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Miami Heat, Erick Dampier Reportedly Close to Deal

Nov 23, 2010 – 12:25 AM
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FanHouse Staff

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Erick DampierThe Miami Heat are reportedly close to signing free-agent center Erick Dampier, a move intended to bolster a frontline that was often overmatched even before the loss of key reserve Udonis Haslem, who's sidelined indefinitely after suffering a torn ligament in his left foot Saturday.

The Heat have already extended a one-year offer to Dampier, who is expected to accept the deal pending a physical Tuesday, reports CBS Sports' Ken Berger. FanHouse's Sam Amick has confirmed with a source close to the situation that Dampier is in Miami and "close" to agreeing on a contract, although the Heat would need to clear a roster spot before any deal could be made official.

The Miami Heat first explored the possibility of signing Dampier in September but ultimately passed, deciding to enter the season with Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magliore at the center position -- in part because the rugged Haslem, a 6-foot-8 power forward, was capable of playing out of position for stretches. But Haslem will be sidelined until at least the All-Star break, and perhaps even the rest of the season, after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair his injured foot.

Dampier, 35, has had several suitors since being waived by the Charlotte Bobcats on Sept. 14 in a cost-cutting move. The Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers all pursued him, as did the Houston Rockets, who nearly signed him in October before opting against clearing the necessary roster spot.

The Rockets may have passed on Dampier after realizing their five-game losing streak to start the season was a sign of their second-class status among would-be contenders in the Western Conference. The Heat, on the other hand, have too much at stake to be discouraged by their 8-6 start to the season, even after Monday's disappointing 93-77 blowout loss at home to the Indiana Pacers. After 14 games last season, long before their high-profile additions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat were 9-5.

Among Miami's struggles this year has been the ability to consistently defend in the paint. Dampier, listed at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, should help remedy that problem, although it remains to be seen what kind of shape he's kept himself in during his layoff. Dampier has averaged 7.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over his 14-year career, including 6.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 55 games with the Dallas Mavericks last season.

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