Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade indicated after the season Chris Andersen might have to make a financial sacrifice for the good of the team.
The Birdman did just that.
Andersen might have been able to get more money elsewhere. However, on Wednesday, the free-agent center signed a deal with the Heat that will be worth at least $1.68 million for one year. He also has a player option for 2014-15 for $1.76 million.
“It was not a financial decision,” Andersen’s agent, Mark Bryant, wrote in a text to FOX Sports Florida. “It was an effort of a joint commitment of trust, family and championships that is personified from top to bottom with the Heat organization.”
There was never any doubt Andersen would return to the Heat. Bryant and Andersen both had indicated that after the season to FOX Sports Florida. At a rally last month to celebrate the team’s second straight championship, Andersen yelled to the crowd, “Let’s try to get a three-peat next year.”
“I’m excited to be back with the Heat,” Andersen said in a statement. “I believe we have an opportunity to (win another title) and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Andersen, 35, wasn’t part of the Heat’s first championship in 2011-12, but they might not have won a second had he not signed been last January to what initially was a 10-day contract. Andersen, who hadn’t played during the first part of the season after being an amnesty cut last July by Denver, became a factor immediately with his tremendous energy.
“We are ecstatic that Chris Andersen has decided to stay with the Miami Heat,” team president Pat Riley said in a statement. “We would not have won the championship without him and we are looking forward to him having an even better season next year.”
If the Heat had used the taxpayer mid-level exception on Andersen, he could have received a contract worth as much as $3.183 million for next season. But that would have hampered the Heat even more from a luxury-tax standpoint. Also, Andersen will be paid $4.82 million by the Nuggets this season after getting $4.53 million from them last year.
Andersen made the prorated minimum last season of $1.39 million with the Heat. However, under the non-Bird exception (yes, the Birdman didn’t have Bird rights), he was able to get a 20 percent raise for next season, making his salary $1.68 million. He is entitled to a 4.5 percent raise for 2014-15, which he would get if he doesn’t decline his player option.
“Chris has deep respect for Pat Riley, Erik (Spoelstra, Miami’s coach) and the entire organization,” Bryant wrote about Andersen, who as a key reserve averaged 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in the regular season and 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in the postseason while shooting an NBA playoff-record 80.7 percent. “This is coupled with the same for his teammates. . . . He is positioned with all to keep writing the history (of the Heat).”
Re-signing Andersen was Miami’s top priority when free agency started July 1. The Heat now have 13 players for next season under guaranteed contracts and Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed deal. The NBA roster limit is 15.
It’s possible the Heat could end up using their taxpayer mid-level exception, although nothing is imminent. The Heat are having discussions with Mike Conley Sr., the agent for free-agent center Greg Oden. But Oden hasn’t played in an NBA game since December 2009 due to injuries and he obviously would have to be looked at carefully before any possible signing.
In the meantime, some Heat players have been willing to settle for less money. Guard Ray Allen picked up his option last month for $3.23 million when he could have gotten as much as $3.708 million had he opted out and re-signed using the non-Bird exception.
When Wade spoke of Andersen after the season, he said that “Birdman has some great examples in front of him. Everybody that came here pretty much took a pay cut to be here.”