KZ Okpala
Former Stanford forward KZ Okpala, acquired by Miami on draft night with the 32nd overall pick, signed with the Heat on Sunday. Stanford University

OKPALA UPDATE

Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said it’s undetermined whether forward KZ Okpala, the second-round pick acquired on draft via via Indiana, will play on Tuesday against Orlando (4 p.m. EST, ESPN2) or even at all in summer league because he joined the Heat on Saturday and is still familiarizing himself with the team’s system.

“These guys have been going hard for almost two weeks and KZ just stepped in,” Glass said of Okpala, who couldn’t be with the Heat the first 10 days of its summer program because of league rules dictating trade timing.

“It’s unfair to throw him out to the wolves. He’s got to be comfortable and ready before we know that. And there’s no way to see into the future with that. We’ll take it day by day and see what happens.”

Asked if conditioning is an issue in Okpala not playing, Glass said: “We haven’t practiced hard enough to tell that. It looks like he’s in good shape when he’s moving up and down. Playing the game is much different than watching him go up and down here. [Okpala not playing yet] has only to do with acclimation.”


Okpala said he has no issue with the Heat holding him out of games but concedes “I love to play. I love to be on the floor and compete but I understand that I need to trust the process, and the coaches and organization [know] what’s best. I trust my coach and the organization and whatever they tell me is best.”


He said “some of the things I can pick up by looking at the playbook” but understands work in practice is needed to become fully acclimated.


The Heat - which signed Okpala to a guaranteed three-year contract worth $4.1 million - believes he can play either forward position but especially wants to see him at power forward.


“I have versatility everywhere,” he said. “If it’s a big guy coming in the post, I can use my quickness to get around them. And I know I can guard one through four really well. I can handle, I can bring the ball up.”



Asked what NBA players have similar games, he said: “I move a little bit offensively like Brandon Ingram, Trevor Ariza.”

Glass said he hasn’t been able to evaluate Okpala in person yet because of light practices. But watching him play at Stanford, Glass noticed: “He’s an intriguing ball-handler, shot it a lot better than I anticipated from three, and obviously has that length on defense everyone is looking for. Those are the things that popped out to me.”

Glass likes what he has seen in Eastern Kentucky rookie center Nick Mayo: “He’s a natural scorer, scored a lot of points in college... His

reliability on defense has been something impressive. He’s done a solid job there. I’ve been impressed.”

Leonard attended the Heat’s practice Monday in an attempt to continue to familiarize himself with teammates.

As of Monday afternoon, the Heat hadn’t signed Tyler Herro, which gives Miami a tiny bit of flexiblity under the hard salary cap that it will operate under for the next year. A draft pick who signs cannot be traded for 30 days. A draft pick who isn’t signed can be traded immediately.

Here’s my Monday piece on the Heat’s interest in Russell Westbrook, and analysts discussing how good he can make Miami if the Heat can trade for him.

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