By Ira Winderman
South Florida Sun Sentinel
On a roster that has only Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman under contract at center, Miami Heat President Pat Riley has reiterated that he sees no need to aggressively pursue a veteran in free agency.
"We definitely are going to continue to look for somebody in that spot, but unless there's an injury, we really don't need a center," Riley said during an appearance on WQAM.
Among veteran big men who remain available are Darko Milicic, Chris Andersen, Jermaine O'Neal, Ben Wallace, Lou Amundson, Joel Przybilla and Andray Blatche. But as he has since the Heat won the 2012 NBA championship with Chris Bosh as the team's starting center, Riley said he believes the team is covered at the position.
"We signed Chris, basically, in my mind, fully in my mind, not in the back of my mind, he was probably going to be our center in critical situations," Riley said on the Joe Rose Show. "And, so, Chris Bosh is a power forward, he's a Tim Duncan-type player, but when you watch the San Antonio Spurs play, Tim is in the middle. That's all there is to it."
To a degree, that could have free-agent centers backing off the Heat as a potential landing spot, considering how, over the past two seasons, the likes of Anthony, Ronny Turiaf, Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilguaskas have watched the NBA Finals from the team's bench.
"When you're playing at the highest, you're going to be playing with Chris Bosh and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, whoever it is. That's going to be your team," Riley said of lineups that lack true centers. "And we have proven that with LeBron playing at the four spot, so to speak, that we're so much better as a basketball team than we are with a conventional center and power forward. Now, we will continue to try to find players that can fit in with this team, but they don't have to be center centers."
The Heat essentially are restricted to minimum contracts going forward.
"We're limited somewhat, because of slots, and not payroll, but we can only sign guys to minimums or I'm going to have to trade players to try to find a guy like that," he said of the type of center that could get the Heat to alter their approach.
Amid such salary-cap restraints, Anthony is in the midst of a contract that pays $3.75 million this season, with two additional seasons on his contract.
"We like Joel Anthony as a defensive player," Riley said. "He doesn't score much. He's a shot-blocker. He's one of the great screeners in this league and pick-and-roll players."
If the Heat opt for a low-budget option at center, free-agent Mickell Gladness and second-round pick Justin Hamilton have been working out at AmericanAirlines Arena.
As coach Erik Spoelstra did earlier in the week, Riley said he has no issue with James participating in the Olympics only weeks after leading the Heat to the championship.
"I look at it as a plus because he wants to play," Riley said. "He really is proud to play for his country and this is big-time stuff to him. This isn't just the Olympics and he's over there pushing his brand and stuff like that. He wants to win."
Bosh, who had to remove himself from the USA Basketball roster due to the abdominal injury sustained during the playoffs, joined James in London on Thursday, with Wade, who had to withdraw from the Olympics due to arthroscopic knee surgery, scheduled to make the trip to London for the knockout rounds.
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