When the Miami Heat signed Dion Waiters to a two-year, $6 million contract last summer, many thought that this partnership would be brief. The Heat were moving forward with a young core of Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside, and Waiters stood as a scorer, albeit an inefficient one, who came on the cheap and could replace some of Dwyane Wade’s production. Waiters had a player option the following year, so he could make more money next summer, after which Johnson and Josh Richardson presumably had grown into more prominent roles in the backcourt.
Well, if this Heat season has proven anything, it’s that things don’t go according to plan — even after the mid-point of the season.
With the Heat making an improbable playoff run, thanks in large part to Waiters’ clutch shooting, the Philadelphia native said to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson that he wants to stay in Miami.
“I want to get it done as quick as possible,” he told Jackson. “Let's keep this thing rolling by any means. I don't want to go into free agency with a couple days and make a decision. I don't want that. I know where I want to be. Let's just get it done. My mom loves it here. Would be mad at me [if I left]. My son loves it. My family loves it.”
Waiters has played well enough this season to demand a significant pay raise this summer. And if the Heat make the playoffs and Waiters has some good games, that will only bolster his case in free agency. The question for Pat Riley centers on whether he will try to use his newfound cap space -- likely coming after the Heat waive Chris Bosh — on a perennial All-Star like Blake Griffin.
And even though Waiters expresses a desire to stay in Miami now, that could quickly change if Waiters hears an offer from another team that far exceeds what Pat Riley is willing to make. We’re still a long way out from free agency, but the former Syracuse player’s apparent happiness with the Heat is a good sign.