MIAMI -- Udonis Haslem got his wish. He's
With work on Shaquille O'Neal's multiyear deal to stay in Miami
progressing nicely, the Heat have completed another of their top
offseason tasks. Haslem, the team's starting power forward, agreed Wednesday to a five-year
contract that could be worth in the range of $33 million to $34 million, his agent,
Jason Levien said.
The Miami native wanted to stay in his hometown so badly that he
apparently turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs;
without discussing specifics, Levien said Haslem
left at least $10 million on the bargaining table.
Haslem's agent told ESPN Insider Chad Ford that the deal is front loaded to make up for the money Haslem turned down in offers from other interested teams, such as the Cavaliers.
"This has been a long process, but I'm happy it's over and in
the end, I got what I wanted," Haslem, who started all 80
regular-season games in which he appeared for Miami this past
season, said Wednesday at a Miami Beach steakhouse. "I got to stay
home. I'm happy about that."
The exact amount of the deal, which cannot be signed before July
22, won't be known for a few days. Haslem -- who said he also chose
to stay because he believes the Heat are close to winning a title --
will get between $5.2 and $5.6 million next season, then a 10.5
percent raise each subsequent year.
"At the end of the day, everybody makes a pretty decent check
playing this game -- but everybody doesn't win a championship,"
Heat officials cannot comment on the Haslem deal until league's
signing moratorium passes.
Haslem averaged 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds on 54 percent
shooting -- the NBA's fourth-best percentage -- this past season. In
two seasons with Miami, Haslem has averaged 9.2 points and 7.7
Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Randy Pfund met
with Levien moments after the free-agent negotiating period began
July 1 -- a gesture that left a lasting impact on Haslem, who agreed
to the deal late Tuesday night.
"When you're turning down a considerable amount of money,
things like that have a huge impact," Levien said. "I think that
was an important sign of respect."
Settling the Haslem matter could indicate an agreement with
O'Neal is close. Riley has said Miami would make no significant
moves until knowing what O'Neal would cost over the next four or
five seasons. O'Neal will likely command at least $25 million per
O'Neal is expected to opt out of the final year of his existing
contract, one that would have paid him $30.6 million. But that's
not a precursor to his departure -- since no team could pay O'Neal
as much, under the current rules, as Miami.
The Heat also reached a preliminary agreement with Matt Walsh,
another Florida product represented by Levien. Contract
arrangements are still being finalized, Levien said, but the sides
should agree on a two-year deal worth about $1.2 million.
Walsh left Florida after his junior season, but wasn't drafted.
He was the 2005 Southeastern Conference tournament MVP, averaged
14.6 points and shot a team-best 42.6 percent from 3-point range
for the Gators in 2004-05.
"People assume the best 60 players get drafted," Levien said.
"That's not the case."
The Heat signed Walsh to their summer-league team, but opted to
use their lone draft pick on power forward Wayne Simien, the Big
12's player of the year from Kansas -- who remains unsigned.
"The best-case scenario would be they took Matt in the first
round," Levien said. "The second-best-case scenario was this."
Even though the deal with Haslem is done, the Heat still have
plenty of issues to settle during this offseason. Miami officials
were scheduled to talk Wednesday with the agent for point guard
Damon Jones, its starter this past season who chose free agency
Reserve guard Keyon Dooling is also a free agent, though he,
too, may remain in the Heat's plans.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford contributed to this report.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.