MIAMI — The remodeling of the Pat Riley’s two-time championship creation received a major boost Saturday, with guard Dwyane Wade and forward Udonis Haslem opting out of their Miami Heat contracts, agent Henry Thomas confirmed.
While Thomas said that forward Chris Bosh “has not yet decided” whether he, too, would opt out, multiple media reports indicate that will be the next domino to fall in the process that began last week with forward LeBron James opting out of the final two years on his Heat contract.
Thomas represents Wade, Bosh and Haslem. James this season left the agency that represents those three.
It has become clear that the Heat’s stars, as well as other supporting players, have decided to work together to afford Riley the salary-cap flexibility to add another component to the roster that this month lost the NBA Finals 4-1 to the San Antonio Spurs.
James, Wade and Bosh ended the season with two years left on the free-agent contacts they signed with the Heat in July 2010. Haslem had one season left on his contract that he, too, signed in the Heat’s 2010 makeover. Each had an opt-out deadline of Monday. NBA free agency starts Tuesday, with the free-agency signing period starting July 10.
James and Bosh are opting out of the $42.6 million left on their contracts, with Wade opting out of the $41.8 million left on his deal.
Without opt-out decisions by the Big Three, the Heat would have gone into the offseason with little salary-cap flexibility.
This latest round of maneuvers is the clearest sign that the team’s Big Three will return, although James is expected to go through the process of listening to free-agency pitches from outside teams. Both Wade and Bosh have expressed strong desires to remain in South Florida.
As it is, the Heat likely will enter the start of free agency holding only the rights of guard Norris Cole and first-round draft acquisition, the guard out of UConn acquired Thursday night, with more salary-cap space as any team in the NBA, as much as $55 million with which to reconfigure that roster.
Much of that space will go into new, lower-dollar deals with James, Wade and Bosh that also are expected to come with additional years attached, should the players so desire. Haslem also will receive some of that salary-cap space, with Ray Allen also expected to return.
Once the Heat are done spending on contracts above the NBA’s minimum-salary scale, they then will also be granted a $2.5 million salary-cap exception to sign an additional player. From there, the Heat can sign players at the minimum salary, the vehicle likely to be used to retain James Jones and other lower-salaried free agents.
The maneuvering makes it more likely that point guard Mario Chalmers could be lost in free agency, a possibility with center Chris Andersen, as well.
Potential free-agent targets include Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza and several others who might provide the upgrade depth the Heat lacked in falling to the Spurs after winning championships the previous two years.
Haslem twice previously has adjusted his contracts to accommodate Heat offseason personnel plans.
Haslem, who turned 34 on June 9, appeared in just 46 regular-season games and only six in the playoffs, as coach Erik Spoelstra mostly worked with small lineups. He remains a Heat co-captain along with Wade, having spent all 11 of his NBA seasons with the Heat since joining the team in 2003 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Florida. Riley already has spoken of one day retiring Haslem’s No. 40.