You start here: Confidence in older players both financially and strategically is nothing new with the Miami Heat during the quarter-century-plus of the Pat Riley Era.
So for all the outside consternation regarding the deals signed in the 2021 offseason by Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler, deals that take Butler into his mid 30s and Lowry into his late 30s, such has been the approach beyond this current Heat pay/age ratio.
Yes, there have been moments that have created pause along the way, including hardball with franchise icon Dwyane Wade at age 34 in 2016, when he felt slighted and signed with his hometown Chicago Bulls, or even this past summer, when there was initial trepidation about extending a three-year deal to P.J. Tucker at age 37, with Tucker instead signing such a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers (luxury tax proved to be more of a factor there for the Heat than age).
Still, there have been ample Heat/Riley contracts for the ages, including several with ample payoff from players signed by the Heat in their 30s, most notably Shaquille O’Neal and arguably, even now, Butler.
Victor Oladipo, 2022, age 30, two years, $18 million: This was somewhat of a compromise deal, with Oladipo moving off an initial one-year, $11 million agreement in order to provide the Heat with greater cap flexibility while providing Oladipo with the insurance of an option year. At the moment, taking that extra year proved prudent on Oladipo’s part.
Kyle Lowry, 2021, age 35, three years, $85 million: The Heat reportedly were the only suitor willing to go three years out, fully guaranteed on the deal that will take Lowry through his 38th birthday. While this season’s start has been uneven, Lowry helped lift the Heat to last season’s best record in the Eastern Conference before a playoff injury marred his postseason and cast questions moving forward.
Jimmy Butler, 2021, age 32, four years, $184 million (extension): Butler will be 37 at the end of the agreement that kicked in this season, with the Heat seemingly bidding only against themselves with the extension. Still, Butler arguably was as solid as any player this side of Stephen Curry in last season’s playoffs and remains among the league’s elite.
Andre Iguodala, 2020, age 36, two years, $30 million (extension): The agreement proved to be for only one season, with the Heat opting out of the second year of the extension. But the contract was the price for being able to acquire the veteran forward at the 2020 NBA trading deadline, a move that helped fuel the team’s run to the 2020 NBA Finals.
Goran Dragic, 2020, age 34, two years, $38 million: As with Iguodala’s extension, this was a nuanced deal, with the Heat able to use the second season to balance the 2021 offseason sign-and-trade for Lowry under the salary cap. To a degree, this was a payoff for services rendered in helping the Heat advance to the 2020 NBA Finals.
James Johnson, 2017, age 30, four years, $60 million: No, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The Heat got out of some of the money on the back end with the deal at the 2020 NBA trading deadline for Iguodala and Joe Crowder, leaving the Johnson contract with somewhat of a positive payoff.
Dwyane Wade, 2015, age 33, one year, $20 million: This was before it got ugly a year later, with Wade’s 2016 free-agency departure to the Bulls. A year earlier, the Heat prioritized Chris Bosh in 2014 free agency, which started what turned into an ugly Wade spin cycle.
Chris Bosh, 2014, age 30, five years, $119 million: In an ultimate game of hardball, Bosh demanded a max deal in the wake of LeBron James’ defection hours earlier back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then came Bosh’s blood clots the following two seasons. If not for the illness, this well still could have proven a value deal.
Mike Miller, 2010, age 30, five years, $29 million: Not necessarily a bad deal, considering there were championships in 2012 and ‘13. Still, three years into the deal, with Miller dealing with nagging injuries, the Heat released him through the amnesty provision, in a cap-saving move. It was, in the end, a contract that opened eyes to adding an older contributor.
Shaquille O’Neal, 2005, age 33, five years, $100 million: To a degree, this was the contract the Los Angeles Lakers did not want to pay when they dealt O’Neal to the Heat in the 2004 offseason. The upshot was a Heat championship in 2006, a declining O’Neal from there, and eventually offloading of the deal to the Phoenix Suns before the third of the five years on the deal was completed.
Tim Hardaway, 2000, age 34, one year, $12 million: This was a grudging acknowledgement of previous services rendered but also the beginning of the end of Hardaway with the Heat, a contract tied to weigh-ins and conditioning factors. A year later, Hardaway was playing for the Dallas Mavericks for $3.4 million.
IN THE LANE
STILL GOING: Speaking of players for the ages, Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan said part of his fuel for Wednesday night’s 37-point outburst against the Heat at FTX Arena are those who view him on the downside at 33. “I have no clue where people get that from,” DeRozan said. “All seriousness, I don’t even know what you base it off, where you get it from. Can’t nobody ever speak for me. I know what I put into this game in the offseason, how much I love this game. I can assure you that not many guys in this league work as hard as I do.” As for heating up after a nine-point first half against the Heat, DeRozan said it had nothing to do with starting slow. “That’s my MO,” he said. “Beginning of the game, I just want to help us get open shots, kind of walk the game down. It’s a long game; it’s 48 minutes. It’s not all about coming out, trying to score, score, score right away. It’s about feeling out the game.”
STILL THERE: Linked to trade rumors for years, including several involving the Heat, former West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman standout John Collins told The Athletic that he is relieved to still be a member of the Atlanta Hawks. “I try to just take it as respect that other teams want me and the Hawks aren’t giving me up,” the sixth-year power forward said. “That’s the best way to look at it, because I do want to be here. At the end of the day, it’s not my decision, and while I can get emotional, it’s business. Through the years I’ve had a harder time accepting it, being in the position I am now. I try to do as many things as I can to not think about it much and have it on my mind. I just try to come in here and work.”
KZ 2.0: While the opportunity was created when prized first-round pick Keegan Murray was sidelined by NBA health-and-safety protocols, yes, that was former Heat forward KZ Okpala in the Sacramento Kings’ opening-night roster. Okpala, who had been out of the league since being sent by the Heat to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a salary dump at last February’s NBA trading deadline, played 16 scoreless minutes. “What I like about KZ,” first-year Kings coach Mike Brown said, “is he’s a guy that knows he’s got to defend. He’s got to take the best player. He’s got to run. He’s got to offensive rebound. He’s got to do all the little things to free up some of our other guys to do what they do.” Okpala’s salary guarantee was boosted to $500,000 by making the Kings’ opening-night roster.
JUSTISE, TOO: Among those Okpala went against in the Kings’ opening-night loss was former Heat teammate Justise Winslow, who now is getting minutes in the power rotation in the Portland Trail Blazers’ small-ball alignment. Of casting the 6-foot-6 Winslow at center, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups told The Athletic, “Justise is a bulldog. He’s strong. You are not just going to back him down and throw him around.” The Heat will get to see both Winslow and Okpala on their impending West Coast trip, playing Wednesday in Portland and Saturday in Sacramento.
10. Undrafted players on the Heat opening-night roster, the most in the NBA. No other team has more than seven and only six of the league’s 30 teams have at least six. the Heat’s 10: Jamal Cain, Dewayne Dedmon, Udonis Haslem, Haywood Highsmith, Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, Dru Smith, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Ӧmer Yurtseven. The only drafted players on the Heat roster are Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo and 2022 first-round selection Nikola Jovic.
Source: Berkshire mont