M I A M I, Aug. 2, 2000 -- As four new players join the Miami Heat, coach Pat
Riley’s biggest challenge may be keeping forward Anthony Mason out
A nine-player deal with the Charlotte Hornets sent Mason toMiami, where trendy South Beach and his penchant for problems are adangerous combination.
“It has occurred to me,” admitted Mason’s agent, Don Cronson.“It’s not like I’m worrying, ‘Oh my gosh, South Beach.’ But it’sthere like a beacon, and I think he’s going to be on his guard.”
Largest Trade in Heat History
Mason was one of four starters involved in the largest trade inHeat history. He and three-time All-Star guard Eddie Jones go toMiami for forward P.J. Brown and guard Jamal Mashburn.
“This is one of the most difficult things I have ever had todo,” Riley said in a statement. “Trading P.J. Brown and JamalMashburn, two guys who have been crucial to our success, was veryunappealing and is the tough part of this business. However, changewas in order.”
Confirmation of the trade was delayed until late Tuesdayafternoon, the first day of the free agent signing period, whilethe NBA made sure the deal met salary cap requirements.
Also traded were Otis Thorpe, Tim James and Rodney Buford toCharlotte, and Ricky Davis and 16-year veteran Dale Ellis to Miami.
Riley and Mason had a turbulent relationship when both were withthe Knicks from 1991-95.
Mason, 33, was suspended twice while he played for Riley and hasbeen arrested four times while with the Hornets, most recently whenhe was charged with battery on a police officer, inciting a riotand resisting arrest in New Orleans’ French Quarter last month.
“Anthony over the course of time has learned a lot abouthimself,” Cronson said.
The same is true of the Heat, who have won four consecutiveAtlantic Division titles. But in the past three seasons they’ve wononly one playoff series and been eliminated by the archrival NewYork Knicks each time.
“We began this process four years ago and are now ready to takeoff to another level,” Riley said. “Sometimes change has to takeplace in order to do that.”
There has long been talk of the Heat’s need to upgrade atshooting guard. In past off-seasons Riley courted Latrell Sprewell,Mitch Richmond and Larry Hughes, with Brown and Mashburn oftenmentioned as trade bait. But until this week, Riley was unwillingto pull the trigger.
Prefers South Florida
Jones, who averaged a career-high 20.1 points and started in theNBA All-Star Game last season, got the team and the contract hewanted—a seven-year deal for at least $86 million. He considereda free-agent offer from the Chicago Bulls but preferred to play inSouth Florida, where he grew up and has a home.
“He’s feeling great. It’s a dream realized,” said his agent,Leon Rose. “He’s just excited about the chance to win achampionship.”
Jones, 28, joins two other established stars, center AlonzoMourning and point guard Tim Hardaway. His new teammates alsoinclude backup point guard Anthony Carter, who accepted a one-year,$1.2 million exception Tuesday to re-sign with the Heat.
“I always knew I wanted to be here and whatever it took for meto sign that’s what I was going to do,” said Carter, a rookie lastseason. “I’m going to do all I can to win a championship here.”
Charlotte avoided losing Jones without compensation by signinghim to the seven-year contract, then trading him. They acquiredfive players, including the hardworking Brown, 30, whom Rileytraded reluctantly.
“I coached P.J. for three seasons in New Jersey, and I love hisunselfish, defensive style of play,” Hornets coach Paul Silassaid. “Jamal will give us a consistent scorer, with along-distance threat, that will complement our front-lineplayers.”