Posts Tagged ‘Dwayne Wade’

Let The Season (And The Questions) Begin

There are always questions in the NBA, even with 28.6 seconds left in Game 6 of The Finals, as the Spurs will attest. Here are five of the most interesting for the 2013-14:

No. 1: Can the Heat “three-peat” be beat?

It’s certainly trendy these days to pick against the two-time defending champions due to trades, coaching changes or just sheer boredom. After all, isn’t it far more intriguing to figure out how Doc Rivers is going to upgrade Lob City from sideshow to real contenders, how Kevin Durant is going to climb to the top with a mending Russell Westbrook, how Derrick Rose will restore the Bulls, how Gregg Popovich is going to convince the Spurs that they can spend the next eight months chasing down a redo of those last 28.6 seconds? But sometimes it’s just overreaching and over-thinking things. As long as LeBron James is healthy and engaged, and perhaps because he is just entering what should be the prime of his career, the Heat have the single weapon nobody else can touch. Maybe things will change next summer when the Big Three all enter free agency. Then it will be time to take stock of Dwyane Wade’s health and Chris Bosh’s value as a max-contract player. Until that time, they have something to prove, which can be achieved by a fourth straight trip to The Finals and a third championship. There is no indication that the Heat are satisfied or slipping, only more sure of what they’re doing at crunch time. Count on the “three-peat.”


VIDEO: LeBron James talks with David Aldridge about three-peat hopes

No. 2: Who is the first coach fired?

It’s an unusual season since we can eliminate nearly half (13) of the franchises since they’re already working with first-year coaches. But it would seem that there is a trio on the firing line. The Wizards’ Randy Wittman was a bit of a surprise to survive last season’s 4-28 start and definitely is feeling the heat with the return of a healthy John Wall and the recent trade for solid veteran center Marcin Gortat. Washington’s first month is quite tough and could put Wittman’s neck back in the noose if the Wiz stumble out of the gate. Everybody will be watching the every inhale and exhale of the Lakers every time they step out onto the court or any kind of appearance in public. It would seem hard to evaluate Mike D’Antoni at all until Kobe Bryant returns to the lineup and shows whether he is close to defying the odds at 35 and returning to his old form. But these are the Lakers, the league’s highest-profile franchise. They dumped Mike Brown after five games last season and if the product is horrible early on again, D’Antoni will be under pressure. Especially if Doc Rivers and the new-look Clippers are flying high and doing more than just covering up Lakers banners at Staples Center. But with all of those difficulties in Washington and L.A., the first move could be made in New York. Just a season ago, the Knicks were peddling (and fooling) themselves as true contenders. But after another somewhat early playoff flameout, they are an afterthought in the East. They’re not even the best team in the five boroughs and the tabloid heat applied by the New York media could burn down the Mike Woodson era. Carmelo Anthony has announced that he’ll entertain free agency and we all remember what a ridiculous distraction “Melo-drama I” became in Denver. Woodson will pay the price.


VIDEO: Bob Ryan on NBA’s coaching carousel

No. 3: Who makes first big trade?

Danny Granger will open the season on the shelf in Indiana, but is likely to finish on another team’s roster by the February trade deadline. At 30, with reduced role and a future price that will be too steep for the small-market Pacers, he’s prime for moving. If the Sixers want to continue their move to do everything except hijack the Andrew Wiggins lottery, they’ll ship out their best player, Thaddeus Young. He’ll be too old to be a factor by the time Philly’s long-term rebuilding project is complete. But when it comes to finding the first square peg that no longer fits, it will probably be Houston’s Omer Asik. A season ago he got his chance as a starter and averaged a double-double for the Rockets. Coach Kevin McHale is determined to try to make a twin towers combination work with Dwight Howard. But it is hard to see this making anyone happy for the long term. The Rockets will have trouble guarding power forwards and the pair of big men will choke off the space James Harden needs to operate in the lane. At this point, Asik is more valuable to the Rockets as a trade chip than as a misfit piece to the puzzle.


VIDEO:
Will the Dwight Howard-Omer Asik combo work?

No. 4: Who is the Comeback King?

The candidates are everywhere, a slate lead by players who’ve become permanent fixtures in the All-Star Game. Kobe Bryant is at the top of the list because of his status and what he means to the Lakers. He’s tough, determined, unwilling to give in even to age and nature, but it’s hard to see him approaching his former self until at least Christmas (and more likely, the All-Star Game). The Thunder need Russell Westbrook to get back into the lineup and begin launching himself into space again as soon as possible. But it is hard to see any return being more successful and more complete than Derrick Rose‘s. He not only brings his explosiveness back to the lineup, but also the leadership skills and sheer desire that will likely make Chicago once again the top challenger to Indiana in the Central Division and Miami in the East.


VIDEO: A slow-mo look at Derrick Rose’s season debut vs. Miami

No. 5: Who crashes and burns?

The Nets have the most money on the line as owner Mikhail Prokorov is on pace to spend $80 million in luxury-tax payments alone on his star-studded lineup. While Brooklyn will likely be the best team in the New York area and keep the pressure on the crosstown rival Knicks, it is hard to see a geezer-laden lineup that relies so heavily on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce leapfrogging Indiana and Chicago. In Denver, the Nuggets have to account for the losses of coach George Karl and do-it-all forward Andre Iguodala to follow up a 57-win season. However, the team that could take the biggest tumble is in Memphis. The Grizzlies not only let coach Lionel Hollins, who carved out their rugged identity, walk out the door, but they still can’t find any kind of an outside shooting game to offset Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph‘s play. If Tayshaun Prince doesn’t bump up his offense considerably, even the return of local favorite Mike Miller won’t be enough to let the Grizzlies make a return to the Western Conference finals. In a worst-case scenario, they could miss the playoffs entirely.


VIDEO:
NBA TV previews the Grizzlies’ season

24-Second Thoughts On Game 2




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24 – If you believe in good luck charms, then you have to believe that they can wear out, too. After just four home losses during the regular season, the Heat and 12-year-old national anthem singer Julia Dale have three playoffs losses and are just 2-2 in the previous four games. Time for a change?

23 – Does anyone else find it silly that the world of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh seems to end every time Miami loses a playoff game? After all, they’ve dropped Game 1 three times together over the past three seasons and then come back to win each of those series 4-1.

22 – Watching D-Wade firing up his team in the pre-game huddle, knowing the situation they’re in, don’t you just expect the Heat to win big here?

21 – Instant reply? Spurs commit turnover on their first possession, just like Game 1. If they only commit four more rest of the night, just like Game 1, Gregg Popovich will be a very happy — I know, that’s a relative term — man.

20 — For all the talk about how the Spurs stole the win in Game 1 with Tony Parker’s clutch shot at the end, too many people overlooked the Spurs’ poor shooting all night long. San Antonio was just 41.7 percent from the field and 30.4 on 3-pointers. If those start to drop … well, well, well, here comes Danny Greeeeen! 3-for-3 from downtown in first four minutes.

19 – This is obviously a pace and style that will make the Heat very happy. Spurs commit fifth turnover of the game with 3:23 left in the 1st quarter. They had five in all of Game 1 and the sloppy play is letting Miami be the aggressor.

18 – What’s left for the LeBron critics to pick at when he’s making the right rotations in the defense, getting that big block on Tim Duncan in the paint?

17 – Scoreboard says it’s tied at the end of the first quarter. But is there anybody who doesn’t feel like the Heat are up 22-22?

16 – Maybe he’s on his best behavior because it’s The Finals. Or maybe it’s just Doris Burke wearing basic black instead of one of Craig Sager’s psychedelic horse blankets. But the biggest under-performer of the first two games has been Popovich in his between quarters interviews. I want some nasty.

15 — Gary Neal takes the long range baton from Danny Green. He’s got eight points in his first seven minutes and the Spurs have hit 5-for-7 on 3s already. That’s one way to make up for all of those turnovers.

14 – Never mind winning the lottery. I’ve decided I could live comfortably plush for years if I just had a dollar for every casual viewer who’s ever walked by a TV and asked “Who is that guy?” the first time they’ve seen Chris “Birdman” Andersen.

13 — Give Chris Bosh credit for being active on the offensive boards. He’s already tipped the ball twice back outside to give the Heat a chance to reset for another possession and both times they’ve scored. He’s given up the long jumpers and playing closer to the basket in general.

12 – Just when everybody’s ready to push 31-year-old D-Wade around in a wheelchair covered in an afghan, here he is looking like his old self again with 10 points and four assists in a first half where LeBron (four points) has been hiding.

11 – In that open court, 1-on-1 showdown between LeBron and Danny Green, come on, admit it, how many picked Danny Boy as the winner? Green suckers James into miss the first time, but LeBron gets the benefit of bad call by ref Joe Crawford on the second time down the court.

10 — Danny Green has taken his talents to South Beach! These 3s are layups for him. Layups, I tell you.

9 – The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard backing off LeBron just a bit and have the other defenders closing down the driving lanes. If James is going to make something happen for himself in this one, it seems he would be wise to get himself down in the low post to show off those moves he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon.

8 – Paint this game Green. Danny Boy rejects LeBron under the basket at one end and then takes the ball to the hoop for his 17th point at the other end. How much longer before we’re calling him “The Chosen One?”

7 – For all the damage being done by the Spurs from behind the 3-point line, the two biggest buckets of the game so far might be those last two bombs from Ray Allen and Mike Miller. Mario Chalmers converts three-point play and 75-65 Heat edge after third quarter is the first double-digit lead by either side in The Finals. People rarely talk about Chalmers, but he has a way of stepping into the offensive gaps and drives strong to the hoop when the Heat need him.  Chalmers flies under the radar like one of those CIA drones.

6 — You can hold down LeBron’s scoring. You can open the door for every critic in every corner of the globe to rip him. But he still plays the game, sees the court and makes the right passes to his open teammates for good shots. See: Double-team from Tiago Splitter and Mike Miller 3.

5 – Now you know why Gregg Popovich looked like he was passing a kidney stone when Doris Burke asked him about those five turnovers in the first quarter. It’s up to 15 turnovers in the fourth and the Spurs are getting burned worse than English tourists on South Beach.

4 – Hello, Tiago! I’m pretty sure the last time anybody threw a tomahawk and did less damage was in the 1960s sitcom F Troop. LeBron at the rim with a facial that usually costs at least $150 at your local spa. Easily the best block of the entire playoffs. And that’s the fat lady you hear singing.

3 — Didn’t you always know that Tracy McGrady would lead a team to The Finals and play significant minutes? Well, it’s happened. That is, if you consider sitting at the end of the bench leading and sweeping up behind the elephants in garbage time significant. The only person who looks more lost and out of place is Manu Ginobili, who is forcing things way too much.

2 –  One word to define the Heat: resilient. They have not lost consecutive games since Jan. 8-10 at Phoenix and at Portland. Following their five losses in these playoffs, they’ve come back to win the next game by an average of 21.6 points. Hold off the end of the world, break-up-the-Big Three talk. Now we’ve got a series. Just the way we always knew we would.

1 – OK, maybe it’s just me.  But seeing Pop sit at the podium and explain to the assembled media that missing lots of shots and making lots of turnovers is a bad combination, I can’t help thinking of Dean Wormer in Animal House: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Nuggets Still Search For New Identity

HANG TIME, Texas — Leave it to George Karl to enjoy running a gantlet of four games that started at home against Miami and now goes to San Antonio, Memphis and Minnesota.

“I just think I’m a sadistic guy,” he said.

Or more likely a just a coach that likes a challenge.

Karl’s Nuggets were a trendy pick by many to make a strong push up Western Conference standings following the offseason deal that brought Andre Iguodala to Denver.

This was a team of no true superstar that was going to get out in the open court, apply defensive pressure like a vise and run, run, run it’s way into the role of a real playoff contender.

But to date, instead of cranking things up a notch, the Nuggets have regressed, as Karl admitted to our buddy Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post:

“There’s no question we’re not wearing teams out like we did last year,” said Nuggets coach George Karl, whose team, for much of the night, looked like it was the one that played the night before in L.A., not the Heat.

LeBron James finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists, playing point forward for much of the game.

“They made their run, they’re a great team at home,” James said, “but we were able to withstand it.”

The Heat was without guard Dwyane Wade, who sat out because of an ankle injury he reaggravated in Wednesday night’s loss at the L.A. Clippers.

Meanwhile, Andre Miller played like Ty Lawson, while Ty Lawson played pathetically. Lawson went scoreless, 0-for-7, while Miller scored 19 points with a pair of 3s.

“It was a game we definitely needed to win before we go out on this three-game road trip,” Miller said from a nearly empty losing locker room. “We talked about their 3-point shooters, we just didn’t play a good floor game.”

Now the Nuggets stand at 4-5 because they have been the picture of mediocrity. Their offensive rating (103.8), according to Basketball-Reference.com, stands 15th in the league, while their defensive rating (103.3) ranks 17th.

This was supposed to be a newer version of the 2004 Pistons who won a championship without one big dog pulling the sled all season. But instead they have too often looked like Iguodala’s old team that he left behind in Philly, where he leads a team in scoring that for the most part does not a singular focus, except fo the rebounding monster that is Kenneth Faried.

We can cut the Nuggets some slack because they have an absolutely brutal schedule. They opened with six of their first nine games — and 17 of 23 — on the road.

“I’m kind of happy with how we’ve played. I’m not happy with how well we’ve played. But as a coach, how is probably more important than how well.”

Report: Torn Meniscus Knocks Clippers’ All-Star Blake Griffin Out Of Olympics

LAS VEGAS – Not all the news from USA Basketball’s blowout win over the Dominican Republic in their exhibition opener Thursday night at UNLV was good news.

As the U.S. players made their way from the locker room after the game, word spread Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who went home earlier in the day with a sore left knee, was diagnosed with a torn left meniscus and will require surgery early next week, per The Los Angeles Times. He is expected to miss eight weeks, costing him his spot on the Olympic team and putting a huge scare into the Clippers, who signed him to a five-year extension worth $95 million, just two days ago.

No one took the news harder than Griffin’s All-Star teammate Chris Paul, who was informed of the news as he walked up to the assembled media awaiting the team as they exited the locker room.

“Wow. That’s a tough one. It’s a huge blow,” Paul said. “One of the things I was looking most forward to in this whole Olympic experience was being with him, so we both could grow a little bit as players and things like that. But his health comes before anything, so I’m going to go call him and check on him.”

Griffin joins a long list of U.S. stars who will miss the games due to injury, a group that already included Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups and LaMarcus Aldridge.

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Rose, Lin Rank 1-2 In Jersey Sales





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Someone foolishly suggested to us yesterday that Linsanity was a figment of our imaginations … a blip on the NBA radar and nothing more.

We obviously disagreed and reminded this naysayer that the proof is in the … jersey sales?

That’s right, the NBA’s annual list of the top-selling jerseys saw Jeremy Lin outsell the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and even Knicks teammates Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Lin ranked No. 2 on the list behind reigning KIA NBA MVP Derrick Rose, whose Bulls claimed the top spot in merchandise sales to end the Los Angeles Lakers’ four-year run in that category. The Knicks came in No. 2 there as well.

Rose’s rise from No. 5 last year to the spot can’t touch Lin’s rise from oblivion to the No. 2. The jersey sales and merchandise figures are based on sales at the temporary NBA Store on Fifth Avenue and on NBAStore.com from April 2011 to present.

Click here for the full list of the top jersey sellers and merchandise sellers in the NBA this season.

About Last Night: In The Groove

– Rock Your 2012 All-Star Vote – 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We had too many games and way too many sick highlights from Wednesday night for us to waste your time this morning yapping.

So instead of lowering the boom on the Knicks or Wizards about their feeble showings or celebrating the Clippers … or the Hang Time Grizzlies … or the Heat … or the Bulls for looking great again. While some teams are struggling to find their way, some teams are already in the groove!

You can check them all out on the Daily Zap:

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Heat fans will insist that we don’t dole out the proper love for their team around here on a regular basis. But don’t confuse us keeping two car lengths behind the Heat bandwagon with us not respecting their power.

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Can New Celtics Still Handle LeBron?

HANG TIME TEXAS – Seasons change and teams change. It’s part of the circle of life in sports.

An interesting angle to watch tonight when Boston plays at Miami is whether the Celtics have changed too much to contend with the new-look LeBron James.

A year ago, whenever James tried to take the ball inside against the Celtics, he was confronted by the hulking and sometimes snarling likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis.

Now the Boston front line consists of the aging Jermaine O’Neal along with Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox.

Bass came up big on Christmas Day in New York, hitting the boards hard for 20 points and 11 rebounds, which our good friend Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald says delighted the men in green:

“Kid can play,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s tough. He can finish. He can offensive rebound. He can do a lot of things. He’s doing it right now, but he’s second guessing half of the things he’s doing because of the execution part of it.

“He’s late on a lot of stuff because he’s just not sure yet. He’s just going to keep getting better and better as the year goes on.”

Kevin Garnett was equally impressed, though when asked about Bass he preferred to refer to the bench as a whole.

“Brandon is going to give us a more mature, consistent scorer off the bench,” Garnett said. “I actually like our bench — not just on paper, but in practice and in games. Not just Brandon, but Chris Wilcox and Keyon (Dooling), too.”

The question can the Celts’ new threesome derail James’ plan to use the post-up drills he did with Hakeem Olajuwon during the summer to do most of his work closer to the basket this season? While the powerful slam dunks and the pretty tip-pass to Dwayne Wade was nice, maybe the most impressive part of James season-opening effort in Dallas was that he did not attempt a single 3-point shot. Neither did Wade.

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Butler Remains Optimistic About Return

MIAMI – Caron Butler‘s allegiance to his team should never be questioned.

Never.

And especially not on the eve of his Dallas Mavericks playing the Miami Heat in The Finals.

Not that it stopped the question from being raised during Monday’s media availability session. Considering Butler’s ties to the Heat — he was drafted by the Heat with the No. 10 pick in the 2002 Draft, spent the first two seasons of his career in Miami and remains close with Heat star Dwyane Wade — it might not seem like such a strange topic.

But when you consider the year Butler has endured — he hasn’t played since tearing his right patella tendon in a New Year’s Day game in Milwaukee and was forced to retreat into the safety net that is his Mavericks family since then — you’d know why the question makes his laugh.

“Obviously Washington was a great place for me, that’s where I had a huge imprint,” Butler said of his four-and-a-half seasons with the Wizards. “But I’m with who I’m with. I’m with Dallas. I’m with Dallas all the way. That’s a no-brainer … if they win I get a ring, too.”

Speaking about the Mavericks in that tone makes it easy to tell what kind of impact the layoff has had on Butler. Yet he remains optimistic about a potential return in this series, even though it doesn’t seem terribly realistic at this point.

He’s listed officially as day-to-day. But he’s only endured light contact in practice and save for those nine minutes he played against the Bucks, has not seen a second of game action this calendar year. Doubt him, however, at your own risk.

“He hasn’t been ruled out.  It’s unlikely that Caron will play. Probably,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.  “But if you would have asked me on January 1st, the night when he went down in Milwaukee  when he went down on the floor, his right kneecap came about three or four inches up into his thigh, because the patella tendon snapped.  He was on the floor, and he took his right hand and he took his patella  he took his kneecap and he shoved it back into place.  He got up and walked off the floor on his own power.

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Marion, Mavs Hungry For The Finals

DALLAS – Shawn Marion doesn’t need any help getting amped up for The Finals. It is, after all, his first trip to the NBA’s big show after getting as close as the Western Conference finals previously.

Just don’t talk to him about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or the rest of the Miami Heat. Because he’s not interested in waxing poetic about the Dallas Mavericks’ opponent. Instead, he’s focused solely on the Mavericks and their journey to the final days of this season.

“It’s not really about them or anything they are doing,” Marion said after fielding repeated questions about the Heat after practice Friday at American Airlines Center. “It’s about the Dallas Mavericks right now and what we’re going to play for and what we’re about to do.”

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No Stopping The Heat

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Maybe Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was right.

The Miami Heat just might be the best team in the NBA right now. They certainly aren’t doing anything to hurt their cause. They continue to steamroll the competition in ways that didn’t seem possible just three weeks ago, when many people were questioning their union of superstars.

The only legitimate question surrounding this team right now is who is going to stop them?

Winners of nine straight games after Monday’s win over the Hornets, the Heat’s hot streak could hit 14 by Christmas, when the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers take their talents to Staples Center to face the crew from South Beach.

No offense to the Cavaliers and Wizards, but if the Knicks can’t get them Friday in New York and Cuban’s Mavericks don’t slow them down Dec. 20 in Miami, that Christmas Day showdown with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will take on even more epic proportions for both sides.

If the Lakers can’t stop them, a home game against the Knicks (Dec. 28) and a road game in Houston (Dec. 29) are all that stand in the way of the Heat finishing December without a blemish.

It’s a stunning turnaround from that .500 start, even for a team that boasts two of the best players on the planet in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

We know it’s taboo to look too far ahead, but the way this Heat team is playing right now they could run off a string of wins that challenges the 1971-72 Lakers’ NBA record 33-game streak.

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