Ray Allen and Senior NBA Players Who Should Title Hunt with Miami Heat in 2013
"Be vewy, vewy quiet. We awe hunting wings!"
At least, that's what I'd imagine Elmer Fudd would sound like if he were an NBA veteran hoping to sign with the Miami Heat via free agency. After all, if you had a hankering for a title and were willing to take a ginormous pay cut to do it, wouldn't you want to play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
Such are the spoils of victory for any champion to which the label of "dynasty" might be accurately applied in the years to come. It doesn't matter if said champion is pressed up against (and well over) the cap like Ron Burgundy melting down in a phone booth, so long as there are aging stars out there with some fuel left in the tank and a willingness to stuff themselves into creases in pursuit of glory.
And by small creases, I mean whatever financial flexibility Pat Riley can create by digging for change in the couch cushions at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat are on the hook for just over $78.5 million in salaries next season, which puts them approximately $20 million over the cap and $8 million into luxury tax territory.
It's hard to blame the old guys for being so accommodating, though. What dude on his last professional legs wouldn't want to use said legs to spark a dance craze that may or may not sweep the nation?
Luckily for the Heat, this year's crop of free agents is particularly long on fogies who've stashed more millions than Brewster and would presumably be open to signing for the veterans' minimum.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em...said Ray Allen, upon watching the LeBron and the Heat rip the hearts out of his Boston Celtics to close out the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.
So it would seem, anyway. Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld seems to see Jesus Shuttlesworth taking his talents to South Beach next season:
The general consensus around the NBA is that Ray Allen will sign with Miami. "Barring a change, he'll join the Heat," said a league source.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 27, 2012
And because Stephen A. Smith thinks otherwise, I'm even more inclined to favor Kennedy's evaluation.
As well Ray-Ray should. Sure, the C's came close to winning the East this past season, even with Allen hobbling around on bone spurs in his ankle, Avery Bradley knocked out with a shoulder injury and the rest of the bench already depleted by injuries to Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox, not to mention Jeff Green's heart problems.
If Danny Ainge can get the band back together...who knows? Maybe Boston sneaks into the finals.
And promptly gets run out of the gym by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Heat, on the other hand, would seem to have a relatively straightforward path into the finals from here to eternity and could certainly use another dead-eye shooter of Allen's repute, especially if Mike Miller's bad back forces him into early retirement.
Then again, Ray already has a ring on it, courtesy of a run to the top with the Boston Three Party back in 2008.
But if Allen's keen to chase a championship and avoid whatever discomfort might accompany playing with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, he could do much worse than make his way to "Magic City."
Well, aside from playing in the NBA and owning chances of winning a title next season that range between slim and none, they're all expected to join the bidding war for Steve Nash on July 1, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
If money is still some object for the future Hall of Famer, then Nash figures to flock to any of the last four.
Each would present him with a distinct opportunity—to be the face of a franchise (and a contingency plan should Deron Williams bolt) with the Nets, to reunite with Dirk Nowitzki in a potential championship chase with the Mavs, to look after his quality of life off the court in Phoenix or to grow the game in his home country of Canada while in Toronto.
And if Nash wants to take less money to live in his offseason home, he could sign on with the Knicks.
None of those options, though, could put Nash within shouting distance of a ring with any degree of certainty. Even the Mavs, who won the title in 2011, are a way off from contention, especially with the Thunder about ready to put a stranglehold on the Western Conference.
The Heat, on the other hand, are already there and would welcome a veteran point guard who can make life easier for LeBron and D-Wade while stretching the defense with his deft shooting touch.
If nothing else, Nash would give Erik Spoelstra a great excuse to bench Mario Chalmers.
And, at 38, Nash isn't going to play forever, regardless of how impeccable his conditioning may be. If the ring is, indeed, the thing for Nash, then Miami is the place to be.
Now, if Nash opts for a swan song in Big D, what happens to Jason Kidd? Does he stick around to be a part of what would be the oldest point guard combo since the Millard Fillmore administration? Does he seek employment elsewhere?
And if so, is Miami in the picture?
The answer to the last question would appear to be "no" at this point. According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com, Kidd is keen to sign on as Deron Williams' backup, whether it be back in Dallas or in Brooklyn, with the Nets franchise he once led to back-to-back Eastern Conference titles.
Of course, doing so with the Nets in 2013 will be no easy task, to say the least, so long as the Heat are still lurking at the top.
And if J-Kidd truly is as amenable to being a second-stringer on a mere playoff contender, why not go for a starting role on a team with its eyes on a much bigger prize? Surely, Miami wouldn't mind employing another guy who can drop some serious dimes and hit spot-up threes with ease.
Whether either party is particularly interested in the other remains to be seen, though it would make for a pretty good match—even if it means Miami has to block out the sting of losing to Kidd's Mavs in the 2011 finals.
You may have noticed by now that the Heat could use another shooter and a point guard, and if they can lure a player capable of filling both needs, then even better.
Which brings us to Chauncey Billups. He's coming off an Achilles injury with the Clippers and may well decide to stay in LA if Mo Williams gets sucked into a Lamar Odom deal. But, as Yannis Koutroupis of Hoopsworld points out, his heart may be in south Florida:
Look for Chauncy Billups to strongly consider signing with the HEAT this summer. He wanted to sign with them before Clippers claimed him.— Yannis Koutroupis (@YannisHW) June 26, 2012
Like Ray Allen and Jason Kidd, Mr. Big Shot wouldn't come to Miami seeking his first ring, but rather adding a hefty dose experience from his days as a Finals MVP with the Detroit Pistons.
Not to mention his sharp-shooting stroke, his vision as a passer and his steady leadership.
The concern, of course, lies in Billups' heel. If he's healthy enough to play (at least well enough to displace Mario Chalmers), then he'd be an excellent free agent for Miami to pursue.
If not...well, the Clips have an impeccable history with major injuries, don't they?
Speaking of former Denver Nuggets who've most recently been seen in Clippers uniforms, Kenyon Martin is back on the market and, last I checked, is still ringless at the age of 34.
K-Mart's clearly not the floor leader or shooter that Miami could use to fortify its budding dynasty, but he might just fill an even bigger need: post defense. Martin has long been among the better defenders at the power forward position in the NBA, even after microfracture surgery on both of his knees sapped him of much of his signature athleticism.
The Heat wouldn't need K-Mart to start—not with Chris Bosh well-established at the "four"—but could reasonably expect him to be an upgrade over Joel Anthony and/or Udonis Haslem off the bench.
Granted, the Rockets could still bring the Camby-man back, whether or not Superman comes to town.
But if they don't, it would behoove the Heat to give Camby's agent a call. He may be old (he turned 38 in March), but he's still 6'11" with a long-standing ability to block shots and defend in the paint that's had draft gurus everywhere comparing Anthony Davis to him. The Heat, in particular, could use a bona fide shot-blocker in the middle, rather than relying on LeBron and D-Wade to do all the swatting.
If Camby can still run the floor to some extent, he'd fit in perfectly with Miami, whose championship success is predicated on pushing the pace and playing suffocating defense.
You know, like Camby did back in his heyday with the Knicks and the Nuggets.
And Camby has yet to win a title...so there's that.
Once upon a time, Tracy McGrady was among the most lethal scorers in the NBA, a two-time scoring champ with more lift on his jump shot than a space shuttle launching from Cape Canaveral.
Time hasn't been kind to T-Mac, though. Injuries have since left his body in tatters and his reputation as something less than "Half Man, Half a Season."
But, as McGrady has shown in stints with the Pistons and the Hawks in the last two seasons, he's still capable of popping off for double-digit scoring nights on occasion, even (and especially) off the bench.
The Heat, meanwhile, could use a scorer to bolster their reserves, and if that scorer just so happens to be a seven-time All-Star and All-NBA performer, all the better.
Surely, T-Mac has something left in the tank at the age of 33 and is still hungry for a championship after watching grand experiments in Orlando and Houston amount to little more than repeated trips to the trainer's table.
And who in the attendant media wouldn't eat up the story of an ex-superstar and native Floridian hoping to make good on his promise in his home state?