Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Heading into the 2011-2012 NBA season, Miami Heat President Pat Riley has a tough decision ahead of him that could reshape the team’s roster and anger many fans.
Last season, Udonis Haslem was a free agent and could have signed a lucrative contract with another team. But UD took less money to return to the Heat to pursue an NBA championship.
But on the way, Udonis was lost for all of the regular season to a devastating injury. Still, Udonis came back and saved the team during the Eastern Conference finals and helped the Heat get within two games of winning the NBA title.
Fast forward to December 9th and the question will be, does the Heat want to keep Udonis on the roster or move him for more parts around the Big 3?
The Heat already has an All-Star power forward in Chris Bosh. But what the Heat doesn’t have is a quality starting center.
The Heat tried a center-by-committee approach last season and it failed miserably. But there’s a huge upgrade available in the name of Nene.
Nene is the top free agent available at any position, but his position with the Heat would be at the center position.
He’d fortify a front line and allow Bosh to play the power forward position exclusively and give Dwyane Wade and LeBron James more room to get to the basket.
But, Nene has suitors across the league; which brings the discussion back to Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller.
The big rumor that has taken off Thursday is that Riley may be willing to package up Miller and Haslem and send them to the Denver Nuggets in a sign-and-trade deal for Nene.
But Nene couldn’t sign a max-contract; instead, he’d settle for a four-year contract with 4.5 percent annual increases thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement.
The sell for Riley would be simple: come play with the Big Three, live in South Beach, be closer to your home country of Brazil, win a championship in year one.
Still, for Riley, he convinced both Haslem and Miller to play for the Heat for less money last season. It could be perceived by some as being very cold to jettison them so fast. It’s a question of whether Riley goes with his heart to keep them, or with his head to move them.
The entire concept is a serious stretch and more than likely a fantasy for Heat fans hoping to land another big name for a second consecutive offseason.
Nene’s preferred landing spots are either Miami or Dallas, according to multiple reports. If he is serious about playing in Miami, then perhaps the deal gets done.
It will be tough to sell Nene on coming here for less if Riley tosses out UD and Miller after they did the same thing.