Though Heat wanted D-League, James Ennis heads to Australia

MIAMI — The Miami Heat wanted James Ennis to play in the D-League. But he has his family to worry about.

Ennis, taken with the No. 50 pick by Atlanta in June’s draft and then traded to Miami, will play next season for the Perth Wildcats in Australia. But Ennis said Sunday that wasn’t the Heat’s preference.

“They wanted me to go the D-League,” Ennis said by phone to FOX Sports Florida. “I basically put my family first. My family is struggling (financially), and I want to help support them. So that’s why I’m going (to Australia).”

The Heat wanted the swingman to not come to training camp and hopefully join the D-League’s Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce. The Heat recently entered into a sole-affiliation agreement with the team, so that would have enabled them to look after Ennis closely with coaches they control while retaining his rights.

But D-League players don’t make more than $25,000 for a season unless they are on an NBA contract. And the Heat didn’t want Ennis to be in the D-League making an NBA minimum salary of $490,180, which would have counted against their roster and led to them to pay additional luxury tax.

Ennis will make much more money in Australia. His agent, Scott Nichols wouldn’t give precise figures, but said his client’s deal with the Wildcats is worth “six figures.”

Ennis, who is from Ventura, Calif., and played at Long Beach State, has five brothers and sisters. He said his mother, Denise Taylor, is disabled and can’t work and his father, James Ennis, works doing painting.

The Heat still will retain Ennis’ rights. He has an opt-out clause that would allow him to leave the Wildcats for the NBA during the season and still get his full Australian salary. But it’s much more likely Ennis won’t join the Heat until 2014-15.

“They said that I have a real good shot to be on the team next year,” Ennis said.

For now, Ennis will leave Thursday for Australia. Training camp starts next week and the regular season begins in early October.

“I’m very excited,” Ennis said. “I don’t know much about Australia, but it’s going to be a really good opportunity.”

While Ennis will be helping his parents out financially, he won’t be bringing them to Australia to see him play. He said they’re both afraid to fly.

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