Ira Winderman: Giannis, Heat, Lillard and the vortex of the NBA unknown creating quite the summer sizzle

John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/John McCall

What exactly happened to living in the moment? Now, even Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t living there anymore.

And that could mean — perhaps even should mean — another Miami Heat waiting game.

If it sounds familiar, it should.

During the 2020 offseason, one compacted by the pandemic, which had the Heat playing the NBA Finals into mid-October, the Heat found themselves in a delicate dance with emerging center Bam Adebayo.

At the time, the thought was that Antetokounmpo could potentially shake free the following summer in free agency. Also at the time, by delaying an Adebayo extension, the Heat potentially could have created salary-cap space to sign both Adebayo and Antetokounmpo in the 2021 offseason.

The Heat briefly attempted a waiting game, at the cost of losing valued playoff contributor Jae Crowder to the Phoenix Suns in free agency.

Eventually, perhaps made aware of the situation, with Adebayo and Antetokounmpo represented by the same agent, the Heat moved forward with an Adebayo extension. Days later, Antetokounmpo signed one of his own with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Now, flash forward to what seemingly has become somewhat of a summer of discontent by Antetokounmpo, who was eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by the Heat (by the same 4-1 count he fell to the Heat in the 2020 playoffs).

In a New York Times piece about his future, the two-time former Most Valuable Player hinted that while the title of Milwaukee Buck for life is tempting, so, potentially, could be other vistas.

Facing a decision starting next month about whether to extend this season with the Bucks for what what would be a three-year deal at approximately $173 million, the versatile power forward noted that a more lucrative extension could be crafted by waiting until next summer,

But even then, he offered, “Next year, next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know. I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”

Um, whoa.

Or, perhaps, um, WHOA.

First, though, consider that Antetokounmpo, who turns 29 in December, is under contract to the Bucks through 2025-26. But that season also is a player option, potentially moving up his free agency to the 2025 offseason.

Then consider that teams often get proactive when faced with the possibility of losing ultimate talent for ultimately nothing in return. That, in turn, could put Antetokounmpo into play as soon as after this coming season.

Or not – with an extension, either next month or over next offseason making this all moot.

Which brings us back to the Heat, a team that not only tried to slow play their salary-cap approach the last time Antetokounmpo potentially was nearing free agency, but long has taken a long view with such potential gambits, from enduring the 15-67 misery of 2007-08 in order to set the table to uniting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2010 offseason, to slow playing negotiations with Wade when there was the chance of adding Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason.

Even last summer, the Heat held off for an extended period on a Tyler Herro extension, amid the possibility of packaging him in potential deals for Durant or Donovan Mitchell.

And now this Antetokounmpo candor that included taking time to assess the Bucks’ approach since being eliminated by the Heat in April, including the subbing out of coach Mike Budenholzer for neophyte Adrian Griffin, as well as re-upping on deals this summer with 35-year-old Brook Lopez and 32-year-old Khris Middleton.

“You’ve got to see the dynamics,” Antetokounmpo said in his Times interview, “how the coach is going to be, how we’re going to be together. At the end of the day, I feel like all my teammates know and the organization knows that I want to win a championship. As long as we’re on the same page with that and you show me and we go together to win a championship, I’m all for it. The moment I feel like, oh, yeah, we’re trying to rebuild.”

Against that backdrop, the Heat find themselves in a waiting game with the Portland Trail Blazers regarding the desire of seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard to be dealt to the Heat.

Make the move for Lillard, and it means taking on the four remaining years, at over $200 million, for the 33-year-old guard.

Make the move for Lillard, and it could mean moving off Tyler Herro, who just happens to be a native of the Milwaukee area and potentially could be put into play for a potential trade for Antetokounmpo (yes, a lot of “potentially” in there). A deal for Lillard also likely would cost the Heat potential future first-round picks and prospects that could be put into an alternate (Antetokounmpo?) deal.

Considering the trade or free-agency targets the Heat have not landed over recent years — including Antetokounmpo, Durant and Mitchell — getting caught up again in such conjecture could lead to additional consternation.

But Giannis spoke. And the Heat had to listen.

Because living in the moment long has moved on from being an NBA reality.

“Winning a championship comes first,” Antetokounmpo said in the Times piece, having won the 2021 title with the Bucks, a title run that began with a 4-0 sweep of the Heat. “I don’t want to be 20 years on the same team and don’t win another championship.”


TRYOUT TIME: The Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat’s G League affiliate, will host annual tryouts in Sioux Falls on Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 in Miami. Among those who made the Skyforce roster through the process last season was former Broward College player Landon Kirkwood. Players selected through the tryouts are invited to attend Skyforce training camp. There is a $200 registration fee, with a Sept. 15 deadline for the Sept. 16 tryout at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a Sept. 29 deadline for the Sept. 30 tryout at Kaseya Center in Miami. Applicants must be eligible to play in the NBA G League. Registration forms are available at The Skyforce currently are positioned with Heat two-way players Jamal Cain, Jamaree Bouyea and Dru Smith, with the possibility of also adding the five players invited to Heat training camp on Exhibit 10 contracts: Drew Peterson, Cole Swider, Justin Champagnie, Alondes Williams and Caleb Daniels.

CLOSE CALL: Known for his love to spin a yarn, particularly on his podcast, former NBA guard Gilbert Arenas said he nearly joined Dwyane Wade with the Heat at the start of a career that landed Wade this month in the Basketball Hall of Fame. As Arenas told it, he was poised to join the Heat in 2003-04. “My free-agent year was the year he got drafted,” Arenas said. “So Miami was coming after me and Cuban ties, right? They were like, ‘OK, so we want to play him at the point. . . . so we have this great combo that we can do, right? You have your Cuban ties, so you’re coming back home. This is a great story.’ I was asking for $50 (million at the time).” Arenas said Heat President Pat Riley balked at the asking price, leading him to instead sign with the Washington Wizards. Keep in mind, though, the Heat also had Eddie Jones at shooting guard at the time.

ROAD TRIP: Last season, with a Heat home game the following night, Jimmy Butler nonetheless traveled to Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Lakers’ retirement of the jersey of Pau Gasol, a former Butler teammate with the Chicago Bulls. Expect at least one similar quick turnaround this coming season, with the Lakers announcing that on Feb. 8 they will unveil a statue dedicated to the late Kobe Bryant. Heat assistant Caron Butler was especially close with Bryant during their season together with the Lakers, with Butler reflecting Wednesday on social media on what would have been Bryant’s 45th birthday. The Bryant statue ceremony falls the same day as the NBA trading deadline, with the Heat with a home game against the San Antonio Spurs the night before, but then off the following three days.

WAITING GAME: Former Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, a free agent since the expiration of his contract at the end of last season, is facing an impending deadline for a guaranteed NBA deal, otherwise, according to Gazetta in Greece, to take a deal with Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece. Nunn, bypassed for a return by the Heat in 2021 free agency, split last season between the Lakers and Washington Wizards. The Heat currently are at the NBA offseason maximum of 21 players.


$320,000. Money raised for humanitarian relief in Ukraine at a U.S. Open charity event Wednesday that included Heat forward Jimmy Butler serving on the ball crew for warmups by Frances Tiafoe and Carlos Alcaraz, among others, at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York. Butler also teamed with Tiafoe in a doubles exhibition against Alcaraz and Grammy winner Sebastián Yatra.