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Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem told reporters Thursday that teammate Mike Miller underwent hernia surgery last week, news which could spell the end of Miller's brief tenure with the Heat.
The Heat were hoping reserve guard Mike Miller could play a full season after missing most of the last year to a variety of ailments, including shoulder surgery, thumb surgery, and a concussion.
He managed to play himself back into the Heat's rotation in the playoffs. He is credited with helping the Heat outrebound the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miller confirmed the news to ESPN.com later Thursday. "I'm doing better," he said "When it rains it pours. I just can't catch a break right now."
Haslem said Miller could be out of commission for the next eight weeks, though, meaning Miami might not wish to continue paying his hefty salary while other options at forward are available.
Miller is due to make $5.4 million this season, the second in a 5-year deal with $24 million remaining. Under the lockout settlement, each team has the right release one player and have his salary disregarded from salary cap considerations.
If the Heat release Miller, they would have more flexibility in trying to land a free agent point guard or center, the team's two biggest areas of need heading into the season.
Even if Miami does decide to release Miller, that would probably not happen right away. If the Heat cannot convince a big-ticket free agent to sign, there would be less need to clear cap space by cutting Miller.
When healthy, Miller is exactly the kind of player team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra love. He complements Miami's Big Three on offense with excellent three-point shooting (40 percent for his career), and has a reputation as a solid defender and rebounder.
Releasing Miller would create another hole for the Heat, whose backup forward options are limited (of all the team's reserve forwards on last year's roster, only Haslem and Miller are under contract).
Despite this, as well as issues at center and point guard, the Heat are considered the team with the best shot at winning the NBA Finals heading into the 2011-2012 season. Jay Rood, head of the sports book at MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, told the Los Angeles Times this week that the Heat are a 2-to-1 favorite.