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NBA Sunday: HEAT Retool With Luol Deng

Despite the loss of LeBron James, the Miami HEAT are positioning themselves to be competitive next season with Luol Deng.

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Miami not fading without fight: While the balance of power in the NBA was irreversibly shifted by LeBron James’ free agency decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami HEAT were left in a vulnerable position.

When James left the Cavaliers in the summer of 2010, Cleveland finished the following season a dismal 19-63 which in a way signaled the strength, or lack thereof, of the supporting cast surrounding him.

Those expecting a similar decline in Miami, after four consecutive Finals appearances, will likely be disappointed. The HEAT, despite losing the best player in the league this summer, are determined not to fade off the league’s radar without a fight.

Upon hearing of James’ free agency departure, HEAT team president Pat Riley released the following statement.

While I am disappointed by LeBron’s decision to leave Miami, no one can fault another person for wanting to return home. The last four years have been an incredible run for South Florida, HEAT fans, our organization and for all of the players who were a part of it. LeBron is a fantastic leader, athlete, teammate and person, and we are all sorry to see him go.

Over the last 19yrs, since Micky and I teamed together, The Miami HEAT has always been a championship organization; we’ve won multiple championships and competed for many others. Micky, Erik and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to win and compete for championships for many years to come. We’ve proven that we can do it and we’ll do it again.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Miami has spent the weekend attempting to woo former All-Star forward Luol Deng. The HEAT are reportedly offering Deng a deal in the two-year $20 million range after re-signing All-Star forward Chris Bosh to a maximum contract earlier this weekend. Deng has committed to the deal, assuring the the HEAT will remain competitive in a Eastern Conference that is still fairly wide open.

According to the report, guard Dwyane Wade will wait until next week before finalizing his new deal in Miami to allow Riley to continue retooling the roster.

Deng’s camp had reportedly been seeking a deal in the $15 million per year range but despite interest from teams such as Atlanta and Dallas have yet to find a franchise willing to bite.

With Deng the franchise is still far from a favorite in the title contender race, but further away from flirting with the draft lottery. Earlier in free agency the HEAT were able to secure forwards Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts.

Let’s take a look at some other free agency happenings around the league:

Marvin Williams: Multiple reports indicate the veteran forward has agreed to a two-year deal worth $14 million to join the upstart Charlotte Hornets. The deal doesn’t include any player or team options and is fully guaranteed. Williams will likely never live up to where he was drafted in 2005 (second overall), but he has developed into a serviceable forward with range beyond the three-point line. The Hornets have been in the market for additional small forward depth and had previously issued Gordon Hayward a max deal worth $63 million before the Utah Jazz matched the offer.

Paul Pierce: The future Hall of Fame forward has decided to join the Washington Wizards. Pierce confirmed his decision on Twitter.

Pierce’s new deal is reportedly worth $11 million over the next two seasons. For Washington, the securing Pierce was huge as the team lost forward Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets earlier Saturday. The deal reportedly has a player option after the season which would allow the 36 year old Pierce to return to free agency next summer.

Pierce averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds during his lone season in Brooklyn. However, Pierce did increase his production to 16 points and 5.3 rebounds during the Nets’ playoff run.

Trevor Ariza: The Houston Rockets were left scrambling after previous targets Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh decided to re-sign with New York and Miami respectively. So Ariza became the next prime target on the and will sign a four-year $32 million deal with the franchise.

This will be Ariza’s second stint with the Rockets. He averaged a career-high 14.9 points with the franchise during the 2010 campaign.

Chandler Parsons: The forward signed a three-year $46 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks earlier this week. The Houston Rockets have until 11:59 p.m. ET to exercise their right to match the offer.

The Rockets came to an agreement with Trevor Ariza on a lucrative four-year deal which could make Parsons expendable in Houston. If so, it would be major pickup for the Mavericks who have long been seeking to add a talented young piece with upside next to the aging Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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