Max Strus was a big part of the reason that the Miami Heat were able to make a run to the NBA Finals last season, and after the success they shared, the sharpshooter thought that there was a chance that he’d be able to continue his career in Miami.
“Obviously the success we had there and the fun we had and making it as far as we did, you don’t want to leave, you want to run it back with those guys and the team you had, because you were so successful,” Strus said. “So I think a little bit of me was kind of thinking I was going back, somehow, some way it was going to work out. But when you really get down to the business side of it and look at numbers and things like that, it’s cut and dried that you’re not going to come back.”
Strus’ solid play throughout the playoffs last season helped boost his market value across the league, and when free agency rolled around, the Heat weren’t prepared to get into a bidding war for the 27-year-old’s services. Strus eventually landed with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a four-year, $63 million deal via sign-and-trade.
Though he might have liked to remain in South Beach, Strus understands the business side of basketball, and he didn’t take the fact that the Heat didn’t bring him back personally. Now, he’s just happy to be contributing to another contender in the Eastern Conference.
“There was nothing really that anybody could do,” Strus added of the situation. “The way the money worked, I didn’t take anything personally. I would like to think that if it were possible, that they would have wanted me there, still. I didn’t take anything personal.
“It is what it is, and we moved on. I was able to get what I deserved and be on another playoff team. So I’m very happy how everything worked out.”
Losing key contributors is often the price of success for teams that are able to make deep playoff runs, and the Heat are no different.
In addition to losing Strus, the Heat were also unable to retain guard Gabe Vincent, who signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers over the offseason. Vincent also thought there was a chance that he’d be back with the Heat before the circumstances changed.
Things have worked out well for Strus in Cleveland so far. He’s started in all 13 games for the Cavaliers this season, and he’s averaging many career-highs: 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 35.1 minutes per performance. Though he’s no longer part of the Heat’s iconic culture, he credits his time in Miami for helping him develop and grow as a player.
“I’m very grateful and fortunate enough that I had the chance to learn from Spo (Erik Spoelstra), to learn from the culture that’s created in Miami,” Strus said, “because I think it made me a better pro and is going to make me a better pro the rest of my career.”
Strus will get his first opportunity to play against his former franchise as a member of the Cavaliers this week, as Cleveland is set to host Miami on Wednesday night.
Both teams are currently in the thick of the postseason picture in the Eastern Conference. The Heat sit fourth in the conference with a 9-5 overall record, while the Cavs currently occupy eighth place with a 7-6 record. The game will likely be a bittersweet one for Stus, who really elevated his career during his time with the Heat.