Grant and Jones Safe?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

In just a few hours, the Charlotte Bobcats will read the names of the players they've selected in the expansion draft, live on NBA TV. At this late stage, it seems as if Miami's bloated and exposed contracts of Brian Grant and Eddie Jones are safe. Meanwhile, largely unfounded rumors about Pat Riley returning to coach the Lakers continue to swirl.

Charlotte GM/coach Bernie Bickerstaff has said he is looking to avoid such large contracts and in particular is looking for young players. Fortunately for the Heat, this means their past mistakes in overpaying these two players are helping them retain them now. Had Grant and Jones been cheaper, the Heat would have had a much tougher time deciding who to protect.

Of course, last minute trades can still happen. In particular, a Knicks trade involving Charlotte selecting Antoine Walker from the Dallas has been rumored off and on. If Isiah Thomas were to express interest in either Grant or Jones, trades could be done in that direction as well. But I've heard nothing of the sort, and any such selection would indeed be quite a surprise.

Meanwhile, Pat Riley's name continues to be floated without reason as a possible successor to Phil Jackson in a return to the Lakers as a head coach. That unfounded rumor appears to also hinge on Shaq remaining a Laker, something that appears to be quite unlikely.

So how could Riley and Shaq reunite? What if the expansion draft goes quietly into the night and the Miami Heat trade for the big fella? It would probably involve losing someone like Caron Butler or more, and of course, at least one of Grant and Jones, and it wouldn't exactly fit the Heat's running game plan, but when you've got a Shaq, you've got a Shaq. Talk about an unfounded rumor. That seems even less likely than Riley going to the Lakers. Shaq can bring a lot more value to the Lakers than some expiring contracts.

Riley reportedly presented a long list of demands to consider returning to the Lakers bench, which is not surprising given that he would be giving up almost $30 million in value by losing the 10% ownership share in the Heat that would vest in his name in just one year. Given the values that other franchises have been selling at, pricing the Heat at a mere $300 million seems almost a pittance. Of course, it's all a financial game, but Riley would be silly to return to the Lakers without some kind of guarantee that he would be paid at least $30 million over the next few years. Given that Jackson was asking for $10 million per year, it does seem like it could be doable if the Lakers are very desperate, but it would clearly be a reach. The only advantage to Riley would be that he gets the cash now as opposed to having to sell or loan his stake or wait for someone else to buy the Heat.

In addition to Grant and Jones, the Heat also exposed center Loren Woods. "I've got no indication that there's anything going on there," Miami GM Randy Pfund toldThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelregarding the Heat potentially losing a player tonight. Pfund also said the swirling typhoon known as trade winds, especially regarding Shaquille O'Neal and Tracy McGrady, have almost nothing to do with the Heat's plans this summer.

Pfund also said that he believes Anderson Varejao and Donta Smith will be available when the Heat pick 19th in Thursday's draft.


Sam Smith ofThe Chicago Tribunewrites: Although Miami Heat President Pat Riley publicly said he is intent on extending his contract, rumors are Riley really wants to return to the Lakers, which he undoubtedly wouldn't do unless O'Neal remains.The Lakers this week are interviewing Rudy Tomjanovich for their coaching job, but a tandem of Riley and O'Neal has to make them pause again.

Tim Brown ofThe LA Timeswrites: The Lakers also have reestablished contact with old friend Pat Riley, who is president of the Miami Heat but for two days showed serious interest in replacing Jackson.As one NBA observer said this weekend, "Don't ever count Riley out," and, sure enough, the Lakers and Riley have had several discussions about the job, despite the somewhat convincing denial he issued Saturday. The Laker interest is said to have waned when Riley presented a long list of demands, but the possibility of Riley reuniting with the Lakers is not out of the question.

Ken Davis ofThe Hartford Courantwrites: The odds have been stacked against [Delonte] West since the pre-draft camp in Chicago this month. He is a tremendous shooter and averaged 18.9 points last season. But at 6 feet 3, pro scouts want to see him play point guard. Evaluation of his play at the point was limited after he sprained his right foot in Chicago. He missed a game and was limited in another. But after a workout Thursday with the Miami Heat, [Delonte] West said he tried to turn the injury into a positive."Not being 100 percent and performing OK, that gives you more confidence," West told USA Today.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Unless Miami pulls off a blockbuster trade to move up for Okafor, the Heat is set at both forward spots with Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, and Udonis Haslem in reserve.With a starting center high on the Heat's wish list, that also would free up Brian Grant to spend more time at the 3 spot.

Harvey Fialkov ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Unless the Bobcats do the Heat a huge favor and take Eddie Jones and his salary off its books or Caron Butler is traded, Miami will focus on bolstering the power positions rather than the perimeter spots.

Ira Winderman ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Based on comments Monday from Heat General Manager Randy Pfund and Charlotte General Manager Bernie Bickerstaff, today's expansion draft likely will not involve the Heat.Whether that is a good thing is another issue.