Monday, July 12, 2010
Haslem stays with Heat; Miller joins in
ESPN.com news services
Udonis Haslem is staying with the Miami Heat and Mike Miller is joining him.
Haslem signed a five-year deal Monday worth around $20 million, roughly $14 million less than he could have received if he accepted more lucrative offers from the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets.
"This is a combination of having a great opportunity to win, which is why we play this game, and an opportunity to still stay close to my family and be with my mother," said Haslem, whose mother has been ill for some time. "And also, the opportunity to be a part of something special. We all play this game to win. I've never been a person driven by money."
Miller's agent, Arn Tellem, confirmed the sharpshooter's intention to sign a five-year free-agent contract with the Heat on his blog Monday.
Shortly after ESPN.com reported Monday that the Nuggets had joined the Mavericks in the bidding with a strong offer, Haslem sent an e-mail to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reading: "Turned down full mid level from Dallas and Denver. See u next season."
The Nuggets, after being foiled in their pursuit of Jermaine O'Neal, extended a multiyear offer to Haslem starting at the $5.8 million mid-level exception, just as the Mavericks did earlier. The New Jersey Nets were also interested in Haslem.
Denver had an even greater need than Dallas for Haslem. Two of the Nuggets' key big men, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, recently underwent surgical procedures that will rule them out for the start of the season.
But every team that showed interest in Haslem in recent days did so with pessimism that he could be lured away from Miami, given his strong ties to the area and a close relationship with Dwyane Wade.
"UD is here to stay. Sacrifices all ard. I'm couldn't b happier for any1 more then Mr Miami himself. My brother 4 life," Wade wrote on his twitter feed.
A week ago, Haslem expected he would sign elsewhere, but then the combination of a $58 million salary cap ($2 million more than expected) and the decisions by Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to take less money made it possible for the Miami High grad to stay where he wanted.
"Happy UD is staying put in Miami," James wrote on his Twitter feed. "Wouldn't have felt right if he wasn't a part of this."
Team president Pat Riley has often said that he wants Haslem to be a Heat lifer, such is the regard for the gritty forward's contributions to Miami's title team in 2006. Haslem, 30, earned $7.1 million last season and has averaged 10 points and 8.1 rebounds for his career.
"He is the epitome of what the Heat is about," Riley said. "He is our anchor, he is a true warrior and a great professional."
That's why Wade reached out to Haslem constantly during the free-agent process, if only to remind him that was the case.
"I would be changing my DNA if I left just for money," Haslem said.
Another factor for Haslem was Miller's decision to join the Heat -- something the team still hasn't formally announced. Miller and Haslem are extremely close friends, both former Florida Gators as well.
When Miller decided, Haslem knew he wouldn't play anywhere else.
"Nothing else for me to consider," Haslem said. "That's my boy from Day 1."
Tellem wrote on his blog Monday that Miller talked with four teams, not including the Heat, but that his future "hinged on LeBron's."
LeBron picked Miami, so Miller followed, and Tellem compared Miller to the Ringo Starr on this new Heat team of stars.
"Mike welcomes the chance to be the Ringo in a hot combo that already includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh," Tellem said.
Miller averaged 10.9 points a game on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 48 percent from beyond the 3-point arc with the Washington Wizards. He also contributed 3.9 assists a game in 54 games.
"Happy to have Sharpshooter and good friend Mike Miller join us!," James added on his Twitter feed.
Haslem's signing was announced about an hour before Miami's trade with Minnesota became official, in which the Heat sent Michael Beasley to the Timberwolves for a pair of second-round draft picks.
Beasley took over Haslem's job as the starting power forward last season, something Haslem went along with without complaining openly. Bosh will be the starter now, and Haslem doesn't mind that whatsoever.
"Coming off the bench behind a guy like Chris Bosh who has multiple -- what is the game they play in? -- All-Star game appearances, different things like that, I have no problem," Haslem said. "The hardest thing I had to deal with was just to give my job up."
With Bosh preferring to play power forward, and with the Heat not having an established center on the roster, that could mean the 6-foot-7 Haslem has to spend some time at the pivot this season.
If that's what coach Erik Spoelstra wants, so be it, Haslem said.
"We've already sacrificed," Haslem said. "Why stop sacrificing now? I'm committed to do what it takes to make this team successful."
He said he was watching Friday night's lavish introduction of James and Bosh, along with the re-introduction of sorts of Wade, with his son. Haslem was undrafted when he came to the Heat, was with the team through its first rebuilding phase, was a crucial factor in the 2006 championship run, then endured the indignity of the 15-win season in 2008.
"I couldn't believe it," Haslem said. "It just didn't seem real. It seemed like something out of a video game or something like that."
Nope, it's real.
And knowing his role will be to help protect Miami's new Big 3, Haslem said he'll keep his trademark braids -- although he considered getting a haircut after turning 30 earlier this summer.
"With the bulls-eye that's going to be on these guys' backs, I'm going to need these braids this year," Haslem said.
Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.