Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 11/27/11
Samuel Dalembert is quite a volunteer. The center already has spent about 1 million for relief following the January 2010 earthquake in his native Haiti and plans an initial donation of 2 million to 3 million for a sports academy he's building outside the capital of Port-au-Prince. Soon, the Miami Heat might have a basketball volunteer in Dalembert. The team desperately needs a center. The 6-foot-11 Dalembert is a free agent. And the Heat is high on his list for when the free agency signing period is expected to begin Dec. 9 following a five-month lockout. "That would be fantastic," Dalembert said in an interview Sunday night from Haiti with FOX Sports Florida about the possibility of joining Miami, which is where more than 50 of his relatives live and is about one hour south of his Boca Raton, Fla., home. As for the volunteering part, it likely would require a big pay cut for Dalembert to join the Heat, which will be over the salary cap. Dalembert, who made 13.43 million last season for Sacramento, might have to sign for the 5 million mid-level exception. Dalembert wouldn't say specifically he would agree to that. But he did say "what is best for you might not be for the most money." And he definitely likes the Heat. "I'm keeping all my options open, but Miami could be a good fit for me," Dalembert said. Why is that? "If you look at the playoffs with Dallas, you saw what Tyson Chandler did," Dalembert said of the Mavericks beating the Heat in six games for the NBA title last June with Chandler impressive at center. "He was basically a key ingredient for them to win a championship. And Miami didn't have somebody like that. Somebody able to stop (foes from) getting second shots and somebody able to rebound and finish. I could fill that role and be an asset for that team." Dalembert, 30, averaged 8.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.45 blocks last season for Sacramento and has career averages of 8.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.88 blocks. Miami's current starter at center, Joel Anthony, averaged 2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.24 blocks last season. Dalembert said he's not going to "put my eggs all in one basket" regarding the Heat. So he also named New York and Houston as teams he will consider in free agency. "It's one of my options as well," Dalembert said of New York, where he spent portions of the offseason working out with Elton Brand, once his teammate in Philadelphia. "It's a building process. It can be similar to Miami when they get all the pieces together. It's something that can work and they need a big (man) (Amare Stoudemire) can go to a comfortable situation (if the Knicks get a quality center and Stoudemire can play less at center and more at his natural position of power forward)." As for Houston, that's an obvious team for Dalembert to consider. "Yao Ming is retiring," Dalembert said. "Houston is a possibility." But the Heat has things New York and Houston don't. Miami is the favorite for the NBA title and the city has a large Haitian population. "All the Haitian people I talk to say, You have to come to Miami,"' Dalembert said. Dalembert said he's left between 20 to 30 tickets for games he's played in Miami. Among relatives, he says he knows about 50 in the city, and the number is even greater when considering some of the children of relatives he hasn't met. So why does Dalembert make his home in Boca Raton? "If I lived in Miami, my home would be like a motel," he joked about all the relatives who would want to stay with him but say Boca Raton is too far for regular drives. Dalembert has split his time spent in the U.S. since the season ended between New York and South Florida. He has used the latter as a launching point for seven trips he has made to Haiti, most being five- to seven day junkets. Dalembert has made regular relief trips to Haiti since the earthquake hit Jan. 12, 2010. The Haitian government has reported it resulted in 316,000 deaths, 300,000 injuries and made one million homeless. However, international agencies have called the death toll much lower, possibly at 46,000. "There is still a lot of destruction. You need big machines, and not just by hand," said Dalembert, saying Haiti is lacking in necessary machinery. "People do have to work (at jobs). They can't clean up all day long. So they do it on the weekend. But you are seeing progress." For his initial efforts in Haiti, Dalembert was a recipient of the Mannie Jackson Basketball Human Experience Award at the Hall of Fame inductions in August 2010 in Springfield, Mass. Now, he's turning his attention to constructing the sports academy. Dalembert will spend 2 million to 3 million of his own money for the first phase, which will include a building where students can meet for after-school programs and for classes for "mothers to be able to read and write." He hopes in the initial phase to have basketball courts, a soccer field and a running track. Dalembert is soliciting donations for the next two phases, and is willing to name the academy after an individual who provides a large one. He wants to eventually have an elementary school and dormitories and to be able to expand the sports available. "You see kids missing legs," Dalembert said of some of the individuals he wants to help at his academy, which he hopes can open by the start of next summer. "I would love to help support some of those kids. They have prostheses but they can still play soccer I don't want them to feel left behind." Dalembert does see one positive to the lockout in that it provided him additional opportunities to visit Haiti. But now he's ready to play basketball. "Sometimes in life, you've got to make sacrifices to make it work for everybody," Dalembert said of the lockout finally being settled. "In my mind, the people who were suffering were the people who worked in the arenas, and not being able to help their families. "I'm not going to suffer compared to that. We (the players) were able to get this thing done and the owners, they were like, We've had enough,' and this can work." So soon it will be time for Dalembert to go back to work. For a team that needs a starting center he's perhaps ready to volunteer with a big pay cut. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter@christomasson
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