‘The best part of it is simply being back,’ says Mario Chalmers of the Heat. The 35-year-old guard returned to the NBA on a 10-day contract, part of a wave of players returning as teams try to figure out what to do with their rosters. COVID-19
Mario Chalmers was seated on the visiting bench at Chase Center about an hour before tipoff on Monday night, soaking it all in. The NBA veteran is well aware that it might all be over in less than ten days.
But, judging by the broad smile on the Miami Heat guard’s face before his pregame exercise, he seemed more intent on savouring every moment of his surprising homecoming than fretting about when it could end.
Before the Heat’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, Chalmers told The Undefeated, “The nicest part of it is just being back.” “It’s hard to imagine going through what I did. After suffering an Achilles injury, I went overseas to play for a couple of years and saw a new type of basketball. “All I want to do now is get back to where I started and where I belong.”
A new hardship allowance was implemented when a wave of NBA players was sidelined due to the omicron version of COVID-19. More than 100 players signed 10-day contracts as a result of the new hardship allowance. Because the Heat was unable to reach the league’s criteria of eight eligible players, their game against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 29, 2021, was postponed. So the Heat signed Chalmers to a 10-day contract on New Year’s Eve to help cover the vacuum while Miami dealt with injuries and health and safety rules.
Since 2018, Chalmers has been attempting to return to the NBA. The 35-year-old has experience playing professionally in Europe, the Big Three, and, most recently, the G League.
Chalmers’ signing made sense for the Heat because of his experience with the team, having averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals while starting point guard for the Heat from 2008 to 2015 and winning two championships.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “He’s a big part of the banners that are up there.” “We’ve known each other from the beginning of his profession. Rio spent the summer working with our experts on his development, preparing himself to be one of the pillars of those championship years. I’ve enjoyed watching his development as a professional and as a human being.”
“Hopefully, my legacy there is a winner,” Chalmers said. Someone who always came out and put it on the line. Someone who has aided in the victory of championships. I didn’t give in to anyone. “I rose to the occasion.”
On Nov. 10, 2015, Chalmers was dealt with the Memphis Grizzlies, ending his first stay with Miami. After suffering a ruptured right Achilles tendon against the Boston Celtics on March 10, 2016, his season with Memphis was cut short and his career was jeopardized. Chalmers was waived the next day by the Grizzlies.
Chalmers missed the 2016-17 season and appeared in only 66 games for Memphis in 2017-18, averaging 7.7 points and 3.7 assists. Chalmers’ mental state was broken by the lack of attention from NBA teams at the time.
Chalmers admitted, “Mentally, I sank into a little despair.” “I’m not going to tell you anything. Basketball has always been a part of my life since I was a kid. It was difficult not to have basketball, no teams calling, and no one seeking me.”
After signing for the balance of the season with Virtus Bologna in March 2019, Chalmers returned to the court in Italy. He was relieved to be back on the court, and the affection he received from overseas fans helped him forget about his suffering, but he yearned to return to the NBA. From 2019 to 2021, he also played in the Big3 league for AEK Athens and Aris Thessaloniki in Greece, as well as Indios de Mayaguez in Puerto Rico.
While travelling the world was a wonderful experience for Chalmers, playing overseas offered its own set of difficulties.
“Going overseas humbled me,” Chalmers added. “That was a completely different game.” It’s a completely different environment. I was sick of travelling internationally. I’m not getting paid. “I haven’t been paid on time.”
Chalmers entered the G League free-agent pool in the hopes of signing with a team during the AT&T NBA G League Winter Showcase, which will take place in Las Vegas from December 19 to December 22, 2021. On December 18, 2021, he was signed by the Grand Rapids Gold of the G League, a Denver Nuggets affiliate. He was dismissed by the Gold on Christmas Eve after averaging 8.5 points and 3.0 assists in two games. Adam Simon, the Heat’s associate general manager, attended the G League showcase and watched Chalmers play.
Chalmers remarked, “I think the showcase benefited me with the Heat.” “I also played in the practice gym with Miami a couple of times during the summer.” They’ve seen me a couple of times, but I think the showcase offered them a fresh perspective on me since they saw that I put in the effort, that I was in good form, and that I could play.”
Chalmers then travelled to Vance County, North Carolina, for his aunt Lois Chalmers’ funeral. The Heat broke the bad news to his father, Ronnie, who also serves as his agent, that they wanted to sign his son to a 10-day deal in the midst of the sorrow.
“The call came at a moment when the family was in desperate need of encouragement,” Mario Chalmers said. “The timing couldn’t have been better. My aunt was really important to me. Her smile could light up a room. That was the sister of my father. They were in close proximity. I had a close relationship with her. He took it hard, so getting this call and seeing his son get an opportunity to return to the NBA was nice for him.”
Pat Riley, the president of the Heat, sent Chalmers a text message shortly after.
“‘Are you all set to go?’ ‘Get yourself to Houston.’ “It was brief and straightforward, as Pat is,” Chalmers added.
Prior to Chalmers’ signing, Spoelstra stated he and Chalmers stayed in touch and chatted via text. Chalmers had previously told Spoelstra that he would be available in the Heat, who were dealing with injuries at the time, needed him. The impact of the omicron variety on Miami’s squad eventually led to Chalmers’ arrival.
“It was great to reunite with Rio, but I was hoping we wouldn’t have a lot of open places,” Spoelstra said. “Of course, we did, just like everyone else.” It happened in a flash. I just liked the human aspect of reuniting him with his family.”
In his first three games since joining Miami, Chalmers did not play due to the coach’s decisions. Then, on Wednesday, before the game against Portland, he and Nik Stauskas were deemed ineligible, a designation given to players who had been out of the lineup due to the return of those who have been under health and safety protocols (Duncan Robinson and Max Strus took their places). His 10-day contract will expire on January 9, and he will not be able to play in a home game during that time.
Even if the Heat doesn’t sign him to a second 10-day deal, Chalmers isn’t ready to give up on the NBA. He stated that if necessary, he is willing to return to the G League.
“I have no idea what to expect,” Chalmers admitted. “I’m hoping for a new 10-day contract.” I’m hoping to be able to sign for the remainder of the year. The most important thing is to continue playing. Expectations? I honestly don’t have any. Let’s wait and see what happens…
“All I ask is for them to give me the chance to come back and receive the affection of the people.” Even though I haven’t been given a home game, I’ve had a lot of support from Heat fans who have said, ‘Welcome back.'”
“I don’t know where this is going to go,” Spoelstra said. We must all keep an open mind about this. This is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. But if you get the chance to do something like this, even if it’s only for a little time, I believe it’s worthwhile, and I’m grateful for the relationship.”
Chalmers is the son of two coaches who aided in his and others’ development both on and off the court. Ronnie Chalmers is a former assistant coach at Kansas and a former head basketball coach at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska. Almarie Mosley Chalmers is a licensed life coach who wrote The Ball is in Your Court: Embracing Your Child’s Dreams about raising a basketball family and developed Hi-Rise Sports Camps, which taught life skills development to student-athletes.
Chalmers hopes to work in the NBA after he retires from playing.
“When I’m done,” Chalmers added, “I want to get into player development.” “This is the ideal time for me to take a look at what I need to do.”
It’s probable that the Miami native will be able to discover that opportunity with his favourite team, the Miami Heat. Chalmers expressed interest in doing so, and Spoelstra may be the one to make it happen.
“Last summer, he told me something insane,” Spoelstra remarked. “He stated that he aspired to work in this field. ‘Are you insane?’ I asked. ‘Are you serious?’ But if he decides to go into this lunacy after he’s done playing, he still has years ahead of him because he’s in shape and his style of play will let him play for a few more years, but if he does, I’d love to help him in any connection — whether it’s with us or someone else.”
Marc J. Spears is The Undefeated’s senior NBA writer. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t done so in years, and his knees are still bothering him.