MIAMI The Big Cat will turn into a big Heat fan once the playoffs start.
Toronto center Jamaal Magloire, who played for Miami the three previous seasons, hopes and expects the Heat to win the NBA championship. Magloire, who still has a home in South Florida, anticipates attending some playoff games.
First, the hope part. Magloire admits it would bittersweet if the Heat win the title in his first season gone. But that won't change his allegiance.
"My hope is that they do win it," Magloire said before Toronto's 96-72 loss Wednesday to the Heat to AmericanAirlines Arena. "I love (Miami president Pat) Riley for the opportunity he gave me and I'll never forget him for what he's done."
Now, for the expecting part. The Big Cat believes the Heat will win it all in June.
"I do think they have what it takes to win it," he said. "They have great players. Of course, the big three (of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh), (Udonis) Haslem's a soldier. (Joel) Anthony is continuing to improve every year and they have key (reserves) in (Shane) Battier, (James) Jones and (Mike) Miller."
Magloire, who turns 34 next month, might be watching from the stands during the playoffs but he doesn't expect to be doing that next season. Even though he's played sparingly this season, he said he's not thinking at all about retiring.
"There's no chance of that," said Magloire, a free agent this summer after this season becoming the first native of Canada to play for the 17-year-old Raptors. "As long as they'll have me, (Magloire still wants to pay). I have fun playing basketball. I enjoy the camaraderie. I enjoy the competition. I have a lot of gas left in the tank."
Toronto coach Dwane Casey doesn't disagree. He wants Magloire back with the Raptors next season.
"That's our plan," Casey said. "We haven't really sat down and talked about it. We haven't made an offer to him. But that's my hope and my plan."
Casey said the final decision will be up to the organization as a whole. But he will push for Magloire to return because of his value to the team even when not playing.
"He's helped me tremendously," said Casey, who hopes Magloire next season can be a valuable mentor when center Jonas Valanciunas joins the Raptors after being taken No. 5 in last year's draft and spending this season in his native Lithuania. "He's set the tone in the locker room. He's helped me deal with players. He's set the tone defensively for us.
"He's invaluable to me as coach, and not only that, as a friend. When things get rough, he's always there, he's always positive And I want him as part of our foundation (for the future)."
In 33 games, Magloire has averaged just 1.2 points and 3.3 rebounds over 11.2 minutes and is shooting a that's-not-a-misprint 7-of-27 (25.9 percent) from the foul line. He hasn't played in Toronto's past five games, including Wednesday's, but that's because Casey said he wants to look at younger players down the stretch with his team out of the playoff race.
Magloire said it remains be seen where he might play next season. As for who he'll be cheering for in the playoffs, there's no mystery there. And Magloire, who was very popular in the Miami locker room, shouldn't have any problem getting Heat tickets.
"If he wants them, every guy in here will accommodate him," said Miami guard James Jones, a teammate during all three of Magloire's seasons with the team. "Whatever he needs, he's got it."
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson