Free-agent buzz: Heat lead chase for Battier

Once NBA teams can speak with free agents beginning Monday, Miami Heat president Pat Riley has his franchise in strong position to sell Shane Battier(notes) on signing to play with LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes), league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Battier has been a primary target in free agency for the Heat, and sources say the pitch of Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and key Heat players could ultimately confirm Battier’s strong feelings about chasing a championship in Miami.

Riley and Spoelstra see Battier as a strong defender with an ability to hit the open shots that’ll come his way playing with James, Wade and Chris Bosh(notes). Battier has been a proven playoff performer, and possesses the professionalism and maturity to navigate within the harsh glare of the Heat’s existence.

Battier, 33, is still studying the marketplace, and how his personal scenario could change as different teams use the amnesty clause to create salary-cap space. Nevertheless, Miami currently stands as the most compelling option for him.

Teams aren’t allowed to enter into formal agreements with free agents until Friday, but the NBA sent a memo on Saturday telling team officials they can talk to players starting on Monday morning. Teams have been able to negotiate with player agents since Thursday, but currently can't come to terms on deals.

Many had expected the Oklahoma City Thunder to aggressively pursue Battier, but that hasn’t happened. While Kevin Durant(notes) publicly campaigned for Battier on Twitter in the offseason, Thunder officials haven’t been engaged in the recruitment. With Battier in his advancing years, there are natural questions about his slippage as an elite perimeter defender, especially over a multiyear deal.

[ Yahoo! Sports Radio: Wojnarowski discusses free agency ]

Battier would account for a portion – or all – of Miami’s midlevel exception. Depending on the Heat’s maneuvering above or below the luxury-tax threshold, he could be eligible for up to a four-year, $20 million contract or a three-year, $9.4 million deal under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Miami has had strong interest in free-agent center Samuel Dalembert(notes), but sources said it’s doubtful he would accept a midlevel exception at the expense of more lucrative offers available elsewhere. The Heat could use a portion of the midlevel to lure free-agent center Kwame Brown(notes), who is strongly considering Miami. The Charlotte Bobcats are also pushing to hold onto Brown.

For more than a year, Miami’s star players have pushed for Battier to join them in free agency. Battier spent last season with the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies. He played a significant role in the Grizzlies' run to the Western Conference semifinals, and has publicly and privately said that he’s determined to sign with a title contender at this stage in his career.

More free-agent chatter

If the Los Angeles Clippers are content to have restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan(notes) bring them back an offer sheet to match, the line of suitors is long and serious, league executives said. The Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves are teams with salary-cap space considering multiyear offers for Jordan. …The Sacramento Kings have emerged as a frontrunner to sign Rockets free-agent forward Chuck Hayes(notes), league sources said. Sacramento had wanted to sign Hayes to a lucrative one-year deal to keep cap space for the summer of 2012, but could come back with the kind of multiyear offer now needed to acquire him. For Hayes, a native of nearby Modesto in Northern California, it would be a unique chance to return home.

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