- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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"This is a great place for me, both to rejuvenate myself and I feel like I can help this team," Curry said Saturday after his first practice with the Heat at AmericanAirllines Arena. "I never gave up hope. I knew this opportunity was here. I can tell you that I'm feeling good and I'm on path to help these guys do something special."
After months of lining himself up for a chance to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, Curry on Saturday signed a one-year contract with the Heat for the veteran's minimum and will compete for a key role in a power rotation that was in desperate need of bodies.
The Heat are hoping to fill a huge void with a massive center in Curry, drafted fourth overall by Chicago in 2001, has battled weight problems and off-court issues for much of his career. During his time with the New York Knicks, where he last had a meaningful role, Curry was listed at 7-feet and 295 pounds. But his weight is believed to have ballooned as high as 350 pounds at times over the past three seasons, when he played only 10 games. He was traded to Minnesota last season and released.
Curry worked out twice for the Heat late last season, but team president Pat Riley wanted to see Curry improve his conditioning even further over the lockout. Curry arrived for training camp appearing much trimmer and a lot less rusty than some of his new teammates anticipated.
"He went through all the work, even more so than everybody else," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said of Saturday's practice with Curry. "We kept him in there a little longer to get him more reps. He was dunking today. Easy. Me, LeBron and some other guys were talking on the side about how light he is on his feet. When you drop that kind of weight, you're more confident on and off the floor."
Haslem went through a similar conditioning challenge at the start of his NBA career when he lost nearly 70 pounds after leaving the University of Florida and before he signed as a free agent with the Heat in 2003.
James said all eyes were on Curry for much of the practice.
"He looked well," James said. "He got up and down the court. Right now, it's a feel-out process for all of us. But it's good to see him back on an NBA court. I know he's happy about that. It's been a long time coming for him. There's no expectations right now. He shouldn't put any on himself. But we're happy to have him."
Riley runs one of the most strict franchises in the league when it comes to meeting conditioning demands. Players routinely are tested for body-fat percentages and have faced significant fines for failing to maintain expected conditioning standards.
Curry declined to say exactly how much he weighs, but said that Riley was encouraged by the shape he's in at the start of camp.
"I still have a ways to go," Curry said. "I'm happy. I believe he's happy. I'm healthy. The key is to remain healthy and push every single day, doing extra work, to put myself in position to help this team. I have more faith in myself than anybody. Brighter days are ahead and this is the first step."
Curry has averaged 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent from the field over nine NBA seasons. He's appeared in 511 games, including 410 starts. Haslem said he and veteran Juwan Howard have committed to monitoring Curry each day to offer support and guidance as he gets acclimated to the Heat's system.
"Obviously, these guys are on another level here," Curry said. "I've known these guys for a long time. I've got work to do, and I'm going to do it. I'm going to give it my all."
Michael Wallace covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.
1dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann