NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Whiteside would have taken less to keep Wade or get Durant — The Miami Heat will be markedly different once the 2016-17 season gets rolling as, for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Dwyane Wade will not be in uniform for them. In a letter to the Associated Press, Wade told the media outlet that he is leaving the Heat to instead sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls. As well, the Heat had designs on signing Kevin Durant in free agency but that didn’t happen either (he’s in Golden State now). Center Hassan Whiteside will be back for 2016-17 and although he just got a big payday, he says he would have taken less money if it meant Durant would come aboard or Wade would stay. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:
It turns out that Hassan Whiteside did not delineate where his potential giveback would go when it came to his offer to help the Miami Heat attempt to sign free-agent forward Kevin Durant.
A party involved in the process confirmed Thursday to the Sun Sentinel that Whiteside had been willing to forgo as much as $9 million for the Heat to both add Durant and re-sign Dwyane Wade, if such a package could be completed.
While Whiteside winds up with the maximum deal he could have received from the Heat for a player of his NBA tenure, there was a point where his Heat deal could have come in at $89 million had Heat President Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison been able to convince Durant to instead leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for South Florida.
Such a concession from Whiteside would have had him accepting less than he otherwise could have received from outside suitors such as the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, who were able to offer a four-year package up to a maximum of $94 million.
With Wade having taken a two-year, $47 million package from the Bulls, Whiteside will enter next season with the second-highest salary on the Heat roster, at $22 million, behind only the $23.7 million due to power forward Chris Bosh, who has yet to be cleared by the Heat to return after last season’s recurrence of blood clots.
Teammates embraced the finalized agreement.
“He loves a joke, but at the end of the day, he’s a hell of a player,” forward Justise Winslow said. “He’s a game-changer with his ability to protect the rim and also guard smaller guys. He can play against a Draymond Green in small ball and other teams in that situation. So to have him back there, as a cornerstone of our franchise, really means a lot and it’s a good piece to start building from.”
Before the Heat formally announced Whiteside’s agreement Thursday, Whiteside confirmed to the Sun Sentinel that he had not wavered amid Wade’s defection.
“No way,” Whiteside responded when asked if he had reconsidered the commitment. “Four more years.”
No. 2: Rondo: Bulls are ‘Jimmy’s’ team — Derrick Rose is gone. Rajon Rondo is in. And changes are afoot in the backcourt and style of the Chicago Bulls. As our Steve Aschburner points out, coach Fred Hoiberg has some lineup juggling to do for next season now that the quarterback has changed from Rose to Rondo. For Rondo’s part, though, he’s saying all the right things and trying to make it clear where he expects to be in the offensive pecking order in Chicago, writes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Poised and professional, Rondo addressed every question tossed his way calmly and confidently: How he, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler will fit together. The connection he felt with coach Fred Hoiberg and his staff. The perception of him as difficult to coach.
Basically, Rondo came across as the 10-year veteran that he is, someone who has seen it all in the NBA, including four All-Star games and a 2008 title with the Celtics.
“What makes me confident is what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen,” Rondo said, when asked how three strong personalities will mesh. “Everything in life you go through is for a reason. Playing in Boston with the big three (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen), I was able to see how those guys interacted with one another, knowing that everything doesn’t have to be perfect in practice.
“You’re going to disagree. But if you all have one common goal and that’s to get a ‘W,’ that’s all that matters. Egos go out the window.”
For the record, Rondo called the Bulls “Jimmy’s team” but did admit to having “three alphas” on the roster.
“Well, obviously, I think it’s Jimmy’s team,” Rondo said. “Wade, I don’t know how they’re going to handle that. But Jimmy’s the youngest; he’s the engine here. It’ll be Jimmy, Wade and then a pecking order.”
That’s where Rondo believes he will contribute the most, keeping that pecking order happy.
“I’m the best at allowing guys not to get lost in the shuffle,” Rondo said. “I know how to spread the ball around. I know how to keep guys happy.”
“I’m coming off one of my best seasons. A lot of people didn’t see me play out west in Sacramento. I think we had one TV game. I didn’t miss any games as far as injuries. I feel great. I’ve been taking care of my body. And as you’ve seen this year, Dwyane has been doing the same.”
Rondo expressed his biggest excitement over his projected fit in Hoiberg’s offense. The pair watched film for an hour with associate head coach Jim Boylen during Rondo’s recruiting visit last Friday.
“It’s more of a read-based offense. It’s not so much dictated on calling a set every time down the floor,” Rondo said. “I like to make my plays off reactions. I try to be two or three steps ahead of my guy, my opponent. So it’s a perfect system to try to be great in.
“(Hoiberg’s) not a egotistical coach. He’s not a dominant coach. He likes for his guys to have input. When he asks my input, I’ll obviously share. We’ll go in his office and watch some film and figure out what’s best for the team.”
No. 3: Durant taking long-term view in Golden State — The moment Golden State Warriors fans have been waiting for since July 4th became official yesterday. Kevin Durant inked his contract with the Warriors and joins the lineup of the best regular-season team in NBA history. Much like Warriors fans themselves, some of Golden State’s brass have a hard time believing Durant is on their side now. In his introductory news conference, Durant opened up on his move, his future in Oakland and more, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Kevin Durant sauntered into the Warriors’ practice facility Thursday afternoon, wearing a natty blue suit, with a white button-down shirt and a red pocket square, and took center stage for the spectacle of an introductory news conference.
He sat in the shadow of a huge panoramic photo of Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala kissing the 2015 championship trophy as season-ticket holders in the back of the room let their imaginations run wild.
Although he officially signed a two-year, $54.3 million deal, with a player option for the second season, Durant said he’s devoted to staying with the Warriors and helping the franchise add to its trophy case.
“I don’t want to go through this again,” Durant said, after a five-day free-agency circus coaxed him into leaving Oklahoma City for the Bay Area. “I plan on being here. I’m committed. I’m looking forward to a new era of basketball for me personally, and it should be fun.”
Owner Joe Lacob, general manager Bob Myers and head coach Steve Kerr took a backseat when Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson decided to have a players-only meeting with Durant.
“It felt like they weren’t even in the NBA,” Durant said. “It felt like those guys just got together and played pickup ball every day. I really enjoy pure basketball, and that’s what I wanted.”
Durant described the Warriors’ words and actions as “organic, authentic and real.” The Warriors’ players — even Thompson, who Durant didn’t know had a phone — stayed in contact with the prized free agent as he finished the final two of his six meetings Sunday.
He said he wanted to sleep on the decision Sunday night. He woke his family and representatives early Monday to tell them he had decided to join the Warriors, a verdict that he knew would be vilified throughout much of the league.
“We live in this superhero, comic-book world, where either you’re a villain or you’re a superhero,” Durant said. “I know I haven’t changed as a person. I don’t treat people any differently because I made the decision to play basketball in another city.
“I understand the fans in Oklahoma City and basketball fans around the world are, I guess, upset, but like I said, I made the decision based upon what I wanted to do and how I felt and it’s the best decision for me.”
As soon as Durant announced his decision on the Players’ Tribune, Myers asked if he could come back to the Hamptons. He landed at about midnight and spent the next three hours getting to know Durant on a personal level.
The two, along with Durant’s family and representation, took a private plane that landed in Oakland on Thursday morning.
“I still can’t believe I’m sitting next to him, to be honest,” Myers said. “We just try to get better every time we get up, but you never expect to get this much better. We all can dream, but most of the time, the dreams don’t come true. …
“I still kind of struggle with the fact that he’s on our team. I can’t quite comprehend it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Recapping all the official signings in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference since yesterday … ICYMI, the top selling NBA jerseys and team merchandise from April-June … Kobe Bryant got a pretty sweet retirement gift from Snoop Dogg … Timekeeping in games next season is getting a major upgrade …