Miami Heat Continue To Build
Despite much speculation (and many scornful wishes) by those in the world of basketball that the Miami Heat would not be able to put quality players around its new triple threat, LeBron James‘s new team has been doing quite well for itself.
While South Beach could not successfully woo veteran role player and clutch shooter Derek Fisher away from the Lakers—a move that surely would have put another chapter on this whirlwind off-season while adding considerable hate pressure for immediate success—many new additions and rumors surround the franchise.
First of all, big man and longtime Cleveland ballplayer Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be joining the squad. His agent had said that “Z” has committed to the team and it’s now being reported he signed for $2.8 million meaning that there are more jerseys for the citizens of Cleveland to burn. Ilgauskas, you may remember, was traded by Cleveland to the Washington Wizards last season in the deal that brought Antawn Jamison to the Cavs. He re-signed with his former team several weeks later to much fanfare.
Longtime Miami role player Udonis Haslem will stay with the team after signing a five-year, $20 million contract. They also have signed Haslem’s former University of Florida teammate Mike Miller to a five-year, $25 million deal. The veteran Miller put in solid years with several teams including Orlando and Washington. In addition to these two, Juwan Howard—who had spurts with the Trail Blazers last season in which he looked like he had found a fountain of youth—has committed to the team.
Former Miami Heat sharpshooter and one-time champion Jason Williams is a name that’s hit the rumor mill lately. However, there’s another guard who’s announced he’d like to play with the Heat: one Mr. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who most notably had a great run with Shaquille O’Neal at the beginning of both players’ careers with the Orlando Magic. Hardaway, who turns 39 on Sunday, still thinks he can get down and expressed these thoughts on ESPN’s Outside The Lines.
“I just really hope that they give me a great opportunity to come back down and show that I can do the things that I did a couple years ago. I’m not trying to relive anything…I keep myself in shape, I love the game of basketball and I really feel like it doesn’t matter about your age.”
Here’s a look at Penny in his prime.
Believe it or not, Hardaway’s comeback may not be quite as far fetched as it seems. James once said that Hardaway was one of his favorite players. Shaq, by the way, is looking for a team, as well. At 38, O’Neal has said he’s looking to play for two more years (before he becomes a law enforcement officer for good—criminals beware). Maybe he’d be willing to accept the veterans’ minimum for another go at a championship? Call me crazy, but stranger things have happened.
Add to that Kobe‘s proclamation when asked what five championship rings mean to him.
“It means I got one more than Shaq. You can take that to the bank.”
Childish or not, pro athletes don’t take such competition lightly. One need only review Michael Jordan‘s Hall of Fame speech to know that. The Heat are probably the last chance O’Neal has to get another championship before retirement.
Of course, interest and speculation about this team and the NBA will only increase as Miami continues to assemble their full 15-man roster.
Season ticket sales have already been suspended in Miami due to freakishly high demand, so whether they work like a charm or crash and burn, the Heat will do it in front of a packed house.
So far, the moves being made indicate the organization accepts this challenge and is looking to make history, the likes of which basketball fans have never seen.