Heat want Ray Allen to return
MIAMI -- Soon after stepping off the double-decker buses that carried them through the city for Monday's championship parade, the Miami Heat quickly shifted their focus to keeping Ray Allen on board for another title run.
Allen, the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history, could opt out of the second year of his two-year contract by this weekend and test free agency next month.
The Heat have made bringing back Allen, 37, their initial offseason priority after the 17-year veteran helped to save Miami's title hopes with a clutch 3-pointer to send Game 6 of the NBA Finals against San Antonio into overtime. The Heat beat the Spurs in Game 7 to complete their rally from a 3-2 series deficit to win the title.
"I put the bug in his ear in the shower after the game," Heat forward and co-captain Udonis Haslem said Monday, referring to a conversation he had with Allen after Game 7 on Thursday. "I told him, 'I'm not going to put no pressure on you. I'm not going to ask you what you're going to do. But just know that I'm thinking about what you're going to do.'"
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Haslem said Allen didn't offer a response as the Heat celebrated their second consecutive championship.
"I don't know if that's good or bad," Haslem said.
Monday was the first time the entire team was back together at AmericanAirlines Arena since Game 7. But there was plenty of discussion during Monday's parade and rally inside the arena about keeping the team intact for a shot at a third straight title run next season. That, however, stands to be an expensive proposition for the Heat, as the luxury-tax penalties stiffen significantly for next season.
The Heat will be facing a potential luxury-tax penalty that could range from $14 million to $28 million next season for excessively exceeding the league's salary cap. Miami has about $80 million in salary commitments for next season, which doesn't include a $4 million team option to bring back starting point guard Mario Chalmers.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will give Allen a few days of space before outright trying to convince him to stay. But Spoelstra said the Heat began their recruiting pitch in earnest Monday by allowing Allen to see the impact he has on their success as they all relived the postseason run.
"We think the ultimate recruiting pitch is what we just did," Spoelstra said. "But we won't take that for granted. There will certainly be communication between us and Ray. He was such an important piece of what we did. We think even if it was just that one shot, it was worth it. There were so many things that he provided. And he fit. His personality fit. His professionalism fit. He helped guys get better."
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For that reason, teammates say it's a simple call for Allen.
"He's coming back," center Chris Bosh said. "There's really nothing else to think about. We respect each other's space, but there's only one decision to make. So it's easy."
Allen is one of two key members of the rotation who either will or could become free agents next week. Veteran center Chris Andersen will be an unrestricted free agent after signing midway through the season for a pro-rated portion of the $1.4 million veteran's minimum. The Heat would also like to re-sign Andersen, but he might command more on the open market.
Andersen told fans Monday he'd like to return to "three-peat next year."
Next to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Allen and Andersen drew the loudest cheers as they were introduced individually to the more than 10,000 fans, family members and season-ticket holders who had access to the arena rally that followed the downtown parade.
Allen averaged 10.9 points and shot 44.9 percent from 3-point range during the season. Allen was also Miami's top target in free agency last summer after spending the previous five seasons with Boston, where he also won a title with the Celtics in 2008.
Allen has given no indication about his future plans, which could also include retiring after his second championship. There were times during the season when Allen said he struggled to find a comfort level with his rotation role. This was the first season that Allen served as a full-time reserve. But he came on strong late in the postseason, shooting 15-of-27 from 3-point range over his past eight playoff games.
As he was introduced to fans Monday, video highlights of Allen's game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 against the Spurs was played on the arena's big screen. Allen then told the crowd how he was initially reluctant to call it the biggest shot of his illustrious career until the Heat were back on the court two nights later for Game 7.
But that's when Allen's perspective changed, and he realized if it weren't for that shot, "we wouldn't be here."
"There were so many moments that allowed that shot to happen," Allen said. "I have to say that was the greatest shot I ever hit in my career."
Allen wasn't among the players who spoke to reporters after exit interviews Monday, but he told fans during the ceremony he has enjoyed his time in Miami from the start.
"When I got here, the first two weeks, it felt like I've been here for two or three years," Allen said. "That's the kind of brotherhood we have on this team, on and off the court."