Posts Tagged ‘Chris “Birdman” Andersen’

Extensive Investigation Clears Birdman

Chris "Birdman" Andersen

Chris “Birdman” Andersen (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – From the good news file, Chris “Birdman” Andersen has been cleared of any wrongdoing after an extensive police investigation uncovered an elaborate scheme hatched by a 29-year-old woman in Manitoba, Canada, that ensnared Andersen.

To grasp the complexity of the case, Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim has written a detailed account that is must-read material.

More than a year ago, with Andersen playing for the Denver Nuggets, local authorities searched Andersen’s house as part of an investigation related to their Internet Crimes Against Children unit. With a lack of details forthcoming, imaginations ran wild among the media. The Nuggets eventually released Andersen, and a cloud of suspicion hovered over him until Wednesday when it was learned that no charges will be pursued.

Andersen’s attorney, Mark Bryant told Wertheim:

“I can’t tell you how much Chris agonized over the label placed on him. This has had an extraordinary effect on Chris … He appreciates those who reserved judgment. He will continue to do what he’s always done in life and that’s turn something bad hopefully into something good.”

After the Nuggets waived him, Andersen was out of a job. The Miami Heat, desperate for big-man help, signed him on Jan. 20 and Andersen went on to play an integral role in helping the Heat repeat as champions. In July he was rewarded with a $1.7 million contract to stay with the Heat next season.

For one of the game’s all-time colorful characters, Wednesday’s news clearing his name might have been his biggest victory of all.

Healthy Wade Key To Heat’s Three-Peat





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The NBA calendar waits for no man, not even one of the game’s all-time greats.

You are either ready for the grind when the curtain comes up on the 2013-14 NBA season or you are not. The 82-game gauntlet that awaits has no mercy.

That’s why it should be comforting news to Miami Heat fans that Dwyane Wade made his way back to the gym this weekend after a two-month layoff to rest the sore knees that have come to define this stage of his stellar career. Wade hasn’t been on the floor since the Heat’s Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals.

Wade opted for OssaTron Shock treatments for the tendinitis in both knees rather than undergo major surgery, a move that Wade and the Heat have to believe was the best move for a player nearing his 32nd birthday and with a decade’s worth of wear and tear on his body. As important as LeBron James is to the Heat’s bottom line and as invaluable as Chris Bosh might be to what goes on in Miami, a healthy Wade is the key to the Heat’s three-peat hopes.

They won last season with Wade turning in a career-low 15.9 points per game in the postseason. He came alive when the Heat needed him most during the The Finals. But for long stretches throughout the postseason, starting in the first round against Milwaukee, he just didn’t look like himself. The burst and above-the-rim ability that had become his trademark vanished as he battled bone bruises in both knees.

He missed just one game in the postseason, but he was missing in action during plenty of others. Wade isn’t the first superstar to hit his 30s and find his body playing tricks on him. Kobe Bryant has had to deal with his fair share of knee issues, a problem he handled by opting for a blood-spinning procedure in Germany that saw other stars in the NBA and other sports follow after seeing Bryant’s physical resurgence post-procedure.

Wade made a public promise at his fantasy camp Friday to be ready to go when the Heat start training camp.

“I’ll be coming in prepared and ready, but I won’t be ready for opening night,” Wade told reporters. “I’ll be ready for opening night when opening night gets here. I have a good amount of time.”

Time is of the essence for the Heat. Their championship clock is far from over, but it’s ticking towards what could be a crossroads of sorts in the free-agent summer of 2014. Say Wade doesn’t make it through the 2013-14 campaign healthy and the Heat are unable to complete that Three-Peat, things could change dramatically with James, Bosh, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and several other high-profile starts all swimming in those free-agent waters.

But if Wade’s shock treatments work and he has the good fortune of avoiding all of the bumps and bruises that have slowed him down recently, the Heat will no doubt ride through the regular season as the favorites to win it all again. And a third straight title and fourth straight Finals appearance will make it tough for anyone to walk away from.

“The challengers are lining up,” said an Eastern Conference executive from a team outside of that group of contenders. “We all know how hard it is to get back on that horse and ride it to The Finals for  third straight year. Everybody understands what kind of toll that takes on the guys who are the true superstars in those situations. If DWade is right and healthy, it’s hard to see anyone knocking them off the top of that mountain. It’s not impossible by any stretch, because Indiana was right there last season. But it is a tall order and nearly impossible with LeBron and healthy Wade doing what they do.”

Wade acknowledged the clear and present danger teams like the Pacers, Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets present to the Heat’s three-peat plans. It doesn’t take a pair of BluBlockers to see that the rest of the East is working tirelessly to catch up to the Heat. And that doesn’t even bring the Western Conference challengers into the equation, as he pointed out to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com’s Heat Index:

“The East obviously has gotten stronger,” Wade said. “Brooklyn has done something unprecedented — to put five All-Star players on the floor at one time. Not that many people have pulled it off, especially with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. When you think of them, you think of Boston. To be able to take them from there and bring them to their team and bring something to their team that they were missing, in the sense of winning and that toughness.”

Wade said that on paper this might be the most competition he’s ever faced in the Eastern Conference.

“This is going to be a tough year for us,” Wade said about the Heat’s pursuit of a three-peat. “We’re walking into uncharted waters. Right now, we’re the standard team because we’ve been the champions the last two years, so other teams are putting teams together to stop that.”

Wade is right, it’s going to be an extremely difficult task trying to three-peat, even if they get all of the injury breaks they didn’t get last season.

The Heat’s mix has changed a bit, too. Mike Miller is gone. Greg Oden has joined them. Ray Allen and Chris “Birdman” Andersen came back. Bosh will no doubt come back with something to prove after taking his share of lumps on the court and from those of us who observe and report on these things.

What hasn’t changed is the formula the Heat need to achieve their goals. The dynamic duo of LeBron and Wade, when healthy, remains the most powerful force in basketball.

And nothing, not even the NBA calendar, can change that!



‘Amnesty THAT!’ An Amnesty Find Is Rare

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The two-word tweet Kobe Bryant directed at Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after he grilled Cuban’s team for 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a game last season was priceless. Earlier that week, Cuban suggested that the Lakers should consider amnestying Bryant this offseason as a means for Los Angeles to shrink the enormous luxury-tax bill coming after next season.

The notion was resurrected after Bryant, due to make $30.45 million in 2013-14, tore his Achilles tendon in the third-to-last game of the regular season because of the assumed probability that he will miss a chunk of next season. Of course, the Lakers had no intention to amnesty Bryant by Tuesday’s deadline.

Had they, making him available to a team for dirt cheap, Bryant would have become the first superstar cut loose via the amnesty provision that took effect at the conclusion of the 2011 lockout as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Twenty players in all have been waived via the amnesty provision. Three got the news Tuesday, bringing this summer’s amnesty total to five.

The wisdom of the provision is to allow each team the one-time ability to remove a contract from its books. The team must still pay the player’s remaining salary, but it no longer counts against the salary cap or luxury tax.

The amnestied player (who must have been under contract prior to the new CBA) goes through a waiver process with teams under the salary cap granted first crack to acquire the player through a bidding process. The highest bidder wins and signs the player at the bid price with the former team responsible for the balance.

It could provide a cheap way for a team to fill a hole with a serviceable rotation player set free by a team needing financial relief – which was the Miami Heat’s purpose Tuesday in amnestying popular sharpshooter Mike Miller. More often than not, however, teams, naturally, have utilized the amnesty provision to eradicate expensive mistakes or free themselves of players no longer worth their lucrative deals such as waiving disappointing, non-productive players (Darko Milicic, Travis Outlaw), older/high-mileage players (James Posey, Elton Brand) or headcases (Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche).

Of the 15 players amnestied in 2011 and 2012, four (Posey, Charlie Bell, Ryan Gomes and Milicic) were never signed by another team and eight (Arenas, Bell, Josh Childress, Baron Davis, Gomes, Milicic, Posey, Brandon Roy) are currently out of the league. Only five players remain with the teams that signed them through or after the amnesty waiver process, and of those just three — Luis Scola (Phoenix), Blatche (Brooklyn) and Chris “Birdman” Andersen — played significant roles last season.

Of the five players amnestied this summer, the underwhelming Tyrus Thomas has yet to be signed. Drew Gooden, Linas Kleiza and Miller are in the midst of the 48-hour waiver bidding process. Metta World Peace, amnestied by the Lakers, signed a two-year deal with his hometown New York Knicks.

The 6-foot-11 Blatche and the Brooklyn Nets are hands-down the feel-good story of the amnesty provision. Just 26, Blatche’s talent is immense, but so was his penchant for doing dumb things with the dysfunctional Wizards. Fed up, Washington gave up on him. Few teams bit until the Nets figured they had nothing to lose, signing Blatche to a one-year deal for less than $1 million while the Wizards were on the hook for more than $7 million. Blatche emerged as an integral part of the Nets’ return to the playoffs, averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg off the bench. Last week Blatche re-signed for a reported two years and $2.9 million.

But Blatche is clearly the exception. The Mavericks hoped to get a steal with their winning bid of $2.1 million for the amnestied Brand, who was due to make $18 million last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brand, while well-liked in Dallas, posted his worst statistical season of his career, averaging 7.2 ppg and 6.0 rpg. He recently signed a free-agent deal with Atlanta.

Chauncey Billups, amnestied in 2011 by the Knicks to make room to sign Tyson Chandler, played just 42 total games the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, and recently signed a free-agent deal with the Detroit Pistons. Center Brendan Haywood was nonexistent in Charlotte last season after being amnestied by the Mavs.

And remember the potential Childress had? Amnestied by the Phoenix Suns in 2012, he’s one of the eight players no longer working in the NBA. The amnesty bust list goes on and on.

So who are the 10 teams yet to play their amnesty card, and which players are eligible? Here they are: Atlanta (Al Horford), Boston (Rajon Rondo), Chicago (Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah), Detroit (none), Memphis (Mike Conley, Zach Randolph), New Orleans (none), Oklahoma City (Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison), Sacramento Kings (John Salmons), San Antonio (Tony Parker) and Utah (none).

But that is now speculation for next summer.

Bench Mobs: Four That Got Better

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Every general manager’s goal is to assembly an energetic, productive bench.

A strong second unit filled with single-minded role players enhances a team’s chances at winning. Just look at the two-time champion Miami Heat and perennially contending San Antonio Spurs: both clubs received significant bench contributions throughout the 2012-13 season. Still, a deep and talented bench does not ensure success — the Los Angeles Clippers being Exhibit A.

Arguably the NBA’s deepest bench last season, L.A.’s reserves ranked fourth in scoring and second in overall production (points, assists and rebounds combined). The second unit of Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf ranked as the third-best defensive unit in the league. Yet the Clippers lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies, whose thin bench was considered a major weakness.

The goal is to build a well-rounded and deep roster that doesn’t falter when the starters sit, that can change pace when needed and can light it up just as well as lock it down.

Four teams looking to make a charge in their respective conferences — including the all-in Clippers and the go-getter Golden State Warriors in the West; and in the East the rugged-but-reinforcement-thin Indiana Pacers and the money-is-nothing Brooklyn Nets — completed significant offseason signings and trades that should bolster each club’s depth:

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

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Loses: G Bledsoe, G Chauncey Billups, F Odom (still available), F Grant Hill (retired), F/C Turiaf

Additions: G J.J. Redick, G/F Jared Dudley, G Darren Collison, F Reggie Bullock (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Only two members of the aforementioned third-ranked defensive unit, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, are returning as of today (Odom remains a possibility) to the Clippers’ second unit, so they could slip defensively. But the firepower is all-world with Redick (a 39 percent career 3-point shooter) and Dudley (40.5 percent) joining Sixth Man runner-up Crawford (35.0 percent). Collison has plenty to prove after twice losing his starting job in Dallas to late-30-somethings Derek Fisher and Mike James. The ultra-quick Collison backed up Chris Paul as a rookie in New Orleans and he now has a defined role that should suit his game. Plenty of experience and savvy leaves town in Hill and Billups, but they played a combined 51 games last season. Hill was not part of the playoff rotation until former coach Vinny Del Negro got desperate late in the first-round series loss. New coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers has given himself plenty of options with a bench unit that might top last season’s group. Free agents Barnes, center Ryan Hollins and guard Willie Green return.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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Loses: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry

Additions: Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, C Jermaine O’Neal, Nemanja Nedovic (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Simply, Andre Iguodala. Acquiring the veteran forced out Jack and Landry, but also provides instant depth for a young team that basically rode seven players in the playoffs after David Lee injured his hip. The tough call for coach Mark Jackson will be moving either semi-conscious shooter Klay Thompson or confident forward Harrison Barnes to the bench (both started every game they played last season) to make room for the 6-foot-6 Iguodala. Thompson could challenge for Sixth Man of the Year honors and he’d easily replace the scoring punch Jack provided. The second-year Barnes, who truly emerged during the playoffs, can provide everything the blue-collar Landry delivered only with advanced skills in every facet, especially with his burgeoning offensive arsenal. Barnes could discover some very favorable matchups off the bench. Speights, more accurately, will be expected to fill Landry’s role. The Warriors also bring back impressive frontcourt youngsters Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, who should benefit from the presence of the steady veteran O’Neal.

INDIANA PACERS

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Loses: F Tyler Hansbrough, F Jeff Pendergraph

Additions: F Chris Copeland, G C.J. Watson, G Donald Sloan, F Solomon Hill (draft pick)

Why they’re better: The wild card here is forward Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season with a left knee injury but will be back. With Paul George emerging as a star, Granger could find himself as the Pacers’ sixth man — imagine that. A better bench might have pushed Indiana past Miami in the East finals. The Pacers were one of six teams whose bench averaged fewer than 80 mpg, and they ranked 29th in scoring. The veteran Watson should stabilize a backcourt that had no consistent answer (D.J. Augustin) coming off the bench last season. Watson is a solid veteran who rarely turns the ball over — less than one a game in 19.0 mpg last season with Brooklyn — and is the type of team-first player president of basketball operations Larry Bird wants for coach Frank Vogel. And then there’s the unexpected feather in Bird’s cap — forward Chris Copeland. The 29-year-old late-bloomer provided the Knicks with energetic play off the bench and surprising accuracy from beyond the arc (59-for-140, 42.1 percent). The 6-foot-8, 235-pounder gives Indy a rugged backup for David West and weakens a rival.

BROOKLYN NETS

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Loses: G C.J. Watson, G Keith Bogans, G MarShon Brooks, F Kris Humphries

Additions: G Jason Terry, G Shaun Livingston, G D.J. White, F Andrei Kirilenko, C/F Mason Plumlee (draft pick)

Why they’re better: While a pudgy Deron Williams hobbled about on bum ankles for the first couple of months last season, the Nets’ bench carried the team, so they were no slouches to begin with. But when you add Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the starting lineup, that turns rebounding machine Reggie Evans and offensive weapon Andray Blatche into reserves and instantly improves that group. Terry remains a dangerous streak shooter even after a down season in Boston. The 6-foot-7 Livingston has quietly resurrected his career and should find a home backing up D-Will, who played like an All-Star in the second half of last season. The coup was snagging Kirilenko, who signed for $3.18 million after opting out of his $10-million deal with Minnesota. Kirilenko is always a nagging injury away from missing handfuls of games at a time, but the 6-foot-9 countryman of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a do-it-all stat-sheet-filler. He is a sneaky offensive presence on the baseline and a rangy defender the Nets can use against Carmelo Anthony and other rival scoring threats.

Right & Wrong: King James Earns Title

 

The Miami Heat got the repeat and LeBron James is the undeniable king of the court.

Like it or not, the Heat, established in 2010 to pile on titles, have played for one in each of their three seasons together and they’ve won the last two. It hasn’t been a cakewalk. They’ve been tested along the way and even they acknowledge that their 2013 foe, the San Antonio Spurs, afforded the Heat new life when they couldn’t close out Game 6. For the immortal Tim Duncan, coach Gregg Popovich, the rest of the Spurs and their legion of die-hard fans in South Texas,  94-89 with 28 ticks to the title will be tough to reconcile.

But give the Heat their due. Dwyane Wade put his bad wheel behind him and came to play. Shane Battier brushed off a brutal first five games with two high-impact performances, going 9-for-12 from beyond the arc. His 6-for-8 night in Game 7, making his first five, offset a strange scoreless game for Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mike Miller.

And finally, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, 42 years old, has earned two championships. He made an adjustment to his starting lineup, sat Battier along the way, benched veteran Heat stalwart Udonis Haslem as well as Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who was so integral in the East finals. He used James to defend Tony Parker at just the right times and ultimately Spoelstra matched the wily Popovich step-for-step through seven wild games.

For one last time, here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in one of the most riveting NBA Finals in years.

Right: LeBron’s fourth Finals started slowly with 18, 17 and 15 points in the first three games, and again the criticism came hot and heavy: Not assertive enough; needs to score more; no killer instinct. Wrong, wrong and wrong. He scored no fewer than 25 in the next four games and at least 32 in three. His Games 6 and 7 totals: 69 points, 22 rebounds, 15 assists and five steals. Yes, his two turnovers at the end of a brilliant fourth quarter in Game 6 looked to be the start of a long summer of LeBron bashing, but his 3-pointer helped to save the day as the Spurs collapsed in those final 28 seconds. He was sensational in Game 7 with 37 points — that included five 3-pointers as the Spurs dared him to shoot it – and 12 rebounds. The four-time regular-season MVP deserved his second Finals MVP averaging 25.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg and 7.9 apg.

Wrong: Duncan waited six grueling years to get back to the Finals for a shot at a fifth championship. He had never before swallowed defeat and the bitter taste of this loss will linger. Game 6 will burn for a long time, but so will the short running hook he missed with 48.9 seconds left with a chance to tie the game, and the ensuing tip that wouldn’t go. Back at the defensive end, Duncan slapped the floor in disgust and moments later James drilled an open jumper to make it 92-88 Heat with 27.9 seconds to go. He wouldn’t get another shot opportunity. At 37, Duncan had a phenomenal season and a terrific playoffs. His 30 points and 17 rebounds in Game 6 should have been enough to seal the deal and his 24 points, 12 rebounds and four steals in Game 7 proved he has plenty left to go for it again.

Right: Bad knee and all, Wade left the drama behind and just balled. In the final three games, Wade put up two double-doubles with 25 points and 10 assists in Game 5 and 23 points and 10 rebounds in Game 7 that included a critical first-half onslaught of 14 points and six rebounds.

Wrong: Wade’s counterpart, Manu Ginobili, had his one shining moment in Game 5, but otherwise struggled through a regrettable Finals and postseason. Not that he didn’t put it all out there because Ginobili knows no other way to play. He battled through the good and bad in Game 7 to post 18 points and five assists, but he had four more turnovers to give him 12 in the last two games. All four came in the final quarter and the last one, a wild drive ending in an errant pass with 23.8 seconds to go ended all hope.

Right: Popovich hasn’t been shy about tabbing second-year forward Kawhi Leonard as the future face of the Spurs franchise, and now the world knows why. Leonard, who valiantly took on the unenviable task of guarding James, was everywhere in Games 6 and 7, amassing 41 points, 17 rebounds and four steals. He missed a crucial free throw late in Game 6, but the San Diego State product’s future is extremely bright. As Popovich said after Game 7: “Leonard is a star in the making.”

Wrong: Tony Parker and Danny Green suffered unthinkable free-falls that the Spurs ultimately could not overcome. Parker didn’t use the Grade 1 strain of his hamstring as an excuse and he really couldn’t because he went 10-for-14 from the floor for 26 points in Game 5. But in Games 6 and 7, Parker went 9-for-35, including 6-for-23 in Game 7. In the Spurs’ four losses, Parker shot 32.3 percent (21-for-65). Green was having a storybook Finals, knocking down 25-for-38 from 3-point range through the first five games. He set a new Finals record for most 3-pointers made and he was shooting for the record for most 3s in any playoff series. But the well dried up as the Heat applied great pressure. Green went 2-for-11 from beyond the arc in the final two games. In the first five games he made three, four, five, six and seven 3-pointers. In the last two, he made one in each. After three games he was the leading scorer in the Finals and through five games he had scored no fewer than 10 points. In Games 6 and 7 he scored eight combined.

Right: Mario Chalmers doesn’t always get the job done, which is why Spoelstra occasionally benched the point guard, but the Heat aren’t celebrating today without his gutsy play in Games 6 and 7. Chalmers totaled 13 points on 4-for-19 shooting and 25.3 mpg in the middle three games in San Antonio. In the final two games he totaled 34 points on 13-for-26 shooting and 41.5 mpg while outplaying Parker. He proved especially crucial in Game 6 with 20 points that included 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Wrong: Popovich has earned the respect he receives, but it doesn’t mean he’s beyond reproach. He made strategic decisions late in Games 6 and 7 that didn’t work out and Popovich should explain those moves when asked. That’s how this business works. Late in both games, Popovich put the ball in the hands of the turnover-prone Ginobili instead of Parker, who was taken out of the game for a late possession in Game 6 and was sitting on the bench in Game 7 with 27.9 seconds to go and the Spurs with the ball trailing by four. Ginobili drove, got caught in the air under the basket and tossed an awful pass that was easily intercepted by James. It was Ginobili’s fourth turnover of the fourth quarter. Parker, who was having a rough night shooting, no doubt, is typically quite secure with the ball and had two turnovers all game. After the game, Popovich was asked by a San Antonio reporter why Parker was not in the game: “Because that’s what I decided to do,” Popovich answered. The reporter followed up: “Can you elaborate on that?” Popovich said: “No.” It seems Spurs fans have the right to understand why their All-Star point guard was sitting at the most critical juncture of the season. Even if the coach has earned the benefit of the doubt.

24-Second Thoughts On Game 6

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24 – So, LeBron James hit the court two hours early to get his pregame work in, huh? That says the man recognizes the magnitude of this moment and has prepared himself properly to man up to it. As ridiculous as it sounds to criticize the four-time MVP and the world’s best player, LeBron knows he has not left his mark on this series. If the Heat go down tonight, it won’t be without a desperate fight from LeBron, which is exactly the way it has to be when you are the best player in the game. Season on the line, you have to show up and set the tone from the start on both ends.

23 – I love that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stuck with Mike Miller in his starting lineup. As much as you need a defender in the game to slow down “Dancin’ “ Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and the Spurs’ other shooters, you need shot-makers on the floor in an elimination games. Miller is aggressive early, which exactly what the Heat need him to be in this situation.

22 – Kawhi Leonard is absolutely fearless. Goes at LeBron on the break, ‘bows him out of the way and finishes with the hoop and the foul. Drains a corner 3-pointer two possessions later. The Spurs are aggressive early, Leonard and Tim Duncan in particular, showing absolutely no hesitation.

21 – Dwyane Wade bangs knees with Ginobili with 7:42 to play and you could see it was a Ginobili’s knee cap smashing the inside of Wade’s left knee. We have to see how bad it was for Wade, who clearly took the worst of the collision. If they win tonight and force a Game 7, how does that blow impact Wade for the finale?

20 – Kawhi “Captain Corn Rows” Leonard just posterized Miller on a sweet feed from Tony Parker. I’m not sure what’s more impressive: Leonard’s eight early points or the fact that he’s the last man in the league still rocking corn rows (and doing it without any fancy designs or anything special; just straight ol’ school, straight-to-the-back corn rows). The 70s are proud of you, young fella! BTW, the Spurs are up two and DDG hasn’t even taken a shot yet.

19 – Duncan is working on a perfect night right now (6-for-6, 12 points and 3 rebounds). I wonder how history will remember Duncan? It certainly seems like we all take him for granted in the present. We don’t appreciate the greatness of his game and fact that he’s more than just the most fundamentally sound power forward to play this game, perhaps ever. He won’t have the flashiest highlight video to look back on in 20 years. But there aren’t but a handful of players who will be able to say they played at an elite level for as long as he did during his Hall of Fame career.

18 – Heat pulling out all the stops tonight; Chris “Birdman” AndersenMario Chalmers and even Shane Battier‘s 3-point bankshot to tie the game. It’s going to be that kind of night, I can feel it. ‘Rio already has 10 points in the first quarter and is 4-for-5 from the floor. If he’s aggressive like this all night, the Spurs are going to have to figure out a way to keep him from duplicating the work he did in Game 2.

17 – Chris Bosh was wrong … DDG is still getting open looks from deep. Still knocking ‘em down, too.

16 – Duncan has 25 before halftime with a hand in his face on every possession. The Spurs are 14-2 in closeout game since 2003 for a reason.  His nickname is The Big Fundamental! He’s 11-for-13 and dominating the Heat in every facet of the game right now. He’s putting on an absolute showcase right now, outscoring Miami’s Big 3 by his lonesome, 25-21. The rest of the Spurs matched his 25 first half points and they lead by six at the break.

15 – The Spurs’ 17-4 run to finish the second quarter might very well be the most impressive stretch by either team in this entire series. Duncan, Boris Diaw, Leonard … unreal effort, unbelievable mettle and just a complete demolition of the Heat on both ends during the run. The Spurs own the Heat inside with a 32-12 scoring edge in the paint in the first half.

14 – Where you at LeBron? Nine points (on 3-for-9 shooting) is not going to get your team to a Game 7.

13 – Third quarter starts without Wade. Ray Allen is out there for him. It has to be that knee. No word from the Heat PR staff until after the game, per Doris Burke’s sideline report.

12 – The Heat’s night in a nutshell to this point: LeBron has Parker guarding him in the low post, Heat swing the ball all around the floor until Bosh gets it on the opposite baseline bricks a jumper off of the far side of the rim. The Heat are completely out of sorts on offense right now. The only thing saving them right now is that they are turning the Spurs over (courtesy of Ginobili, whose Game 5 magic has worn off completely).

11 – Leonard is having the sort of bully-ball game you expected LeBron to have. The Spurs’ 11-0 run here late in the third quarter is one of those backbreaking stretches in a game like this. The Heat’s inability to slow them down is startling. Credit the Spurs for sticking to what they do best, and that’s unleashing all of the weapons in their arsenal to take away what you do best. The Heat are being overwhelmed on their home floor the same way they were in 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks in a Game 6.

10 – Wade is on the bench changing his shoes with 10.3 seconds to play in the third. Maybe he has an extra pair for LeBron, because if they Heat don’t come up with something to change the momentum in this games in the next six minutes, the Spurs are going to break them down the stretch with their execution and claim title No. 5.

9 – “Shoeless” Mike Miller with the 3-point dagger to cut the lead 77-73. Spoelstra imploring his team to “trust each other” at this stage of the season sounds a bit strange. But the message seems to be working. The comeback is officially on, with the Heat’s rally lineup (LeBron, Miller, Allen, Birdman and Chalmers) on the floor. Granted, the Heat’s rush has come with both Duncan and Parker resting on that Spurs bench.

8 –  Bully LeBron has finally come alive and he’s ridiculous force of nature when he plays like this. He’s overpowering Leonard, Duncan, Ginobili and whoever else gets in his way around the rim. Desperate times call for desperate measures, apparently. A block on Duncan under the basket triggers a break the other way and LeBron ties the game at 82-82 with a layup at the 6:37 mark. Allen gives the Heat the lead on a reverse layup with 6:03 to play. Crazy turnaround for the Heat and it’s all been fueled by the man without the headband, who is in full blow attack the rim mode right down the stretch. Heat on a 22-7 run right now and LeBron has 11 points during the run.

7 – Wade comes back for Miller with 3:48 to play, taking away the other long distance shooter (along with Allen) who caused the Spurs so much trouble during the comeback. Those shooters forced the Spurs to cover the perimeter and leave lanes for LeBron to drive to the rim and change the entire flow of the game for both teams. We’ll see if that substitution comes back to bite the Heat in these final minutes.

6 – Duncan and Parker are scoreless in the fourth quarter inside the final dos minutos of the biggest game, so far, of the Spurs’ season. How they are within three points is beyond me. It’s a testament to the system and all of the cold-blooded role players on that roster.

5 – Parker with the step-back 3-pointer over LeBron to tie the game with 1:27 to play erases all doubts. He’s going to snag his second Finals MVP trophy if the Spurs win this thing. Huge turnover by Chalmers and Parker converts on the other end, shades of Game 1 dancing through the building, Spurs up 91-89 with 58 seconds left. This is nuts.

4 – LeBron turnover under the basket, Spurs on the break and Ginobili is fouled with 37.2 left. Sinks both free throws and a 93-89 Spurs lead. Unreal. Another LeBron turnover and Ginobili is fouled again and drains the second of two free throws. 94-89 with 28.2 left. LeBron goes from the goat to the hero and now back to the goat in the final seconds. I say that Wade-for-Miller substitution changed the flow for the Heat. Could very well cost them this game.

3 – LeBron bricks a 3-pointer and gets the ball back after a wild scramble and drains the 3-pointer that cuts the lead to 94-92 with 20.1 to play. Money time for both teams here and Duncan is not on the floor (gotta have your best rebounder on the floor, Pop! I don’t care what is going on …). Leonard misses the first of two free throws but sinks the second with 19.4 to play. Oooohhhhhh!!!!!!! Allen drains the corner 3 to tie it up with 5.2 to play. Winning time, with LeBron on Parker and TP air balls the  last shot of regulation. Unreal finish to the first 48 minutes. Allen might not have the Finals 3-point record anymore, but it was his shot that keep this game alive. Five more minutes of what has turned out to be the best game of the entire season. I’ll take it.

2 – Overtime is like a mini-movie of the entire series in five minutes, complete with turnovers, big shots, clutch rebounds, timely blocks, stunning mistakes, star turns from everyone from Duncan, Parker and Leonard to James, Wade and Bosh, whose work rebounding and on defense help propel the Heat to a Game 7.

1 – Fitting end to a fantastic game. Allen knocks down two free throws for the winning margin and Bosh comes up with the clutch block on DDG at the buzzer. All those Heat fans booing Bosh earlier in this game can thank their lucky stars they had him tonight because he did the dirty work (rebound and kick to Allen was as clutch as the block at the end) down the stretch to help deliver the Heat. Allen with nine points in the fourth quarter and overtime, doing exactly what a future Hall of Famer is supposed to do, helps save the Heat, as well. But if LeBron hadn’t come alive in the fourth the Spurs would be popping bottles in their locker room right now. Game 7 here we come!

jh

24-Second Thoughts On Game 5

24 – Manu Ginobili making Gregg Popovich look like the genius he is by starting him (much the same way Mike Miller made Erik Spoelstra look like a hoops Einstein by starting his veteran shooter in Game 4). Manu’s energy and effort early on will likely set the tone for the Spurs, who need a spark after getting handled the way they did in Game 4. Bald spot or not, Ginobili remains a champion and will show a champion’s heart in this game. Guaranteed.

23 – Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh are absolutely going at it in the post. You have to wonder how this series might have gone for the Heat if Bosh had played like this in Games 1, 2 and or 3 … he doesn’t have to get the better of Duncan. He needs only make Duncan work overtime (they are trying to front him on every offensive possession) for his offensive touches and put the pressure on him to defend Bosh in a similar manner on the other end of the floor.

22 – The Spurs’ balance is ruling the day early. They open a 10-point lead late in the first quarter bolstered by said balance and some great defensive work … make that a 12-point lead after another fantastic stop and scramble that results in a Kawhi Leonard dunk with 60 seconds to play. Their 29-17 lead was really 5-on-3. The only Heat players to score until the final seconds of the quarter were Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Ray Allen scored the Heat’s only other basket

21 – Leonard has been exposed as a no-frills performer, rivaling Duncan for the title of the most boring (in a good way) player in this series. But how anyone can watch this guy work on both ends of the floor and conclude that he’s anything other than a star in the making is beyond me. He’s been spectacular working against LeBron basically the entire series. His 3 from the corner pushes the lead to 32-19 at the end of the first quarter.

20 – Danny Green for 3 … again. Welcome back to The Finals roller coaster folks. This series swings so wildly in one direction or the other on a given night that it’s impossible to get a feel for which team has any real rhythm. I don’t know if that’s a credit to the team that’s hot or an indictment of the team that’s getting torched. Either way, it makes for spectacular viewing. Green has tied Allen’s record for 3-pointers made in The Finals (22), with a shot over Allen, and we’ve got more than six minutes until halftime.

19 – The Spurs have absolutely no one who can cover LeBron in the post consistently, just as the Heat have no one who can cover Duncan in the post consistently. At least no one can single-cover either one of them on a regular basis. If we get another close game it’ll be interesting to see if Popovich or Spoelstra goes there on a final play.

18 – Parker with a sweet drive and finish to wrap up a breakneck first half for both teams. Spurs are shooting a wicked 62 percent in the first half with four of the five starters in double figures already and the fifth (Leonard) has nine. Loving the bounce back on both sides. Pop says it best, “this game is a big boy game.” The fact that both coaches continue to implore their guys to crank up the tempo is perhaps my favorite part of this series. It’s rare that you see teams willing to play to what could be the others strength on purpose. Supreme confidence on both sides. Splendid.

17 – Jay-Z comes up with three minutes of funky stuff, coming July 4, at the end of an instant classic first half that sends Twitter and Facebook into a frenzy.
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Confident Chalmers Leads Heat Rout




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MIAMI – Mario Chalmers has no problem asserting himself on the big stage.

It’s been in his blood since he was a teenager, but it became evident when he was starring in college for Kansas’ national championship team and more so last season, during the Miami Heat’s championship run.

Chalmers went off for 25 points in Game 4 of The Finals last season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, draining nine of his 14 shots en route to a win that helped the Heat move one step closer to closing out the Thunder in Game 5.

That’s why performances like the one he delivered Sunday night at AmericanAirlines should surprise no one. The Heat point guard relishes the opportunity to take and make the big shots, make the big plays and accept the challenge of dealing with a future Hall of Famer like Tony Parker the way he did in the Heat’s 103-84 rout of the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of The Finals.

Chalmers led the Heat with a team-high 19 points and helped limit Parker to 13 points and just five assists. His layup and free throw with 3:11 to play in the third quarter was the turning point as the Heat went on a 33-5 run to blow the game open. They went from trailing by a point to coasting by 27 points to tie the series at a 1-1 headed to San Antonio for Games 3, 4 and 5.

Chalmers walked over and told a struggling LeBron James that now was the time.

“I felt like we had them on the ropes at the time,” Chalmers said. “I told them let’s go for the kill.”

James might have had the highlight play on Tiago Splitter and Chris Bosh broke out of his funk and finished with a double double (12 points, 10 rebounds). But it was the Heat’s role players who saved the day. Guys like Ray Allen (13 points), Chris “Birdman” Andersen (nine points) and Mike Miller (nine points) showed up.

And in this series, James is convinced that Chalmers could very well be the Heat’s most critical performer, even with “Big 3s” on both sides.

“‘Rio has to play big for us in all facets,” James said. “I think that especially defensively, he’s guarding arguably the best point guard in the league. But I think he also has to make Tony work on the defensive end. He can’t be passive. He has to shoot his shots when he has them.”

Chalmers won’t bite publicly when asked about an individual matchup like the one he’s locked in with Parker right now, but his history against the other top players at the position suggests otherwise. He’s never backed down.

“It wasn’t nothing about Tony Parker,” Chalmers said. “It was the fact that we lost Game 1.We never want to lose, especially in The Finals. My mindset was just to do what I can for the team and go from there.”

It goes back that intestinal fortitude, the big game moxie that Chalmers has always exhibited.

“Mario’s got guts. Come on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He had that all the way [back] in college. He’s got incredible confidence in his game. He’s shown that throughout the years, even when it’s sometimes — I wouldn’t say irrational. You have to have guts to play with our guys. If you don’t, you get swallowed up. The good thing about it is the other guys were fine with him making plays. That might be different the next game. As they make adjustments, everybody has to be alive. Him being aggressive helps us, no question.”

There’s no strategy involved. Just plain old guts.

You either have it in you to thrive under pressure or you don’t.

“We have a lot of those guys,” Spoelstra said. “You can’t teach that quality, the big game guts. They feel most alive in these situations when you typically feel the most pressure. Drives me crazy sometimes in December and January. But when you get to this time of year you like it.”

‘Birdman’ Sits, Heat’s Anthony Next Man Up




INDIANAPOLIS – Miami forward Chris (Birdman) Andersen got his wings clipped for a night – he’s missing Game 6 of the Eastern Conference championship series Saturday for his altercation Thursday with Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough. But it’s not as if NBA headquarters poured salt on his tail for the rest of the playoffs or his career.

“I’m not going to change who I am and how I play,” Andersen told reporters after Miami’s morning shootaround. “I just have to keep my composure a little better and be smarter and make the right decision the next time something like that happens.”

The next time “something like that happens,” if Andersen keeps his composure, it won’t happen at all. He started the incident with Hanbrough in the second quarter of Game 5, throwing a blindside shoulder into the Pacers forward as the two headed upcourt.

After Hansbrough got up off the court, the two banged chests. Then Andersen pushed Hansbrough back with a two-handed shove. Referee Marc Davis rushed over to push Andersen away from Hansbrough and the Heat forward briefly pushed back, grabbing at the ref’s wrist and arm.

That – resisting efforts to bring the altercation to an end, the league said – might have been the biggest reason Andersen’s flagrant-1 foul was upgraded to a flagrant-2 and he was hit with the one-game suspension. If his composure had kicked in at any point before that, he might have stayed eligible for one of his team’s biggest games of the season.

“I can’t regret anything. It is what it is, bro,” Andersen said.

The Birdman will be cooped up at the Heat’s hotel during Game 6, while coach Erik Spoelstra and the rest pick up the slack in rebounding, defensive and finishes at the rim that have made him so valuable of late. Spoelstra said backup big man Joel Anthony would get minutes normally reserved for Andersen but allowed for the possibility of other lineups and options.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said his team would be prepared for a variety of Miami looks. “It’s not just going to be [Anthony],” Vogel said. “They’ll play [Chris] Bosh a little more at [center]. They’ll give [Udonis] Haslem more time. They’ve got plenty of different lineups they can throw at us that I don’t expect them to have any dip.”

NateRob, The Pound-For-Pound King!



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Nate Robinson said it best, “God blessed me with a lot of heart and no height, and I’ll take that any day.”

So will the Chicago Bulls.

Krypto-Nate devoured the Miami Heat in the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ Game 1 upset in the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The best fourth quarter scorer in these playoffs, Robinson served the Heat by scoring the final seven of his game-high 27 points (he also had nine assists) in the defining minutes of the game. He did all this after needing 10 stitches to close a gash over his lip, courtesy of a LeBron James elbow and head smash during a scramble for a loose ball.

“Get stitched up and continue to battle,” Robinson told reporters after the game.

LeBron’s already snagged the “King” nickname. But after watching Robinson the past eight games (and, really, the past eight seasons), is there any doubt that he’s the pound-for-pound king of toughness in the NBA?

Yes, that’s high praise for a third-string point guard. And Robinson remains one of the more unpredictable players in the league. His highs, though, trump his lows every time. Tell me the last time a third-string point guard outdueled the MVP on the night he received his trophy? Robinson became the NBA’s first three-time Sprite Slam Dunk champ and built a cult fanbase from New York (where he spent his first four and half seasons in the league) to Boston to the Bay Area and now Chicago and beyond.

Nowhere is Robinson more beloved than in his native Seattle, where he was the big man on campus at Ranier Beach High School, where he was a three-sport (football and track, too) star. Unlike many of his NBA colleagues who love to fantasize about being crossover stars in the NFL, Robinson could have pulled it off.

He was a All-Pac-10 Freshman Team pick at cornerback at the University of Washington, where his father, Jacque Robinson, was a Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl MVP. Nate Robinson was believed to have a much brighter future in that sport.

But he chose basketball instead and the rest is pound-for-pound history for a player who says he’s having the time of his life with this Bulls team.

“There’s something special about this group,” Robinson said. “It feels like we’ve been playing together for, like, 10 years. I told [Bulls] Coach [Tom Thibodeau], we just love to play for each other.”

Hoops fans love having players with Robinson’s toughness on their team. That’s why he’s the king/captain of the Hang Time Pound-For-Pound Toughness Team. These are the guys still working in these playoffs who give up every ounce of what they’ve got on a nightly basis for their respective teams, be it blood, sweat, tissue, tears or whatever else is needed.

The other starters:

David West, Indiana Pacers

6-foot-9, 250 pounds

An absolute bruiser, West changed the entire culture of an organization in Indiana with his reserved-but-unwavering leadership style. The Pacers have become the picture of defensive toughness and consistency since West arrived. West is a physical specimen who has found a way harness his brute strength and play under complete control at all times. He’s a huge reason why the Pacers are up 1-0 on the New York Knicks in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

6-foot-7, 220 pounds

Another reserve who has moved into a starring role during this postseason, all Butler has done is play every single minute in three straight playoff games (Games 6 and 7 against the Brooklyn Nets and Game 1 against the Heat). That’s 48 straight minutes for three straight games while guarding the likes of the Nets’ Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and the Heat’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. With his tireless work on both ends of the floor, Butler has done a masterful job filling in for Luol Deng while also showing the sort of mettle of a future star.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

7-foot-1, 265 pounds

The Memphis branch of the Gasol basketball family tree is much sturdier than the Los Angeles version in every way imaginable. Pau Gasol has always been considered the most skilled big man in the family. But the toughest Gasol, the recently crowd Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, does his home work near Beale Street. He’s got it all … brains, brawn and he can ball.

Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies

6-foot-4, 214 pounds

A defensive stopper everywhere he’s been, Allen’s junkyard dog attitude inspired the Grit and Grind movement in Memphis (where you could fill out a Pound-For-Pound roster with the likes of Zach Randolph and others). Allen’s greatest trait is his fearlessness, which was on full display during the Boston Celtics’ title run in 2008 and has been as identifiable as his No. 9 jersey is since he joined the Grizzlies three seasons ago.

SECOND TEAM

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls; Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors, Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs; Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks; Chris Andersen, Miami Heat.