OKLAHOMA CITY -- Roger Mason Jr. survived training camp with his non-guaranteed contract. He survived long enough to have his league-minimum deal guaranteed on Jan. 10. But the veteran guard couldn't survive the Heat's ultimate desire for roster flexibility.
In a move that creates the first roster opening since the Heat broke camp, the Heat on Thursday dealt Mason to Sacramento at the NBA trading deadline.
"We have the flexibility now to choose," coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Although the Mason deal was the Heat's lone move at the deadline, it leaves the team the option of picking up a player in advance of the playoffs. Players waived by March 1 remain playoff-eligible elsewhere, provided they are signed by the end of the regular season.
"Right now," Spoelstra said, "the business side of it is that it gives us flexibility going down the stretch."
Later in the day, the Kings waived Mason, with the Heat including enough cash in the deal to offset Mason's remaining 2013-14 salary, which was at the NBA minimum.
The Heat technically acquired a 2015 second-round NBA Draft pick in the deal, but the protection on that pick would require the Kings to have one of the best records in the NBA next season in order for the selection to be conveyed. The Heat otherwise would receive nothing in return other than the luxury-tax relief realized by unloading Mason's salary.
Mason had been spending recent games on the Heat's inactive list, especially after last month's acquisition of guard Toney Douglas from Golden State.
Mason was signed Sept. 27 as a free agent to help as a fill-in during those games when Dwyane Wade was inactive. Instead, Spoelstra had utilized Ray Allen and Douglas in recent games in those situations. Douglas is considered a superior defender to Mason.
"If Dwyane's healthy or not," Spoelstra said, "we feel comfortable right now keeping the rotation that way it is. But we also feel we can be versatile with it, if need be."
Mason appeared in 25 games with the Heat, including two starts. He averaged 3.0 points in 10.4 minutes per game, while shooting .373 percent from the field.
Shortly after the trade, Mason posted on his Twitter account, "Truly blessed to have been a part of such a classy franchise, great fans, and a brotherhood I will never forget. Thank u @MiamiHEAT family!"
With the passing of the deadline, it leaves Udonis Haslem and James Jones in place with the Heat despite their lack of recent action. Haslem has one additional season remaining on his contract.
The Mason move with the Kings' second-round pick is similar to last year's trade-deadline dump of the salary of center Dexter Pittman to Memphis. In that deal, the Heat also received a second-round pick from Memphis with so much protection that it never actually was forwarded to the Heat.
By trading Mason instead of waiving him, the Heat realize significant savings due to the multiplier involved in the NBA's highly punitive luxury tax. The Kings are operating below the luxury tax and therefore do not face the same salary multiple.
In essence, the Kings acted in a conduit in a deal that proved profitable to both teams, with the Heat saving against the tax and the Kings receiving cash beyond Mason's remaining salary.
The Heat made similar moves for luxury-tax savings with last summer's amnesty release of swingman Mike Miller and January's trade of center Joel Anthony to Boston.
The next question for the Heat is what they will do with the vacated roster spot.
Among players who could be in position for impending buyouts are just-dealt Jason Terry, Reggie Evans and Eric Maynor, as well as veterans getting on in years, receiving minimal playing time and stuck in no-win situations, such as Caron Butler, Keith Bogans, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Chris Kaman.
Then there is Heat 2013 second-round acquisition James Ennis, who is completing his season in Australia, with the Heat still holding his rights. He would be playoff eligible if signed prior to the close of the regular season.
Spoelstra said there is no desperation for an immediate follow-up to Thursday's move.
"We have enough," he said. "There's no question about it. We're not looking around the league saying, 'Hey, we need another piece to be able to be able to contend for a title.' The answers are in our locker room. And concerning health, we have the depth."
Players who have not been in the league this season also may be signed until the final game of the regular season to be playoff eligible.
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