Miami's Ian Clark (59) drives to the basket past Brooklyn's David Lightly during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BY NICK WILLIAMS Tribune Staff
Published: July 13, 2013
Updated: July 14, 2013 at 01:06 PM
ORLANDO - There's wishful thinking. And then there's making the three-time NBA champion Miami Heat's roster this summer as an undrafted rookie.
This week in Orlando, the Heat were one of 10 teams playing in a summer league tournament. They had only one player from their 2013 championship team on the summer roster, center Jarvis Varnado, and aside from second-round draft pick James Ennis, fielded a group of mostly undrafted rookies.
The Heat, who last month defeated the San Antonio Spurs in seven games to claim their second straight NBA title, obviously aren't lacking in talent and may not need to sign one of the undrafted rookies. Led by four-time MVP LeBron James, the Heat also return All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh along with significant role players like Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and Chris "Birdman" Andersen.
According to several betting sites, the Heat are 2-1 favorites to win another title in 2014.
For the undrafted rookies trying out for the Heat, the opportunity presents the chance of a lifetime.
"It's big," said Ian Clark, a 6-foot-4 guard from Belmont University. "You see them on TV all the time and they're a great organization. They demand a lot and you want to come in here and play well, knowing that you're playing on a championship-caliber team."
From the first day of the tournament, Clark turned heads with his aggressiveness on both sides of the ball. He ended the week as one of the Heat's top scorers.
"He's been a bit of a surprise," said Dan Craig, Miami's summer league coach, who acts as video coordinator and assistant coach during the regular season. "We had him circled. He was on our radar when he came to camp, but he's definitely raised some eyebrows."
The dilemma for Clark, however, is the Heat already have two young guards in Chalmers and Norris Cole.
"With his ability to shoot, he's always going to be right there as a possibility for any team," Craig said. "A lot of these guys, sometimes it's not with us, sometimes it's with other teams, but I think he's an NBA player."
Also making the case for himself was 6-7 forward Scotty Hopson, who declared early for the draft out of Tennessee a few years ago and has been playing overseas.
"He can do a lot of things," Craig said. "He can play out on the post for us, play in catch-and-shoots, and he handles (the ball), too. ... He does fit the style that we like to play."
Other than Andersen, the only free agent from the 2013 Miami team is 19-year NBA veteran Juwan Howard. But with a payroll that is expected to be among the league's highest, a roster spot could open for a young, inexpensive player such as Clark or Hopson.
"(I can be) another guy who can space the floor," Clark said. "They have guys like LeBron and D-Wade who can get to the basket and do whatever they want to do. They need guys who can help take the pressure off them. I can be one of those guys."