The gigantic increase in the NBA salary cap this summer has been both a blessing and a curse to different NBA teams. While the Miami Heat were fortunate to retain the services of starting center Hassan Whiteside, they were forced to offer him the max in order to prevent him from walking away. But starters Luol Deng and Joe Johnson have now departed for greener pastures, with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz, respectively, offering them big bucks to lure them away. Now it appears that not just one Heat Lifer but two of them could be swayed as well.
Much has been made of the financial sacrifices that Dwyane Wade, who has somehow never been the highest paid player on the Heat, has made in his career. But so has Udonis Haslem, who has consistently taken below market value time and time again in order to stay with his hometown team for 13 seasons. With perhaps one last contract to sign before he calls it quits, Haslem may be tempted to sign with another team to secure a hefty pay raise.
Minnesota and Denver are among the NBA teams that have expressed interest in Heat forward Udonis Haslem— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) July 2, 2016
The key word there is "among", which means that there could be other teams interested in UD as a veteran mentor. Haslem has been stuck at the end of the Heat bench for a while now, but was always good for a few solid minutes -- especially once Chris Bosh was unable to play after the All-Star break.
But in this crazy offseason where lesser teams have plenty of cap space and are ready to spend it, Miami is left with precious little of it remaining after having to utilize it to retain Whiteside and possibly sign Kevin Durant while also needing to circle back to Wade and even Tyler Johnson.
The deal on Haslem: He wants more than the minimum, which is all the Heat have to offer, unless he can get their $2.9M space exception.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 2, 2016
And there's this interesting passage from Skolnick's latest post for the Miami Herald.
Chris Bosh is now being counted upon even more than before. If he can't play, the Heat don't have a power forward on the roster, other than Josh McRoberts, whom they're still trying to deal to clear cap space. Udonis Haslem and Amare Stoudemire are free agents, and the Heat hasn't shown all that much interest in either, just preliminary contact with Haslem's camp (he's attracting interest from the Wolves and Nuggets, among others, as a veteran mentor) and hasn't reached out to Stoudemire's at all yet.
Of course, once the dust settles with the Durant meeting then the Heat's vision moving forward in this hectic offseason will become that much clearer. Still, it's hard to forget what Pat Riley said about Haslem after the Heat's season ended in Toronto.
"Whatever he wants," Riley said of retaining UD. "Really. Come on.
"He learned more than ever about leadership this year. He thought about what he'd have to bring every day to the team. When he started to think that way, he brought it from the court to the bench to his team, and what he got out of that was the respect of his teammates and he got a great result. Who's to say that UD wasn't the reason that locker room was so copacetic? That's not an easy thing for a player to do.
"That's what we want: a player that wants to play and preaches to the players," Riley said. "To me, he's like Dwyane or Zo. He's a forever guy."
What do you think? Should the Heat offer more than the minimum to Haslem, who turned 36 last month, or let him go?