Posted on Wed, Jul. 09, 2008
Ex-Cane Jones set to come home
BY SARAH ROTHSCHILD
The Miami Heat has reached an agreement on a potential five-year deal with free agent swingman James Jones, two league sources confirmed late Tuesday night.
Jones is expected to earn a starting salary of $4 million a season, as part of the Heat's midlevel exception. Jones could be signing the deal as soon as Wednesday, and it would be worth a total of about $22 million.
Jones, a 6-8 forward and former University of Miami star, opted out of the final year of his contract with the Portland Trail Blazers to become a free agent. Jones, a Miami native, had been among several Heat targets during free agency. The signing period began Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., but teams had been able to negotiate deals since July 1.
Jones, 27, was one of the first free agents the Heat contacted to express a strong interest. He is a three-point specialist, who shot 44.4 percent last season with Portland. Jones had the league's third-best three-point shooting percentage, behind former Heat swingman Jason Kapono and Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash. Jones' addition would fill a void left by Kapono and former Heat swingman James Posey, who left last summer.
The move to sign Jones -- a former Miami American High standout -- apparently would create a logjam on the perimeter for the Heat and put the futures of shooting guard Daequan Cook and forwards Shawn Marion and Dorell Wright in doubt.
Cook, a 2007 first-round pick the Heat acquired on draft day, has been slow to develop. Wright is a restricted free agent, but is coming off season-ending knee surgery, and Marion has an attractive $17.8 million expiring contract that Miami could use as a trade chip in an attempt to bolster its weak center and point guard positions.
Another player potentially affected by Jones' signing would be swingman Ricky Davis, an unrestricted free agent who unlikely would be re-signed.
Other players that interest the Heat include center Kwame Brown and guards Keyon Dooling, Jannero Pargo and Roger Mason.
Dooling, a Fort Lauderdale native who spent the past three seasons playing for the Magic, could be coming back to his hometown team. Dooling played for the Heat in 2004-05 and was among the Heat's targets last week.
Mason, a reserve for the Washington Wizards last season, visited the Heat last week, according to agent Mark Bartelstein. Other Bartelstein clients who have received interest from the Heat are Pargo, who played for New Orleans, and Brown, who split last season between the Lakers and Grizzlies.
The Heat saw one of its targets go elsewhere as free agency opened, with Golden State guard Mickael Pietrus reportedly on the verge of signing with Orlando. The Heat, which coveted Pietrus last offseason, never made an offer this year because of salary-cap constraints, Pietrus' agent, Bill McCandless, said Tuesday.
The Heat is handcuffed by the salary cap, and unless it can shed salary through trades, it might be difficult to add players. The Heat has committed about $57.6 million to salary before free agent signing started, including No. 2 draft pick Michael Beasley's salary.
The cap is expected to be between $57 million and $58 million, and Heat president Pat Riley has said the Heat is not planning to exceed the luxury-tax threshold.
Wright could return to the Heat, but his new agent, Bob Myers, said about a half-dozen teams are interested in his client.
Myers, who also represents Heat unrestricted free agent point guard Jason Williams, said the Heat is exploring other options at point guard.
But general manager Randy Pfund left open the possibility that the Heat would want to re-sign Williams.