James Ennis to play in Australia, Heat to retain rights

MIAMI — James Ennis is heading Down Under. But the Miami Heat will retain his rights.

Ennis’ agent, Scott Nichols, confirmed Friday night to FOX Sports Florida that Ennis has signed with the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s National Basketball League. The swingman was traded to the Heat on draft night last June after being the No. 50 pick in the second round by Atlanta out of Long Beach State.

Nichols had told FOX Sports Florida last Monday he expected Ennis to head overseas, He said at the time Ennis was considering teams in Australia, Russia, France, Italy and Germany.

“He got offered a lot more money in Russia and a little more in France,” said Nichols, saying he also was negotiating until the end with Russia’s BC Nizhny Novgorod and France’s Nantere. “But he got a full NBA opt-out in Australia, and that was too good to pass up. So it was a no-brainer. He can go back to the Heat any time during the season if they want him, and he would still get his full (Perth) salary for the entire season even if he leaves.”

While Nichols wouldn’t give specifics, he said his client will make “six figures” in Perth. Nichols called the Wildcats the best team in Australia and is impressed they play in a 15,000-seat arena.

“I can’t wait to get over to Australia and join my new teammates,” Ennis, who will fly to the country late next week, told the Perth team website. “Obviously, I would have liked to be playing in the NBA this season, but it’s a huge opportunity to develop my skills in a good competition and put on a show for the fans in Perth.”

Nichols said the move is best for all parties since the Heat have a very full roster and are having issues as a more punitive luxury tax enters the NBA next season. But Nichols said he expects Ennis to make the Heat roster in 2014-15.

“I would think that he will unless he gets hurt or something,” Nichols said. “The Heat really like him.”

The Heat like Ennis’ athleticism, his 3-point shooting and that he can play multiple positions. There should be room on the roster for him in 2014-15 at a minimum salary when the Heat likely will be watching costs even more as the luxury tax then gets even more punitive.

The 6-foot-7 Ennis averaged 14.3 points for Miami in four Orlando Summer League games. Then he averaged 12.7 points in seven games at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, including scoring 25 in the finale against Phoenix.

“I think he would have made any NBA roster the season except for the Heat’s,” Nichols said. “I think he was one of the top 10 NBA players in the summer league. There was a lot of interest overseas in him.”

The Heat currently have 13 players on the roster with guaranteed contracts and center Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed deal. It’s out of the question that the Heat, trying to save money, could carry just 13 players during at least some of next season.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com
or on Twitter @christomasson.