Mickell Gladness and Terrel Harris thought they were competing against each other for the last spot on the Miami Heat roster.
Instead, the former NBA Development League teammates both played their way onto the club.
The Heat announced Saturday that they waived veteran guard Eddie House, meaning a pair of rookies in Gladness and Harris were on the 15-man roster to open the season and therefore earned seats on the plane to Dallas. Miami opens the season against the Mavericks on Sunday in a rematch of last season's NBA finals.
''I had my bags packed,'' Gladness said. ''One bag is in the room, just ready to go back to North Dakota. The second bag was packed to get on the plane. So eeny, meeny, miney, moe, pick which one.''
The 33-year-old House was told of the decision Friday night by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley. House had left knee surgery last month and is not yet ready to play, one of the many factors Spoelstra said went into what became an extremely tough decision.
''He's part of our Heat family. ... Those are the toughest decisions you have to make,'' Spoelstra said.
House was drafted by the Heat in 2000 and has also played for the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, New Jersey, Boston, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Sacramento and New York. House scored 35 points for Miami in the regular-season finale last season, a win at Toronto.
''It's always hard when you see a brother like Eddie House have to be waived,'' Heat forward LeBron James said. ''He's been through the fire with us all last year. So I wish the best to him and hopefully a team will pick him up. But those kids, Gladness and Harris, they played extremely hard. And there was never a time when they didn't try to give it their all.''
Harris shot 50 percent in Miami's two preseason games, and now the former Oklahoma State standout gets to start his pro career in his hometown of Dallas. A 6-foot-11 center from Alabama A&M, Gladness had eight rebounds in 21 minutes during the preseason.
''Both simply overwhelmed us with their effort and their desire and their want this week,'' Spoelstra said. ''It was a little bit of a surprise and they continued to make us watch. That's what training camps are all about.''
Gladness said getting the word on Christmas Eve became his best gift ever - topping, he said, a Sega Genesis game system he once got. Harris said he was first told by Shane Battier in the locker room before practice, initially being a bit confused as to why he was getting congratulations.
''It was a good day today,'' Harris said.
NOTES: Center Eddy Curry, as expected, also made the club, though he's not yet ready to play as he works his way back into shape. Curry has appeared in only 10 games over the past three seasons. ... Spoelstra said Battier (left quad strain) will be a game-time decision in Dallas on Sunday.