Elise Amendola / AP
Friday, July 23, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
After signing the piece of paper that forever changed his life, Joel Anthony had absolutely no clue what to do next.
"I was kind of in a daze," the former UNLV center said. "I went driving, I didn't know where I was driving to. I just couldn't believe what had happened."
The drive somehow took Anthony to a PF Changs restaurant in South Florida.
He sat, he ate, he watched some TV.
All the while, couldn't stop smiling.
Anthony, who spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with the Miami Heat, will be suiting up there for the foreseeable future.
That was cemented last Friday when he signed a five-year, $18 million deal to be the guy who plugs the holes and does the dirty work in the shadows of the imposing, star-studded trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
"(Them being in place) definitely made it that much easier," Anthony, a free agent this summer, said of the decision. "I always wanted to have the opportunity to come back to Miami, even before any of them signed. Obviously, with them signing, I realized that this was going to be a really special team and I wanted to have the opportunity to be a part of that."
Anthony fills a void that the Heat, given their star power, needed: A guy who can do the dirty work and doesn't need shots of his own to succeed.
What made the three-year veteran, who helped lead the Rebels to the 2007 Sweet Sixteen, a logical piece for team President Pat Riley to re-sign was the fact that Anthony had done just that for Miami since joining the franchise as an undrafted free agent.
He's averaged a modest 2.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game but is a valuable defensive cog in the middle and has shown a work ethic that can only rub off on others around him.
With the offensive pieces in place for years to come, a guy like Anthony was in need on a roster that will feature only four players who suited up for Miami last season.
"Obviously, we have three of the top players in the league on the team already," Anthony said. "I feel I'll be able to provide some support in terms of what I do with my role within the team. I can help a lot, and I'm looking forward to being a good fit."
Combining the $1.9 million he has banked in his first three NBA seasons with the lucrative pact he just signed, Anthony will now be set for life financially. That's something that few 27-year-olds can claim.
Still, Anthony said that nothing has gone to his head and that he's thankful for every opportunity that has been given to him in basketball, from junior college to UNLV to the NBA.
He's spending this weekend relaxing back in Las Vegas and said he plans on stopping by his old campus stomping grounds to catch up with coach Lon Kruger and his staff, along with some of the current Rebels.
Soon, though, it will be time to return to South Beach, meet new teammates Bosh and James and begin life on a roster that will carry immense NBA title expectations.
The potential for several championship rings can be considered a nice fringe benefit to his new contract.
"It's exciting for everyone," he said. "There's going to be a big buzz leading up to the season. Like I've said before, the opportunity is so great to be on a team like this. We haven't even played a game yet, but the potential of what could be is definitely something to look forward to."