Miller’s wild Heat ride ends with amnesty release


MIAMI — He converted seven three-pointers against the Thunder in the game that gave the Heat the 2012 NBA championship. He started the June 20 Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the Spurs that gave the Heat their second consecutive title.

And now swingman Mike Miller, the Heat’s affable three-point gunslinger, is gone, essentially gone for good, after three seasons of playing alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, advancing to the NBA Finals in each of those seasons.

Invoking their one-time right to waive a player through the NBA’s amnesty-release program and alleviate their luxury-tax burden, the Heat made the move with the 33-year-old veteran nine hours in advance of Tuesday’s 11:59 p.m. NBA amnesty deadline.

“You’re going to miss walking out that tunnel with these guys, collecting that ring next year with these guys. Those are tough things. Those are things you’ll definitely miss,” Miller told the Sun Sentinel shortly after his release was finalized.

Just four days earlier, Heat President Riley insisted the Heat would bypass the team’s amnesty option, despite the millions of dollars such a move would save against the increasingly punitive luxury tax.

The organization’s tune changed Tuesday.

“After many discussions internally and a sincere effort to explore the trade market, we made a very difficult decision to use our amnesty provision on Mike Miller,” Riley said in a release. “Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat, helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back world championships.”

Riley had said that a final amnesty decision would come in consultation with owner Micky Arison. That collective decision led to Miller’s release.

“This was a very difficult decision for me personally, the Arison family, (coach) Erik (Spoelstra) and the entire Miami Heat organization,” Riley continued in his statement. “Mike was one of the best we have ever had here, and will be sorely missed. We wish Mike, his wife Jennifer and their family nothing but the best.”

By waiving Miller and his $6.2 million contract for next season, the Heat realize a savings of $17 million on the NBA’s luxury tax for this coming season, with that savings on Miller to rise to upward of $40 million over the next two seasons, with the tax becoming even more punitive for the 2014-15 payroll.

Miller said he appreciated the economics.

“You knew that with this team, the further they got down the line, the more and more expensive it was going to be to keep this team together. And you subtract the variables of the Big Three and who’s next in line?” said Miller, who, until Tuesday, had the fourth-highest salary on the roster beyond James, Bosh and Wade.

After the Heat announced the release, Arison posted on Twitter, “Thank you Mike Miller m33m for 3 amazing years. You’ll always be part of the MiamiHEAT family #2TimeChamp #LetItFly”

Under amnesty rules, Miller is not eligible to return to the Heat until after the 2014-15 season, the expiration date of the contract the Heat waived.

It also means no other Heat players can be amnestied for the balance of the current collective-bargaining agreement.

The amnesty program, adopted at the conclusion of the 2011 NBA lockout, affords eligible teams with eligible players a one-time opportunity to release a player without having that player’s salary count against the luxury tax or salary cap, while still paying off that player’s full salary.

For the Heat, only six players were eligible for an amnesty release this offseason, with a requirement that they had to have been under contract prior to the end of the 2011 NBA lockout. The six were Miller, James, Wade, Bosh, Udonis Haslem, and Joel Anthony.

“Honestly,” Miller said, “it’s disappointing, because, I think, being a part of this and going for a three-peat would have been an unbelievable ride and a story. But I’ve been blessed, as well. I came here and got two championships and I can’t thank them enough for that opportunity.”

Had the Heat instead made the amnesty move with Anthony and his $3.8 million salary for 2013-14, the team would have realized a luxury-tax savings of $9.5 million off its 2013-14 tax bill.

Before Miller’s release, the Heat were facing a $33 million 2013-14 luxury-tax payment to the NBA in addition to their payroll costs. That penalty has now been halved, making it possible the Heat now pursue moves with their $3.2 million taxpayer mid-level exception.

Once a player is released through amnesty waivers, he is placed for bid to all teams with remaining salary-cap space. If he is not claimed through amnesty waivers, he becomes free to sign with the team of his choice.