Allen to opt-in; Heat turn focus to keeping Andersen
With Ray Allen picking up his player option, the Heat's offseason focus is now Chris Andersen.
By CHRIS TOMASSONFS Florida
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat got some important offseason business out of the way Friday.
Jim Tanner, the agent for Ray Allen, told FOX Sports Florida that Allen will pick up his $3.23 million option for next season. The Heat had very much wanted Allen to return.
Earlier Friday, a source had told FOX Sports Florida that Allen was expected back. However, it was not known whether he would opt in or opt out of his deal and then re-sign with the Heat.
"Both sides want to make it happen," said the source.
It has happened. Allen, who turns 38 next month, is back for at least another season.
There had been speculation Allen might opt out of his contract and re-sign with the Heat. He then possibly could have gotten as much as $3.708 next season. However, it was determined that the best tactic for Allen, who made $3.09 million last season, was to opt in. And he could re-sign with the Heat for 2014-15 for as much as $5.65 million using the NBA's Early Bird clause.
Allen will now play for his third championship next season. He won his first with Boston in 2008 and his second last week with Miami.
Allen saved Miami’s season with a dramatic 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last week that forced overtime. The Heat eventually beat the San Antonio Spurs in overtime that night and went on to claim Game 7 for their second straight championship.
"I do know that we want him back," Heat president Pat Riley said earlier this week about Allen, who averaged 10.9 points in 25.8 minutes last season while shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range.
What Riley really wants now is to re-sign center Chris "Birdman" Andersen after free agency begins Monday. He played a key role for the Heat after joining the team in January.
"We would love to have Chris back," Riley said. "Right now,
Chris Andersen is highly respected in this organization."
Andersen’s situation, though, could be a bit tricky. While indicating he wants to return, when it comes to negotiations, Andersen told FOX Sports Florida, “We’ll see what happens.’’
Miami could use the non-Bird exception (yes, the Birdman doesn’t have Bird rights) to give Andersen a 20-percent raise over last season’s minimum salary and pay him $1.68 million. But if that doesn’t cut it and the Heat are determined to bring back Andersen, they would have to use their $3.183 million taxpayer mid-level exception.
While Andersen’s agent, Mark Bryant, has told FOX Sports Florida his client "absolutely wants to come back," he said it would be "totally unfair" to speculate on a salary. It must be said that Andersen will be paid $4.82 million next season by Denver, which released him last July as part of the NBA’s amnesty provision.
What happens with Andersen could play a role in Miami’s chances of landing free-agent center Greg Oden, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since December 2009 due to knee injuries. Riley has confirmed the Heat’s interest in Oden, and his agent, Mike Conley, reiterated last week his client’s interest in Miami.
However, if the Heat have to dip into their $3.183 exception to re-sign Andersen, it’s possible that could hamper their chances with Oden, who might not be willing to sign a minimum contract. Then again, the market will determine what sort of deal Oden can get. Other teams in the mix include Cleveland, San Antonio, Charlotte and Boston.
Two other notable impending free agents have told FOX Sports they have interest in the Heat. But it remains to be seen if either guard Chauncey Billups or center Samuel Dalembert will be considered.
There might not be many roster spots available considering Riley wants to bring back mostly the same team. Of the 15 players who finished last season with Miami, only forward Juwan Howard, 40, doesn’t look to have much of a chance to begin 2013-14 on the roster.
Even though a more punitive luxury tax goes into effect next season, Riley has said he doesn’t want to let guard Mike Miller go in July as part of the amnesty provision. There has been speculation center Joel Anthony could be an amnesty victim, but the Heat are thin with big men. And Anthony, making $3.8 million each of the next two seasons, would not provide huge luxury-tax savings, meaning it might be more beneficial for Miami to perhaps use the one-time provision in a future year.
Forward Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed deal for next season worth $788,872. But it must be seen how he looks in summer leagues in July in Orlando and Las Vegas before his chances of sticking around can be fully assessed.
Also playing in the summer leagues will be athletic swingman James Ennis, who was acquired by the Heat after being drafted with the No. 50 pick in the second round Thursday by the Atlanta Hawks. Until Ennis is looked at, it’s difficult to evaluate any chance he has of making the team next year or whether he might be stashed overseas.
For now, though, the Heat’s primary focus will be on re-signing Andersen.