Posts Tagged ‘Chris “Birdman” Andersen’

Heat take LeBron-sized hit, but they’re not done for yet


VIDEO: Chris Bosh stays put in Miami and assumes the No. 1 spot?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Chris Bosh has been saying it for a while now. He believes in his heart of (basketball) hearts that he is already a sure-fire Hall of Famer, not only one of the greatest players of his generation, but of all time.

With the free-agent dust finally settled a bitLeBron James heading to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony sticking around in New York and many other moves — Bosh will get a chance to prove his point.

Bosh could have slipped off to Houston for their max offer and continued his career as the No. 2 or No. 3 option with the Rockets alongside All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard. But Pat Riley convinced him to stick around and keep it going in Miami to the tune of five years and $118 million, not to mention the challenge of proving to folks that he’s more than the third wheel he was for much of the Big 3 era.

As crazy as it sounds to some who didn’t pay attention to Bosh before he donned a Heat jersey, he is the man now like he once was in Toronto. And like everyone else in the post- LeBron era in Miami, he’ll get a chance to prove that the Heat was more than just a one-man show.

We all asked the same question when word of LeBron’s coming home letter spread. What’s next for the Heat? Will they fold up and head for the lottery the way Cleveland did in 2010 when the decision was made for James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade to join forces in Miami?

Riley, laying flat on his back after LeBron’s latest decision, quickly dusted himself off and saved the Heat from disaster. Wade and Udonis Haslem, who also opted out of their deals along with LeBron and Bosh to give Riley the flexibility to retool the Heat this summer, were never going anywhere. But Bosh had one foot out the door headed to Houston.

Riley, armed with $30 million more in cash than Houston was offering and the challenge of being “The Man,” went to work on Bosh and got the deal done. Free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger had already agreed to join the party. He locked up Luol Deng on a two-year deal, not to mention Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Mario Chalmers, before the weekend ended, keeping the Heat in the thick of what should be a wide-open Eastern Conference race next season.

“He saved that franchise from who knows how many tough years,” said an executive from one of the Heat’s Southeast Division rivals. “They were on fumes Friday night after the LeBron news. Everybody goes into free agency with contingency plans. But that’s a death-blow, losing the best player in the game. But you have to give [Riley] credit, he didn’t flinch. He had to pay Bosh more than he probably wanted to or should have. But he held it together. He had to or else they were done for at least a year or two.”

Where this Heat team ranks in the Eastern Conference now is hard to tell. Chicago, with Pau Gasol on the way, suddenly looks a while lot better, provided Derrick Rose returns to form. The Indiana Pacers aren’t going anywhere. And the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks all plan on being in the playoff mix. Throw in LeBron and the Cavaliers and the field is suddenly as crowded as ever … and lacks a clear-cut favorite.

And that’s why Riley should be lauded for the work he did over the weekend.

The Heat aren’t going to be anyone’s favorite to win the East. But they’ll certainly be a viable playoff team and it wouldn’t surprise me if they climb into that top four, too. Especially if Bosh lives up to his own Hall-of-Fame hype and Wade plays with a chip on his shoulder (and through whatever pain is in his knees).

They’ve both carried teams before, with varying degrees of success.

It’s been a while, of course. And they won’t have that 6-foot-8, 250-pound security blanket they’ve relied on the past four years.

But Riley, defiant to the end, believes in the culture and crew, including coach Erik Spoelstra, that remains. He made that clear in the wake of LeBron’s departure.

“Over the last 19 years, since Micky (Arison) and I teamed together, The Miami Heat has always been a championship organization; we’ve won multiple championships and competed for many others,” Riley said in a statement released by the Heat. “Micky, Erik and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to win and compete for championships for many years to come. We’ve proven that we can do it and we’ll do it again.”

Rumors of the Heat’s demise might have been greatly exaggerated.

Only time will tell.

Beasley says season in the background has changed him for the better

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6

Michael Beasley has yet to be active in The Finals and has been inactive in 10 of Miami’s 19 playoff games. (NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO – The Miami Heat’s main characters had taken their spots for media day at AT&T Center on the eve of the NBA Finals. Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade entertained in the interview room. Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and other key cogs answered questions from behind podiums spaced around the perimeter of the floor.

Then there were the others, plopped down in the front row of seats along the corner of the court, just outside the sphere of the media’s interest. It was a fitting foursome: Greg Oden then Chris “Birdman” Andersen then Rashard Lewis then Michael Beasley. All four had signed with Miami within the last two seasons, eager to join LeBron and D-Wade for a championship ride, but also to seek a resurrection of sorts for careers that veered in different directions for differing reasons.

Only Beasley, the troubled, 25-year-old forward, sought something deeper: Salvation.

“I’ve seen him grow immensely, maturity‑wise, as a pro, on and off the court,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Heat’s rookie coach in 2008 when they drafted the 19-year-old Beasley No. 2 overall. “It’s really been ‑‑ it’s been cool to see.”

Even so, if judging solely by how Spoelstra has used him, it’s fair to wonder if Beasley, his disappointing career already dwindling by a thread, has failed in his pursuit. Some may have even forgotten he plays for the Heat. Few players are perceived so negatively by fans and media alike, with much of the scrutiny coming by way of his own missteps; a self-destructive path of poor decisions off the court and a sliding, seemingly increasingly lazy effort on it through his first five seasons spent with three teams.

Yet despite never realizing a rotation niche this season, and being inactive more often than not during the postseason, Beasley is adamant that this second stint with Miami has served as a vessel for personal growth.

“I’ve learned a lot, not just from LeBron and Dwyane, but from Rashard, Udonis [Haslem], Birdman and Ray, a team full of veterans, a team full of future Hall of Famers,” Beasley told NBA.com from his front-row seat little more than a week ago. “Definitely a great move for my career, more on the mental side of things. I’ve learned a lot: How to do things the right way, how to have fun the right way, not to sweat the small stuff.

“I’ve worked. The thing I’ve learned above all else is how to win, what it takes to win, the attitude and dedication to work. You get tired, but once you get used to it, it’s like your body needs it.”

Those are words that might pique the interest of skeptical general managers as Beasley becomes an unrestricted free agent next month. Last summer, after an underwhelming first season in Phoenix, the Suns bought him out of his remaining two years and $12 million as legal issues swirled around him. It followed a flame-out with Minnesota, the team Miami traded him to for a couple of second-round picks two seasons after drafting him one spot behind Chicago’s Derrick Rose and ahead of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.

After the Suns cut ties, Beasley signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the two-time champion Heat, a team with established leaders and where Beasley believed he would be afforded the chance to reset his career, and his life, while removed from the daily pressures of the spotlight.

“Who doesn’t have a past? Who doesn’t have skeletons?” Beasley said. “It’s just my skeletons are in the open, not in the closet. So have I been unfairly portrayed? I can say yes, I can say no. Did I bring it on myself? Most definitely. But it’s the growing process in life, maturing, a grown boy turning into a young man.”

Beasley has yet to be active in The Finals and has been inactive in 10 of Miami’s 19 playoff games. He’s played a total of seven minutes in three games. During the regular season, he appeared in a career-low 55 games and averaged career-lows in points (7.9), rebounds (3.1) and minutes (15.1).

Yet, Beasley said: “Honestly, this season has flown by faster than any other I’ve been in. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.”

The Heat had no fun in Games 3 and 4 in Miami and now head back to San Antonio for Sunday’s Game 5 in the unenviable position of trailing 3-1. After Game 4, Spoelstra was asked if Beasley could be an option in Game 5 to provide some much-needed scoring punch. While his playing time was sporadic, Beasley did record a career-high shooting percentage of 49.9 percent and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, a better mark than only his rookie season.

Spoelstra didn’t give a direct answer, and in an indication as to how Beasley is still perceived, the questioner was roasted on Twitter by fans and also media covering The Finals for having even broached the subject.

“I shouldn’t say no. I do, but I’m not going to stress over it,” Beasley said when asked if he cares more now how others view him. “People who know me, my family, my kids, my closest friends, they know me. I’m not trying to get everybody to know that I’m a good guy, a great guy or whatever. At this point I’m just focused on playing basketball.”

Beasley has worked closely with Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard. Unlike past seasons, Beasley is said to arrive early for practice and stays late, cues he said he immediately gleaned from the team’s veterans. He is said to listen intently to coaches and teammates, and he hasn’t uttered a peep about being limited to an end-of-bench role.

He even pays more attention to nutrition when in the past a pregame meal of chicken strips and french fries from the concession stand would do.

“Everything that we’ve discussed privately, everything that we’ve been working on individually and also with other coaches, he’s been grasping it, and he’s been enjoying it and working hard at it,” Howard said. “That right there, that’s how I judge Michael.”

After he signed with the Heat, Beasley hired a new agent. Beasley said he is solely focused on finishing out this season and declined to answer if he’d be willing to sign a deal similar to his current one to remain with the Heat. His agent, Jared Karnes, said there have been no discussions yet with Miami president Pat Riley.

Beasley did make one declarative statement: He will be sticking around in the NBA.

“Definitely,” Beasley said. “There’s still some immaturity about me, but that’s what keeps it light. I’m a goofy, fun-loving guy, I like to think so myself anyway. But you’re definitely going to see a different me.”

It’s up to Beasley to make believers.

Right & Wrong: Where’s Kawhi?

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime breaks down LeBron James’ big Game 2

SAN ANTONIO – While the game’s greatest player returned with a vengeance in Game 2 for the Heat, the Spurs’ most vital player is off to see the doctor.

So much went right for LeBron James in Miami’s 98-96 road win to even an NBA Finals series that now shifts to the Heat’s home court for a pair of quick turnaround games on Tuesday and Thursday. James showed why he’s the king of the league with an exhilarating performance of 35 points on 14-for-22 shooting, including a dominant 6-for-7 and 14 points in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, San Antonio point guard Tony Parker still seemed to be in some discomfort as he took the podium in the aftermath of Game 2, and the Spurs are left to hope there’s nothing more serious than a pretty decent bruise left behind from Mario Chalmers’ blatant swing of his elbow: “I”ll talk with the doctor, you know?” Parker said. “Right now, I’m just frustrated.”

Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in Game 2:

Wrong: Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, so often billed as the future of the franchise, is taking a pretty good beating so far trying to do anything on either side of the floor against James. He fouled out in Game 2, was mostly helpless trying to defend James and finished with only nine points, same as his Game 1 total, on 3-for-9 shooting. And for the second consecutive game, Leonard was limited to just two rebounds.

Right: Check out the resurrected Rashard Lewis. The veteran had virtually no role in last year’s championship run and his role in this one has vastly increased seemingly only because Chris “Birdman” Andersen got injured during the Eastern Conference finals. It thrust Lewis into the starting lineup and coach Erik Spoelstra has kept him there despite the Spurs’ big starting frontcourt. Lewis came through in Game 2 with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting and drilled three more 3-pointers.

Wrong: The Spurs are so disciplined and so fundamental, yet there are times when the most simplistic aspect of the game eludes them — free throws. The Spurs went 12-for-20 in Game 2 and missed four consecutive free throws midway through the fourth quarter when they could have expanded a two-point lead to six. But Parker missed two after Chalmers’ flagrant foul and on the ensuing possession, Tim Duncan missed two more. James canned a 3-pointer at the other end for a rare seven-point swing that put the Heat ahead 88-87. The Spurs finished fourth in the league during the regular season in free throw percentage (78.5 percent), but 60 percent in a playoff game won’t often get the job done.

Right: Heat forward Chris Bosh just keeps doing his job. He takes the ridicule when he doesn’t score much or has a low rebound game, or whatever, but he just keeps coming back and delivering. He hit another key corner 3-pointer off a James drive and finished with 18 points in 36 minutes. There’s little mention of him only grabbing three boards because he’s been so solid (he did have nine rebounds in Game 1). The mild-mannered Bosh has scored 18 points in both games and is a combined 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Wrong: The Spurs’ bench, No. 1 in the league during the regular season, is so critical to the team’s success, but it provided little reinforcement in Game 2 outside of Manu Ginobili scoring 19 points. Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills combined to score 18 points on 6-for-21 shooting. Those three also had 18 points in Game 1, but on a much more efficient 6-for-13 shooting.

Right: The Heat defense turned up the heat on the Spurs and made it much more difficult for San Antonio to score inside. Duncan started Game 2 4-for-5 from the floor, picking up where he left off in Game 1 with easy buckets under the rim. But he was just 3-for-9 the rest of the way, and Tiago Splitter was limited to 1-for-3 shooting and no free throws. The Spurs scored 48 points on 24-for-35 shooting in the paint in Game 1, but were limited to just 34 points on 17-for-33 shooting on Sunday.

Right & Wrong: Heat gets best of LeBron

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Through the Lens: A slo-mo look at Game 1

SAN ANTONIO – The big story from Thursday night’s Game 1 of The NBA Finals was the electrical issue that knocked out the AT&T Center’s air-conditioning and, eventually, the Miami Heat’s superstar.

LeBron James asked out of the game a few times when he never would have under normal conditions. When he asked out in the middle of the third, it was clear his body was not reacting well to temperatures rising into the upper 80s, combined with stifling humidity.

Finally, with 3:59 to go in the game, after making a layup that cut the Spurs’ lead to 94-92, James’ left leg cramped up. He left the game and was unable to return. San Antonio blitzed Miami from there to take a 1-0 series lead.

Both teams have until Sunday night to catch their breaths and rehydrate.

A look at what went wrong and what went right in Game 1:

Wrong: The Heat’s training staff is going to have to take a look at why James couldn’t stay hydrated. The conditions were awful, but he was the only player to suffer such a fate. Without their best player, the Heat got run over in the end. He played only 32 minutes, 53 seconds — 16 seconds fewer than 38-year-old Tim Duncan.

Even Gatorade took a swipe at James on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Gatorade/status/474768170268758016

Right: What a night for the ageless, ever-fundamental Spurs star Duncan. He outlasted the heat and the Heat for 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds. Everything came in the lane and mostly at the rim. If Chris Bosh is going to be unable to contain Duncan — and quite frankly, why shouldn’t he be able to check the old man? — then this could be a monstrous series for Duncan. If Chris “Birdman” Andersen is not going to start, or play fewer than 18 minutes (as he did in Game 1), who is going to guard Duncan?

Wrong: The Heat have to get something out of point guard Mario Chalmers. He wanted to put Tony Parker‘s ailing left ankle to the test early, but he continually got burned. He was so bad that coach Erik Spoelstra mostly planted him on the bench. Chalmers played 17 minutes, committed five fouls and registered just three points, one assist and five turnovers. Reserve Norris Cole got 29 minutes but wasn’t much better offensively, with just two points and five assists.

Right: This series is being hailed as a redemption tour for the Spurs. It’s also a personal redemption tour for Manu Ginobili, who continues to have an outstanding postseason at age 36. He subbed into  Thursday’s opener five minutes into the first quarter and quickly buried three 3-pointers as part of his memorable 16-point, 11-assist, 5-rebound effort in 32 minutes — eight minutes above his season average.

Wrong: Dwyane Wade‘s defense, especially late in the game, did not match his offense, which was especially good early. He was caught flat-footed on several occasions, once late in the game when Ginobili drove right past him for an uncontested layup. Wade was probably gassed by the fourth quarter as well, but that was not Heat defense (though Miami did force 23 Spurs turnovers).

Right: Popovich said after the game that if Danny Green is not hitting 3-point shots then there’s little reason to play him. Well, he was 0-for-4 from deep and 0-for-5 overall entering the fourth quarter. But Popovich also said the percentages would fall back in line, so he stuck with his shooting specialist. It paid off. Green scored 11 of his 13 points, including hitting three 3-pointers, during a bang-bang run midway through the fourth quarter that proved to be decisive.

Right and Wrong: The Spurs were at there precision-passing best with 30 assists on 40 baskets, just a ridiculous ratio. If they keep that up, the Heat won’t be able to keep up and the Spurs will score 110 every game. On the other side of that, the Spurs tried to force a lot of the action and paid for it. Go back to Game 2 of the first round against Dallas, and the Spurs — on their home floor mind you — threw the ball all over the place for 24 turnovers. They lost that game badly. In Game 1 against the Heat, they turned it over 23 times, leading to 28 Heat points.  Teams don’t often win turning it over 20-plus times, but it helped that the Heat committed 18 turnovers of their own that went for 27 points the other way.

24 — Second thoughts — May 24

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen helped the Heat carve up the Pacers in Game 3

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The first man in the building helps the Miami Heat erase an early 15-point deficit and break the spirit of the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

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They call him Jesus … SHUTTLESWORTH! Four, count ‘em 4, fourth quarter daggers from deep for Ray Allen. They were back-breaking buckets for the Heat as they rebounded from that sluggish start to mash the Pacers.

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The Big 3? Not so much. The Heat lead this series 2-1 thanks to the work of their bench mob!

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24–Second thoughts — May 20

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Dwyane Wade has LeBron’s back at crunch time … they’re not done yet, folks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Born Ready?

Not yet.

Not Lance Stephenson and the Indiana Pacers, who made it interesting until the very end of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

Born Ready?

Not ready. Not yet.

Not when LeBron James (12 points) and Dwyane Wade (10) own the floor at crunch time in the fourth quarter.

The Heat have never trailed 2-0 in a series since they joined forces. They still haven’t. James and Wade 22 in the fourth quarter, Pacers 20!

Game 3 is Saturday in Miami.

The Heat are taking their talents and that always crucial 1-1 series split back to South Beach!

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LeBron and Wade either scored or assisted on every single basket in the fourth quarter for the two-time defending champs. Real Champs wore black!

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LeBron with the sick bounce pass to Wade for the reverse baseline jam and essentially the game!

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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.