WASHINGTON — The Miami Heat reportedly has dropped its arbitration case against the NBA, allowing All-Star forward Juwan Howard to return to the Washington Bullets.
ESPN, citing unidentified league sources, reported Tuesday night that the Heat will not contest the NBA's voiding its seven-year, $100.8-million deal with Howard.
The Heat signed Howard last month, but the NBA disapproved the contract, which it claimed violated salary cap rules. The league ruled last Wednesday that the Heat had exceeded the salary cap by agreeing to pay Howard $9 million this season.
NBA spokesman Seth Sylvan earlier told the Washington Post a settlement between the league and Heat would guarantee Howard rejoining the Bullets immediately.
This latest development in the Howard saga comes one day after the league gave the Bullets a waiver to re-sign him and hours after Jeffrey Mishkin, the NBA's executive vice president and chief legal officer, said, "I am very confident Juwan Howard will remain with Washington."
In an interview with the Post Tuesday, Mishkin said the league would approve Howard's seven-year, $100 million contract with the Bullets "when it physically comes in" to the league's New York office. The Bullets signed Howard on Monday to a deal that will pay him at least as much as what he signed for with Miami on July 17.
The Post reported that the NBA and the players' union agreed that the Bullets would forfeit their first-round pick in next June's draft if they did retain Howard.
"The whole point was trying to put Washington back in the position they would have been in if they had not mistakenly renounced Howard, and that was hard to do--in fact impossible to do," Mishkin said. "We couldn't unscramble all the eggs. They had a signed contract; there was no way we could void those contracts."
The Bullets will be able to retain the two players they signed since Howard apparently was Miami bound--Lorenzo Williams and Tracy Murray. They also obtained guard Rod Strickland and forward Harvey Grant from Portland in exchange for Rasheed Wallace and Mitchell Butler and that deal stands.
Sources familiar with the negotiations with the Heat said Pat Riley, the team's president and coach, was trying to get a waiver from the league so it could try to re-sign free agents Walt Williams and Rex Chapman. The Heat had renounced their rights to those players in order to create room for Howard.
The Heat has only six veteran players under contract, and sources said Riley also was seeking the most money available under the salary cap and was actively pursuing trades and calling agents of other unsigned free agents.