MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat now have an open roster spot, just in case someone comes along and intrigues the reigning NBA champions before the season enters the home stretch.
And in return, the Memphis Grizzlies got a big man.
The Heat sent backup center Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick in this year's draft to the Grizzlies on Thursday for the rights to center Ricky Sanchez. The teams struck the deal not long before the NBA's 3 p.m. trading deadline, with the Grizzlies using a trade exception to make the deal a reality.
"I want to thank Dexter for his hard work and professional attitude," Heat President Pat Riley said in a release distributed by the team. "Unfortunately, in order to gain roster flexibility we had to trade someone. We wish him nothing but the best."
Miami now has 14 players on its roster, one under the league maximum. Sanchez, who is playing in Argentina, will not count against the team's roster unless the Heat bring him to the team — which is not expected to happen.
Having the extra spot could allow Miami to add someone later this season, possibly another inside player to get minutes now or a project for future years. The Heat could also simply do nothing with the open roster slot. In past years, Miami has used late-season roster flexibility to add players like Mike Bibby and Ronny Turiaf for playoff pushes.
"We've proven that we have enough anywhere, anyplace, anytime," coach Erik Spoelstra said before the Heat played at Chicago on Thursday. "It's been about consistency with us, and that'll be the challenge again tonight."
Pittman appeared in only four games this season for Miami, where he was often either on the inactive list or playing for the team's Sioux Falls affiliate in the NBA Development League.
Over Pittman's three seasons, he played in 41 games, almost all as a reserve, and averaged 2.8 points.
Memphis was looking to add another inside player after sending backup center Hamed Haddadi to Toronto as part of the deal that had Rudy Gay leaving the Grizzlies for the Raptors last month.
"We'll always be grateful for Pitt and his contribution to our championship last year," Spoelstra said. "Pitt's a young talent we enjoyed developing. This move is really about roster flexibility."
AP sports writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.