Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bosh’

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 27

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kobe, Shaq express regrets | MKG signs extension with Hornets | Stoudemire has high hopes for himself, Heat | Carrying on Lloyd’s legacy

No. 1: Kobe, Shaq express regrets Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed up on the Lakers to win three championships, but their publicly contentious relationship sometimes seemed as through they won despite each other instead of because of each other. But in Shaq’s new podcast being released next week, Kobe Bryant visited as a guest, and as ESPN’s Baxter Holmes writes, the two looked back on their relationship and the dissolution of it with some regret…

In the podcast, “The Big Podcast With Shaq,” the two expressed regret over the feud.

“A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment,” O’Neal said in an excerpt from the podcast that was played on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I guarantee I don’t remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story.”

Said Bryant: “Here’s the thing, though. When you say it at the time, you actually mean it, and then when you get older you have more perspective, and you’re like holy… I was an idiot when I was a kid.

“To me, the most important thing was really, ‘just keep your mouth shut.’ You don’t need to go to the press with stuff. You keep it internal, and we have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would’ve been avoided. But it did kind of create this whirlwind around us as a team with myself and Shaq and the press and the media that just put so much pressure on us as an organization.”

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No. 2: MKG signs extension with Hornets The Charlotte Hornets and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have supposedly been talking about a contract extension for a few days now, but yesterday they finally inked the five-year deal, which allowed both sides to meet the press. Hornets coach Steve Clifford has high goals for Kidd-Gilchrist, who explained to the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell that he figured why wait to play for another contract?

Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have made some more off his second NBA contract by waiting until he reached restricted free-agency next July.

Instead he chose the security of a four-year, $52 million extension in a place and with a franchise that have become his home.

“Why wait?” Kidd-Gilchrist said at a Wednesday news conference to formally announce the signing. “I’m learning from the best. I don’t do this for the money.”

Perhaps not, but his second NBA contract will make the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft fabulously wealthy. Also Kidd-Gilchrist has some upside protection in the contract’s terms. A source familiar with the deal said Kidd-Gilchrist has a player option for the final season, so if his improvement coincides with the anticipated spike in the salary cap, he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

Kidd-Gilchrist would still be 25 – young by NBA standards – at that juncture.

Wednesday was a highly emotional day for Kidd-Gilchrist and his family. His mother frequently dabbed away tears during the news conference. He thanked numerous people including team owner Michael Jordan, the coaching staff and his family and agents.

“I’m learning from the best: MJ, Coach (Steve Clifford), Patrick Ewing, Mark Price,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Price, now coaching the Charlotte 49ers, was the Hornets assistant who worked diligently two summers ago to fix Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. Price and Kidd-Gilchrist became so close through that experience that Kidd-Gilchrist skipped a team flight last season, flying to Washington later in the day at his own expense, to attend Price’s introductory news conference at UNC Charlotte.

Price returned that respect Wednesday, attending Kidd-Gilchrist’s news conference.

While Kidd-Gilchrist is still developing offensively (he averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last season), he’s among the NBA’s top wing defenders. He told the Observer last season he aspires to be the best defender in NBA history, and didn’t back off that goal Wednesday.

“Aim for the stars; you’ll probably land on the moon. I have confidence in myself,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

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No. 3: Stoudemire has high hopes for himself, Heat Amar’e Stoudemire has spent a decade in the NBA, and gone from being a high-flying transition player into a more traditional, savvy post presence. After joining the Dallas Mavericks for their playoff run, Stoudemire signed with the Miami Heat, which he considers a return home. And as Stoudemire explained to the Associated Press, he believes the Miami Heat could have championship potential

He’s been texting and talking with Chris Bosh regularly. He’s considered himself close with Goran Dragic for years, going back to their time together with the Phoenix Suns.

Plus, he’s called Miami home for about seven years already.

So getting acclimated to being part of the Heat, that won’t be a big deal for the forward who will be entering his 14th NBA season – and first with Miami – when training camp opens in about a month. He knows many of his new teammates such as Dwyane Wade, Bosh and Dragic. He knows the city, and most of all he thinks that he can rekindle the All-Star form he had not long ago.

“We can be a really good team,” Stoudemire said. “No one thought that the Golden State Warriors would be champions this time last year. We knew they’d be a really good team, but no one thought they’d be world champions. With us, we know we’re a really good team. No one thinks we can be world champions, but you never know.”

Stoudemire went back to school on Monday, appearing with some other members of the Heat staff at an elementary school in Fort Lauderdale on the first day of the new academic year in South Florida.

He posed for photos and helped hand out some school supplies to ecstatic kids in what essentially was his first public appearance for the team since signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal last month. He also had to introduce himself to a few students; one asked Stoudemire if he was Bosh.

“I just live life,” Stoudemire said.” I try to enjoy it. I try to create positive energy when I can, I try to affect people in a positive way and just live life.”

For the kids, the new season of sorts started Monday.

For Stoudemire, while it won’t officially start for a few more weeks, prepping for 2015-16 in reality started long ago. He’s taking care of his body, but also said he believes that Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra have the right formula to both extend the careers of veteran players while also getting the best from them.

“From playing against Miami, the thing that you learn is that they always have a competitive spirit,” Stoudemire said. “There’s an aura around here that everyone works hard, that you have to be in top shape which is great because I want to be in the best shape of my life going into this season. I want to surprise the world and have a very, very productive year.”

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No. 4: Carrying on Lloyd’s legacy Back in 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in the NBA, as a member of the Washington Capitols. Lloyd passed away in February at the age of 86, but his son is working to make sure Lloyd’s legacy isn’t forgotten by attempting to have him commemorated on a postage stamp. As Donald Hunt writes in the Philadelphia Tribune, Kevin Lloyd and his family have a long process to go through

Lloyd is an excellent candidate to have his image on a postage stamp. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain was immortalized on two limited edition Forever postage stamps on Dec. 5, 2014 making him the first basketball player to have his likeness on a stamp.

The stamp process is quite grueling. The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee is an organization appointed by the Postmaster General. The CSAC selects the stamp subjects for future consideration. The group submits them to the postmaster general who approves the subjects and designs for all U.S. postage stamps. The CSAC receives thousands of suggestions each year.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Postal Service has approved stamps for a number of athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Althea Gibson, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and others.

In 2003, Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. for integrating the NBA.

“Earl Lloyd was a true pioneer in the game as a breakout player, a coach, and an administrator who at every level led the integration of the professional game,” said John Doleva, president and CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in a statement. “He had a great love and respect for the game and used his success and challenges within it to educate and motivate so many others to achieve at the highest level. His remarkable basketball career aside, he was also one of the greatest and most decent human beings to represent basketball and the game was fortunate to have him at its forefront.”

Letters supporting Kevin Lloyd’s campaign should be mailed to: Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300, Washington, D.C. 20260-3501.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jordan Clarkson is not yet eligible to represent the Philippines, but the process is underway … Russell Westbrook had fun at the Taylor Swift concert in Los Angeles … LeBron James sold his waterfront home in Miami …

Blogtable: Favorite Ginobili moment?

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


BLOGTABLE: Biggest impact for Clippers? | Early Rookie of the Year pick? | Favorite Manu Ginobili moment?



VIDEO: Best of Manu Ginobili in 2014-15

> Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili turned 38 on Tuesday. In celebration, please recount for us your favorite Manu Ginobili moment.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: All the fakes, creative maneuvers and between-other-guys’-legs passes run together for me. Ginobili’s clutch performances and his various accomplishments (All-Star, Sixth Man) — totally from within a team concept — are too plentiful to pick one. The “bat” game stands out as an oddity — Ginobili smacking that flying rodent and requiring rabies shots back in 2009. But my most vivid memory, witnessed first-hand, was his performance in Game 5 of the 2013 Finals. Nearly 36, Ginobili’s obituary as a player was being written in real time after he averaged 5.7 points and shot 6-for-18 (1-for-11 on 3-pointers) in Games 2-4 against Miami, with the Spurs losing two of those three. So coach Gregg Popovich puts Ginobili in the starting lineup(!) and the Argentinian goes for 24 points (seven in a pivotal third-quarter run) and 10 rebounds at home for a 10-point victory and a 3-2 series lead. He’s been “undead” ever since.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: To realize the full impact Ginobili’s NBA success has had on his native Argentina, you had to be with him, as I was, on a Basketball Without Borders trip to Buenos Aires in July 2005.  It was shortly after he’d won his second NBA championship and was perhaps at the peak of his powers.  I accompanied a group of NBA players on an outreach trip to a hospital for the indigent in a very poor section of town. The presence of the stars created a buzz, but the arrival of the Ginobili quite literally touched off a near-riot. Patients leaped out of their beds to storm the hallways to try to get a glimpse. They bowed, they cried, they were overwhelmed. Some shouted, “Please touch and heal me!” Some grabbed and pulled at him. The crowds on every floor grew and surged in each hallway, blocking paths to the elevators, cutting off stairwells. Security had to eventually intervene and evacuate all of us through a rear exit from the hospital. I’ve never seen anything like it. Now, if you’re talking about on-court memories, I’ll go with the most recent: Game 5 of the 2014 Finals when Manu completed the redemption from the previous year’s playoff flameout with 19 points in the clincher over the Heat that included the where-did-that-come-from monster dunk on the head of Chris Bosh.


VIDEO: Manu Ginobili dunks on Chris Bosh in 2014 Finals

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll go off the NBA floor and say his 2004 Olympics tournament because of the historical significance. Manu dropped 29 on the Americans in the semifinals and led Argentina to the gold medal by averaging 19.3 points in the Games. Argentina became the first team other than the US to win Olympic gold in 16 years. By comparison, the Spurs with Manu won the NBA title what, every five years? 

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are a lot of small moments, mostly assists (like this one) where he sees things that no one else does. But after how terribly he played in the 2013 Finals and knowing what kind of emotions he must have gone through after that series, his dunk in Game 5 of the 2014 Finals is my favorite Manu moment. It was the exclamation point for the most dominant Finals performance we’ve ever seen from a team, but also for an individual who looked like his career was on its last legs a year earlier.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I feel ancient knowing Manu is 38 and thinking back to my first time seeing him live and in living color. It was the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis when I got my first glimpse of Manu after hearing so much about him prior to that event. It was actually before he suited up for the Spurs (Manu was Drafted in 1999 but his rookie season in the NBA was 2002-03), but he was the star of stars on Argentina’s team that played its way to the championship, losing to Yugoslavia in the gold medal game. Manu was as advertised, a swashbuckling and athletic shooting guard who could do it all. It was jaw-dropping, watching him play on the edge and at that breakneck pace all the time. He made the All-Tournament Team, joining Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Peja Stojakovic and Pero Cameron. Before seeing Manu live, I was not sure exactly what kind of player he’d be in the NBA. But after watching him closely throughout the course of that tournament, I was convinced he was going to be a superstar. 

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I have two. The first was seeing him at the 2002 Euro Final Four in his home gym in Bologna a few months before he joined the Spurs: He was playing the same leadership role that he would establish in San Antonio, and yet there was no big timing to him. He was a humble star even then, as a big fish in the small pond. The other was during a regular season game in Boston last season which the Spurs were winning handily. Ginobili missed a 3 at the third-quarter buzzer and reacted as if a playoff game had been lost. After all of these years it was amazing to see him caring so much about such an inconsequential play. But that’s also why he has been so important.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog: I’m not sure I have a single Ginobili moment. Maybe when he swatted that bat that time on opening night? When he dunked on Yao Ming? One thing I think about whenever I think of Ginobili — or GINOBILI! — is how he always seems to be going diagonally while everyone else is going up and down or side to side. I don’t know how Ginobili figured this out — is he a master of geometry? — but somehow it works, and it works every time.

Heat continue to shed salary, trade Zoran Dragic to Celtics


VIDEO: Zoran Dragic shows off his handle during Summer League action for the Miami Heat

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Miami Heat’s summer roster clean up continues with yet another trade, this time it is sending Zoran Dragic to the Boston Celtics in exchange for a heavily protected second-round Draft pick. This latest move comes a day after the news broke that they had agreed to trade Shabazz Napier to Orlando for another heavily protected second-round Draft pick.

Both deals will save the Heat some serious cash, more than $11 million in both salary and luxury tax penalties. The Heat also sent a 2020 second-round Draft pick and cash considerations to the Celtics in the Dragic deal.

Shaving salary usually comes at a price. But the Heat have carefully crafted a roster for the 2015-16 season that could land them in a prime position to rise up the ranks in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, provided their biggest stars are healthy for the start of this season.

Dragic’s brother Goran Dragic signed a five-year $85 million free agent deal this summer, solidifying a core group that is anchored by veteran stars Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng.  The gap between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the rest of the pack in the Eastern Conference could be substantial, based on how the Cavaliers finished the season and the moves made by the Cavs and the rest of the field this summer in free agency.

 

Morning Shootaround — July 13




VIDEO: Should the Thunder have matched the offer sheet for Enes Kanter?

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Polished Mudiay opens eyes in Vegas | Will Nets regret Bargnani signing? | Kanter has to prove his worth in OKC | Jack ready to replace Williams | Bledsoe showing offseason commitment to Suns

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No. 1: Polished Mudiay opens eyes in Vegas — While other members of his Draft class are adjusting to the rigors of the NBA during their respective summer league debuts, Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is drawing rave reviews from every direction after his initial steps in the Las Vegas Summer League. There is a reason he sticks out, according to Rob Mahoney of SI.com:

The product on the floor at the Las Vegas Summer League is, by the tyranny of literal definition, basketball. It’s just a form of basketball so far removed from the NBA’s version as to complicate player evaluation. The best and worst performances alike come with the caveat that summer league is a world all its own: The talent level is lower, the continuity is nonexistent, and the context of play is altogether distinct.

The true standouts in Vegas, then, are those who demonstrate the kinds of skills that can cut through the divide. Count Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay among them. A combined 14 assists (including 10 on Sunday against Sacramento) in his first two summer league games doesn’t do him justice. Mudiay is such a smooth playmaker that he gives a makeshift offense of make-good prospects an actual rhythm.

Mudiay sees the game in a way that allows for that. There are prospects all across the summer league pool with rotation-quality speed or handle. Mudiay has both, stands a solid 6’5″, and has the vision to see all of a possession’s opportunities. Whenever his drives bring multiple defenders to the ball, Mudiay monitors even those options that might first seem unavailable: The half-defended roll man, the zoned-up shooter on the weak side, or the cutter caught in a crowd. His every step and spin revises those possibilities.

“I learned so much in China,” Mudiay said.  “Just slowing the game down, seeing where everybody’s at, knowing where everybody’s at. That really helped me.”

Just before the defense can settle, Mudiay creates. A cross-court pass will zip into the pocket of an available teammate from a difficult angle, bringing his drive-and-kick to a potent conclusion. Rare are those point guards who can not just find and exploit openings, but also keep defenses guessing. Mudiay has some of that spice—the ability to look past a good first option into a great (but challenging) second option. Corner shooters and hard rollers are going to love him.

“I can score when I need to but at the same time, [the Kings] were giving me wide open lanes,” Mudiay said. “Me finding my teammates, that was the main important thing. I found my teammates. How ever the other team’s playing me, that’s how I’m going to play.”

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No. 2: Will Nets regret Bargnani signing? — In this summer’s free agent landscape, spending $1.4 million on a rotation big like Andrea Bargnani would appear to be a pretty good bargain for the Brooklyn Nets. Our John Schuhmann is not as confident in the addition of Bargnani as the decision-makers in Brooklyn:

It seems like a low-risk move by the Nets, who apparently stole Bargnani from the Sacramento Kings, who had offered him more than the minimum. But at this point in his career, it’s unclear what Bargnani has to offer any team who dares to pay him anything.

Bargnani has long been a bad defender. Of 386 players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the nine years since Bargnani came into the league, only three – Ryan Gomes (108.9), Hakim Warrick(108.9) and Charlie Villanueva (109.5) – have had a higher on-court DefRtg (the number of points a player’s team allows per 100 possessions) than Bargnani (108.8).

He’s not a good (or willing) passer; His assist rate (7.4 assists per 100 possessions used) ranks 351st among those 386 players. And he’s a terrible rebounder for his size; he’s grabbed less than 10 percent of available rebounds when he’s been on the floor.

Bargnani is supposed to be a shooter and a floor spacer. But he has shot just 30 percent from 3-point range over the last four seasons.

He did shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc with the Knicks last season, but that was on just 41 attempts. And that’s the real issue. Bargnani doesn’t shoot many threes (or really space the floor) anymore.

In his first four seasons in the league, Bargnani took about one mid-range shot (between the paint and the 3-point line) for every 3-pointer. But over the last five seasons, his mid-range-to-threes rate has doubled.

Bargnani is a decent mid-range shooter. But even over the last five years, his mid-range shots (43.3 percent, 0.87 points per shot) haven’t been worth as much as his threes (31.8 percent, 0.95 points per shot).

Bargnani doesn’t shoot well or often in the paint. And if he fancies himself a shooter and/or a floor spacer, he can’t be taking twice as many mid-range shots as 3-pointers. Last year’s rate of more than 4-to-1 is just awful.

Speaking of awful, last year’s Knicks went 17-65. And they were at their worst, getting outscored by 17.5 points per 100 possessions (16.5 points per 48 minutes), when Bargnani was on the floor.

The Nets needed another big to back up Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. Before Sunday, their only centers were Lopez and Willie Reed, who has never played in a NBA game.

But there were better options out there than Bargnani, who hasn’t been good at his one good skill in several years. It’s especially strange that a team looking to make moves with cap space next summer would dedicate any 2016-17 money (even if it’s a player option for the minimum) to a player like Bargnani. And my goodness, his relationship with an old-school, defense-first coach like Lionel Hollins will be fascinating to watch.

The good news for the Nets is that they didn’t give up three draft picks to get him.

 

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No. 3: Kanter has to prove his worth in OKC — Now that the Thunder have matched Portland’s $70 million offer for Thunder restricted free agent Enes Kanter, it’s time for the big man to prove his worth on a healthy team that is ticketed for big things during the 2015-16 season. Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman paints the picture in Oklahoma City:

 

The offense should be no problem. Kanter was superb offensively with the Thunder. In 26 games, Kanter averaged 18.7 points and 5.0 offensive rebounds per game. He shot 56.6 percent from the field. He scored inside; he scored outside. And Kanter wasn’t a black hole. He averaged a career-high 1.3 assists per 36 minutes. Serge Ibaka’s career high is 1.1.

But defensively? Total disaster. Historic, in many ways. The Thunder was so glad to have a healthy body, especially a big body who put the ball in the basket, that Kanter’s defense was glossed over. But it was bad. To borrow a phrase from Chris Paul. Bad, bad, bad.

When Kanter was traded from Utah on Feb. 19, the Thunder ranked ninth in NBA defense — 99.7 points per 100 possessions. The Jazz ranked 26th, 104.9.

In two months, basically a third of a season, Utah caught the Thunder. The Jazz finished 13th in NBA defense, 101.3 points per 100 possessions. OKC was 15th, 101.8.

The Jazz improvement wasn’t just addition by subtraction. It was addition by addition — 7-foot-3 Rudy Gobert moved into the starting lineup, and the Jazz was transformed. Utah was 19-34 with Kanter; the Jazz was 19-10 without Kanter.

The Thunder’s defense suddenly cratered with Kanter playing 30 minutes a night. The final 17 games was without Serge Ibaka, which will sink many a defense, but still, that doesn’t explain the total collapse.

A new defensive statistic is really telling. Defensive real plus-minus, which measures a player’s impact on team defensive performance. It might be the closest thing we have to a rock-bottom defensive value.

Kanter ranked 469th out of 474 NBA players measured. Read that again. Kanter ranked above only Sacramento’s Derrick Williams, the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine, the Lakers’ Jabari Brown and Brooklyn’s Bojan Bogdanovic.

Kanter ranked last among 71 centers. The worst defensive center in the league was the guy the Thunder has committed to paying $70 million.

And it’s not like 2014-15 was an aberration. The season before, Kanter ranked 61st out of 62 centers, ahead only of Milwaukee’s John Henson.

Again, offensively, Kanter is a jewel. He ranked seventh among NBA centers in offensive real plus-minus, ahead of stars like Chris Bosh and Al Horford and Dwight Howard. So Kanter is the total package offensively. But that defense will kill you, as we learned down the stretch of the star-crossed season recently completed.

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No. 4: Jack ready to replace Williams — The departure of Deron Williams in Brooklyn leaves a gaping hole in the lineup at point guard. Veteran Jarrett Jack insists he is ready to replace Williams, if that’s what Nets GM Billy King and coach Lionel Hollins need him to do. Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News has more:

Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson always planned to attend NBA summer league in Las Vegas as a team-building experience.

But addressing reporters late Saturday night in Cox Pavilion, circumstances had obviously changed.

Deron Williams, the former face of the franchise, was waived Saturday afternoon — the Nets agreeing to buy out the remaining two years and $43.3 million of his contract for $27.5 million.

The move allows the Nets to duck under the luxury cap threshold and increase their salary cap space for 2016-17.

But Williams’ departure also creates a job opening at point guard.

While coach Lionel Hollins and GM Billy King danced around questions of who will take over the role, it’s assumed that Jack, a well-liked veteran who started 27 games last season and came up big in late-game situations, will play the part with perhaps newly acquired Shane Larkin also pushing for minutes.

“If that’s the position they want me to fill, I’m definitely very ready to do so,” Jack said. “It’s not my first rodeo as far as being thrust into the (starter’s) role if that were to be the case. So it’s something that’s not foreign to me and (I’m) definitely ready for the challenge.”

Jack said he spoke to Williams on Friday about his exit out of Brooklyn.

Williams is expected to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks after he clears waivers on Monday.

“He was in good spirits, going back to his hometown team, thought he might have needed a change of scenery, you know, which is cool,” Jack said. “In professional sports, happiness is a thing that we don’t get to control a lot. It seems like he’s happy with the new situation and I’m definitely happy for him and hope he does well.”

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No. 5: Bledsoe showing offseason commitment to Suns — All the moves made this summer in Phoenix have Eric Bledsoe believing that the Suns are a playoff team in the rugged Western Conference. That means his commitment to the Suns and to improved leadership are crucial to the cause. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic explains:

Eric Bledsoe is known for doing impressive things during the NBA season.

Bledsoe’s offseason sounded impressive too but the work and dedication was out of sight until he showed up for training camps looking like the “after” photo in a fitness advertisement.

This is the offseason where Bledsoe’s dedication goes beyond fitness. He has had a presence in everything the Suns have been doing.

Bledsoe pledged to spend his summer in Phoenix rather than the usual return to his hometown, Birmingham, but his engagement has gone beyond a permanent address in the Valley.

Bledsoe has been working out at US Airways Center. He attended draft workouts. He held a youth basketball camp. He was part of the Suns’ recruiting group that pitched LaMarcus Aldridge. He came to Las Vegas on Saturday to join the Suns’ summer team workouts and watch their NBA Summer League games.

To Bledsoe, it is all part of becoming a playoff team.

“I just thought it was important to be around this summer to put the work in and to show that I’m dedicated to the team,” Bledsoe said. “I was working out with some of the newer guys and I built relations with Archie (Goodwin), T.J. (Warren) and Alex (Len)during the season. I told them I’d come here and check them out to see how much they’ve improved.”

Bledsoe hesitates to proclaim that the team is better than last season yet with “work still to be done.” He did say that the team is in “a better place” than at the end of last season, citing better health, relationship building and the potential to win.

Aldridge was considered a lock to sign with San Antonio this offseason but Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and new Suns center Tyson Chandler were part of the Suns group that at least swayed him momentarily.

“I’m out here to show I’m dedicated to the team,” Bledsoe said. “However I can possibly help the team get better, that’s what I’m going to do. Recruiting-wise, they needed me to get one of the top free agents. We missed out just by a hair but we got an even better post player (Chandler) and I think he’s going to help Alex. He’ll help defensively. He’s got the mentality of a player who’s won a championship and had a whole bunch of success in this league. It’ll help rub off on everybody else, especially the young guys.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Bucks and John Henson are closing in on extension talks for the big man … New York Daily News reporter tries out for but fails to make Nets’ dance team … Zaza Pachulia is going from the oldest to a relative youngster in his move from Milwaukee to Dallas

Wade, Heat do the right thing


VIDEO: Wade agrees to one-year contract with Miami

It was, of course, the only deal that made sense for both Dwyane Wade and the Heat.

It didn’t get Wade the maximum amount for which he was eligible and it still doesn’t make him the highest-paid player on the Miami roster next season (Chris Bosh, $22 million). But Wade got his raise from the $16 million due before opting out and leaves him the option of hitting the jackpot next summer when the salary cap is expected to go through the roof. Assuming, that is, Wade can stay healthy and prove that he’s still at an All-Star level in a season when he turns 34.

That age and the questions about his durability are why Heat president Pat Riley was only too happy to give Wade the bump for next season, while also keeping his options open for the Summer of 2016 free agent-palooza. Then Riley went right from the handshake on the deal to boarding a plane for L.A. where he was scheduled to have dinner Thursday night with free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.

From the moment that LeBron James turned his back on the Heat to return to Cleveland, there was no way Riley was going to allow his team to wallow in mediocrity for long. Since missing the playoffs last season, the Heat have gotten point guard Goran Dragic to re-sign for five years and $90 million and had talented rookie Justise Winslow fall in its lap at the No. 10 pick in the draft. Pencil in a recovering Bosh (blood clots) and center Hassan Whiteside, entering the last year of his contract, and the Heat have an opening night lineup that could probably stand toe-to-toe with any team in the Eastern Conference.

According to reports, Wade has lost 10 pounds so far in his commitment to getting back into top physical condition and now he’s again a key part of a team that can make noise. Without Bosh at the end of the season, Wade showed that he was still capable of performing at a high level and now going into his 13th NBA season has a platform to shine.

Wade simply wasn’t going to get a longer term deal from any other team that paid him top dollar for 2015-16, leaving only the alternative of taking less to go elsewhere — Cavaliers, Lakers, Clippers — out of spite.

Now the franchise icon gets to set himself up for a chance at the multi-year commitment next summer, while Riley and the Heat keep doing the full-tilt boogie to get back in the ring business. That’s a win all around.

Morning shootaround — June 30


VIDEO: How LaMarcus Aldridge’s move in free agency will affect other teams

*** FREE AGENCY COVERAGE JUNE 30 ON NBA TV: The Starters, 6:30 ET | Free Agent Fever, 7 ET & 11:30 ET ***

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Lakers, Rockets first up with Aldridge | What would adding Aldridge cost Spurs? | Report: Gasol only taking meeting with Grizzlies | How much has Wade financially sacrificed? | Report: Knicks in lead for Afflalo, Monroe

No. 1: Report: Lakers, Rockets first up to meet with Aldridge  Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge is one of — if not the biggest — big fish in this free-agent class. The Mavericks have clear hopes of going him, using the lure of the hometown team to get the Texas native back in his home state and give them a new building block for whenever Dirk Nowitzki retires. The Mavs will have to wait their turn, though, writes ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne, as the L.A. Lakers and Houston Rockets will apparently be the first of many teams to make a recruiting pitch to the big man.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets will get the first opportunities to meet with LaMarcus Aldridge shortly after the free-agency period officially begins at 9:01 p.m. PT Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Aldridge also will meet with the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and with the New York Knicks on Thursday, league sources told ESPN.com.

According to one source, the chance of Aldridge staying with the Portland Trail Blazers is “very unlikely.”

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has already called Aldridge, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard.

ESPN.com reported in May that both the Spurs and Mavericks strongly believe they’ll have a great shot to lure Aldridge back to his home state of Texas. But sources said last week that Aldridge is actually thinking more and more about a free-agent jump to the Lakers.

The Lakers, sources added, firmly believe they will now be in the Aldridge hunt. And there is a rising sentiment, sources said, that the Lakers have edged past the Mavericks on Aldridge’s wish list despite the fact that he was a high school star in Dallas.

The Spurs, sources say, continue to be Aldridge’s most likely destination if he goes through with the idea of leaving the Blazers to start anew. The contingent for San Antonio’s pitch to Aldridge is expected to include Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich, according to multiple media reports.

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Opting out only option for Wade


VIDEO: GameTime: Dwyane Wade opts out

Dwyane Wade sat before the ABC TV cameras during The Finals and referred to his time with the Heat in the past tense. His father showed up an event wearing a Cavaliers t-shirt. Wade has let it be known that he and Kobe Bryant always got along swimmingly during their time as USA Basketball teammates.

So Wade sent word Monday that he would not pick up his option for the 2015-16 season and that is just one more sign that his bags are packed to leave Miami?

Maybe.

Will somebody please just give D-Wade a hug?

*** FREE AGENCY COVERAGE TONIGHT ON NBA TV: The Starters, 6:30 ET | Free Agent Fever, 7 ET & 11:30 ET ***

Let’s face it. The Heat icon who has been a key part of three championship teams with the only NBA franchise he has ever played for wants to be loved, just like the rest of us.

Unlike the rest of us, Wade is hoping to paid in the neighborhood of $20 million per year, because he figures he’s been a loyal soldier through the years, recruiting LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Florida and then leaving money on the table in order to accommodate them. In Bosh’s case, twice.

What Wade is finding out is that loyalty only goes as far in pro sports as your next game and, at 33, the harsh reality is that the Heat don’t think he’s got as many great ones still ahead of him, which is why team president Pat Riley is trying to move ahead to the next incarnation of the franchise by focusing on signing Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside and then fitting Wade in where he can.

It is hard to blame Wade for feeling a bit taken for granted as he was the facilitator the Big Three Era. Yet it’s also difficult to see how the 11-time All-Star is going to get the kind of payday anyplace else that he’s asking from the Heat.

In the last three years, his ailing knees have forced Wade to miss 20, 28 and 13 games and, with the wear and tear from the way he plays the game, give nobody reason to think that he can relied upon as the lead horse to pull the wagon. From that standpoint, Riley has to make the hard choices to hold the line somewhere in order to cycle in new blood through the system in order to avoid becoming the South Florida Lakers.

Opting out of his contract is the only bit of leverage Wade has, but it isn’t much. He can hope public sentiment nudges the Heat to do something, anything to let him feel a bit more loved and respected. He’s come this far letting the Heat know he’s unhappy, so he had to play it out by becoming a free agent.

Wade’s choices are to go coast-to-coast to play with Kobe and the Lakers, run to join his buddy LeBron in Cleveland to chase another championship ring or take a smaller slice of the pie to prove a point somewhere else in the league.

But the odds are greatly against him getting paid more than what the Heat will give him. Which means when it’s all over, Wade in Miami isn’t necessarily all over.

With or without that hug.

Morning shootaround — June 3


VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Rick Kamla make their picks for the 2015 Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Williams joins Donovan’s staff | Speights ‘more than likely’ to play in Finals | Bosh goes through workout with Heat

No. 1: Report: Williams joins Donovan’s staff in OKC — Roughly three weeks ago, the New Orleans Pelicans fired coach Monty Williams after five seasons on the job. They have since filled his position with Golden State Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry and Williams, it seems, has a new gig lined up as well. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Williams will become the lead assistant on rookie coach Billy Donovan‘s staff in Oklahoma City:

Monty Williams has reached an agreement to become the top assistant under Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

For Donovan, who is transitioning from the University of Florida to the NBA, the securement of Williams stands as the first significant coup of his regime.

Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti targeted Williams and sold him on a prominent role on the staff. The Thunder have championship aspirations with a core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and playing a part in helping Oklahoma City into a deep run in the postseason could become a springboard for Williams, 43, to ascend into another head coaching job.

Donovan will keep Oklahoma City assistant Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic on staff, and likely make former Alabama coach Anthony Grant his No. 3 assistant coach, league sources said. The Thunder are still searching for an assistant coach with a strong defensive pedigree, sources said.

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Morning shootaround — May 30




VIDEO: NBA TV analysts discuss Scott Skiles return to Orlando

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Wade could test Heat | Hoiberg on tap | Skiles returns to Orlando | Harden wants help | Irving welcomes rest

No. 1: Wade could force Riley’s hand — What price loyalty? Over the years while team president Pat Riley has shuffled the roster to keep the Heat in the championship mix, franchise player Dwyane Wade has frequently made financial sacrifices to make it all work. He gave up money to get LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. He took a shorter deal last summer after James left and the team gave Bosh a big, long-term deal. Now it could be time for Wade to expect his payoff and Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says it could prove a challenge to Riley:

Amid the uncertainty of the team’s roster situation last June, Wade opted out of the final two years that was left on that contract. Then, once LeBron James elected to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency, Wade re-upped with the Heat on a two-year, $31 million deal that included a $16 million salary for 2015-16 at his option. That contract left more than $10 million on the table from what he otherwise would have collected by not opting out last June.

At the same time, Heat center Chris Bosh, who also is represented by Thomas, secured a maximum free-agent offer from the Houston Rockets, which then led to Bosh agreeing to a five-year, $118 million package with the Heat that began this past season.

Now, with James playing for a championship in Cleveland, it appears Wade might be seeking the type of significant deal he did not secure last summer.

“Several guys opted out of their contract last year,” Thomas said. “Obviously Dwyane wasn’t in a position that Chris was in, in terms of having another team offer a maximum deal. But the reality of this is he’s played his entire career for Miami. He’s done wonderful things in terms of the five titles that they played for, winning three of them.

“He’s had a tremendous career, and we’re just trying to see whether or not there’s room to continue that.”

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No. 2: Bulls ready to make Hoiberg coach — In a city known for plenty of political secrets and more than its share of back room dealing, nobody is surprised that the Bulls have Fred Hoiberg lined up to the be their next head coach, replacing the fired Tom Thibodeau. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times says its only a matter of Hoiberg making things official:

“It’s just when Fred [Hoiberg] says yes to them, not if,’’ the source said. “This is a year in the works.’’

Coaches – both college and at the NBA level – are actually very much dialed into one another, and there weren’t many in either profession that didn’t feel like the Bulls and Hoiberg would be a match “sooner than later.’’

With the NBA Finals between Cleveland and Golden State set to start on Thursday, the Bulls could have the Hoiberg matter signed, sealed and delivered before then.

The only possible hiccup out there seems to be the Minnesota Timberwolves, who also covet Hoiberg. Hoiberg played for the Timberwolves from 2003-05, and then was an assistant general manager for the franchise, seemingly on the fast track to become the general manager. When that never materialized, he went into coaching prior to the 2010 season, and has turned Iowa State into a prominent NCAA program.

According to sources, he’s actually been on the Bulls’ radar since late last year as a Plan B, and as the relationship between now former coach Tom Thibodeau and the front office disintegrated as the year has gone on, he was Plan A with no realistic options following him.

That’s what made the press conference with VP of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman such good theater on Thursday, as the two had to do their best to act like it will be a vast coaching search.

“We’ve got certain criteria that we’re going to be looking for in the next coach,’’ Forman said. “But we’re not going to put ourselves in a box – ‘had to be a head coach, had to be an assistant coach, what level they’ve coached on’ – we’re really going to look for the right fit.

“And I went through some of those things that I’ve talked about. Obviously someone that can lead, but we’ve got to get somebody that can communicate at a high level, that’s got great knowledge of the game, obviously experience is a plus, as far as coaching is concerned. If they’ve been a head coach even more so, but we’re not going to limit our search in any way.’’

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No. 3: Skiles hopes to make more Magic in Orlando — It took Scott Skiles and Magic president Alex Martins some time to make sure they were getting back together for all the right reasons, but the former point guard made his return to Orlando official and now he picks up the rebuilding process, says Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

In reality, however, the Magic first had to overcome a significant obstacle, a hurdle in Skiles’ mind.

“I wanted to make sure I was being hired because they thought I could coach, not because I was someone that was affiliated with the organization in the past,” Skiles said.

That concern, Skiles explained, started to fade away once he and the team’s general manager, Rob Hennigan, held a seven-hour talk in Skiles’ suburban Orlando home in recent weeks.

“The first conversation I had with him, I made it very clear that our first priority was to get to know each other on a personal level,” Hennigan said. “The conversation really sort of cascaded from there. I didn’t bring up one time that it was a bonus that he played here or has familiarity with the area and the fan base. That was truly just gravy.”

Throughout a press conference late Friday afternoon, Hennigan and Martins sought to combat the widespread perception that the team hired Skiles because of his past ties to the franchise.

Martins said Hennigan provided him with a list of potential hires shortly after the season ended, and Hennigan started to go through each name one-by-one. When Hennigan arrived at Skiles’ name and started to speak, Martins stopped Hennigan and told him that Hennigan had to arrive at his own conclusions.

Martins added that he spoke with Skiles just twice between the end of the regular season and Friday. The first time lasted just several minutes and was meant to inform Skiles that Hennigan would be in contact. The second time occurred Thursday, when Skiles, Martins and Hennigan traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich., to speak with the DeVos family.

“I truly wanted this to be an objective decision about his coaching ability,” Martins said Friday. “I didn’t want my personal past with Scott and my experience with him of having been a player here and our relationship to enter into that. We truly had to find the right coach for this team.”

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No. 4: Harden would welcome playmaker — One look at a worn-away, worn-down, worn-out James Harden at the end of the Western Conference finals was all that was needed to tell you that the MVP candidate could not be expected to carry so much of the load if he is going to carry the Rockets to their goal of winning a championship. At the team’s exit interviews on Friday, Harden confirmed that he would welcome the offseason acquisition of a playmaking point guard so the Rockets can take the next step forward. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has the details:

He said he “definitely” would like to see the Rockets add another playmaker to take some of that responsibility out of his hands.
“That’s one of the conversations me and Daryl are going to have (and) the coaches,” Harden said. “That’s one of the pieces to add, but that’s later conversations. We’ll be all right. We’re very confident in the group we have. This summer we have to work hard and be ready for next year.”

Still, Harden said the Rockets could benefit from keeping more of their core together. Of the 15 players on the Rockets final 2013-14 roster, seven were gone by the start of the next season. Just five players on roster that faced the Trail Blazers were around by the start of this season’s playoffs.

He called keeping the Rockets’ nucleus together “very important” and spoke of the benefits of growing together.

“If we get Pat (Beverley) and D-Mo (Donatas Motiejunas) back healthy, we’re a really good team, a really deep team,” Harden said.

“We’re pretty good with what we have, maybe add a piece or so. But we made it this far with a couple of our guys injured and banged up. Put those guys together and we’ll be a lot better.”

Harden said he intends to work on his “entire game,” and cited “different aspects of shooting, coming off pin-downs, my ball-handling, not turning the basketball over so much.  Post-up game.”

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No. 5: Break before Finals suits Irving — The rest of basketball world may not be happy with more than a week break before the start of the NBA Finals. But Cavs mending point guard Kyrie Irving says the break before taking on the Warriors is just what the doctor ordered, according to our own Steve Aschburner:

“I’m participating in everything,” Irving said after the Cavaliers’ workout Friday. “We just had a light practice today. The next few days, we’ll definitely ramp it up, I assume. I’m in everything. So I’m ready to go.”

That’s a departure from the previous three rounds. Irving sprained his right foot early in the first round against Boston, which, as he continued to play on it, led to a compensating injury in his left knee. That tendinitis limited him against Chicago and caused him to skip Games 2 and 3 against Atlanta in the East finals.

The three-time All Star, 23, did at least travel with the Cavs to Atlanta to start the series, then took a side trip to Florida with Cleveland team physician Dr. Richard Parker to consult with noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. They came back with a tweaked treatment plan, which Irving credited for helping him play in the Game 4 clincher Tuesday. He scored 16 points in 22 minutes in the 30-point blowout.

Irving’s production hasn’t dropped off entirely, even though he has lacked his signature turbocharged quickness, along with the trust in his body. In 12 games, he has averaged 18.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and his player-efficiency rating of 20.3 is within his PER range of 20.1 to 21.5 through his first four NBA seasons.

But going through the “will he or won’t he?” uncertainty with the knee (the foot isn’t much of an issue anymore) took a mental toll on Irving. So did the layers of treatment, even as he was trying to properly prepare in case he did play.

“You know, being hurt sucks. Especially in a time like that,” Irving said. “So it was just a learning experience, to say the least. But it was a test of my will. I was very resilient in what I was doing. Hopefully going forward I don’t have any relapse.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Klay Thompson could miss at least several days of practice before The Finals after diagnosis of a concussion….Dwight Howard will miss the 2015-16 season opener after getting upgraded to a flagrant foul in the Western Conference finals closer…Warriors Bogut says Dwight Howard crosses the line with physical play…Alvin Gentry is the first candidate to get a second interview with the Pelicans…Wes Matthews leaves the door open in Portland….Thabo Sefolosha says New York police have damaged his reputation

Reversal of fortune for Heat down stretch


VIDEO: Wade gets a tough shot to drop in a losing effort

So this is what the post-LeBron James verdict looks like for the Heat: A losing record in a powderpuff conference, Dwyane Wade‘s brain trying to overcompensate for his body, a costly loss Saturday at home to Toronto and another day or two before their absence from the playoffs becomes official.

Yes, this is a rather steep drop from four straight trips to the NBA Finals and two championships and lots of bubbly being uncorked at LIV, the South Beach playpen for a franchise that owned the NBA since 2010. There will be no celebrating the 2014-15 season, one in which the Heat hoped for the best but was served with a worst-case scenario come true.

An injury to Chris Bosh and the LeBron defection will cause Miami to become the first NBA Finalist to miss the playoffs since the 2004-05 Lakers, and this will also be the first Erik Spoelstra-coached team to hit the golf course early. Well, you could understand. No team could survive the loss of two-thirds of a Big Three and expect to live happily thereafter. Although Wade was brilliant at times, especially after healing from a nagging hamstring issue, the Heat couldn’t overcome all the losses or a chance to avoid a losing season.

A critic could nit-pick and say Miami shouldn’t made a stronger stand in the East, where the Celtics (!) could make the playoffs. Remember, not only did Miami have Wade, but Bosh made the All-Star team before a blood clot was found on his lung and ended his season. Plus, Miami stumbled upon the discovery of the year in center Hassan Whiteside and also traded for Goran Dragic at the deadline.

Yet: Miami got too much inconsistency from Luol Deng and Dragic has been a mild disappointment. Here’s all you need to know: Miami leaned on Michael Beasley down the stretch. Seriously.

And now, the question becomes: How long will this non-playoff stretch last for the Heat? Assuming they get good health form their key players, the easy answer to that is: Not for long. They’ll have Wade, Bosh and Dragic (if he re-signs as expected) next season, and if Whiteside doesn’t suddenly turn into a pumpkin, then they’ll have a double-double center as well. In the East, that’s a team worth 44 wins.

It would be dangerous to underestimate Pat Riley and Micky Arison, especially with the free agent class of 2016 coming soon. LeBron isn’t walking in that door again, but eventually, someone else will.