ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Robert Hite is wearing a New Jersey Nets jersey this week for summer league play, with hopes that some NBA club will offer a second chance he insists is deserved.
And if that team is the Miami Heat, well, the second-year guard will be absolutely thrilled.
``If they want me back,'' Hite said, ``I'll definitely come back.''
The way Hite sees it, he should have never left South Florida in the first place.
The former University of Miami standout seemed a longshot to make the Heat's regular-season roster when the then-reigning NBA champions invited him to training camp a year ago. But Hite earned a spot, played in 12 games over the season's first 2 1/2 months and rewarded the Heat when given significant playing time, averaging 11.7 points in the three games in which he played at least 20 minutes.
His stint ended without warning - and, as Hite says, without cause.
Hite was arrested on a drunken-driving charge in Miami Beach around 4 a.m. on Jan. 21, held in jail for eight hours and wound up missing the Heat's afternoon game that day with the Dallas Mavericks. Heat coach Pat Riley sent him home the next day so he could ``get his personal issues in order,'' and wound up cutting him two weeks later so the team could use his roster spot - and locker - on veteran Eddie Jones.
One small problem: Hite wasn't drunk that fateful night.
The charge was later dropped when blood-alcohol tests showed him to be well within legal limits, but Hite believes his name still carries the smear of that arrest. Hite, who is considering filing suit against the Miami Beach Police Department, wound up finishing the season in Sioux Falls of the NBA Development League, yet knows that this week's summer league affords him a great chance of returning to the top level.
``I've been over it,'' Hite said. ``It happens. ... We'll see where the lawsuit goes. But right now, I'm just trying to play basketball.''
Hite and Riley crossed paths Monday when summer league began at the Orlando Magic's workout complex in Central Florida. If there ever was any animosity between the player and the man who cut him from the Heat midway through last season, it was erased in the handshake and embrace they shared at courtside.
``Good to see you. Do a good job,'' Riley whispered into the guard's ear.
``No hard feelings at all,'' Hite said after the quick greeting ended. ``It's the business of the NBA. They felt like they did what they needed to do.''
Even if Hite hadn't been arrested, he would hardly have been assured of finishing last season in Miami. The Heat were going to sign Jones once he was released from Memphis regardless, and all signs pointed to Riley releasing one of the two rookie guards he carried at the start of last season, either Hite or Chris Quinn.
Riley has, though, acknowledged that the decision to keep Hite away from the team after the arrest was wrong. ``I should have waited a little longer before I sent him home,'' Riley said in April.
Maybe, just maybe, the Heat will now see fit to bring Hite back. Of course, there'll be other suitors for him as well.
Hite has gone 7-for-9 from 3-point range in New Jersey's first two summer league games, averaging 14.5 points after the Nets lost to Orlando 85-74 on Monday night and beat Miami's summer squad 73-65 on Tuesday.
``He can make shots,'' Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. ``He's a good athlete, got really good balance. There's a niche for guys like him ... guys who size-wise are a little bit deficient, but they're able to score and score in bunches and make open shots.''
Hite said he's enjoyed his time with the Nets, and says he isn't ruling any team out if he has multiple offers from clubs before training camps start in October.
``My agent thought it was a good situation,'' Hite said. ``They had room on their roster and they're trying to make some moves, so it felt like it was a good situation for me to have an opportunity to play and showcase my talent, maybe make a roster. And we knew Miami was here too and I'd get a good look, so that's what we decided to go with.''

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