The offseason dominoes began falling into place for the Heat on Saturday.
Team president Pat Riley was informed that Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade decided to exercise the early termination option in their contracts, according to sports agent Henry Thomas, and the moves put into motion a plan that could retool the Heat's roster for another run at the NBA Finals. The ultimate goal, of course, is to keep LeBron James in Miami and then add some new talent around him, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“Today we were notified of Dwyane’s intention to opt out of his contract and Udonis’ intention to not opt into his contract, making both players free agents,” Riley said in a statement. “Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life.
“Udonis has been the heartbeat of this team for 11 years. He has sacrificed countless times to make this organization successful, and he is the epitome of what this organization stands for. We look forward to meeting with Dwyane and Udonis and their agent in the coming days to discuss our future together.”
Bosh remained undecided on his contractual future on Saturday afternoon, but will soon need to inform the Heat of his decision. The deadline for opt outs is June 30 and teams and players can begin negotiating free agency on July 1. As Heat fans went into meltdown mode on Twitter on Saturday and conflicting reports began popping up about Bosh, the Heat's center didn't seem too concerned.
"James Rodríguez is a beast!" Bosh wrote on Twitter after the Colombian midfielder's wonder-strike in the first half of his team's World Cup match against Uruguay.
Bosh said early this season and again in the playoffs that he would take less money for the 2013-14 season to remain in Miami and keep the Heat's core together. According to a report by ESPN, Bosh is seeking a new five-year contract worth between $15-$16 million per season. Bosh is currently on the books for over $20 million for next season. Wade was also under contract for more than $20 million next season and Haslem was set to be paid $4.6 million.
In the end, Saturday, June 28, 2014, could be remembered as another landmark day in the history of Miami Heat offseason roster building. The team did the unthinkable in 2010 when it lured Bosh and James to Miami to join Wade, and now a second imagining of that superteam could be in the works.
Haslem was the first to opt out of his contract on Saturday with Bleacher Report first reporting the story. That sent off a frenzy of speculation throughout the day, and then Wade followed suit with the Associated Press first reporting Wade's decision. James opted out earlier in the week. For the Heat, a best-case scenario as free agency begins is that its star players collectively agree to take less money spread out over more years in a collective effort to free up cap space.
From there, Riley would have the financial flexibility to pursue free agents. Carmelo Anthony would be the top choice, but reports have surfaced that the Heat isn't currently an option. Point guard Kyle Lowery has also been linked to the Heat. Other options include 6-11 center Marcin Gortat or guard Trevor Ariza.
James could be seeking a max contract, according to a report by Yahoo!Sports, but he could also take less money to help the team. Wade is expected to take less money now that he opted out.
Either that, or the team could be facing some serious decisions if players choose to return under max contracts. If Bosh opts out on Sunday, which he is expected to do, then the Heat would have a record $55 million of cap space entering free agency. Other than Bosh, the Heat's only other player currently under contract is backup point guard Norris Cole. Draft pick Shabazz Napier is set to join the team for next season as well.
James and Cole worked out together on Saturday in Miami, another small sign that the two Ohio natives would be returning to the Heat next season.
"Off season is the real season!" James tweeted, along with his customary hashtag, #StriveForGreatness.
James, too, later watched the Colombia-Uruguay World Cup match. Naturally, the Heat's James was rooting for Columbia's James.