Waiving Mike Miller inevitable for Miami
July, 16, 2013
By Michael Wallace
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesBy releasing Mike Miller, the Heat saved around $17 million in luxury tax.
MIAMI – Mike Miller was always a luxury.
That was the case when he arrived as a high-priced, sharp-shooting accessory in the summer of 2010, when the Miami Heat also brought together LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as blockbuster acquisitions.
And it certainly was the case as Miami celebrated its second consecutive NBA championship last month after overcoming the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.
So it was absolutely no surprise that it was the threat of a massive luxury tax payment that ultimately led Heat owner Micky Arison and team president Pat Riley to remove the biggest luxury from their roster before the bill came due.
In these harsh economic times under this increasingly punitive collective bargaining agreement, sacrifices have to be made. From a talent perspective, the Heat still sport the best designer three-piece suit in the league. They're just cutting back on the shiny cufflinks or the pocket square.
This had to be done. Miller was the fourth-highest paid player on the Heat's roster behind James, Bosh and Wade. But there were many months during Miller's three years in Miami when he wasn't even the eighth man in the rotation.
Ultimately, this was inevitable.
By using the league's one-time amnesty provision to release Miller on Tuesday, the Heat potentially slice their luxury-tax bill in half for next season, reducing it from about $33 million to around $16 million by shedding the $6.2 million Miller is owed for the 2013-14 season.
The only aspect of this ordeal that didn't make sense was the fact that Riley, on two occasions in the past three weeks, went out of his way to strongly suggest the Heat had no plans to use the amnesty to reduce their burden.
As recently as Friday in a conference call with a group of hand-picked local reporters, Riley at one point flat-out declared: “We're not using the amnesty.”
But in announcing Tuesday he had, in fact, used the amnesty, Riley said in a statement released by the team that he tried to trade Miller but eventually “made a very difficult decision to use our Amnesty provision on Mike.”
I don't get the sense that this was Riley being two-faced, selling one message to the media one moment but working behind the scenes to do something exactly the opposite. Team executives do that kind of thing all the time in the name of protecting potential trades and player transactions.
It's happened before.
The last time I recall Riley seeming this intent on something this foregone was when he stood in the lobby of the team's Minneapolis hotel back in 2008 and vehemently said the Heat still valued a declining and disinterested Shaquille O'Neal, along with the 14 points and eight rebounds he provided at the time, and wouldn't trade him.
Where was Shaq a week or so later? On his way to Phoenix, torching everyone from Miami's longtime trainer to the seldom-used point guard at the end of the bench.
But the Miller departure feels different. Although Miller wasn't pleased about never settling into a prominent rotation role, he's moving on with two championship rings, his remaining salary of nearly $13 million over the next two seasons and his choice of where he will play next.
In addition, the homepage on the Heat's website Tuesday afternoon thanked Miller for his service in Miami, which was highlighted by his 23-point effort to help the Heat clinch Game 5 of the 2012 Finals against Oklahoma City.
There's not a game -- nor game show -- on the planet that offers those kind of parting gifts. Once Miller clears waivers, he'll be free to sign with any number of contenders who are just a shooter away from boosting title aspirations next season. Three playoff teams that quickly come to mind as perfect landing spots are the Pacers, Grizzlies and Rockets.
Much like Miller, the Heat will move on to a number of options that are far less expensive but potentially just as productive -- if not more -- than Miller was in Miami.
Miller never really had a chance to live up to the hype and expectations that accompanied his signing with the Heat. He was sidelined by thumb, back and hernia injuries his first year. He was beat out by Shane Battier for the sixth-man spot during his second season in Miami.
And last season, despite 17 starts and another prominent moment midway through the Finals, a relatively healthy Miller couldn't find any consistency with his role after Ray Allen arrived to further bolster the perimeter rotation.
Miller spent the previous two offseasons worrying if Miami would release him using the provision. Amnesty almost seemed like it was part of Miller's name.
Now that they've officially parted ways, consider this a win-win for both Miller and Miami.
The player can search for more of a prominent role.
The team can accessorize under a deeply discounted burden.