LeBron James spoke with Mike Bibby after a game last week, and the NBA’s two-time reigning MVP is keeping the exact details of that chat private.
This much is known: It was a recruiting pitch.
”I gave him the eye,” James said. ”And I guess the eye worked.”
By Wednesday night, James and the Heat will know for certain.
The Heat cleared a roster spot Tuesday by parting ways with Carlos Arroyo, and although the team made no formal pronouncements because of NBA rules, several players – James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers among them – said they expect to have Bibby aboard soon.
Miami announced the Arroyo move in time for the veteran guard to sign with another team and be eligible for its postseason roster.
”This was a very difficult decision to make because Carlos has done a great job for this team and this organization,” Heat President Pat Riley said. ”He is truly a first class individual and professional. We wish him nothing but the best.”
Bibby was traded by Atlanta to Washington last week. The Wizards and Bibby reached a buyout agreement on Monday, and Bibby could be in uniform for the Heat as early as Thursday night’s game against Orlando – meaning the Heat, at a crucial time of the season, will likely be giving someone on-the-fly training about how they play the game.
”It’s easier with veteran players with high IQs and if you have a definitive system and philosophy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”Which we do.”
Bibby doesn’t clear waivers until Wednesday, so Spoelstra could not speak about him specifically.
”If Mike is coming here soon, which we all believe, he’s going to help us out tremendously,” James said.
The Heat had conversations with other players who hit the market through buyouts, including Troy Murphy, who is expected to sign Wednesday with Boston.
Spoelstra said he cannot wait for the speculating about what’ll happen with Miami’s roster to end.
”Once you get past this date, you can focus on absolutes – who you have and who you don’t have,” Spoelstra said. ”And we’re close. … I feel that our team is good enough.”
Miami (43-17) entered play Tuesday one game behind Boston (43-15) and a game ahead of Chicago (41-17) in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bibby averaged 9.4 points and 3.6 assists as a starter with Atlanta this season, his 13th in the league. If he joins Miami, the Heat would become his fifth NBA team, a list also including Vancouver, Sacramento, the Hawks and the Wizards, with whom he shot 1 for 9 in two games after the trade that he said caught him by surprise last week.
He’s also appeared and started in 80 postseason games, which is more than any other current Heat player. James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been in 71 playoff games, all during their time in Cleveland together.
”Certain moves are surprising and unexpected,” Wade said. ”The Mike Bibby (trade) was probably the most surprising, unexpected move. A lot of people think it was the Kendrick Perkins move (from Boston to Oklahoma City), but I think it was Mike Bibby. No one expected that. He became available and when opportunities present themselves you’ve got to jump on them.”
Arroyo was not at practice and did not immediately respond to a text message. He started 42 games for Miami this season and played in seven others, but logged only 27 minutes of court time since Jan. 30 – more than half of that coming in a Feb. 16 game at Toronto.
”It’s never easy,” Wade said. ”It’s always bittersweet, especially in this situation for Carlos. You look at it, he was doing a great job starting, really didn’t do anything wrong. It’s very unfortunate. The one thing we can do is hope that he ends up in a good situation.”