MIAMI — Dorell Wright has sensed for years that he would return to the Miami Heat, and hopes his second time around becomes the last stop in his playing career.
Wright, the brother of former Utes star Delon Wright, signed with the Heat as a free agent on Tuesday, the next-to-last day of the regular season. He's an insurance policy of sorts for the Heat going into the playoffs, taking the final spot on a 15-man roster that couldn't be filled until this week because Miami had such a limited amount of money to spend without exceeding the luxury tax threshold.
"I couldn't be more happy," Wright said. "I've seen this for a long time, me coming back at some point. I just didn't know when. It's awesome. I think it's going to be great."
The move not only reunites Wright with the team that drafted him — he was Miami's first-round selection in 2004 and spent six years with the Heat — but pairs him again with Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade, with whom he's remained particularly close. Wright was the first person Wade hugged during the on-court celebration in Dallas when Miami won the 2006 NBA title, a moment neither has forgotten.
"I'm excited," Wade said. "It's a different time in his life, different time in mine as well. It's cool that we get to play together again, especially now. I'm excited both ways — one, we get a player who makes us better and two, we get one of my best friends around."
Wright played in China this season, averaging 24.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.03 steals per game for a team in Beijing. He averaged an NBA-career-best 16.4 points for Golden State in his first season after leaving Miami, and has appeared in 549 NBA games with the Heat, Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers.
Wade said he can easily see a role for someone with Wright's skill set on this Heat team. Miami waited until now to fill the roster in order to avoid the tax, but it was paramount to the Heat to take the full 15-player allotment to the playoffs in part because All-Star forward Chris Bosh (blood clots) would seem doubtful at best to return this season and guard Tyler Johnson (shoulder surgery) has been unable to play since January.
"Dorell fits in with the versatility of the team," Wade said. "He can guard multiple guys, he can stretch the floor, he can rebound and push it. He just fits, man. It's the perfect fit for him. Perfect time, perfect situation, perfect offense we're running. It'll be an easy transition for him."
Wright was a free agent last summer, and found himself headed to China even though he believes he's got plenty of NBA years left.
"It was a humbling experience," he said. "I worked on my game each and every day. I worked on my craft every game, got out of my comfort zone and I got better."
Wright said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stressed to him that his role in Miami won't come with any guarantees. He might play, he might not.
"If Spo needs me to play two minutes, if he needs me to play 30 minutes, if he needs me to be on the bench and get the guys into it and motivate the younger players or even the veteran players, that's what I'm going to do," Wright said. "I'll be as ready as I can be to take advantage of this opportunity."