The Heat decided, before the pandemic, that it was better off having Andre Iguodala on its salary cap at $15 million next season, and the good possibility of impending free agent Jae Crowder on its cap, too, instead of the pre-trade deadline scenario of having James Johnson at $16 million next season, Dion Waiters at $12.7 million and oft-injured Justise Winslow at $13 million.
But why did the Heat give the 36-year-old Iguodala a two-year $30 million extension (the second season - 2021-22 - is a team option) at the time of the Feb. 6 trade with Memphis without even seeing him play a game in a Heat uniform?
Turns out, there was a good reason.
Iguodala told me it’s something both sides wanted before the trade with Memphis was consummated. So the Heat had to give the extension for the trade to be done, though Iguodala said the Heat wanted it, too.
“Both sides knew the window we have - my window and the team’s window,” he said. “We all know about when teams want cap space. It’s hard to get acclimated with a group of guys in two months. The locker room is a special place. I wanted to be somewhere where I could grow with the guys, a lot of the young talent that I have a good impression of, help them grow, especially Bam [Adebayo], Kendrick Nunn, Tyler [Herro] and Duncan [Robinson].
“I didn’t want it to be a two, three month thing. My legs have improved. They’re really good. [Before the pandemic], I did a dunk I haven’t done in years. The guys saw that and see I still have some spring left and can be a value to this team in the small details ways that get you over the hump.”
Even if Iguodala’s contributions are modest next season, his $15 million salary and cap charge won’t be hurtful because the Heat hadn’t planned on making a big splash in free agency this summer, anyway.
Before the pandemic, the Heat was projected to have $27 million in cap space (not counting its free agents’ cap holds), a figure that could drop to closer to $20 million if the cap drops as expected amid the expected reduction in league revenue because of games being played without fans.
But unless the Heat is awful when play resumes in Orlando, the likelihood is that Miami will bypass using cap space and instead use its free agents’ Bird Rights to try to re-sign Goran Dragic, Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr. and Meyers Leonard.
Iguodala’s $15 million team option for 2021-22 would be unlikely to be exercised - unless Miami needs it to facilitate a sign-and-trade for an All-Star - because the team wants to achieve maximum cap space that summer of 2021. If Iguodala’s team option is exercised next summer, Miami wouldn’t have enough space to sign a free agent to a max contract in a non-trade scenario.
The suspension of the season due to coronavirus naturally could lead to initial rust for many players, but it’s particularly tricky for Iguodala because he believes he was just rounding into form after not playing in a game since last June.
“I usually get the good flow around December and then find another good flow around February and the ultimate flow around June,” he said before the league’s stoppage.
Iguodala entered the NBA’s hiatus averaging 4.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 blocks and 18.5 minutes per game while shooting 49.0 percent from the field (25 for 51) and 37.5 percent (9 for 24) on threes.
The 18.5 minutes per game would be a career low, down from his 25.3 and 23.2 averages for Golden State the past two seasons. Erik Spoelstra has said he didn’t want to play Iguodala more than 24 minutes per game before the playoffs.
Iguodala’s track record of excellent clutch shooting in Golden State’s postseason runs - and his defensive acumen and playoff experience - should make him an asset for the Heat when the season resumes.
Before the season suspension, Iguodala said he has been doing something in games that he knows “sounds funny. Sometimes I try to make the game hard for myself for the next two minutes, like in playoff situations. Try to get tired and still make a play and make sure I sprint back on defense.
“Little things that might not be noticed but might help me in the long run. No matter how many minutes I play, I’m trying to get tired. Trying to burn out real quick to see how I get my second wind and put myself in situations.”
Iguodala said he was fine with Spoelstra’s minutes range.
“A few games I felt really good and still had energy left after the game,” he said. “Other games, I’ve been like, ‘Whew, that was all I had.’ There are nights I have a good rhythm; he noticed that and he leaves me out there.
“I still have a lot of room to grow. I found in June this past year, in the Finals, I really had a great rhythm offensively, felt really good, breaking guys down, being able to break guys down off the dribble, whereas [before the league shutdown] it’s almost like you’re still early in the season. Defense is like riding a bike for me.”
Before the Heat trade option was broached, Iguodala was content working in an executive role with Comcast Ventures in the Bay Area, “running a fund called the Catalyst Funds where we invest in entrepreneurs” that are underfunded, and helping them “whether it be ecommerce, consumer platform or enterprise platforms. My post career work I’ve started to set up while in my career.”
The Heat did not release a player by Sunday’s 5 p.m. waiver deadline, meaning the only way Miami could replace one of its players this season is if a player tests positive for COVID-19 and the Heat decides to replace him, or if a player opts out of the Orlando re-start.
In that case, the Heat could sign a player to replace that player, but that player could not be reinstated to the team’s roster for the duration of the season.
Otherwise, the Heat will move forward with its 15 players under standard contracts and its two two-way contract players (Gabe Vincent, Kyle Alexander).
Unlike past years, all 17 players - including the two-way players - will be eligible for playoff games. But the game-night active roster for seeding games and playoff games remains limited to 13 players.
The Heat will bus to the Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista on July 8 and will hold training camp there in advance of its Aug. 1 seeding-game opener against Denver.
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