In the days leading up to the week that allowed teams to waive their players by way of the amnesty clause, it was debated in circles outside of the Miami Heat organization whether or not Mike Miller or Joel Anthony would be a recipient of their walking papers.
However, after encouraging words from Pat Riley, it appears Heat, and Carnival Cruise Lines, owner Micky Arison is willing to take on the prodigious luxury tax hit that will soon come his way. The luxury tax is instilled for teams that go over the salary cap limit, a provision of the recent changes to the CBA that came into effect following the lockout.
If Miami chooses to keep Miller, owed $13 million over next two years, and Anthony, owed $10 million over next two years, the Heat, or Arison really, will be paying over $30 million in penalties. Miami is currently $16 million over the salary cap limit following the re-signing of Chris Andersen who, like Ray Allen, took a paycut to remain with Miami.
If the Heat were to amnesty Miller, they’d be saving as much as $17 million, while an amnesty of Anthony would save the Heat $9 million. The amnesty clause doesn’t save the organization from paying the player, they still have to, but it writes that player’s numbers off the books.
Consider the amnesty clause as a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card. If the organization makes a bad signing, such as the Dallas Mavericks and Brendan Haywood or the Philadelphia 76ers and Elton Brand, the amnesty provides a one-time provision to teams that basically allows them to, on paper, act as if it never happened.
No two players on the Heat would be more recognizable for an amnesty clause usage than Miller and Anthony. However, teams are only allowed to use the clause once. Also, only players signed before 2011 are eligible.
That leaves the Heat with Miller, Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem as the only candidates. Since the ‘Big Three’ are basically untouchable and Haslem’s loyalty, connection and on-court demeanor are too much to give up, that leaves Miller and Anthony.
Miller was signed to a lucrative 5-year deal worth $30 million in the same summer the ‘Big Three’ was signed. It was believed that Miller would be the primary recipient of the influences of the ‘Big Three’, as those three would do their work inside the perimeter and Miller would be awaiting for any pass to come his way along the three-point stripe.
Instead, Miller got hurt in the training camp leading up to the 2010-11 campaign that would keep him out until late December. It only got worse from there. Miller would continue to be hampered by injuries, and has missed, either because of injury or a coach’s decision, 101 games in the past three years.
His shooting percentages are still incredible, he shot 45 percent from beyond the arc in 2012 and 42 percent in 2013, but he’s simply not worth the money when he’s playing in half a regular season’s worth of games and averaging 15 minutes worth of playing time.
Plus, this Heat team is filled with shooters. Although many fail to provide the intangibles that Miller provides as a rebounder and ball-handler, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis and James Jones are all capable of shooting as well as 40 percent from beyond the arc as Miller has been.
Miller, however, has created a soft spot with Heat fans. His 7-of-8 three-point exhibition in Miami’s Game 5 clincher against Oklahoma City will go down in the annals of Heat lore, as will his three-pointer on one shoe during a frantic comeback against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6.
He still possesses one of the most pure shots in the game, as well. He is a terrifying player to go against when he starts making his shots and he had his moments against the Spurs, including a 5-of-5 three-point performance in Miami’s Game 3 loss. His spacing proved to be a key catalyst in opening up the lane for James and Wade.
And even with all the injuries he has dealt with since coming to Miami, it would be unfair to kick him to the curb now after all he’s been through in attempting to consistently get out on the floor. He wants to play as much as he yearns to be effective, and that time could still come within the next two years.
Don’t forget: Ray Allen and Shane Battier could be retiring next year. While that’s happening, Miller has a player option the same offseason that he can use to opt out of his contract and, hopefully, sign a smaller deal with the Heat.
It’s believed that each member of the ‘Big Three’ will do something similar if they want to remain with the Heat, while also allowing the front office to continue signing veteran free agents.
Meanwhile, Joel Anthony has also been at the forefront of this decision into who the amnesty clause may be used on to if it is used at all.
Anthony, once a recipient of MVP chants and still an all-world defender, has found his role on the team diminished with the advent of Chris Andersen and the attention paid to spacing the offense. Although Andersen’s jumper isn’t extremely reliable, he’s still valuable as a big who can catch-and-finish.
That is something the Heat never experienced with Anthony. When Joel is on the floor, the Heat are playing 4-on-5 on the offensive end. As excellent as he is a defender on the pick-and-roll and on shot-blocking, he doesn’t provide an answer against a team like Indiana with height advantages at key positions.
Anthony, standing at 6’9″, can do all in his power to limit somebody like the 7’2″ Hibbert, but he’ll be coming up short every time. Despite being ranked 23rd in the league when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll man, per Synergy, he doesn’t have the bigger questions when Miami is met with a Roy Hibbert or a Brook Lopez or a Tim Duncan.
Joel played only 62 games last season, the least amount he’s played since his rookie season, and averaged a career-low nine minutes of playing time per game.
If anybody was to be a victim of the amnesty clause, you would be led to believe that it was going to be Joel, especially after the Heat re-signed Andersen and have expressed mutual interest in signing the 7′ Greg Oden.
But not after yesterday. Comments by Pat Riley stated that the Heat is not currently pursuing use of the amnesty clause. Not only that, but they have actually been on the lookout for a player willing to take the taxpayer’s mid-level exception that would pay a player $3 million per year.
If a player were to sign that deal, and the Heat decided not to use the amnesty, Miami would be willing over $50 million in luxury tax penalties. It’s not as much as the Brooklyn Nets will be paying, $80 million in pocket change to their multi-billionaire of an owner, but it’s still a heavy hit.
Fortunately for the Heat, they also have a multi-billionaire of an owner that’s willing to keep the core together.
Arison has long been recognized as one of the best owners in sports and for good reason.
He is willing to part with money for the sake of the team, but has always known better as an owner to stay out of how the team is run and allow those who really know the game to dictate who goes and who stays.
And if he’s willing to keep Miller and Anthony around, while also allowing the team to sign another player, say Greg Oden possibly, to a mid-level exception, then so be it. It’s not our money and we have no say in what Arison and the Heat should or shouldn’t do with it.
Keeping lovable, glue players like Miller and Anthony will only aid the dynamic of the team, and will also keep out any new players that could potentially disrupt the family and unity that’s currently portrayed by the Heat.
That’s why you don’t want a Samuel Dalembert, a player who has a history of chasing money and was talking about playing for the Heat, even though he was seated on the bench of the opposing team.
The Heat organization is in love with what they have going on: a roster composed of two-time champions, with the exception of Allen (although he did win one in Boston), Lewis and Andersen, all of which joined the team this past season.
There’s a large, vast emotional toll that goes into winning a title. It’s a journey; a long, winding journey that provides many forks in directions that branch out to unreasonable and disturbing endings, as well as the one path that leads to two championships in two seasons.
There are more than ten players on this roster that have been through the long haul of winning back-to-back titles, and even the guys that were brought in this past season are now understanding of what it takes as a player, a teammate and a person to overcome whatever is impeding the ultimate path you wish to take.
These guys came to the Heat with business in mind. They’re now staying because business is no longer an issue.