MIAMI -- After 14 years, Pat Riley finally has Juwan Howard.
Howard joined the Miami Heat on Tuesday, signing a deal that won't raise the ire of NBA officials -- unlike his first agreement with Riley. In July 1996, Howard signed a $100 million, seven-year contract with Miami that was ultimately voided by the league because the Heat had gone over the salary cap.
After all this time, Riley thinks Howard will fit his team again. And for a veteran's minimum salary, the NBA won't complain either.
"We feel that Juwan's ability to play both the four and five spot will be complimentary to what we have put together," said Riley, the Heat president. "He also gives us incredible professionalism and is a perfect fit behind Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem."
Howard becomes the 12th player under contract by the Heat for 2010-11, the sixth newcomer to join the rebuilt roster. Miami will be the ninth team for Howard, who will begin his 17th NBA season this fall. He appeared in 73 games with Portland last season and averaged 6.0 points, making 27 starts.
"I know about what happened. It's a great story," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said last week, when he learned that Howard signing with Miami was merely a formality. "He gets to come back here and hopefully he gets to have his first championship."
Howard agreed to the deal last week, and said he is thrilled to finally get the chance to play in Miami.
"I'm looking forward to working hard this upcoming season and contributing in any way I can," Howard said in a statement distributed by the Heat.
The Howard reunion of sorts with Miami is tinged in irony.
Riley originally signed Howard in what he thought was a blockbuster summer of 1996, seeing him as a huge chip to play alongside Alonzo Mourning -- who landed a $112 million deal from Miami in that same offseason. Instead, Howard arrives during the blockbuster summer of 2010, with Mourning now an executive who helped the Heat land LeBron James and Bosh.
"It's kind of ironic," Wade said. "It's sweet. I'm happy for him. ... We're getting a lot of experience. It's about the right fit and I think he can have that fit."
What Howard doesn't have is a championship ring, which is why he came to Miami.
For his career, Howard has averaged 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. Among active players, he ranks fourth in games (1,116), 15th in points (15,957) and 10th in rebounds (7,251). But his playoff career is largely nonexistent: Howard has appeared in just 29 playoff games (his teams are 9-20), and he's been out of the first round of the postseason only once.
Riley has watched Howard for a long time.
So has Wade.
Like Wade, Howard -- who was part of Michigan's "Fab Five" in the early 1990s, so he's got some base for comparison to the circus that awaits Wade, Bosh and James this season -- is a Chicago native. They work out at the gym owned by famed trainer Tim Grover in their hometown, though rarely together.
By the time Wade arrives most mornings, Howard is getting done with his daily regimen.
"I get there at 9 and think I'm there early, and he's done with his workout," Wade said. "That's our veteran. That's one of those veterans we respect so much because every time we walk in the gym, he's been there before us. To be at the point where he is in his career, we just respect him so much. He's a great guy, you want things to happen to good people."
With Howard signed, the Heat now have an inside corps of himself, Bosh, Haslem, Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and rookie Dexter Pittman. At guards and on the wing, Miami has Wade, James, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and James Jones.
Next up is likely the return of point guard Carlos Arroyo, who started 35 games for the Heat this past season. The Heat are still looking for at least one other veteran perimeter player, though any deal now would almost certainly have to be around a minimum-salary level because of cap rules.