WASHINGTON, D.C. — History will only take a narrow view of the Miami Heat's failure to win a championship in the first season of the Big Three era, focusing solely on the meltdown of one man, LeBron James.
Few will remember the limitations of the team that supported him.
Few will remember, for instance, that the player the Heat sent off in a salary dump Wednesday was sixth on that team in minutes during the 2010-11 regular season and fourth in the 2011 postseason.
That player was Joel Anthony, who had a rather decent run with the Heat, considering that he first learned basketball from a book at age 16, considering that Erik Spoelstra (then an assistant) thought he'd be one of the Heat's first cuts in 2007, and considering his ongoing struggles with something so fundamental as catching the ball. Proving to be an asset as an active pick-and-roll defender and screen-setter, Anthony made millions of dollars, won two rings, got two trips to the White House (standing between James Jones and Shane Battier in the back row Tuesday), made plenty of friends (most notably Mario Chalmers), and even earned two nicknames ("Doc" from teammates, "The Warden" from fans).
But now, the Doc is out, shipped to Boston along with two draft picks (one second-rounder and another that was originally Philadelphia's and will likely become a pair of second-rounders), as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. In return, the Heat got a player from Golden State, but this deal wasn't about bricklaying Toney Douglas as much as it was about Andrew Jackson, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln or any of the other luminaries captured on our currency.
Anthony, who lost his role to Chris Andersen, ultimately became a casualty of the Heat's cash crunch and managing partner Micky Arison's desire to creep closer to the luxury-tax line. He won't get there, not with this deal, but it does save him somewhere north of $10 million, and it does eliminate one of the obstacles to reshaping the roster after this season, when James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt out.
Now, it's conceivable that only Norris Cole ($2.1 million) and Udonis Haslem ($4.8 million option) will be under contract on July 1, as Arison, Pat Riley and the Heat try to retain James, Wade and Bosh, and perhaps Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley and even Greg Oden.
That's the long-term reason for the move.
Well, with some money saved, it's conceivable that the Heat could cut ties with Douglas or the recently-guaranteed Roger Mason, Jr., and give Andrew Bynum a trial. Heat sources have maintained that the team is lukewarm at best on the big man with baggage, but the predictably slow market for his services could compel him to accept the minimum.
This move also could indicate that Greg Oden—who accompanied the team on its current road trip—is closer to ready. Oden hasn't been made available to the media since prior to the start of the season, but teammates have spoken of his incremental improvement.
Even if Oden returns, he's not expected to become a starter for Miami.
Those days are gone, as Miami has gone small, spreading the floor with Bosh in the middle.
But Joel Anthony, off to Boston, will always have 2011—when he jumped center six times in the NBA Finals.