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.
The signing is nonetheless a head-scratcher. This time around, Howard is no longer the talent he was once thought to be. At 37, his athleticism is in a rapid state of decline. He is old and slow. 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. And barring an injury to Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem, he’s not likely to see any time on it.
The timing of the signing is equally confounding. The Heat came to an unofficial agreement with Howard, certainly not a high-profile target of any team, 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 would appear questionable, particularly with several more youthful and talented front court alternatives still available.
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. Howard did demonstrate that he still has something left in his proverbial tank with Portland last season, when he averaged 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in spot-start duty for the injury-plagued Blazers. As of now, however, the Heat doesn’t have such a need.
There’s not too much to be excited about with this pickup. The Heat would be better served reserving its roster spots to invest in youthful talent for the future.