Best known in college for helping beat Memphis in the NCAA championship game, Chalmers was traded by Miami to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday in a four-player deal that helps the Heat move closer to escaping would be a very punitive tax bill after the season.
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The Heat also sent little-used forward James Ennis to the Grizzlies, who gave up point guard Beno Udrih and power forward Jarnell Stokes in the deal.
"Rio can hold his head high, leaving on a great note here," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He’ll always be remembered as a two-time champion point guard here in Miami, welcomed in Miami from here on out."
The trade ends months of questions about the status of Chalmers, an eight-year veteran and the starting point guard on the 2012 and 2013 NBA title teams in Miami. His contract seemed one of the most likely candidates to be moved in Miami’s quest to escape the repeater tax and have maximum flexibility on the free-agent market next summer.
The trade doesn’t get Miami under the tax line, but moves the Heat significantly closer. And it gives Miami’s younger players, like second-year point guard Tyler Johnson, a shot at more minutes.
"Sometimes you’ve got to give people room to really grow," Heat President Pat Riley said. "Now, we’re going to miss Mario. We love the guy. Been here seven years, won two championships. This is not an easy day for me and the organization."
Chalmers was averaging 5.5 points on 31 percent shooting this season for the Heat, and Ennis had been scoreless in seven minutes of action. Udrih averaged 5.9 points in eight games with the Grizzlies, and Stokes was scoreless in four minutes off the bench.
With Chalmers as a starter, including playoffs, the Heat went 292-164. He had many memorable nights with the Heat, including a 25-point effort in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals when Miami took command against Oklahoma City en route to the title, and a 2013 game in Sacramento when he made 10 3-pointers and finished with a career-best 34 points.
But his biggest shot may still be the one in the final seconds to force overtime in the 2008 NCAA title game, when he and Kansas defeated Derrick Rose and Memphis.
"I always get booed there," Chalmers said before the Heat went to Memphis last season. "Always."
That may change now.
Miami will be Udrih’s seventh team. He also has played for San Antonio, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Orlando, New York and the Grizzlies. In a somewhat odd twist, the left-handed Slovenian would figure to help back up another left-handed Slovenian in Miami, with Goran Dragic being the Heat starter at the point.
Chalmers’ teammates made clear he will be missed.
"Days like this aren’t fun," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "Rio’s a brother."
Among those on the Heat roster, only Wade and Udonis Haslem, both in their 13th season with the club, had been in Miami longer than Chalmers. But those tax realities made him seem expendable and this season’s start didn’t suggest otherwise. Chalmers was 1 for 11 from 3-point range so far, shooting just 10 for 32 overall from the floor.
Stokes and Heat rookie Josh Richardson were Tennessee teammates in college. Udrih and Dragic have been teammates on Slovenia’s national team before, including at the 2006 world championships.