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Ira Winderman: What Heat might want, what Heat could get set up as diametric offseason realities

Ira Winderman: What Heat might want, what Heat could get set up as diametric offseason realities

MIAMI — The NBA offseason is a layered process, required to take into account the salary cap, luxury tax, payroll aprons and willingness of potential or perceived trade partners to engage.

So to forecast what should or could come next for the Miami Heat requires layered conversation, with a distinct difference between what the Heat might want and what the Heat could get.

For Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and the rest of a Heat braintrust that also includes coach Erik Spoelstra, this is more than a fork in the road, it is an entire table setting of possibilities, as the team prepares to set the table for what comes next.

Jimmy Butler

What Heat might want: It starts with receiving some type of assurance that Butler will acquiesce to putting a greater priority on the regular season. There also is a potential pathway for compromise on an extension, as in a bit of a step back from what currently is in place for his 2025-26 salary in exchange for the extra year. Cap/tax savings for the Heat; security for Butler.

What Heat could get: A player who continues to only want it his way. That is why this is best addressed sooner rather than later. It doesn’t mean that stubborness is equal to insubordination. But it would provide clarity for the Heat about the need to consider or pursue the trade market.

Tyler Herro

What Heat might want: Herro willingly stepping back to his sixth-man role to avoid the overlap with so many others in the starting lineup whose preference is to work from the midrange.

What Heat could get: A player who views such a move as a step back from the strides made these past two seasons. That, in turn, could mean the Heat going to market yet again with Herro.

Bam Adebayo

What Heat might want: A player who agrees to something less than the maximum allowable extension, with that window opening this summer.

What Heat could get: A player who does not take a penny less than the maximum allowable extension, because that essentially is how it works in the NBA with All-Star level talent.

Caleb Martin

What Heat might want: Candidly, for Martin to bypass his $7.4 million player option for next season and move on in free agency. Basically, the way the Heat’s salary ledger stands, the Heat would have trouble staying under the punitive second tax apron if Martin returns in any form.

What Heat could get: Exactly that, Martin leaving this summer, just as Max Strus did last summer in a similar situation, without a Heat counteroffer. Such is the burden borne by a team that develops players to higher pay grades.

Haywood Highsmith

What Heat might want: Highsmith returning on a minimal enough free-agent salary to provide a lower-cost alternative to what it otherwise would cost to retain Martin.

What Heat could get: A situation similar to what happened in losing Gabe Vincent in free agency last summer, with an outside team offering a number just high enough to force the Heat to blink.

Terry Rozier

What Heat might want: To develop enough confidence in Rozier to be able to potentially move off of Herro on the trade market.

What Heat could get: Such a limited market for Herro that they instead have to move off of Rozier. (With the Heat’s salary situation, there simply appears to be too much overlap for an enduring partnership between the two guards.)

Duncan Robinson

What Heat might want: The type of ongoing growth received from Robinson that makes his contract a value deal, one that potentially could be put into play.

What Heat could get: The realization that if Butler, Herro and Rozier (and perhaps even Martin) stay, that salary such as Robinson’s will have to be shed elsewhere, perhaps turning to Cole Swider as Duncan Robinson 2.0.

Thomas Bryant

What Heat might want: That Bryant opt out of the $2.8 million player option he holds for next season, to put those funds to better use elsewhere on the roster.

What Heat could get: That Bryant opts in, lacking any guarantee of receiving a guaranteed deal elsewhere.

Josh Richardson

What Heat might want: That Richardson is able to pick up where he left off before his season-ending shoulder surgery.

What Heat could get: That Richardson opts out of his $3 million player option in search of something more substantive in free agency.

Delon Wright

What Heat might want: That Wright is patient enough in free agency that the Heat can cycle back to him in case Richardson departs.

What Heat could get: That Wright acts in his best interests by securing the best possible deal as soon as possible in free agency.

Kevin Love

What Heat might want: That Love opts out his $4 million player option to instead sign for the veteran minimum (with every dollar matters because of the cap, tax and aprons).

What the Heat could get: That Love moves forward with the salary in place.


CLOSING TIME: No, the hometown reunion did not end well for former Heat guard Kyle Lowry with the Philadelphia 76ers, scoreless in the final two games of the opening-round playoff series loss to the New York Knicks. Lowry, 38, a free agent this summer, declined immediate comment on his future. But in an ESPN interview, the indication was he is ready for more. “I told LeBron (James) that we have to keep holding it down for the old folks. That is dope to be able to still give, play and represent for the guys.” Dealt in January by the Heat to the Charlotte Hornets along with a first-round pick for Terry Rozier, Lowry closed 1 of 12 from the field in his final three appearances of the season, utilized for only 13 minutes in the 76ers’ season-ending loss. “It was a great series, a fun series,” said Lowry, who had advanced at least to the Eastern Conference finals in each of his two full seasons with the Heat. “It’s super disappointing that we lost, but that’s a two-seed. They were a two-seed for a reason.”

THE REAL FEEL: Ahead of another offseason of potential speculation, Damian Lillard has made it clear he is happy in Milwaukee, even with the Bucks’ first-round demise. “I think, when things don’t go as planned, like I’ve said before, I don’t say a lot. So, sometimes when people make a read, ‘Oh, Dame, he doesn’t look happy,'” Lillard, who last summer was dealt from Portland to Milwaukee after expressing a desire to be dealt to the Heat, told The Athletic. “I don’t think I’ve ever run around on the court smiling. My disposition has always been that way, but I think, people are going to look at everything and try to make something of everything. It’s been some hard times. I haven’t denied that one time this year, basketball and personally, it’s been some hard times, but it’s never been an issue with Milwaukee.” Lillard added, “I understand that the chatter and gossip and all of those things come with the territory.”

WITH MEANING: Even amid the Heat’s playoff struggles, center Bam Adebayo took pause to express appreciation for being a finalist for this season’s NBA Social Justice Champion Award. “It just shows I’m not just about basketball,” Adebayo said. “At the end of the day, when we leave this arena, we’re people. We have families, we have communities who we believe in and that believe in us. So it’s on us to make that impact and make the people who don’t have a voice heard.” The winner of the award, to be named later this postseason, receives the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Trophy “in recognition of advancing the six-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer’s mission to drive change, inspire others to reflect on injustice, and take collective action in their communities over the previous year.”

RESPECT GIVEN: Despite the thoroughness of the Boston Celtics’ romps over the Heat in the first round, the respect was always there, forward Jaylen Brown acknowledged. “They do a little bit of everything,” Brown said. “Physically, mentally, they mess with you, make you hesitate, make you think. Give credit to their coaching staff over there.” Teammate Jayson Tatum said the Heat steeled the Celtics after the team’s resolve had lacked in last year’s opening-round win over the Atlanta Hawks. “Knowing the history with Miami and how hard they play, how well-coached they are, for a first-round matchup, regardless of the seed, we were going to have to be ready to play and be ready to fight,” Tatum said.

THE REAL DEAL: So what happens during those postgame conversations after series end? Turns out it often has little to do with the game, as Adebayo explained about his moment with Tatum on Wednesday night at TD Garden. No, not even a mention of Adebayo’s flagrant foul on Tatum the previous game. “That had nothing to do with basketball,” Adebayo said of his moment with the Celtics forward. “Me and JT have known each other since we were 12. We grew up watching each other in this league. We always wind up seeing each other some time at some point of the postseason, wherever that may be. And it’s just always having conversations, nothing to do with basketball.”


10. Ongoing consecutive playoff games that Heat center Bam Adebayo has scored 20 points or more. The longest such streaks in franchise history are 22 by LeBron James, 17 by James, 17 by Dwyane Wade, 11 by Wade and then Adebayo tied with Jimmy Butler, Wade and James with 10-game such streaks.


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