Juwan Howard signs 10-day with Heat

Juwan Howard was on the floor for the final moments of the win

that clinched last season’s NBA championship for the Miami

Heat.

Turns out, that might not have been his last game as a pro.

The Heat brought Howard back on Saturday, signing the

40-year-old power forward to a 10-day contract. It will be his 19th

NBA season, and he’s expected to be with the team on Sunday when

Miami visits the New York Knicks.

And after the way Heat President Pat Riley described the move,

it doesn’t appear to be one made just on a whim.

”Juwan is a key part of the championship culture here in

Miami,” Riley said Saturday in a statement released by the Heat.

”He is essential to this team and can still play this game at a

high level in some of our biggest games yet to come. He has a

unique veteran savvy and will provide leadership and experience to

our team.”

The Heat did not practice Saturday before gathering to fly to

New York.

The move was one that the Heat were considering even last fall.

When the Heat won the NBA title – Howard’s first ring – he was the

first player back to resume workouts at the team practice facility,

doing so less than a week after 400,000 fans showed up for the

team’s championship parade through downtown Miami.

Howard said then that if he played again, it would be in Miami.

And when the Heat decided in September to not sign him to the

training camp roster, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that the club

would consider bringing him into the mix later in the season if

things worked out.

With an open roster spot and amid a very hectic March schedule –

18 games in all – the Heat apparently decided Saturday was right to

make a move.

Howard has played in 1,201 career games, including 85 over the

past two seasons with Miami, which originally signed him in July

2010. Heat players like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James both

consistently raved about Howard’s leadership role in the locker

room during his stint with the team, and Howard has been seen at

several Miami games this season.

According to STATS LLC, the signing of Howard means Miami has

four of the NBA’s top 19 active scoring leaders, the others being

Ray Allen (No. 5, 23,533 points), James (No. 8, 20, 562 points) and

Wade (No. 19, 16,109 points). Howard, for now anyway, is No. 18 on

that list, 29 points ahead of Wade.