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Mike Miller Agrees to Sign with Memphis Grizzlies

Mike Miller is now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. He has reportedly committed to sign a one-year, minimum salary deal with the Grizzlies.

Despite his role in helping Miami win back-to-back championships, Miller was waived via the amnesty provision last Tuesday in a financially motivated move that saves the Heat $16.4 million on luxury-tax payments next season, and upwards of $40 million over the next two seasons.

After clearing waivers, Miller became a rather hot free agent target. The Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, among others, were all said to be competing for his services. Most, if not all, were offering a minimum salary contract but pitching the opportunity to take on a prominent role as a perimeter specialist on a championship contender.

From a financial perspective, the Heat would have preferred that Miller be claimed on amnesty waivers. Doing so would have reduced the Heat’s obligations dollar-for-dollar by the amount of any partial bid.

Rumblings began to circulate last Wednesday that Cleveland was interested in claiming Miller, followed conspicuously by reports of the veteran small forward needing back surgery or even contemplating retirement. The Cavs were thought to be eyeing Miller as a further inducement for close friend LeBron James to sign a free agent contract in summer of 2014. The back surgery rumors appear to have been a smokescreen in order to make sure he cleared waivers. Miller wanted to play for a contender. The Cavs aren’t likely to be a contender.

The minimum bid for a partial waiver claim of an amnesty player like Miller, whose contract is fully guaranteed, is the sum of the player’s minimum salary for all remaining years of his contract. For Miller, therefore, the minimum bid was $2,847,997 for next season. Had the Cavs placed such a bid, Heat owner Micky Arison would have saved an equivalent amount.

Ultimately, however, the Cavs passed and Miller cleared waivers.

Because he did, the Heat’s ability to realize significant savings from Miller’s new contract is severely limited. It is no longer a dollar-for-dollar offset. Because he cleared waivers, became an unrestricted free agent, and was subsequently signed, a different set of rules applies. The amount the Heat will get to set off is equal to one-half the difference between his new salary, $1,399,507, and the $788,872 minimum salary for a one-year veteran. That’s a savings of $305,318 in salary obligations.

Including the tax savings, that brings the total savings to approximately $17 million for next season pending a decision on how, or if, the Heat replaces the now freed-up roster spot.

When subtracted from the initial $6,200,000 obligation, the Heat will still be responsible for the remaining $5,894,683. They’re also on the hook for his $6,600,000 salary next season, which itself would be reduced in similar fashion, to $6,283,996, if Miller chooses to exercise his player option next summer.

The Heat’s total payroll obligations for the 2013-14 season now stand at $103,837,711.

The decision to release Miller was a painful one for all parties involved. Financial implications notwithstanding, it meant saying goodbye to a respected professional and well-liked teammate who had authored big performances at critical stages of Miami’s back-to-back title runs. You miss guys like that when they go, and the Heat brass took no pleasure in letting him go. They chose to show as much two days after waiving Miller, buying full-page advertisements in South Florida’s newspapers to thank the 33-year-old shooter for his contributions.

“Mike: Thank you for letting it fly! You are a champion both on and off the court,” the ad reads. “It is an honor to have you as a part of our Miami Heat family forever.”

In the team statement announcing the amnesty, Heat president Pat Riley called Miller “one of the best we have ever had here, and [someone who] will be sorely missed.”

Chris Bosh echoed that sentiment while he took part in an NBA-sponsored tour of India:

“We can’t find a replica of Mike Miller. All we can do is just hope to make up the ground that we’ve lost. Our challenge has started already, pretty much, because we’ve lost a significant part of our team.

“I think everybody knows what a big-time player he is and what he did not only in both Finals but in the playoffs and the regular season. His sportsmanship and his clutch shooting — he’s one of the best shooters in the world. He bailed us out of a lot of situations. He made a lot of big shots. It’s going to be tough without him.

“I wish it wasn’t this way. But the business of the NBA is tough sometimes.”

Mike Miller was, and will always be, one of Mr. Random’s favorite all-time Miami Heat players. The perfection of his shooting stroke was perhaps only matched by that of his character. 

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