Juwan Howard was on the floor for the final moments of the win that clinched last season’s NBA championship for the Miami Heat.
Turns out, that might not have been his last game as a pro.
The Heat brought Howard back on Saturday, signing the 40-year-old power forward to a 10-day contract. It will be his 19th NBA season, and he’s expected to be with the team on Sunday when Miami visits the New York Knicks.
And after the way Heat president Pat Riley described the move, it doesn’t appear to be one made just on a whim.
“Juwan is a key part of the championship culture here in Miami,” Riley said Saturday in a statement released by the Heat. “He is essential to this team and can still play this game at a high level in some of our biggest games yet to come. He has a unique veteran savvy and will provide leadership and experience to our team.”
The Heat did not practice Saturday before gathering to fly to New York.
The move was one that the Heat were considering even last fall. When the Heat won the NBA title — Howard’s first ring — he was the first player back to resume workouts at the team practice facility, doing so less than a week after 400,000 fans showed up for the team’s championship parade through downtown Miami.
Howard said then that if he played again, it would be in Miami. And when the Heat decided in September to not sign him to the training camp roster, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that the club would consider bringing him into the mix later in the season if things worked out.
With an open roster spot and amid a very hectic March schedule — 18 games in all — the Heat apparently decided Saturday was right to make a move.
Howard has played in 1,201 career games, including 85 over the past two seasons with Miami, which originally signed him in July 2010. Heat players like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James both consistently raved about Howard’s leadership role in the locker room during his stint with the team, and Howard has been seen at several Miami games this season.
According to STATS LLC, the signing of Howard means Miami has four of the NBA’s top 19 active scoring leaders, the others being Ray Allen (No. 5, 23,533 points), James (No. 8, 20, 562 points) and Wade (No. 19, 16,109 points). Howard, for now anyway, is No. 18 on that list, 29 points ahead of Wade.
Thumbnail photo via Facebook/Juwan Howard