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Morning shootaround — Sept. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Paul touched by HOF trip | Report: Smith to skip Cavs’ mini-camp | Report: Meeks set to return in November | Stevens says veterans will push Brown

No. 1: Trip to Hall of Fame resonates with Paul – LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul was honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer with the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award for his work with his organization, the Chris Paul Foundation. Initially, Paul was hesitant to come out to Springfield, Mass., for the event, but since then has drastically changed his tone about both the Hall itself and has a newfound respect for his the game at large. Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com has more:

Chris Paul admits it — he viewed his trip to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last week as a bit of a nuisance.

It wasn’t the first time the Hall had reached out, but it was the first time the nine-time All-Star finally acquiesced.

“They ask,” Paul conceded to ESPN.com, “but you think, ‘I’m busy’ or ‘Oh no, it’s too far,’ or ‘I have too much other stuff going on.”’

During his tour of the birthplace of basketball, Paul was moved by the stories of African-American pioneers who were banned from hotels and restrooms that welcomed their white teammates. He delighted in locating the plaque of Clarence “Big House” Gaines, the legendary African-American college coach at Winston-Salem State, just miles from where Paul grew up.

It prompted a reflective Paul to deliver one of the most memorable and impassioned speeches from an elite player who wasn’t actually being inducted.

“Today was my first day having the opportunity to come here, and it was kind of touching,” Paul told the audience upon accepting his award. “If not for this game, I am not here. If not for this game, my family is not in the situation we are in. And so I’m grateful for this game and what it has done for me and my family …”

With his voice breaking, and tears welling, Paul pressed on.

“It really hit me today being here around all the history that we take so much for granted,” he said. “And I know I do [that] a lot of times.”

Before long, as Paul shared the story of how he pressured his parents to buy him a pair of Allen Iverson‘s signature shoes, he had Iverson — a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee — weeping, too.

“To be here on his special day … man, this game has taken me places I never imagined,” Paul said. “Guys, you gotta come see this, because it’s bigger than any of us.”

“I haven’t never been here before, and as I walked in I actually felt bad about it,” Paul said. “It hit home today, in a big way, what this game has done for me, and the people I love. You walk in and you see all the history and you realize, ‘I need to support this.’

“I’m one of those people who, my wheels get turning. You want other people to see this. You think, ‘Maybe it would be better if this was in New York or L.A.,’ but that doesn’t make sense. The game was invented here. There is where it has to stay.”

Paul, who is also president of the players’ union, said he plans to go back to his NBA brethren and encourage them to see for themselves how the pioneers of the game paved the way — and to spur them to give back.

“Every experience is different for every person, but this place? It got me,” Paul said. “I can’t wait to bring my son.”

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Antetokounmpo signs extension with Bucks

From NBA.com staff reports

The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the most versatile young players in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo as the leader of a core group that includes Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, Michael Carter-WilliamsKhris Middleton and rookie Thon Maker. The Bucks are making sure Antetokounmpo isn’t going anywhere in the future, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports he and the team have agreed on a four-year, $100 million extension.

Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also confirmed the report.

The team confirmed the deal shortly thereafter via an official statement:

 

The Milwaukee Bucks have reached an agreement with Giannis Antetokounmpo on a contract extension, General Manager John Hammond announced today.

Antetokounmpo, 21, appeared in 80 games (79 starts) last season and averaged career highs in points (16.9), rebounds (7.7), assists (4.3), blocks (1.4) and minutes (35.3). He became the first player in franchise history to record five triple-doubles in a season, and now ranks third on the Bucks’ all-time list for career triple-doubles.

Selected by the Bucks with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Antetokounmpo has career averages of 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 238 games (173 starts). He has improved his averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, field goal percentage and minutes over each season he has played in the NBA.

 

 

In 2015-16, Antetokounmpo set a team record for triple-doubles in a season (five) and averaged career highs almost across the board in every major statistical category. Under coach Jason Kidd, Antetokounmpo assumed many of the point guard duties last season and is expected to continue in that role in 2016-17.

 

Morning shootaround — Sept. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sixers focused on developmentJennings hungry as ever | Lakers wont rush Ingram | Young relishes fresh start with Pacers

No. 1: Sixers focused on development— The “process” is in the next phase for the Philadelphia 76ers. Gone are the days of the tear down. And now comes the focus on development of talented youngsters like Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and the rest of a talented young roster. Keith Pompey of Philly.com details the Sixers’ plan and how coach Brett Brown plans to execute it this season:

Midway through his annual preseason media luncheon, Brett Brown was asked his expectations for the season. While the 76ers coach declined to disclose how many wins he expects, he revealed that this season will be sort of like the previous three – minus the tanking.

“The difference is everybody is going to want to win some games,” the fourth-year coach said Thursday in the second-floor dining room of Lo Spiedo at the Navy Yard. “Let’s call it for what it is. I feel like that we are going to want to see growth on the court as it relates to wins.”

But the team that won just 10 games last season and a combined 47 in Brown’s first three campaigns is still heavily focused on player development.

Yes, the Sixers will run a purposeful offense and defense.

“And we are going to see the path of these young guys slowly start to look like they belong on an NBA court,” Brown said. “And we all say, ‘Wow, project Joel Embiid out in two or three years.’ ”

Embiid was expected to be an elite player since the time the Sixers selected him third overall in the 2014 draft. However, two operations on the navicular bone in the 7-foot-2, 275-pounder’s right foot prevented him from playing in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

The Sixers will have him on a minutes restriction. Embiid also isn’t expected to play on back-to-back nights. They won’t know if he’ll start at center against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the season-opener until after consulting with the medical staff.

This year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, won’t have the same restrictions. Look for the 6-10 point forward to play 30-plus minutes a night while initiating the offense. There’s a lot of excitement because of his ability to play anywhere from power forward to point guard.

There’s also excitement surrounding Dario Saric. Acquired in a 2014 draft-day trade, the 6-10 power forward will make his NBA debut after playing the last two seasons in Turkey.

“I think we are all going to look back [on this season] and see did certain people improve,” Brown said. “I think we are all going to look back and see did we start to figure out a rhythm beat, a rhythm to our season of who’s actually playing.”

Ultimately, Brown’s job will be to win games. However, he probably won’t win more than 25 even with the free-agent additions of Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, and Sergio Rodriguez. The team is young and still several seasons away from being a serious NBA title contender.

Brown’s goal is to help Embiid, Simmons, Saric, and the other young players reach their potential.

That’s why he remains focused on developing a culture and teaching his offensive and defensive philosophies. He and his staff also intend to show the proper way to put in work in the weight room and scout opponents.

“Those things ultimately matter,” said Brown, who won four NBA titles during five Finals appearances as a San Antonio Spurs assistant. “Maybe not so much to the outside world, but if you really want to grow a program [it does]. I’ve seen what championships look like. I’ve seen five times what it takes to play in June. . . . So the growth sometimes might not be as quantifiable to the outside world. But I know it.”

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Morning shootaround — Sept. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jackson ready to lead PistonsPorzingis likes Noah’s intensity | Will Haslem reunite with Wade? | Dirk Speaks

No. 1: Jackson ready to lead Pistons The Detroit Pistons made several moves this summer in free agency, and will enter this new season with an even younger roster than they had last season. For point guard Reggie Jackson, who is 27, it’s an opportunity to take on a leadership role, as he tells Rod Beard

While backup center Aron Baynes is the oldest player on the team — he turns 30 in December — the leadership mantle will be spread around, with veterans taking charge for summer workouts.

“That’s kind of how it goes; we have to step up,” said point guard Reggie Jackson, 27, entering his sixth season. “The organization put that upon us and myself to step up this year and be an even more impactful leader and more of a voice of reason and direction for our guys.

“I know I have a little more burden on my shoulders but it’s something I asked for and something I wanted. We’ll figure it out collectively.”

Tolliver had been a mentor for Andre Drummond, and Steve Blake was a veteran voice for the point guards. Anthony Tolliver also was one of the most respected voices in the locker room, but signed as a free agent with the Kings this summer.

It was a unique dynamic having the most veteran and vocal players as reserves. But it worked.

“We did have steady rocks with Joel Anthony, Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake, who really watched over us,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, they’ve moved on and we have to find a way to get it done.

“Hats off to those guys for everything they taught us. We’re definitely appreciative of it and we’ll definitely use it in the future. They’re a big part of building the culture here. Now it’s time for us to carry the torch.”

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Morning shootaround — September 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Marc Gasol is good to goSuppose there’s an anthem protest in Utah? | Unsigned JR Smith is still hopeful of being with Cavs

No. 1: Marc Gasol is good to go — The Grizzlies are one of the league’s mystery teams. Will Memphis be a 50-win club with reasonable post-season expectations? Or has time caught up with the Grit and Grind? Well, one thing in the Grizzlies’ favor is the return of Marc Gasol, whose season was cut short from a broken right foot. Gasol is also 32, but when healthy he’s one of the elite NBA centers. The subject of Gasol and other issues was explored recently by Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

There won’t be a shortage of storylines. Several developments over the summer dramatically changed the roster and presented new head coach David Fizdale with plenty to ponder:

1. Gasol is healthy, but how quickly can he play at a high level?

Gasol is said to be a full participant with the Grizzlies after being inactive for several months, and the team plans to continue to proceed with caution. That Gasol didn’t play for Spain in the Rio Olympics wasn’t surprising given his devotion to being ready for Griz training camp. He suffered a fracture in the midfoot area, and despite the growing optimism, Gasol’s comeback won’t be easy.

Gasol will turn 32 years old in January, almost halfway through the season. So conventional wisdom would suggest that the Griz would initially put him on a minute restriction and allow the foot to strengthen for a strong stretch run.

There have been mixed results with big men returning from the injury over the past 15 seasons. Joel Embiid, a former Kansas Jayhawk, has yet to play in the NBA after suffering a midfoot fracture. Former Rockets center Yao Ming had a midfoot fracture during the 2008-09 season at age 29, and the injury essentially ended his career. Former NBA big men Brendan Haywood, Michael Olowokandi and Eric Montross never recovered.

Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is one of the success stories. The Griz believe they have every reason to believe that Gasol will be a positive exception, too.

2. What is the status of Jarell Martin and 2016 draft pick Deyonta Davis?

Martin underwent foot surgery after being drafted in 2015 and suffered a bone bruise and then required another surgery that cut short his season. Griz officials said that Martin returned to full basketball activity the past two weeks. Davis is doing strength and conditioning, and rehabbing after the team reported that plantar fasciitis in his left foot forced him to miss summer league play.

3. Could mounting injuries have cost athletic training Drew Graham his job?

The person hurting most this offseason might be Graham. He was fired, general manager Chris Wallace confirmed.

“We’re in the process of putting together a complete medical team,” Wallace said. “We’re revamping our approach to player care. He’s no longer our trainer. We wish him well.”

The Griz will not change team doctors.

Graham is believed to have two years remaining on his contract. The divorce is a bit curious given Graham’s history with the franchise and his accolades. Graham was named the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association’s Joe O’Toole Athletic Trainer of the Year after last season. The honor came after a season in which the Griz endured an unfathomable string of injuries and used an NBA-record 28 players while earning a sixth straight playoff berth.

The award recipient is recognized for exemplary achievement or outstanding service to the NBA, NBATA and his community. It is named after Joe O’Toole, a long-time former head athletic trainer of the Atlanta Hawks, long regarded as the father of the NBATA.

Graham recently concluded his 10th season as the Grizzlies’ head athletic trainer. He was also Vice President of Player Care, a promotion he received in 2013. Graham joined the Griz in 2006 after working the previous six seasons (2000-06) as an assistant athletic trainer/strength and conditioning coach with the New Jersey Nets.

The Griz have not yet announced Graham’s replacement.

4. How will Mike Conley respond to a remarkable summer?

Shaquille O’Neal made the comment that “if Mike Conley gets $153 million, then (a team) would have to pay me $300 million (today)” during an interview as O’Neal entered the basketball Hall of Fame last weekend.

After recovering from a sore Achilles, Conley signed the richest five-year contract in NBA history at $153 million. Re-signing Conley was necessary to keep the Griz competitive and to preserve continuity.

Still, owner Robert Pera is embracing the risky nature of the business. Pera paid Dallas free-agent forward Chandler Parson a maximum $94 million, meaning there’s a bulk of the salary cap tied up in two players who have never made an All-Star team.

Conley has developed into a major cog of the Grizzlies’ Core Four. He’ll be forever judged by the contract — a la former Griz Rudy Gay. So after signing the deal, experiencing the birth of his first child (a son, Myles Alex Conley) and purchasing a $1.8 million home in Collierville, Conley now will be called upon to do major things on the basketball court.

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Morning shootaround — Sept. 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Popovich moves on to new era with Spurs | Mavs’ Nowitzki on future: ‘We’ll see how next year goes’ | Brown excited about Sixers’ season

No. 1: Popovich moves on to new era with Spurs — It will be strange sight come Oct. 25 when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Golden State Warriors (on TNT) and there’s no Tim Duncan lining up for the opening tipoff. Duncan’s retirement is something many Spurs fans are probably still getting used to or getting over, but that hasn’t been the case for coach Gregg Popovich. In a chat with Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express News, Popovich talks about his expectations for 2016-17 and what may be next for Duncan.

He and his staff leave for the West Coast on Friday for their annual retreat, where, as Popovich said, “the arguing will begin.”

Included on this retreat is Monty Williams, the onetime Spur and former head coach of New Orleans. Williams has officially joined the Spurs, though Popovich is still unsure whether Williams will work from the bench or from R.C. Buford’s box.Otherwise, Popovich says this is business as usual. “Same culture, same philosophy,” he said. “I only know what I know. We’ll hang our hat on defense. We just don’t have the greatest power forward of all-time playing for us anymore.”

They still have him around, though. Duncan hasn’t been in the Spurs’ practice facility every day this summer, but he was there this week. He hits the weight machines, does some shooting, hangs around the guys.

You could still use a backup center, couldn’t you?

Popovich laughed. “I can’t look inside those knees.”

Popovich has told Duncan to come around, to be here, to do what he wants. “If he wants to go on a scouting trip, fine. If he wants his own station in training camp, he has it. He’s in charge. He can tell me exactly what he wants to do. But I’m not paying him a penny.”

Most in the organization think Duncan will eventually join the franchise in a full-time capacity. They guess he won’t coach but will instead focus on personnel. Duncan has long been intrigued by the methods that Popovich and Buford use to identify talent.

Duncan has at times disagreed with their decisions only to be proven wrong. He’s curious why.

For now Duncan is standing in the background as an observer, and his own adjustment is jarring. For nearly two decades he has spent his summers building his body to withstand an NBA season. Now he can eat as much carrot cake as he wants without the need to burn off the calories.

Popovich will want Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge to be more demonstrative, filling the leadership void left by Duncan, and then there’s Pau Gasol. He not only brings Duncan-like skills to the team, he creates a familiar pastime for Popovich. Whereas Popovich was once consumed with rationing Duncan’s minutes, now he can be as obsessed with preserving Gasol.

“As a coach you deal with what is there,” Popovich said, “and I’m excited about what we have.”

Brett Brown, the longtime Spurs assistant who is now the coach of the 76ers, saw this coming years ago. He always thought Popovich could coach without Duncan the player, but that moving on without Duncan the friend would be tricky. Brown, after all, was around for the carrot cake deliveries.

“Pop will miss Timmy more from a relationship standpoint than a basketball standpoint,” Brown said this week. “And considering how great Timmy was, that is saying something.”

Brown compared Popovich losing Duncan to how he felt dropping off his daughter at college this month. You know the transition is natural, you know this is what has to happen. But there’s a gnawing loneliness.

Accurate?

“Absolutely,” Popovich said. “I have a hole in my gut.”

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 248) Featuring David Aldridge

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — All of the stars came out for the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony last weekend in Springfield, Mass. Its annual right of passage for the best of the very best. Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and Sheryl Swoopes were all honored.

And so, too, was one of our very own. The great David Aldridge, winner of the Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award, was feted alongside those giants of the game.

No one covers the NBA and basketball the way DA has and continues to for TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com (you’ve enjoyed his work for three decades on every platform). The basketball insider’s insider, Aldridge’s career spans eras, from the golden years of the Showtime Lakers, Big 3 Celtics and Bad Boys Pistons to the Jordan era to Shaq-Kobe Lakers to this current super team era.

DA has seen it all and covered it all, and better than anyone.

That he found his way to the Hall of Fame was simply a matter of time. Going in on the same weekend as the likes of Shaq, Iverson and Yao seems only fitting for a man who has helped change the game, in his own right, for so many.

We dig in on DA’s wild and crazy summer, which included his covering Kevin Durant’s free agent summer and the Rio Olympics, his views on the current state of the game, athlete activism and so much more heading into the 2016-17 season.

Check it out on Episode 248 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring our very own David Aldridge.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com, Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

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Blogtable: What will you remember most about this NBA summer?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Gameplan for the Heat? | Future for Lakers’ Russell? |
Lasting memories of NBA summer?


> As we close in on the end of the NBA summer, what two things will you most remember about it and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: My first takeaway from NBA summer ’16 will be the Kevin Durant move to Golden State as the most notable free-agent signing. As we noted when bellying up previously to the blogtable, Dwyane Wade leaving Miami was more shocking just because of his tenure as “Mr. Heat,” but I don’t expect it to affect what we see on the floor all that much. Not so with Durant-to-the-Warriors. My second takeaway is more conditional: If the owners and the players can’t avoid a lockout next July, then the flood of TV money this summer forever will be cited. But if Adam Silver, Michele Roberts and the rest of them settle on a new CBA to keep the golden goose squawking, we’ll only remember a few outlier contracts when reporting on their ripple effects in the coming seasons.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Durant joining the Warriors. That’s your summer snapshot. The rich got richer and the NBA, for better or worse, has another superteam to admire or detest. A close second was the astronomical rise in player salaries for the middle class. Bismack Biyombo and Allen Crabbe, barely blips on the radar this time last year, are pulling nearly $20 million a year. Madness.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors defined the summer from an NBA perspective, but Manu Ginobili’s final game in an Argentina uniform will be my lasting memory. There were a ton of Argentina fans in Rio, everybody (including the American team) showed him the proper respect as he checked out of the game, and the emotions that came out of the Golden Generation as they played for the final time together were powerful. As an Argentine American and also as a basketball fan, it meant a lot to be in the building for Ginobili’s FIBA farewell.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Summer of ’16 will forever be known as Kevin Durant’s time, no matter how things work out for KD and the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City sent shockwaves around the league and the basketball and really the entire sports world. The side dish for me is Dwyane Wade’s tenure in Miami coming to an end, and specifically the strange way it ended. The explosion of salaries for journeymen and role players was equally shocking, but I doubt it’ll be on my mind years from now. Player movement, though, and particularly superstar player movement, resonates for years.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: We’ll be talking for a long time about Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State and the huge escalation in salaries that threatens to disrupt locker room relationships as well as team budgets in years to come. This was a sea-change offseason.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWith apologies to Robert Frost, two roads diverged in the woods, one led to Oakland and the other looped back to Oklahoma City. The dual stories of the summer are clearly those of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant’s path has taken him from one of the best teams in the Western Conference directly to their rival, the best team in the West. Meanwhile, Westbrook doubled down and stuck around in Oklahoma City. To me, the break-up of the formerly dynamic duo has been the NBA story of the summer, and will have long-lasting implications for the entire league.

Blogtable: Outlook for D’Angelo Russell in 2016-17?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Gameplan for the Heat? | Future for Lakers’ Russell? |
Lasting memories of NBA summer?


> D’Angelo Russell recently said his rookie season was “bad.” Do you expect a better 2016-17 out of him? And what is one thing you want to see him improve on?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’m just going to say “basketball” and leave it right here. For a guy whose rookie season got defined by shenanigans, even his clever, face-saving sneaker commercial had nothing to do with him helping his team get better. Why do I think he’d be better served by playing in Oklahoma City, Minnesota or Sacramento, as far as limited distractions? Russell can be a better shooter, more efficient passer and lock-down defender, but not until his name appears in John Schuhmann’s numbers-crunchings way more often than on TMZ Sports.

 

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Based on everything I’ve heard, the kid has grown up, from a basketball standpoint. He really wants to be a star. He put in the work over the summer. He knows he let some people down. That’s a good start and refreshing attitude. Leadership is the one area where he needs the most improvement and he has recognized that. Sometimes we forget that these guys are still teenagers on the maturity clock. He and coach Luke Walton are forging a solid relationship and the results of that will be apparent on the court.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are a lot of reasons to believe he’ll be better. The summer after your rookie year should be your most productive summer, because you got a taste of the league and know where you have to improve. There will be no deferring to the Kobe Farewell Tour this season and Luke Walton should be a more encouraging coach. Obviously, pick-and-roll decision-making is going to be critical for him, but he also needs to take a big step forward defensively.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Seeing is believing with D’Angelo Russell. He can talk all he wants about what happened during his rookie season, good and bad, but his maturity will be measured by the growth I see in his game and in his understanding of what it takes to be a leader of a team. He showed plenty of flashes on the court. But the leadership component is more important than anything else right now. The Lakers are sure to face some struggles this season and they’ll be searching for an identity as a group under coach Luke Walton. Russell has to step up, he has to lead as the point guard and figure out a way to repair his credibility in the locker room. While I hate heaping that responsibility on a player so young, the Lakers have no choice but to put him on that hot seat this season. The baby steps days are over.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comHe’ll definitely be better. But can Russell be an elite star? That is the bottom line for a franchise that has been defined by A-list talent for decades. The one thing Russell must establish is a starring presence – even though he is not exceptional athletically and he has no dominating teammates. He must create a new era. No other young star will be held to such a high standard. It is asking a lot of someone with so much still to learn.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogStarted from the bottom now we’re here? I think the type of season Russell turns in should tell us a lot about him, and whether he can learn from a bumpy rookie road. Russell had some great showings at the Las Vegas Summer League, but that’s Summer League. I do think he’ll get a boost from the change in coaching staff, and hopefully have more of a chance to play and display what he can do on the court. I also wonder if the presence of Brandon Ingram will serve to take just enough of the spotlight off Russell to allow him to shine.

Blogtable: Gameplan for the Miami Heat?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Gameplan for the Heat? | Future for Lakers’ Russell? | Lasting memories of NBA summer?


> Say you are Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. What is your plan for training camp now that Dwyane Wade is long gone and Chris Bosh’s status is, at best, up in the air?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMake sure I try out every one of those 18 water slides at the Atlantis Bahamas resort where the Heat will hold training camp? OK, besides that, my plan would focus on sorting through the multiple options in the backcourt, helping Justise Winslow develop a more reliable and rangier jump shot and watching a now-paid Hassan Whiteside very closely for any signs of slippage or distraction. I also might want to turn whatever Plan B is into Plan A, as far as Chris Bosh is concerned. Two consecutive seasons got sideways due to his blood-clots health scares, and Miami needs that resolved one way or the other. It’s a much bigger on-court cloud than Dwyane Wade‘s departure, where the roster at least offers alternatives. Not so much with Bosh.

 

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The first thing is to let go of yesterday. LeBron James and Wade aren’t walking through that door and maybe not Bosh either. Embrace change and begin to emphasize a new philosophy with a new core. The emphasis should be on developing Hassan Whiteside into a star, pump some air in Goran Dragic‘s confidence and stress defense. It’s a new era in Miami and there’s no sense ignoring it.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comPlay fast. Dwyane Wade is a Hall of Famer, but the pace he played at didn’t allow Goran Dragic to be his best with the Heat. Dragic wants to run and he’ll be able to do it more often playing more minutes alongside younger guys like Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson (and Josh Richardson when he returns from his knee injury). Hopefully, Hassan Whiteside can stay engaged (and more disciplined) for longer stretches than he was last season and can, along with Winslow, keep the Heat in the top 10 defensively. More stops will create more chances to run. The Heat have ranked in the bottom eight in pace each of the last four seasons and it’s time for that to change.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: If I am Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, the one thing I know I’m not going to do is bring up the names Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. No sense in torturing myself as a coach knowing those guys are playing elsewhere. And I have to plan to go to work in training camp without Chris Bosh. Until he is cleared for full activity, I have to plan accordingly. It’s all about the youth movement now. Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson have to continue to develop. As a staff, we have to make sure Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem lead the way for us and show everyone else what it is we expect from this team from a culture standpoint. We are starting from the ground up, rebuilding this program, so I know I’ve got perhaps the greatest challenge of my career ahead of me.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comBosh is on the books for the next three seasons with a salary that eats up roughly one-fourth of Miami’s cap. If Bosh can play in most of the games at his typical All-Star level then they could be competing for the No. 2 seed in the East. But Spoelstra will have no control over that. Whether or not Bosh can contribute, the Heat are going to have to develop a go-to scorer on the perimeter. Every contender needs one, and Spoeltra must find one – which creates a huge opportunity for Goran Dragic.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Sometimes desperation begets inspiration. Last year during the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors, after Hassan Whiteside went down, the Heat ended up trotting out a lineup featuring Justise Winslow at center, surrounded by a bunch of guards and small forwards. And they were fun to watch! They may not have had enough to beat the Raptors, but it was an interesting lineup with room to grow. So this year I’m guessing they return with Whiteside and then spread the floor with shooters and athletes. Obviously a lot is dependent on the health and return of Chris Bosh, but I’m not writing the Heat off just yet.


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