- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat released veteran guard Eddie House Saturday to clear space on their final 15-man roster for rookies Terrel Harris and Mickell Gladness to be with the team for Sunday's season opener against the Dallas Mavericks.
House, 33, has missed all of training camp and the preseason following his Nov. 1 arthroscopic left knee surgery. He opted into the second and final season of his two-year, $2.8 million contract last summer. The decision to cut House, who was drafted by Miami 11 years ago and was in his second stint with the team, was a bit surprising considering the Heat's preference to surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with experienced veterans.
But the Heat's recent rash of injuries has also played a role in personnel decisions over the past couple of weeks. With House expected to be sidelined for about another month, Miami was short on depth along the perimeter. Free-agent addition Shane Battier practiced Saturday, but remains questionable for Sunday's game against the Mavericks with a strained thigh muscle.
The Heat will also be without swingman Mike Miller, who is recovering from hernia surgery and is not expected to return until mid-January. The Heat's only healthy perimeter reserves behind Wade and James are veteran James Jones, Harris and fellow rookie point guard Norris Cole.
"We had to make tough decisions, and this was an extremely tough decision," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Saturday's practice as the team prepared to travel to Dallas. "Eddie's been a guy that started his career with us. We drafted him. He's part of our Heat family. It was unfortunate that we had to make that decision. We feel that the two young guys we added really add something to our group in terms of energy, youth and athleticism. And we are a little short-handed in terms of wing players."
House has played for nine teams and averaged 7.5 points in 717 games over his 11-year NBA career. He was a productive member of the Heat's bench last season, when he averaged 6.5 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range in 56 games.
But House's inability to practice in camp gave younger prospects a chance to impress the coaching staff. Harris, a 6-4 guard who went undrafted out of Oklahoma State, shot 57.1 percent from 3-point range in the Heat's two preseason games. But his most impressive play came in the first exhibition game against Orlando when, at a 100-pound weight disadvantage, he stepped in front of bruising Magic forward Glen Davis to draw a charge. That play inspired praise from Heat veterans Udonis Haslem, Wade and James.
"I just tried to come in here, work hard and do whatever they told me to do -- and more," Harris said. "Just standing up to Big Baby was one of the things that, I guess, really opened the eyes of some of the people upstairs. I come from Oklahoma State, and that's what we learn -- defense and not to be scared of anybody. I just took that and ran with it."
As a bonus for making the team, Harris gets to play his first NBA game in his hometown Dallas, where his family and friends will be part of an unexpected homecoming of sorts. Gladness, a 6-11 shot-blocking center who was cut by the Heat in training camp last season, was prepared for either outcome. He had one bag packed to head back to one of the NBA Development League teams he played for last season, and another set aside for the Heat's trip to Dallas.
Gladness said he figured out which bag he would need when he arrived to the Heat's practice facility Saturday morning for the team's breakfast. That's when Heat assistant and NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo congratulated him on making the roster. Miami has just one experienced center available in Joel Anthony while veteran Eddy Curry works his way back into NBA shape after playing only 10 games the past three seasons.
"They both simply overwhelmed us with their effort, desire -- their want this week," Spoelstra said of Harris and Gladness. "They continued to make us watch."
The holiday timing of the accomplishment for Gladness made it even sweeter.
"This is probably the best Christmas gift that I've ever gotten in my life," Gladness said. "I probably would have said, when I was younger, when I got a Sega Genesis for Christmas. But this just tops that."
Michael Wallace is an NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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