Erick Dampier has a one-year offer from the Miami Heat and is expected to sign it Tuesday, CBSSports.com has learned.
The 35-year-old center arrived in Miami Monday night and, pending his passing of a medical exam, will join the team to replace Udonis Haslem, who is out until at least February with a torn ligament in his foot. The deal is for one year at the prorated veteran's minimum, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The Heat will have to release a player to create a roster spot for Dampier, likely Dexter Pittman or Jamaal Magloire.
The Heat previously worked out Dampier in September, but decided not to proceed with an offer. The Suns, Raptors, Rockets and Bucks pursued Dampier, who had a verbal agreement to join the Rockets. But Houston surprisingly backed away after failing to clear a roster spot for Dampier. In the end, Dampier got his preferred situation: a title contender forced to accelerate its pursuit of him based on a need that arose during the season. His patience, it turns out, paid off.
Another team inquired about Dampier Monday: the Hornets, who caused Dampier to give them serious consideration based on their 11-1 start. But the Heat remained the ideal fit from Dampier's perspective, and he becomes the latest free agent to join Miami's title pursuit -- albeit under unfortunate circumstances.
The need to act quickly in the wake of news Monday that Haslem will need foot surgery that will shelve him for several months was only underscored Monday night, when the Heat were getting blown out at home by Indiana. Even with the high-profile free-agent additions of the summer, Miami still lacks a true center and has been getting exploited around the basket by bigger, tougher teams.
How ready Dampier is will determine how quickly the Heat will be able to reverse that trend. By his own admission, Dampier has always been a player who plays himself into shape as the season progresses. After initially meeting with the Heat in September, Dampier considered working out at the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., to get himself ready to sign. In the end, he decided not to take that route.
Further complicating the decision on who to sign as Haslem's replacement is the fact that Miami's offensive efficiency clearly has been hurt by their slow pace and coach Erik Spoelstra's insistence on playing a traditional point guard with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Adding Dampier, a plodding, post-up center with limited mobility, may signal that Spoelstra -- and, by extension, president Pat Riley -- are digging in on their strategic preferences instead of freeing up the offense with smaller lineups. Either way, Dampier was the best and only option available to a team that badly needs an interior presence to get past Boston or Orlando in the East.