Heat sign Juwan Howard
It took 14 years, 7 teams, 4 trades, 3 free agent signings, 2 repeat pit stops, 1 buyout and 1 outright release, but he has finally found his way back to Miami. Roster spot number twelve belongs to Juwan Howard.
The union brings full circle the most agonizing and controversial contract situation in the history of Miami’s basketball franchise. Howard officially joined the Heat on Tuesday, signing a one-year minimum salary contract that will pay him $1,352,181. David Stern won’t raise any red flags this time around.
Fourteen years ago, when the Heat signed and subsequently lost Howard due to alleged salary cap violations, an incensed Pat Riley declared:
The day that Juwan Howard signed a contract with the Washington Bullets is the day I hit a new low in my 30 years in the NBA. I knew that once he signed that contract, we would probably never get him back, even if we took it to the Supreme Court and won it, because he wanted to stay in Washington. It’s very disconcerting to invest $100 million in a player, to go that far, know that you’re going to fight to keep him, and they just run to another deal.
Apparently, all is forgiven. Today, a more even-tempered Riley commented:
We feel that Juwan’s ability to play both the four and five spot will be complementary to what we have put together. He also gives us incredible professionalism and is a perfect fit behind Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.
Over his issues or not, this is still a questionable signing. The Heat needs to get youngster, faster and more athletic. Howard is old and slow and has a rapidly declining skill-set. He can’t rebound. He can’t defend. If he doesn’t knock down his line-drive jump shot, he serves no real purpose on the court.
Barring injury, he’s not going to see any time on it anyway. He’ll be the third option at best at both spots in the power rotation.
These spots are always better reserved for youngsters with potential than past-their-prime veterans with nothing to contribute. The Heat has a vast scouting network. Now is the time to utilize it, to find some hidden gem hiding out in the D-League or overseas somewhere. Now is the time to rotate in multiple different options at the position until you find one that sticks. Now is the time to be thinking about the future – to create future contributors or future trade assets.
Howard is the past. With Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh headlining the roster, this team shouldn’t need any more veteran leadership. But if he is deemed to be a critical locker room component, he’s probably better relegated to the role of coach. It’s cheaper, and it doesn’t tie up a roster spot.
This is the type of signing you make at the end of the summer, after all other options have been exhausted. We’re just six days into the off-season. With the roster still very much in flux at various other positions of greater need, offering up a roster spot to an aging power forward is unnecessary.
Howard’s motives in signing with the Heat are clear. He is a player at the twilight of his career jumping aboard the Heat bandwagon, hoping to ride it to his first ever championship.
But one has to wonder what Pat Riley sees. There’s not too much to be excited about with this pickup.