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Skip-ping To Conclusions?

There was a time not too long ago when Heat president Pat Riley flat-out refused to bring in a point guard Rafer-alston--038593c824b30d71_medium to start ahead of anointed prospect Mario Chalmers.

Now, if the latest developments flow into fruition as expected, the Heat will soon have its second starting-caliber point guard to presumably jump ahead of Chalmers in the rotation.

But this is not about Chalmers, the so-so second-year guard who has been cast as the Heat's steal of the 2008 draft and the franchise's face for the present and future at the position.

It is, however, about the ability to improve the Heat's standing in the standings and in the basketball accounting department.

The Heat appears on the verge of a reunion with point guard Rafer Alston, who was bought out by the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday and could be in a Miami uniform by the time the team leaves Thursday for its six-game West trip.

In the process, the Heat on Tuesday dealt seldom-used reserve Chris Quinn, who has yet to play this season, to the Nets for a conditional second-round pick and some cash. Doing business this way saves the Heat in the high six figures - if not more - when it comes to the luxury-tax bill. Right now, Riley said the team is facing a $3 million bill at the end of the season.

If Alston comes, it would be for the league minimum, which would allow him to recoup some of the money he gave back to the Nets to get out of New Jersey. The Heat gets a veteran, playmaking, highlight producing point guard who guided the Magic to the NBA Finals last season before he was cast away.

In other words, he'd be the second Magic reject on the Heat's roster. And that's only if Carlos Arroyo is allowed to stay. Arroyo, signed during training camp and promoted to starter about 10 games ago, is in a precarious position. The Heat will have until the end of business on Wednesday to decide whether to guarantee the remainder of his veteran's minimum contract.

If Heat fans were polled about which point guards the team should keep, I'm assuming that the one the Heat has valued the most would finish last in the pecking order. Skip Alston gives the Heat a legitimate point guard who could hold his own against many if not most other point guards in the league.

Arroyo has done a solid job as the starter and has been one of the most efficient point guards in the league over these past 10 games in assist-to-turnover ratio. He won't flat-out win you any games. But he hasn't lost the Heat any during that span, either.

Chalmers, based on production, would be third in that order, with the way he's yet to really take that significant step forward the team was expecting this season after starting all 82 games last season.

The Heat has remained silent on these developments. But it has been clear that Riley and his staff have spent the past month intent on making a move that would reduce the tax bill and help the team in the short term. Among the reasons for Daequan Cook's recent rise in playing time could very well include the team's intentions to shop the third-year, struggling shooting guard and reigning three-point All-Star champion.

Act_chris_quinn But Quinn appears to be the collateral damage in this case. Truth is, that could also be said of Arroyo, because there might not be an overwhelming reason to keep him on board in this cost-cutting scenario. And it would be a shame if that were to be the case. A real shame. But that's business as well.

Credit Riley. It's the second time in as many trades that he'd essentially be replacing end-of-the-bench fodder for a productive starter. Alston could add the same punch to the Heat's roster in the final year of his deal that Quentin Richardson has made since he arrived last summer for Mark Blount.

At the end of the day - or by Thursday, with Skip having to clear the waiver wires - it's a win-win for the Heat if this thing works out as planned.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)


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