NBA champions Miami Heat strengthened their already imposing roster today by signing veteran free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, hugely boosting their threat from long distance.
Allen is the National Basketball Association's (NBA) all-time leading three-point scorer and a 10-time All-Star, who won a championship with Miami's Eastern Conference rivals, the Boston Celtics, in 2008. The 36-year-old guard turned down a two-year offer from the Celtics, reportedly for US$12 million, to join three-time NBA most valuable player LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
"There are only a handful of players that absolutely strike fear into their opponent and Ray is one of those players," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who declined to get into the specifics of Allen's role on court.
"We brought him here to be a big part of what we do."
Allen should bolster a team that was just 10th overall in three-point shooting last season, while also helping to open driving lanes for both for James and Wade.
"I'm looking forward to having a high-octane offense, with Dwyane and LeBron pushing it and creating so many shots for everybody else," said Allen, who will turn 37 later this month. He will likely back-up Wade at the shooting guard position, but could also play alongside him as an alternative to Mario Chalmers.
While Allen's signing has been widely tipped for a week now, today is the first day teams can officially sign free agents, so all those rumours can now become fact.
Heat president Pat Riley said he had learnt from the failure to build on the team's title triumph in 2006 and wanted to make sure he added additional elements right away this time.
"That was my mistake," he said. "You have got to keep adding pieces to it. We've got to raise the bar and expect more from ourselves."
Forward Lewis (32) is a 14-year NBA veteran and two-time NBA All Star, who played with Allen at the Seattle Supersonics from 2003-07. In their final season together, they averaged a combined 48.8 points.
Lewis, also a highly-rated three-point shooter with a career average of 16.1 points per game, spent last season with the Washington Wizards, before being traded to the New Orleans Hornets, who bought out his contract and made him a free agent.
After two injury-hampered seasons, Lewis will be hoping for a shot at a maiden NBA championship and he's also reported to have rejected better financial offers.
Lewis, who has also played for Orlando, is expected to share power forward duties with Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier.
The Heat now have 13 players under contract and have two places remaining on their roster.
Other major free-agent announcements today include contract extensions for point guard Deron Williams at the Brookly Nets and Tim Duncan at the San Antonio Spurs, and point guard Steve Nash heading to the Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade with Phoenix Suns. One deal that isn't close to being done is a trade involving centre Dwight Howard - the Nets have reportedly given up their attempts to lure him aboard and have agreed to terms with their young pivot Brook Lopez instead.