Posts Tagged ‘Brian Windhorst’

Trouble In Heat Paradise?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – LeBron James is 18 points shy of 20,000 points. The Miami Heat still have a slight, half-game lead over the New York Knicks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Generally speaking, plenty is going right for the defending NBA champions at this stage of the season.

But a closer look reveals cracks in the Heat facade. In fact, there could be trouble in Heat paradise, if you believe what you see (1-3 on their current road trip) and read. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com provides the details:

The Heat are out of focus and they’re sniping. At their coach, Erik Spoelstra. At each other. Probably at their friends and loved ones, too.

Wade’s been in the middle of it a few times on the trip. Last week in Indianapolis, he scored 23 points in the first half of a game and then didn’t get a shot in the third quarter. Monday, he didn’t play in the fourth quarter — calling it a benching isn’t accurate — when Spoelstra decided to play James with four bench players as the Heat attempted a rally that fell short.

“I don’t know, I just always stay ready,” [Dwyane] Wade said curtly but not disrespectfully, much like he treated his disappearance from the offense in the loss in Indiana. “Coach makes the calls. I’m just a player.”

Wade’s body language said enough. Before the Heat left on this trip, Wade was asked if he missed the days of taking 20 to 25 shots a game. The days before James and [Chris] Bosh and being relegated to the third option some nights. Wade’s response: “Every day.”

A few days ago, Bosh said the Heat weren’t doing enough to ride players with “hot hands” after he was forgotten in the offense during a night when he shot 13-for-18 in a loss at Portland. He was referring to himself and Wade, the direction of the comment not being clear.

Bosh might want to pipe down after his one-rebound showing against the Jazz last night. Wade, on the other hand, makes a solid point. The Heat are definitely more formidable when he and James have it going as opposed to the Cleveland model, where James does all of the heavy lifting and his supporting casts simply observes.

All that said, a little friction for a team still operating in the afterglow of winning their first championship run together should be expected. There are enough new faces involved that the Heat will have to continue making adjustments as the season goes along.

Spoelstra probably enjoys this part of the process more than anyone, knowing that a united struggle (even one forged from the misguided perception of outsiders who assume that it’s something unusual, when, in fact, it’s not) makes it easier to get his team’s attention as the meat of the regular season plays out.

If nothing else, the Heat’s struggles (both real and imagined) will play out in vain, so long as they continue to do whatever they can to humble themselves the way they have after losses:

After the tough loss in Portland when the Heat blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead last week, James gave this lament: “We’re not the most talented bunch. We’re not the greatest team. So we can’t afford to just pick and choose when we want to turn it on and off.”

Most basketball minds would say this team is the best team, talent-wise, James has ever played on. He is likely playing alongside three Hall of Famers in Wade, Bosh and Ray Allen. But James, who is in the middle of perhaps the greatest all-around season of his career, has been right with his teammates in passively complaining about the state of the union.

When he got out of the cold tub, James weighed in.

“It was low energy. Against a team like this, on their floor, with their crowd — you can’t have low energy,” James said of the first half, in which he had his best scoring first half of the season with 20 points.

Of the late-game comeback that happened with Wade and Bosh on the bench, James said: “We played well, we had a lot of energy. Offensively, we didn’t care who was shooting the ball.”

Forgive me for not believing the hype about all of this supposed drama that plagues the Heat. They’ve had a couple of tough nights over the past few weeks.

It happens to the best of ‘em, even the defending champs.

But it won’t last … not in paradise!

Report: LeBron James On Lakers’ Free Agent Radar For 2014?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It seems straight out of the realm of the truly ridiculous, we know. We haven’t even seen these new-look Los Angeles Lakers, with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the fold with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. Yet the rumblings about the Lakers’ next big move are already cranking up.

That next big move being the possible pursuit and acquisition of one LeBron Raymone James in free agency in 2014, per a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

Now before you go over the edge, throwing stuff at your computer and knocking over trash cans, follow the logic on this thing:

Several teams’ executives have told ESPN.com they believe the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at LeBron James in 2014, when the Miami Heat star can choose to become a free agent.

… In the wake of the Howard trade, much as been made of the massive luxury-tax bill the Lakers are facing next season if they’re able to re-sign the big man. ESPN.com salary cap expert Larry Coon has estimated the Lakers could be on the hook for as much as $85 million just in taxes in 2013-14.

But look a little further, to that 2014-15 season, and you’ll see something else: The Lakers’ projected payroll is almost completely clear. Only Nash is signed for that season, at $9.7 million, though the Lakers will also be paying about $20 million to Howard if they can re-sign him this coming summer.

In July 2013, Bryant’s $30.4 million, Pau Gasol’s $19.2 million, Metta World Peace’s $7.7 million, Steve Blake‘s $4 million and Jordan Hill’s $3.5 million will come off the books. There likely won’t even be any first-round draft picks filling up the cap, either, as the Lakers have already traded their 2013 first-round pick to Phoenix in the Nash deal.

Opposing teams that are making their own long-range free agency plans think they see the Lakers’ plan coming into focus. As it stands, L.A. will have enough cap space to add a superstar like James.

“It’s not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe’s does. They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while,” said one general manager. “The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal.”

There is a reason the Lakers have remained relevant in the championship conversation more consistently than any other team, including the Boston Celtics, the past 40 years.

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 85) With Brian Schmitz and Brian Windhorst

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier on the Dwight Howard front, free agency kicked off and a whole new round of madness began for the Orlando Magic and their superstar center and his season-long trade request to Brooklyn.

And you can stop scanning the list … Howard is not actually a free agent right now. He gave that opportunity up in March when he waived his opt-out clause to remain with the Magic one more season.

Yet somehow, he’s still become the center of attention in the midst of the free-agent frenzy going on now.

That’s why we tracked down Orlando Sentinel Magic insider Brian Schmitz, who has been there ever step of the way since Howard was drafted in 2004, to help us make sense of the story that never seems to run out of plot twists and turns.

While Howard is fighting to escape the Southeast Division, new Hawks general manager Danny Ferry is trying to reshape it by dramatically altering the Hawks’ roster. In his fist eight days on the job he shed $105 million in contracts (trading Joe Johnson to the Nets and Marvin Williams to the Jazz) and put the Hawks in a position to be major players in free agency next summer, when Howard and Chris Paul could headline the crop of stars teams are stepping over each other to sign.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com knows Ferry well, from their shared time in Cleveland (Ferry ran the Cavaliers and Windhorst covered them better than anyone for the Akron Beacon Journal and later, The Plain Dealer), and joins us to discuss Ferry’s master plan.

Check out all that and more on Episode 85 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our superproducer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog and the best engineer in the business, Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

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Return Of The Bosh For Game 5?





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Three weeks without Chris Bosh in the lineup is apparently enough for the Miami Heat.

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the All-Star power forward could be activated for Tuesday night’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, giving the Heat a much-needed low-post boost before in a series that is tied at 2-2 after the Celtics’ overtime win in Game 4 Sunday night in Boston.

Bosh has been out since suffering an abdominal strain in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers. And the Heat have struggled to find the right fit in the post without him.

Celtics’ power forward(/center) Kevin Garnett has had his way in the conference finals without Bosh to worry about, averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds through the first four games. The Heat have had to use an array of big men to work in Bosh’s absence and even went with LeBron James playing some power forward and even center without Bosh available.

Even if he can only play limited minutes, having Bosh back in the rotation is a boost for the Heat. Had Dwyane Wade‘s 3-point attempt at the buzzer gone down in Game 4 we might not have seen Bosh in this series. A 3-1 lead with a chance to close the series out on their home floor might have allowed him to rest for at least a few more days. But it’s must-win time for the Heat in this series.

Without an announced timetable for his return, it was believed that Bosh would be out for at least three weeks with the abdominal strain. He’s already missed nine games and right at three weeks. Without any hiccups between now and tip-off Tuesday night, he’s expected to be in uniform and ready to go for game 5.

In what amounts to a best-of-3 series now, the return of Bosh could be just what the Heat need to survive this series and move on to their second straight appearance in The Finals.


Lakers Shore Up Backcourt

NBA.com Staff Reports



With a point guard corps that includes championship-tested veteran (and starter) Derek Fisher and his veteran backup, Steve Blake, the Lakers were looking to add a younger body in the backcourt that perhaps provides the best of both players’ skills.

L.A. may have gotten exactly that by swinging a trade with Cleveland for point guard Ramon Sessions, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Also moving to Los Angeles in the deal is athletic swingman Christian Eyenga, who has appeared in just six games for the Cavs this season and has mostly been in the NBA D-League. Here are the gritty details:

The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired point guard Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a multi-player deal that will bring the Cavs the Lakers’ 2012 first-round pick, according to league sources.

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LeBron, The Future And … Cleveland?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – NBA players remind me of political candidates during election season. They go from city to city, facing a media throng eager to pepper them with questions that usually result in answers that barely raise an eyebrow they’ve been given so many times.

Every now and then, though, you get something totally bizarre. And that’s exactly what the reporters covering the Miami Heat practice in Cleveland today got when they assembled to interview LeBron James after practice.

You have to wonder how these comments (courtesy of the Twitter feeds of both Tom Reed and Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Plain Dealer and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com) will go over with the faithful in both Cleveland and Miami? …

He’s happy in Miami, but: “I think it would be great, it would be fun to play in front of these fans again.”

On one day coming back to Cleveland: “You can’t predict future…If I decide to come back hopefully the fans will accept me.”

About Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert: “He said what he said out of anger. He probably would want to take that back but I made a mistake too.”

Again, the context in which these comments were made needs to be restated. James and the Heat are in Northeast Ohio and will have been for three days before Friday night’s game against the Cavaliers.

So if there is a little nostalgia floating in the air, we understand.

But talking like this so soon into his tenure in Miami, and so soon after the messy divorce  he went through with the Cavs’ faithful, is bound to strike a chord with some folks!

The bigger surprise is that James has actually entertained the idea of returning to his roots someday during his playing career. That alone is reason for pause … anyway, back to Linsanity!

There Is Kryptonite For Everyone

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – One of the best things about this new season in the NBA is how far removed we are from last season, when a three-game losing streak by the Miami Heat signaled doomsday chatter.

Gone are the days when each and every Heat loss was met with an endless cycle of analysis, statistical and otherwise, in a vain attempt to explain the most basic of principles in a league where the difference between the best of the best and the rest is razor-thin.

The Heat’s current three-game skid will serve as the bedrock principle of the 2011-12 season that we’ll keep tucked away in safe place from now until the NBA Finals end, just as a reminder (and I promise, this was scribbled on the back of an old airline boarding pass late last night after the superstar-starved Nuggets upended the Heat in Denver):

“THERE IS KRYPTONITE FOR EVERYONE”

Maybe it’s the abbreviated season that has produced this sensation. Or perhaps it’s the fact that through the first three weeks of this season, no team stands out to us as a head and shoulders prohibitive favorite to sprint through the competition on their way to the Larry O’Brien trophy presentation.

The Heat being exposed the way they have by zone defenses and the ravaging grind injuries can have on any team in a compacted season, Heat star Dwyane Wade turned an ankle against the Nuggets, serves as the latest reminder that what looks one way on opening night or even the first week of the season can shift dramatically the deeper we delve into the season.

Every single team with legitimate championship aspirations has an exploitable weakness that could cost them a shot at their ultimate goal this season, which is not exactly breaking news. But the fact that those weaknesses have been exposed in every single one of those teams less than a month into the season is worth noting.

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Heat Still Stuck In Twilight Of Zone

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HANG TIME TEXAS – You’d think that one thing the Heat would have figured out over the extended off-season is how to play against a zone defense.

After all, wasn’t that what the Mavericks used to twist Miami’s star-studded lineup into pretzel knots and change the entire series last June in The Finals?

But here we are, one game into the New Year of 2012 – the Final Year, if your calendar was made by Mayans – and Heat looked like they’re right back to square one, taking their first loss of the season against the Hawks, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

Right now, the Heat have a problem with zone defense and the whole league is about to realize it.

The Dallas Mavericks used it effectively in the Finals against them last June, though the champs seemed to forget that strategy in the Christmas Day opener. But the Boston Celtics, a team that virtually never goes to zone, nearly pulled off a second-half comeback last week using it until they were upended by an unexpected shooting performance by Heat rookie Norris Cole.

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A Fresh Start For Oden In … Miami?

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When we spoke in June about wanting to see Greg Oden get a fresh start to this next phase of his career, we were absolutely sincere. We viewed it as a cathartic move for Oden that meant the same for the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans.

Too much has happened to Oden during his time with the Trail Blazers. The injuries and time missed because of them has left a scab that we’d just as soon everyone try to ignore and move on from, if at all possible.

But move on to what?

For Oden, could that next move include relocating to Miami?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com’s Heat Index reports that the Heat have interest in the restricted free agent big man, who is expected to be examined later this week to determine when he can return to contact action since his latest knee surgery. Sure, it sounds like a reality TV-dream waiting to happen, Oden teaming up with Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their second season.

The Heat would certainly provide the fresh start we believe Oden needs. And he couldn’t pick a place more opposite than Portland in so many different ways. How realistic a move this could be will be determined by that examination later this week and by how serious Heat boss Pat Riley is about pursuing a big man with Oden’s injury history, as Windhorst explains:

Oden has a one-year qualifying offer from the Portland Trail Blazers for $8.9 million on his plate at the moment. The most the Heat could offer is the bulk of the $5 million mid-level exception.

For these reasons, it would seem like an easy choice for Oden if he can return to the floor, which could come as early as January. By making the hefty qualifying offer, the Blazers indicated they have not given up hope even though Oden has only played 82 games since being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007.

But Heat president Pat Riley is known for his powers of persuasion and last year convinced free agent after free agent to take less money to sign in Miami. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller all took less money than they were offered elsewhere.

It happened right up until March, when Mike Bibby gave up $6 million guaranteed for this season so he could sign with the Heat for a few months at a portion of the league minimum.

The Blazers maintain matching rights for Oden but sources say Riley still is interested in making the pitch.

It is apparently one of a number of options the team is considering. According to sources, they also have been in contact with free-agent centers NeneSamuel Dalembert and Kwame Brown.

The financial risk seems minimal compared to the potential rewards, provided Oden can resuscitate his career in a fashion that allows him to stay on the floor and use his sheer size to become a factor. And if we learned anything about the Heat during their run to The Finals last season, it’s that they need more of an inside presence than what we saw in the playoffs (no particular offense to Juwan Howard, Eric Dampier and HT fave Joel Anthony.)

At the same time, it seems a bit twisted to take Oden and thrust him into the fish bowl that will be the Heat locker room this year. If he wanted to find his game again, doing it somewhere without as much glare might make more sense.

Still, the voyeur in us can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of the Big 3 adding Oden to their mix …

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Labor Talks: As The Lockout Turns

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We knew better than to believe there was any substance behind those Thursday night smiles that had us all believing that this thing was anywhere close to over.

From the moment the NBA lockout began July 1, one of our most trusted sources has been reminding us that we would not have NBA basketball to be thankful for at Thanksgiving. And we foolishly ignored that warning. The jovial back and forth between NBA Commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter after Thursday night’s session threw us off just long enough for us to dream a little.

Well, we’re done dreaming here at the hideout.

The game face is back and there will be no more sugar-coating the smoldering hot mess that this labor impasse has become. No one has to worry about our hopes getting too high that a deal will be done in due time because we’re done with hope. The time has passed. The first month of the season went up in smoke officially Friday night, along with any chance the two sides had of preserving whatever ounce of goodwill remained amongst the basketball loving masses.

We know now that being “close” on system issues means nothing if the BRI gulf remains the same, that a smile for the cameras one night could easily be a frown for the same cameras the next.

No doubt, someone will reach out over this weekend or early next week and rekindle the talks and eventually everyone will come back to the table ready to play this game again. Just leave us out of this time. Save us the posturing, public sparring and those hollow smiles that make the best cliffhangers in the latest episode of As The Lockout Turns …

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Just when this was starting to get fun, just when it was starting to get done, we all got snookered. That was the word Billy Hunter used Friday after negotiations to end the 120-day lockout went kablooey for the second time in a week and third time this month. That was what Hunter said David Stern did to him when the commissioner said Thursday night he was going into Friday’s seemingly promising bargaining session “ready to negotiate everything.” Only he wasn’t. Neither was Hunter. The two men who were supposed to be in position to finally close this deal did not have the authority to do so. That’s the only logical explanation when failing to get a deal this weekend results in approximately $800 million of economic carnage — the total cost to both sides of a month of lost games — when the distance between the two sides is $80 million. “Absurdity,” one person on the management side of the NBA business said Friday night. Oh, no. It’s worse than that. Altogether now: It’s ass-hattery. But you knew that already. I’d brought two bananas to Friday’s bargaining session — mostly for sustenance during these mentally debilitating hours spent waiting for grown men to finish staring at each other, but also as props. You may recall the banana-in-the-tailpipe column in which I detailed the blowout victory the owners were seeking in these negotiations. On Friday, we all fell for the banana in the tailpipe again. And we didn’t even have a late supper — shrimp salad sandwiches, say — to show for it. On top of that, I left my grocery bag with the bananas in the lobby, and by the time the predictable, double-talk-laden news conferences were over, two perfectly good bananas were gone. The latest casualties of the dumbest lockout ever.

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