Getty Victor Oladipo, Pacers
James Harden is finally off the market after a never-ending soap opera. Time for the Miami Heat to look elsewhere for reinforcements and that search begins with Harden’s old team.
Victor Oladipo was sent to the Houston Rockets as part of Harden’s blockbuster deal, but that’s not where he wants to be. His top destination has always been South Beach and there is a growing feeling around the league that he’ll be on the move again before the NBA trade deadline.
Houston could still flip Oladipo, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, and “league sources say Oladipo still hopes to find himself in Miami.” Remember, Oladipo opted out of the 2019-20 “bubble restart” due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a free agent next offseason and seeking a max contract, preferably in Miami alongside his buddy Jimmy Butler.
The rumors of Oladipo wanting to join the Heat date back to last September. While the former Indiana Pacers star has never gone on record about it, it’s simply a matter of connecting the dots. Oladipo is part-owner of a gym in Miami where he rehabbed throughout the Orlando bubble, plus the 28-year-old considers Heat legend Dwyane Wade a mentor and friend.
Then there’s the money aspect. Miami could have as much as $30 million in cap space after declining team options for Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala, Meyers Leonard, and Avery Bradley. Oladipo is making $21 million in base salary this year. From there, they have long-term flexibility to accommodate a max contract.
“Houston could also still flip Oladipo, who wanted out of Indiana but landed in another place he doesn’t want to be. League sources say Oladipo still hopes to find himself in Miami.”
– @KevinOConnorNBA pic.twitter.com/2VNc0Fhkra
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 14, 2021
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Reason Why Heat Didn’t Win Harden Sweepstakes
The Heat may have dodged a bullet by not winning the Harden sweepstakes at the end of the day. The 2018 NBA MVP has taken a public relations hit after whining his way out of Houston, plus his style of play — a high-volume shooter who needs the ball in his hands — doesn’t jive well with Miami’s offense. It would take the ball away from Butler and limit shots for snipers Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.
Houston’s asking price from Miami in a James Harden trade:
Two 1st-Round Picks
4 Pick Swaps
Miami was not interested
(via @ClutchAdamNBA) pic.twitter.com/UQqt9RuUsa
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 14, 2021
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, those are the exact reasons the Heat ultimately pulled out of any potential deal. The franchise was worried Harden wouldn’t “rewire his game,” including not putting forth the effort on the defensive end. That, and the asking price was insanely high.
But hustling for loose balls and playing lock-down defense have been hallmarks in Miami, something Butler has preached being a problem early in the season. If Harden didn’t buy-in, he would have come to blows with teammates.
“I think we just be playing dumb sometimes, like we don’t know where we’re supposed to be,” Butler said. “We don’t know what guys strengths are … playing dumb, lazy, not paying attention, whatever the case may be. We just got to be better. It’s not any one particular guy, everyone as a whole.”
Heat Missing Eight Players for Second Straight
The NBA’s health and safety protocols continue to stymie the Heat rotation. The team ruled out eight players — Bam Adebayo, Avery Bradley, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, KZ Okpala, Kendrick Nunn — for a second straight game as they look to bounce back from Tuesday night’s 137-134 overtime loss. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. for the rematch in Philadelphia.
Round 2. pic.twitter.com/vFFPSiOySy
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 14, 2021
It’s not an ideal situation but the available players are doing their best to keep spirits high. The opportunity is there for the taking for reserve guys like Gabe Vincent and Precious Achiuwa.
“We wanted to represent ourselves the right way, come out and compete,” Achiuwa said after Tuesday’s game. “Play a good basketball game, play for each other, and at the end of the day just have fun and play basketball, and I thought we did that today.”