FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Tuesday's contract deadline came and went without Heat forward Shawn Marion invoking his opt-out clause.
"We did not opt out," agent Dan Fegan confirmed, with the Heat to have been notified only if Marion wanted to test free agency this summer.
As a result, the Heat now holds two of the NBA's biggest trade chips: Marion and the No. 2 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.
By bypassing the opt-out, Marion will earn $17.8 million next season. However, he now is limited, by salary-cap rules, to a four-year extension from the Heat.
Considering Marion is seeking an extension in the $60 million range, it makes such a package highly unlikely from the Heat, which has placed a priority on creating cap space for the 2010 offseason, when Raptors forward Chris Bosh, Cavaliers forward LeBron James and its own Dwyane Wade could be free agents.
While no trade demand has been issued, dissatisfaction from Marion over his long-term outlook in Phoenix contributed to the Feb. 6 trade that sent him along with guard Marcus Banks to the Heat for center Shaquille O'Neal.
Marion had been off-limits for a trade, by league rule, until his opt-out window closed. At 6 p.m. Tuesday that changed.
Now options with Marion can be explored, possibly those including picks in Thursday's draft. One permutation would be the Knicks' No. 6 pick and guard Stephon Marbury, who holds an expiring contract, for Marion and center Mark Blount.
With the Heat already gauging the trade market for its No. 2 pick, the period leading to its 7:40 p.m. Thursday selection could be the busiest for the franchise in years.
Among those linked to the Heat in trade rumors have been Carmelo Anthony, Mike Miller, Mike Conley, Chris Wilcox and numerous others.
In many ways, the situations with Marion and projected No. 2 pick Michael Beasley are similar, with the Heat seemingly uncertain if either offers value for what would be spent.
With Marion, the concern is offering a lucrative extension for a player not known for creating his own shots. With Beasley, it is spending such a high draft pick on a player with perceived maturity issues.
The Heat could conceivably allow Marion to play out the final year of his contract, and then consider sign-and-trade options next summer, when Clippers forward Elton Brand and Jazz forward Carlos Boozer could be free agents.
But based on Marion's dissatisfaction in Phoenix over his treatment by the Suns, it could be difficult for the Heat to coexist with the forward even to the February trading deadline.
Whether Beasley even will be a Heat's option at No. 2 remains in doubt.
Chicago General Manager John Paxson, whose team holds the No. 1 selection, was noncommittal during a media briefing Tuesday at the Bulls' practice facility.
As has been the case since Chicago leapfrogged the Heat to emerge with the top overall selection during the NBA Draft lottery, Paxson continued to offer only praise for Memphis point guard Derrick Rose and Beasley.
"We're probably leaning a certain way," Paxson said. "But as I've learned in this business, over the next 48 hours a lot of things can happen."
Paxson said it is not a matter of gamesmanship with the Heat.
"You don't have to call a name until Thursday night," he said. "We're not trying to be coy.
"But it doesn't serve any purpose to today say what direction we're going to go."
Paxson acknowledged Beasley probably would be quicker to produce in the NBA.
"Beasley, there is no doubt he's going to come in the league and score," he said.
Paxson said point guards generally need more time to adjust.
"Whether it's us or Miami, I think the same thing applies for Derrick," he said. "It's an interesting debate."
Addressing the media Tuesday in New Jersey, Nets President Rod Thorn said the league also is uncertain of the Heat's direction, with Southern Cal guard O.J. Mayo possibly in the equation.
"A lot of people think Miami is not going to take Beasley," he said. "For instance, if they stay at two, that they may take Mayo. There are a lot of different scenarios."
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