NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Riley confident Big Three are returning— Yesterday, the Heat agreed to deals with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in moves that — as our David Aldridge reported — that are seen by some as ones to help assure LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they’ll have more help in Miami. USA Today‘s echo that sentiment and report that Heat president Pat Riley isn’t sweating the departure of any of his Big Three:
Seven days into free agency, Miami Heat President Pat Riley made his first roster moves to show LeBron James why he should stick around.
This much is clear: Riley is confident James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will return, according to people who have had phone conversations with Riley in the last week. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversations.
Of course, Riley’s confidence doesn’t guarantee anything. But right now, he isn’t scrambling.
Reaching deals with forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger is step one in making the necessary roster additions to improve the Heat. At the very least, Riley has tangible evidence to show James when they meet in the next couple of days to discuss the future. He is letting him know the Heat will spend what is required, including top dollar on Bosh, to win another title after two in four years together.
In the big picture, the Granger and McRoberts agreements give Riley room to present James with a couple of different spending options, including the ability to give Bosh a big contract, too.
The Heat got longer, more athletic and younger with the two deals, which can’t be signed until the free agent moratorium ends Thursday. July 10. McRoberts and Granger are fine complementary pieces.
McRoberts is 27 and coming off one of his best seasons at 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for the Charlotte Bobcats. He gives the Heat another big man who can pass, rebound and play inside or outside. Last season, Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said McRoberts was one of the three major reasons for the team’s turnaround.
Splitting time between the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers last season, Granger had his moments but wasn’t close to All-Star form. But the Heat don’t need him to be an All-Star. They need him to be an upgrade off the bench.
No. 2: Houston may be best fit for Bosh — Like the rest of us, Miami Heat All-Star forward Chris Bosh is waiting to see where LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are headed in free agency. Bosh may very well end up back in Miami with James, but that hasn’t stopped him from considering the four-year, $88 million offer the Houston Rockets have on the table for him. Our Fran Blinebury, who is on hand at the Orlando Pro Summer League, spoke with several front-office types there who think a potential Bosh move to Houston benefits just about everyone:
“On a team with Carmelo, [James] Harden and Dwight [Howard], on most nights one guy is gonna go home mad,” said one executive. “On a lot of other nights, two guys might go home mad. Then there would be those nights when all three are mad. I don’t think that’s a way to win a championship.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was at the Amway Center to take in the action of his young wannabes, but was not commenting on reports that the team made an offer of a four-year, $85 million to $88 million contract to Bosh. He originally agreed to do a halftime interview on NBA TV with Isiah Thomas and Matt Winer, but backed out at the last minute.
A year ago, Morey and Rockets coach Kevin McHale got the club fined $150,000 when they arrived at the Summer League and promptly made premature comments about the signing of the free agent Howard. This time it’s zipped lips.
Bosh may not pack the scoring punch or the same A-list marquee appeal as Anthony, but he’s a much better fit for the Rockets’ offense.
“If you’re trying to draw a picture of the kind of player they need to blend right in pretty seamlessly in Houston, you’d come away with a likeness of Bosh,” said a scout. “He’s a stretch four that can make those 3-point shots that Houston loves. He’ll defend. And mostly, he’s not the kind of high-maintenance personality that you’d be taking on in Anthony. He’s the one who’s sacrificed the most in Miami. Carmelo and Harden are just too much alike in needing the ball and they would both have issues giving way to the other one at the end of games.”
Putting Bosh on the front line would be like allowing Howard to step into a time machine and go back to his days in Orlando when Rashard Lewis filled up the bucket with 3-pointers and the Magic went to the NBA Finals in 2009.
“That’s the kind of situation that Howard thrived in with the Magic,” said an assistant coach. “That’s when Dwight was at his best. With Rashard out there, he was able to open up the floor and created so much space for Dwight to go to work.
“The question that a lot of people had about Dwight going into last season was whether he was finally healthy again. Would that back hold up. It looked like it did and it’s safe to say that physically he’s back to being very close to his old self. What you want to see now is an offensive system that allows him to go back to being his old self. That’s Bosh.”
No. 3: Report: Ainge, Celtics still working on Love deal — The first move the Boston Celtics made in free agency was agreeing to a contract with defensive stopper Avery Bradley. Now that they’ve got him in the fold, what moves might be next in Beantown? According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, Celtics boss Danny Ainge is still interested in working out at trade for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love:
On the opening night of free agency, the Celtics reached out to more than two dozen players, getting caught up in the open-market frenzy, expressing their admiration for players, many of whom they realized they never would sign.A week later, the Celtics are eerily quiet. They only have signed their own restricted free agent, Avery Bradley, on the second day of signings. An NBA source said they are backing off their pursuit of free agent Kris Humphries.
However, a league source said Monday that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is attempting to gather assets to acquire Kevin Love, convinced he can devise a package that would entice Minnesota Timberwolves president Flip Saunders to move the three-time All-Star, who will be a free agent next season.
Ainge admitted that things have been quiet so far, and of course was reluctant to discuss anything dealing with free agency.
“You never know what to expect,” he said Monday as the Celtics dropped their summer league contest to the Pacers. “When you have conversations, I have a great deal of respect in the league and what they’re all trying to accomplish. I don’t know what’s going to shake out when it’s all said and done.”
When asked if he was pleased with the current state of the team, he said, “There’s a lot more to do. It’s a long summer.”
According to two NBA sources, Ainge has been dogged in his pursuit of Love, and several agents believe he has the creativity to put together an attractive package.
No. 4: Reports: Westbrook withdraws from Team USA — Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook had a trying season as various injuries led to fits and starts for him (and, at times, the Thunder). Although he finished the season strong and was solid in the Western Conference finals, Westbrook undoubtedly wants to give his troublesome knees some time to rest. As such, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Westbrook won’t be a part of Team USA’s roster for the FIBA World Cup in Spain this summer:
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has withdrawn from USA Basketball’s roster for the World Cup in Spain this summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Westbrook had been part of gold-medal-winning teams in 2010 and ’12 in the world championships and Olympics, respectively, and has been a favorite of national coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Westbrook, 25, still has hopes of playing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, sources said.
Royce Young of ESPN.com has more on how Westbrook’s absence will affect the Team USA roster:
Team USA will still be characteristically strong, with other players like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving available to step in. Westbrook’s role for Team USA, though, has typically been more as a defensive specialist, creating turnovers and playing off the ball as a slashing and attacking guard.
Because of his versatility, Westbrook established himself as a favorite of coach Mike Krzyzewski.
According to the team, Westbrook’s health isn’t in question, but the 25-year-old point guard is trying to play it safe.
A commitment to Team USA includes a July training camp, exhibition schedule in August and then the tournament in September.
Westbrook is a bit leery of those extra minutes on his knee as he tries to be prepared and ready for Thunder training camp in late September.
Westbrook will still maintain a presence around USA Basketball though, joining the team for some of their training camp, but won’t play as he takes the summer to rest.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Might Steve Blake and Caron Butler join the Lakers if Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony sign on? … Nerlens Noel will be a game-time decision for the Sixers tonight at the Orlando Pro Summer League … The Mavs plan to meet with Mo Williams, but the team’s focus remains finding a starting small forward … Veteran big man Aaron Gray has agreed to terms on a deal with the Pistons … Raptors reserve guard Nando De Colo is leaving the NBA to play for CSKA Moscow … Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved is warming up to being a point guard … Ex-Bucks owner Herb Kohl was a really, really generous guy