- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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Because of their limited spending power and the multiple areas of their roster that need shored up, the Miami Heat might have to get a little creative in free agency.
That could be part of their plan to address the center position.
The Heat are considering making a run at restricted free agent Greg Oden, league sources said. Oden, who hasn't played in nearly two years after suffering two different knee injuries, has a key doctor's examination this week when he could be cleared to resume contact practices.
Oden has a one-year qualifying offer from the Portland Trail Blazers for $8.9 million on his plate at the moment. The most the Heat could offer is the bulk of the $5 million mid-level exception.
For these reasons, it would seem like an easy choice for Oden if he can return to the floor, which could come as early as January. By making the hefty qualifying offer, the Blazers indicated they have not given up hope even though Oden has only played 82 games since being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007.
But Heat president Pat Riley is known for his powers of persuasion and last year convinced free agent after free agent to take less money to sign in Miami. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller all took less money than they were offered elsewhere.
It happened right up until March, when Mike Bibby gave up $6 million guaranteed for this season so he could sign with the Heat for a few months at a portion of the league minimum.
The Blazers maintain matching rights for Oden but sources say Riley still is interested in making the pitch.
Nene is believed to be intrigued by the Heat, but with numerous teams bidding on him he's likely vastly out of the Heat's price range.
Dalembert, who maintains a home in South Florida, seems like a good fit and there is mutual interest. However, sources said the Kings are expected to make a push to re-sign Dalembert and have the ammo to make a bigger offer.
The Kings need to spend $17 million to reach the new salary floor and overall are about $25 million under the salary cap. They have been telling agents that they intend to be aggressive in spending.
Brown has numerous suitors coming off his most productive season in eight years. He is believed to have interest in re-signing with the Bobcats as well.
The Heat are in the market for perhaps two wing players but center still is their biggest need. Since the end of last season Zydrunas Ilgauskas retired and Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magloire became free agents. Already they had formed the oldest center rotation in the league, an issue that dogged the Heat at times in the playoffs.
Currently their options are playing Bosh or Joel Anthony out of position or hoping for young prospect Dexter Pittman to quickly blossom. They also have been monitoring Eddy Curry for months and may offer him a spot in training camp.
Including Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler, the free-agent center market is relatively flush this year. League executives have indicated there's also a few centers available in the trade market. With three All-Stars and the core of their Finals team back the Heat are not in any way desperate.
However, their center situation is a priority and this could be the last year they have the ability to use their full mid-level exception for several seasons because of the rules for luxury tax-paying teams in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Brian Windhorst covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.
11hMichael C. Wright