MIAMI — Goran Dragic has repeatedly said that he wants to finish his career in Miami. Meyers Leonard ended last season wanting a second run with the Heat.
As such, their time as free agents didn’t last long.
Dragic and Leonard have both decided to return to the reigning Eastern Conference champions.
Dragic’s deal is for two years, with a team option in the second year, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard’s deal is also for two years and worth nearly $20 million, agents Aaron Mintz and Dave Spahn told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Heat still have flexibility with their $9.3 million midlevel and $3.6 million biannual exception after these signings, according to Marks. They have 12 players under contract with a projected $20 million below the tax.
“Happy to be back,” Dragic told the AP. “That was my plan, to come back, but in this crazy business you never know.”
The Heat won the East as a No. 5 seed last season, Jimmy Butler‘s first in Miami and a season in which the team’s young core — All-Star Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn — all blossomed at once.
“I wanted nothing more than to come back to Miami. Literally nothing more,” Leonard told the AP. “I felt so damn blessed to feel at home right away and feel that way all year long. From top to bottom, Pat to Spo, Jimmy to Bam, Goran to UD and the rest of my teammates, something just felt so right. There’s just no other way to put it.”
Dragic will be entering his seventh season with the Heat and is coming off a year in which he averaged 16.2 points while playing off the bench in the regular season. He became a starter again in the playoffs and tore his plantar fascia in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, an injury that hurt Miami’s chances.
The Heat surprised Dragic with billboards in his native Slovenia in recent days, with slogans such as “Your second family is always with you.” That gesture, Dragic said, was deeply moving.
“I was in the car with my wife and her brother and they drove me past those billboards,” Dragic said. “I didn’t know. They told me nothing. They just said, ‘Look to the right.’ And when I saw myself, saw what they said, it really touched my heart. This is my home. I want to stay here in Miami. I appreciate Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg, the whole organization and what they did for me.”
Leonard averaged 6.1 points for the Heat this past season, starting for much of the regular season. He said he had no desire last year to try to put up big numbers in a contract year, deciding instead to simply focus on doing whatever it took for Miami to win games.
He hoped that would be enough for the Heat to want him back. It was.
“It feels good to be wanted, No. 1. But more to me, I am incredibly, incredibly thankful that the Heat appreciates Meyers Leonard as a total package,” said Leonard, who intends to fly from his offseason base in Los Angeles back to Miami shortly. “The human being, the teammate, the player. Everything matters to them, and that matters to me. I have found comfort in knowing exactly who I am as a person and as a player and I’ve shown enough people exactly what that is, and I’m not changing for anybody.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.