Tim Hardaway appreciates greatness, which is why next weekend will stand as one of the most profound moments of his 56 years, when he will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hardaway also appreciates when some choose to focus on gut instead of guts, which is why he embraced the opportunity this past week not only to talk about his former team, but also a member of that former team — Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry.
Twelve years ago, amid a contentious free-agency negotiation, Hardaway found himself not only having to defend with Heat president Pat Riley his elite skill level at point guard, but also his body type.
The compromise was a one-year, $12 million contract that had one-third of that salary tied to regular weigh-ins.
“To me,” Hardaway said at the time, “it’s a bunch of bs.”
So when Hardaway saw Riley pointedly note in June how Lowry had to report in better shape for his second Heat season, there was a sense not only of been-there, done-that, but also of empathy.
“I’m glad you asked that question,” Hardaway told the South Florida Sun Sentinel ahead of his trip to Springfield, Mass., for his Hall enshrinement. “And I’ve been asked that question at least 10 times this year by friends and by people and they said, ‘Pat put Kyle Lowry out there to dry’ or said something bad. I said, ‘No, he didn’t.’ I said, I’m going to tell you what Pat Riley said. Pat Riley is not saying he’s not in shape. Pat Riley’s saying that he needs to stop getting injured so he can play and help the team. And getting in shape prevents all the injuries.”
The weigh-for-pay wore on Hardaway. By the following season, he was gone from the Heat, for a free-agency deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
For Lowry, two seasons, including this impending one, remain on the three-year, $85 million free-agency contract signed a year ago, one without weight clauses.
“I want you to write this,” Hardaway said. “Kyle Lowry is not fat. He’s not fat and overweight. He wears these football pads under him to make him look like he’s bigger. He’s way slimmer than what you think he is. I’ve been telling folks that for the longest. And everybody’s like, ‘No, he’s overweight.’ No, the guy is not overweight. It’s that he needs to stay healthy to stay in shape.”
For Hardaway, it was a matter of putting his mouth where his money was.
“That’s the only way I get my money,” he said back in 2000 of grudgingly accepting the required weigh-ins. “If that’s the only way I get my money, I just got to sacrifice for a year and not eat.”
At the moment, many are eating up the social-media posts being offered by Lowry about his grueling offseason workouts. There clearly is a commitment there, even while there has yet to be a public response regarding Riley’s comments.
But even while standing by Lowry, and even while standing up for players who might not fit the prototypic NBA body type, Hardaway said with a laugh there is one aspect he is overwhelmingly in favor of when it comes to the 36-year-old veteran.
“He needs to stop falling,” Hardaway said with the high-pitched cackle that was ever-present during his Heat six-season tenure. “That’s why he’s getting hurt. And I’m going to say this, I love Kyle. Kyle Lowry, I love what he does out there on the court. I just wish he would stop flopping. I think keep that at a minimum.
“You keep falling on the floor, you keep falling on the floor, you keep falling on the floor, yes, you’re going to get injured, yes you’re going to get hurt, yes it’s going to keep you out of the lineup. I think that’s what’s really hurt him, flopping and falling all the time. Stop falling all the time.”
Hardaway paused, as if taking the same type of pause that Riley offered in regard to what has to happen next with Lowry.
“The Heat need you at point guard,” Hardaway said. “They don’t need you on the bench not playing. They need you to be on the court playing 100 percent at a high level, just like you did in Toronto. You can do it if you stop falling on the floor so much.”
IN THE LANE
REVISIONIST HISTORY: During a recent appearance on the Point Forward podcast hosted by former Heat forward Andre Iguodala and former NBA player Evan Turner, Heat icon Dwyane Wade spoke of regret over leaving money on the table over his playing career. “It was definitely tough, in a lot of different ways. I think I gave up $17 [million] or $20 million,” said Wade, who is now part of the Utah Jazz ownership group. “Now, as someone who’s on the other side, I didn’t have to give that money up. I could have pushed the envelope a little bit more. I could have made them spread a little bit of that bread. There was a lot of things that at the time, as a player, you really didn’t know. You just know that this is what they said needs to be done, and this is what we want to do.” Except . . . in order to make many of the Heat’s financials work at the 2010 start of the Big Three era, considering they were utilizing a finite amount of cap space at the time, among the sacrifices were not only helping maximize the contracts of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but also making sure there was cap space for Wade friend Udonis Haslem and an ability to meet James’ desire to add Mike Miller. So, yes, Wade could have come out with more financially, but possibly less on his roster and on the championship ledger.
ONE UP: In Heat vs. Mavericks, Dallas again has the latest leg up, this time when it comes to honoring a franchise icon, with a Dirk Nowitzki statue already in the works at American Airlines Center. The Heat, by contrast, have yet to announce any such plans for Wade at FTX Arena, with both icons having retired in 2019. In an interview with Bleacher Report, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered his thoughts on such honors. “You have to stay there,” he said, with Nowizki’s entire 21-season NBA career spent with the Mavericks. “It’s about being there, being a superstar, leading the team to a championship and being there for an extended period of time. That’s key. It’s not just about what you do on the court. It’s about what you do in the community. It’s about being part of the fabric of an organization during and after your playing time. Dirk exemplifies that.” Wade, of course, also could have stayed, had contract negotiations with the Heat not gone sideways, leading to detours with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.
HERE, TOO: When it comes to the season-ending foot injury that Oklahoma City Thunder first-round pick Chet Holmgren sustained in a summer pro-am game in Seattle, it rekindled memories of something closer to home for a South Florida product in a similar circumstance. In 2017, while playing in a Miami summer pro-am similar to the one Bam Adebayo recently participated in, Pine Crest product Brandon Knight suffered a season-ending knee injury. The NBA clears participation in such summer events, with salary not put at risk. Knight, who has battled through a series of injuries, went on to play parts of two seasons after sitting out all of 2017-18, and spent last season with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He would have been called up to the Heat during the team’s COVID outbreak last December had he not been injured at the time, instead getting into five games with the Mavericks as an emergency call-up during their COVID outbreak.
OPPORTUNITY LOST: Had the decision not been made to instead allow Nikola Jovic acclimate to the NBA, it is possible that the 19-year-old Heat first-round pick might have found himself with playing time for Serbia’s national team at the ongoing EuroBasket. The Serbian roster was depleted this past week with former Heat big man Nemanja Bjelica ruled out due to a calf injury. The Serbian federation initially said the Heat barred Jovic from the competition, but it was later confirmed that it was a mutual decision between the Serbian staff, Heat management, Jovic and Jovic’s representation. Heat camp opens nine days after the Sept. 18 conclusion of EuroBasket 22.
6. Teams over the past five seasons for Markieff Morris, who left the Heat this past week in NBA free agency. His signing with the Brooklyn Nets follows his time since the start of 2018-19 with the Washington Wizards, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers and Heat.