Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Garnett’

Opt out and Wade remains King of Miami

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Pat Riley on Big Three staying in Miami

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Any red-blooded capitalist will tell Dwyane Wade to take the money and run. He earned it.

Only this isn’t free-wheeling Wall Street, it’s the salary-capped NBA. And Wade is no longer a wolf, now a flicker of the former “Flash” of South Beach. Therefore the remaining $41.8 million over the final two years of his contract is no longer a value, but a hindrance to his franchise’s only path forward as a title contender.

And so it is the moment of truth for Wade, just 32, but aged hard by throbbing knees: Opt-in, take all the money contractually owed to him, yet surely suffer the vilification of his own fans; or opt out for the good of the team, re-sign at a discount, and secure his legacy as one of Miami’s all-time most cherished sports stars.

There is no middle ground here. If Wade opts in it will almost assuredly kill the Big Three era. Wade’s salary would hamper president Pat Riley‘s ability to reinforce the roster and LeBron James — the centerpiece of the franchise and the first of the three to opt out of his contract earlier in this week — will take that as his cue to relocate his talents elsewhere.

While the overwhelming focus is on what James will do, it is Wade who controls the Heat’s future. He can follow Kobe Bryant and gobble up a significant percentage of his team’s cap space. Of course, Wade, who has earned more than $121 million in salary alone during his 11-year career, can, like the rest of us, gauge Bryant’s title chances over these next two seasons.

If Wade opts out, as some reports have him doing this weekend, the expectation is for forward Chris Bosh to do the same, allowing the Big Three, with four consecutive Finals appearances and two rings during their time together, to work in concert on deals that allow Riley to get to work on “re-tooling” the team.

There is, of course, a stunningly convincing blueprint for all three to take less if contending for championships is truly the ultimate goal. The San Antonio Spurs’ Big Three combined to make $29 million this season, or $1 million less than Bryant took home. Tony Parker, the Spurs’ 32-year-old All-Star point guard, made a pedestrian $12.5 million this season, and will again next season.

In 2012 at age 36 and seemingly physically slowing down, Tim Duncan signed a three-year contract for $30 million. At the same age, Kevin Garnett signed a three-year, $36 million extension. Next week, Dirk Nowitzki, also 36, is expected to sign a new deal in a similar range.

Wade is obviously a younger player, but considering the health issues that limited him to just 54 regular-season games while on a season-long maintenance plan — one that surely must continue into the foreseeable future — and clearly slowed him in the Finals, accepting a similar contract could be asked of Wade.

There is one glaring difference, however, between the aforementioned players and Wade that could push him to seek a bit more in return in a reworked deal — none were asked to opt out of a lucrative deal already in place.

Wade is realistic enough to understand the cap ramifications of opting in vs. out, and what it means for the Heat’s ability to stay together, contend and plausibly rewrite history. After playing in four consecutive NBA Finals, it’s doubtful Wade, who has sacrificed salary and stature in the progression of the Big Three, could stomach a return to mediocrity, despite the millions he will be asked to leave behind.

And he’s likely honest enough with himself to realize that his twilight could be short. His knees are robbing him of prime basketball years, a shame, but also a reality.

Can he last four more years? Maybe he has only two left. The clearest picture is for Wade to opt out and accept a lesser deal in the neighborhood of four years and in the range of $40 million to $50 million.

It might not be the American way of doing business, but odds are it keeps James in town, keeps championships in play and retains Wade’s status, perhaps not as the King of the Heat, but as the King of Miami.

Report: No punching this Big Ticket yet


VIDEO: The Starters: Time to retire?

Welcome back, Big Ticket.

Nothing’s official yet, but the signs and tweets out of Brooklyn suggest that Kevin Garnett will return in 2014-15 for the final season of his contract and the 20th season of his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

The Nets are operating as if Garnett will be back for a second year in their organization, based on general manager Billy King‘s comments to reporters Wednesday in East Rutherford, N.J. The team’s GM has had some conversations with the 38-year-old power forward and said Garnett has begun offseason workouts earlier this summer, after his least productive season ever. Appearing in just 54 games and averaging only 20.5 minutes, the 6-foot-11 veteran averaged 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds while making only 44.1 percent of his 6.6 field-goal attempts per game – all career lows. His per-36 minutes numbers looked better – 11.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg – but Garnett missed 20 of 21 games late in the schedule with back issues.

Exiting after Brooklyn’s elimination by Miami from the East semifinals, Garnett skipped a final postgame session with reporters and gave no indication of his 2014-15 plans. But then, that’s been his M.O. even in his prime. Then, typically, he would gear up mentally and physically on the beaches near his Malibu, Calif., home, as the summer turned to fall and the opening of NBA training camps neared.

That’s how it looks to be pointing again – there is a $12 million salary to be had in this final year of his contract – and that’s fine with the Nets. Especially Mason Plumlee, Garnett’s backup/potential successor.

“All the guys who’ve had the chance to be his teammate, say if he’s not here next year, I know I’d miss him,” Plumlee said late last season, after spending most of the year apprenticing under Garnett. “Anybody who’s spent a season with him, they appreciate how unique of a teammate he is. You don’t have many guys who are so about everybody else on the team, to where they’re lending their wisdom, their time. He shares everything he’s been through, mistakes he’s made, everything.”

Plumlee, Brooklyn’s top pick out of Duke in last year’s draft, had heard all about Garnett’s ferocity – with rivals and sometimes teammates – by the time he arrived last fall. Then he got an earful more from longtime coach and NBA analyst Doug Collins. “He went on and on, about how this was the best situation for me, that it didn’t matter that I fell in the draft,” Plumlee said. “He couldn’t say enough good things about [Garnett].”

The veteran made a project out of the rookie and it showed: Plumlee averaged 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in November and December but was up to 9.2 and 6.1 in March and April, earning a spot on the all-rookie first team.

“He’s the best for a young guy coming in,” Plumlee said. “He takes as much time as anybody to talk, to help, to explain stuff. Not just basketball stuff but off the court – your money, dealing with family and friends. His mentorship extends beyond just basketball.”

That came mostly in conversation on planes, the sort of stuff that has Sam Mitchell – newly named Minnesota assistant coach and Garnett’s mentor there two decades ago – convinced his old friend should carve out a role in Minnesota’s management once he retires.

Nets coach Jason Kidd also noted the influence Garnett had on younger players such as Plumlee. “From day 1 in training camp, Kevin sharing what he knows about the game and what it takes to be successful, you can see Mason has taken that information and has used it wisely,” Kidd said.

Some of those lessons still occur on the floor.

“The most impressive thing is, he always has an understanding of where he’s supposed to be,” Plumlee said. “And at this point in his career, he’s consumed with getting the next guy going, getting the next guy open. He’s all about screening to get Paul [Pierce] open, get Joe [Johnson] open. And then obviously everything on defense. How he talks. How he guards.”

In returning, Garnett would join only Kevin Willis (21), Robert Parish (21) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in playing at least 20 NBA seasons. The 15-time All-Star already ranks 10th all-time in games, sixth in minutes, third in defensive rebounds, 11th in rebounds 17th in points, 18th in steals, 20th in blocks and 49th in assists.

LeBron’s next decision defines him


VIDEO: Pat Riley talks about LeBron’s free-agency

Pat Riley is right.

Now it’s about looking back and looking ahead.

Let LeBron James go away on vacation, confer with his wife and the rest of his family and friends. Then remember just how far he’s come.

Not just from the prodigy of Akron to king of the basketball world in Miami.

But from July 2010 to now. From those first days after the ill-fated, ill-thought “Decision,” to  his current place where the respect has come, albeit grudgingly.

As long as he laces up his sneakers and snaps on that headband, there will always be that part of the public that will never give him his due.

They are the segment of fandom that will never get over a Sports Illustrated cover that made him “The Chosen One.” Hyped up and pre-packaged is always a difficult bar to clearn.

They are the ones who’ll always claim they lost respect for him when he bailed out on the Cavaliers and took his talents to South Beach to chase rings, even though Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kevin Garnett and others had followed similar paths.

They are the ones who resented the fact that the Heat roster was filled with All-Star talent, despite the fact that it was different than those Lakers and Celtics teams that ushered in the so-called Golden Age of the 1980s in the NBA.

Those are the ones James will never win over, no matter how many he adds to the four MVP awards already in his collection and the two championships he won in Miami.

Even in defeat to the Spurs, there was no disputing who was the best individual player on the court in the 2014 Finals. The same as 2013, 2012, 2011.

Riley is right when he says too many are too quick to dismiss the Heat achievement of getting to The Finals four years in a row. We always overreact to the last thing we saw and so it is easy to say the Miami glory days are through.

Dwyane Wade is definitely far from his peak and some of those sharp edges have been worn from Chris Bosh’s game.

But of the current rosters in the Eastern Conference, which team would you put right now ahead of the Heat for next season? The fractured Pacers? The leaning-on-Derrick-Rose’s-bad-wheels Bulls? The Wizards who just won a playoff series for the first time in nearly a decade?

Sure, he could grab a horse and a cowboy hat and jump off to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden in Houston and probably have the most talent-laden, ready-made situation to hoist another championship trophy.

But as he creeps up on his 30th birthday in December, it’s time for James to be considering his legacy in the game and whether another successful chase-the-ring move would actually enhance it.

This really isn’t a question about loyalty, because we know it’s hardly a two-way street when it comes to teams themselves. Face it, the Spurs wouldn’t have hung onto Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all seven years between NBA titles if they weren’t capable of delivering the goods at an All-Star level.

James is carving out his place in history, still young enough to chase those five championships of Duncan and Kobe Bryant, even the six by Michael Jordan. However, in each case, the jewelry won is a matched set, all coming with the same franchise.

Choosing to return to the Cavaliers now won’t make everyone open their arms and forget that he abandoned Cleveland for four of the prime seasons of his career. Bolting for another city any place else in the NBA will only make him look desperate and cheapen the resume that he’s worked hard to rebuild during his time with the Heat.

Over the past four years, James has won over even some of the diehard critics and many of those who were on the fence. He’s been a dominant all-around force, the backbone of the Heat, more circumspect in the public eye, a leader.

By getting to four straight Finals alone, Miami has joined only the Celtics and Lakers in the record books. Magic Johnson’s Lakers only went back-to-back once. Larry Bird’s Celtics never did. Those five Spurs championships that are being celebrated now came over 17 years. The Heat have barely put a dent in that calendar.

To be sure, there is work to be done to pick up the pieces and make them fit together again in Miami. Nobody knows that better than Riley. And nobody should know that it is foolish to underestimate Riley as an architect, a maneuverer more than James.

Riley is right. It is a simple choice of staying the course or hitting the door.

James’ choices with the ball in his hands are almost always above reproach. Now is the time to see how much he’s learned off the court in the last four years about building a proper legacy. This decision defines him for good.

Morning Shootaround: June 15


VIDEO: GameTime: Media Day Recap

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony leaning toward leaving? | Monroe hoping for options | LeBron wants to make history | Spurs not looking to walk away

No. 1: Anthony leaning toward leaving? — The Carmelo Anthony winds will probably blow in a few different directions over the next few weeks. Right now, they’re blowing toward Chicago and Houston, according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski:

New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is leaning toward leaving in pursuit of immediate championship contention, and awaits the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign him in free agency, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender.

Chicago and Houston front-office executives are working diligently on contingencies to clear the space to sign Anthony outright – or engage sign-and-trade scenarios with New York, sources said.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — May 23



VIDEO: GameTime’s crew looks ahead to Game 3 of the Pacers-Heat series


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew looks ahead to Game 3 of the Thunder-Spurs series

NEWS OF THE MORNING

George’s status for Game 3 uncertain | KG likely to return to Brooklyn? | Report: Cavs talk with Donovan | Noel to make NBA debut in Summer League

No. 1: George’s status still uncertain for Game 3 — All the Pacers can do now is watch and see how Paul George fares. Indiana’s All-Star swingman suffered a concussion late in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat and on Thursday, he practiced with the team (albeit in a non-contact, red jersey). Some on the team are encouraged by the progress they’ve seen from George, but as Mark Montieth of Pacers.com reports, Indiana might not know of George’s status until hours before Saturday’s Game 3:

The questions related to Paul George far outnumbered the answers on Thursday.

The status of the Pacers’ All-Star forward remains uncertain for Game 3 of the Pacers’ Eastern Conference finals playoff series with Miami on Saturday, but most of the signs are positive. George participated in the non-contact portions of Thursday’s practice, wearing a red jersey like a quarterback in a football practice who isn’t to be hit. He finished with a reverse dunk after shooting around.

George is in the process of going through the NBA-mandated concussion protocol, and his status might not be determined until Saturday.

While coach Frank Vogel said he had “no clue” if George would play against the Heat, teammate George Hill – a veteran of the protocol – was encouraged.

“I think he’s reacting really well to everything, so we just hope the best for him,” Hill said.

George now must pass a series of six tests and participate in a complete practice before he is permitted to play on Saturday. Hill, who missed Game 5 of the Pacers’ semifinal series against New York last season after being elbowed in the head by Knicks’ center Tyson Chandler, has said he “barely, barely” passed the test, and was fatigued in Game 6 because of the strenuous requirements.

Hill said he had to pass a computer test to check his mental acuity, then six individual exertion and agility drills – each lasting 30 minutes – before being allowed to practice with the team. Those included running, bicycling and treadmill. He had to practice for one hour, non-stop, with the team to complete the test.

Vogel said he is preparing for Saturday’s game with and without George. He did not reveal who would start if George can not play, and used “hodgepodge” lineups in Thursday’s practice.

“We’ve got great depth,” Vogel said. “I think we got guys that can fill in and not play at Paul’s level, but we have to adjust. Teams have to adjust to injuries all the time and I’m sure we would do that.”

Backup point guard C.J. Watson, who was among those working with the starters, said he doesn’t expect to be part of the starting lineup if George does not play. He believes Vogel would go with a taller lineup.


VIDEO: Frank Vogel discusses Paul George’s status for Game 3

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Nets’ long list of questions starts with Pierce and Garnett … and Lopez … and …

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Best of Inside: Blazers and Nets go fishing

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The most expensive roster in NBA history faces questions this summer. And it doesn’t have the flexibility to find all the answers.

The Brooklyn Nets have hit the offseason with a five-game conference semifinals defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat. Their $102 million dollar payroll and $90 million luxury tax bill got them just five playoff victories.

In a press release on Thursday, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called it a “crazy season.” Every team has its ups and downs, but Brooklyn’s were rather unique.

On Jan. 1, the Nets were 10-21 and had lost their best player, Brook Lopez, for the season. Then they went 34-17 over the final three and a half months, thriving with a smaller and more skilled lineup. They beat the Heat four times over the course of the season, had fourth-quarter leads in three of the five playoff games, and were within two points in a fourth. With Joe Johnson carrying the load, their offense became pretty potent in the postseason.

If the Nets were a young team, they’d have something strong to build on. But only three players from their 11-man rotation will be under the age of 29 when next season begins, and one of those could choose to sign elsewhere this summer. Andray Blatche said Thursday that he will decline his $1.4 million player option for next season.

The Nets’ most important free agent is Paul Pierce, who will turn 37 in October. He wants to keep playing, but gave no indication of where he might want to be next fall.

“When I get a chance to sit back, really put my thinking hat on, I’ll figure out what’s next,” Pierce said after Game 5 on Wednesday. “I think I still have something in the tank I can give a team. So maybe one or two [years] at the most, and see where I’m at.”

Kevin Garnett has some thinking to do as well. As part of the trade that brought him from Boston, the Nets guaranteed Garnett the $12 million on his contract next season. But he averaged just 20 minutes per game, was an offensive liability, and missed all of March with back issues.

Garnett turns 38 years old on Monday, ranks fifth all-time in minutes played, and just finished his 19th season. That’s exactly how many seasons Nets coach Jason Kidd had played when he decided to retire and walk away from $6 million a year ago.

Garnett would be giving up twice that amount and can still make an impact on defense. But he’s a prideful dude and may not want to see his skills diminish any further.

“He’s done it for a long time at a very high level,” Kidd said Thursday. “The biggest thing and concerns that I’ve talked to him about is you don’t want to leave with someone carrying you off the court.”

Garnett didn’t speak to the media after Game 5 or at the Nets’ practice facility on Thursday. Nets GM Billy King said that he spoke with Garnett on the plane ride home from Miami.

“Get away, spend some time and talk with your family then we’ll talk again,” King told Garnett. “There’s no need for an answer now.”

The Nets could lose three starters this summer, because Shaun Livingston is also a free agent. After a breakout season, he’ll be coveted by several teams, and the Nets can only pay him with the tax payer’s mid-level exception (a three-year contract starting at $3.3 million per year).

The Nets could have Lopez back at full strength, and they could not. He’s had three surgeries on his right foot in the last three years and an additional repair on his left ankle in March. His team, meanwhile, changed their style and played their best without him.

But Kidd and King have little choice but to bank on Johnson, Lopez and Deron Williams, who are owed a total of $121 million over the next two seasons.

King has little flexibility in improving the roster beyond his high-priced stars. He doesn’t have any draft picks (to use or to trade) and nothing beyond that tax-payer’s mid-level exception to offer free agents (including Croatian guard Bojan Bogdanovic, whose draft rights they own), though Pierce can be brought back (and handsomely compensated) via Bird rights.

What King has to hope for is a better and healthier Williams (who may undergo surgery on one or both ankles this summer), a healthy Lopez, and a Johnson that plays more consistently like he played in the postseason. The chances of all three of those situations going their way seem slim.

Maybe the most solid thing the Nets can build on is Kidd’s development as a coach. He’s got a great feel for the game and, after those early-season struggles, found an identity for his team. He managed a deep rotation about as well as you could this season. And with the respect of players around the league, the Nets will find free agents who want to play for him. If Livingston stays, loyalty to Kidd may be the biggest reason.

It’s not like the Eastern Conference is passing the Nets by. If they bring most of their veterans back and avoid the slow start in their second year together, they can be right back among the best teams in the conference. Every other East playoff team has its own questions to answer this summer.

“Our goal is to try to bring as much as the core back,” King said, “add to the core and go at it again.”

Heat finish strong to finish off Nets

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Heat rally late to finish off Nets, advance to East finals

MIAMI – The Miami Heat may not be as good as they were in previous seasons. But they sure know when they need to be at their best.

With another fourth-quarter comeback, the Heat finished their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Brooklyn Nets with a 96-94 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday. Dwyane Wade (28 points on 10-for-18 shooting) played his best game of the postseason, keeping his team in the game through the first three quarters, and his teammates finished the job in the final 12 minutes.

Over the course of the series, the Nets outscored the Heat by five points through the third period. But in the five fourth periods, Miami was a plus-32. That was the difference in the series and that is the difference between a good team and a championship team.

Basketball is a funny game. Ray Allen was 0-for-6 from 3-point range through the first 47 minutes on Wednesday. But when the Nets’ defense broke down with the game on the line in the final minute, Allen drained a 3 from the left corner – off another hockey assist from LeBron James – to give the Heat their first lead of the second half. Two stops later, they were heading to the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth straight year.

As a team, the Heat were 1-for-16 from beyond the arc in the first half and 3-for-19 at the end of the third quarter. In the fourth, they were 6-for-10. James and Chris Bosh each hit two, while Allen and Rashard Lewis hit one apiece.

Brooklyn had cut off the paint all night, successfully keeping James from doing what he had done two nights earlier. The Nets had shown some resilience, recovered from that deflating loss, played another strong game in the face of elimination, and led by eight points with less than three minutes to go. Joe Johnson was on fire once again, and it looked like he was taking this series back to Brooklyn for Game 6.

“He was torching me,” James said. “It got to a point where if I did not get stops on Joe Johnson, we are going to lose the game.”

But James locked down Johnson over the last four minutes, the Nets’ shots stopped falling, and the Heat’s did not. Ultimately, their shots were better shots.

“We just didn’t execute down the stretch,” Johnson said, “offensively or defensively.”

The Heat did execute, just like they’ve been doing for the last three years. Fourth quarters were a struggle in their first season together. They scored less than a point per fourth-quarter possession in the 2011 playoffs.

To say that they’ve figured things out since would be an understatement. They’ve been ridiculously efficient offensively in postseason fourth quarters over the last three years. In this series they scored 133 points on just 99 fourth-quarter possessions.

The Nets were right there with the champs in four of the five games. But they just couldn’t get the necessary stops down the stretch.

“The last two are really hard to take right now,” Deron Williams said, “because we could easily be up 3-2.”

While the Nets enter a summer with some big questions, the Heat are still playing with all the answers.

In their fourth season together, the Heat know exactly who they are. They have the best player in the league, who draws the attention of the entire defense. He doesn’t force anything and he trusts his teammates. As a group, they take what the defense gives them.

More importantly, the Heat don’t panic. And when you have talent, teamwork and resolve, you win big games.

“Overwhelmingly, the No. 1 key in this series was great mental stability,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to have throughout the course of each game, each possession. That’s what it was down the stretch. You can’t get caught up in frustrations, you can’t get caught up in trying to get a 10-point play. It just takes incredible focus, to concentrate one possession at a time.”

Whether this version of the Heat has a championship defense or a championship supporting cast remains to be seen. We may not know for another five weeks.

At this point, we do know that they can make plays when they have to.

With season on the brink, Nets face must-win Game 5 in Miami

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nets-Heat Game 5 preview

NEW YORK —  It was almost two weeks ago that the Brooklyn Nets found themselves on the brink of playoff elimination. Down three games to two in the first round, the Nets won in Brooklyn and managed to force a deciding Game 7 back in Toronto, which they won.

Wednesday in Miami, the Nets will once again stare elimination in the face. This time, however, elimination has LeBron James on its team. Winning two in a row against Toronto was no small feat, but winning three in a row against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat presents Brooklyn with its toughest test yet.

It’s Game 5. We understand what’s at stake,” Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said on Tuesday morning. “It’s Game 7 for us now — we lose, it’s over; we win, we fight another day. So we just focus on one quarter at a time. We understand the emotion of the game, so we understand what’s at stake. But the big thing is, execute our game plan and give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Despite giving up 49 points to James in Game 4 in Brooklyn on Monday night, the Nets had every opportunity to win. The score was tied at 94 with 2:30 to play, but the Heat outscored the Nets 8-2 down the stretch. That failure to score was partly due to the Nets’ offense bogging down into too many isolation sets — they ran several for Joe Johnson — instead of moving the ball and finding open players.

“You know, it’s tough to just give one guy the ball and say, ‘Bail us out'” Nets guard Shaun Livingston said following Game 3. “They gave Bron the ball, but you see they had some movement, they ran some plays. I think that’s what we have to be better at as a whole.”

Poor shooting wasn’t only a fourth-quarter problem for the Nets in Game 4. After shooting 15-of-25 from behind the 3-point arc in Game 3, the Nets went just 5-of-22 in Game 4.

“We had some good looks,” said Kidd. “We knew coming in they were going to run us off the three, and we probably took a couple of bad threes. But overall we’ve got to attack, we’ve got to take twos. There’s nothing wrong with taking twos.”

Defensively, stopping (or at least slowing down) James will remain the primary theme. After scoring 16 in the first quarter of Game 3, the Nets held James to a combined 12 the rest of the way. In Game 4, though, James seemed to be putting on a tribute to the offense used in Cleveland under recently fired Mike Brown. He dominated the ball, lowered his head and drove to the rim again and again, finishing 11-for-12 in the restricted area.

“You can’t allow a player like that to constantly get in the paint all night,” said Paul Pierce, who announced he would be willing to take on the challenge of defending James, then picked up two fouls early in Game 4 and spent the rest of the night trying to avoid foul trouble. “He did a good job shrinking the court and getting one-on-one opportunities.”

If the Nets were looking for a silver lining, while James was pouring in buckets, he wasn’t able to consistently involve his teammates. With James taking on so much of the scoring load, the crisp, quick passing that makes the Heat so dangerous basically came to a halt.

“One guy obviously can score a lot of points, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s hurting you,” Kevin Garnett said. “Where they are deadly is when Ray [Allen] has 13 to 16, [Chris] Bosh has 16 to 20, [Shane] Battier has 9 to 10, and so on and so on. That’s hard. But when you can lock into one guy and kind of steer and understand where things are coming from, it’s kind of pretty much controllable. Where they hurt you is with ball movement and the other guys hitting shots.”

With the do-or-die Game 5 in mind, the Nets seem clear on what adjustments need to be made. Now it’s just an issue of actually implementing them. After a summer of high-profile moves designed the make the Nets a genuine championship contender, they currently stand one loss away from a second-round exit.

“It’s an uphill battle,” said Livingston. “We’ve been in a war, been in a fight, so we just have to stay confident and go steal one.”

“Shoulda coulda woulda doesn’t help us at this point,” said Garnett. “We’ll take this a game at a time.”

James carries Heat in Game 4, but title chances appear slimmer

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Heat vs. Nets: Game 4

NEW YORK – Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals was the game LeBron James went off for 49 points. It was the game when the Miami Heat took control of the series with a 102-96 victory. And it was the game when it became even more clear that these Miami Heat are not those Miami Heat.

Given the state of the Eastern Conference, the champs might get to The Finals with only one or two losses. But given the state of the Western Conference, they shouldn’t necessarily be the favorites when they get there.

James played Game 4 like he wanted no part of a 2-2 series tie. The Heat have now won their last 10 games following a playoff loss, and he’s obviously the biggest reason why. He knows when his team needs him at his highest level and he knows how to get there.

On Monday, he attacked. After attempting just four shots in the restricted area in Game 3 (just one after the first quarter), he had 12 in Game 4. He made 11 of them, giving him more points at the basket (22) than anyone else in the game had total. And his 19 free throws were the most he’s attempted since the 2012 conference finals.

The Nets zoned up him whenever he touched the ball. They knew they had to keep him from getting away from the basket. But they simply couldn’t do it.

“We tried to keep him out of the paint,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said afterward. “It’s a little bit harder when you talk about it, because he’s not going to settle. Tonight, he didn’t settle. He put pressure on our defense.”

Chris Bosh (12 points on 5-for-9 shooting) and Dwyane Wade (15 points on 7-for-13) both shot better than 50 percent. But this was a James-heavy offense all night. According to SportVU, James had 105 touches, 43 more than any of his teammates and 35 more than he had in any of the first three games.

Bosh did hit the game-deciding basket, a corner 3-pointer with 57 seconds left. But it was, of course, the product of the attention that James drew from the Brooklyn defense.

It was a great play call and terrific execution out of a timeout. James set a screen for Wade, rolled to the basket and drew the attention of Kevin Garnett. And at that point, he knew where the open shot would be.

“I went to attack KG, who came off of [Chris Bosh],” James said, “and I already knew exactly what was about to happen.”

Once Paul Pierce recovered to double-team James, he kicked the ball out to Mario Chalmers, who found Bosh alone in the corner.

It was an example of James’ brilliance, belief in his teammates, and willingness to always make the right play. Bosh had missed 3s on the previous two possessions, but never lost the trust of the guy who had been dominating the game himself.

“The biggest play of the game, after scoring all those points, was getting off the ball” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s a basketball play that he just feels. He got off it without thinking about the consequences, and that’s what makes him unique.”

James wasn’t hogging the ball. There was some dribbling around on the perimeter when he sized up a matchup that he liked, but he was a willing passer whenever the situation called for it. It’s just that nobody else stepped up to take control of the offense.

Though James was willing to give up the ball on any given possession, he wasn’t willing to come out of the game in the second half. When Spoelstra halfheartedly suggested it, “What I told him,” James said, “I cannot say again.”

“Whatever I needed to do for us to win this game, it needed to be done.”

But how much will need to be done when the Heat are in The Finals? Will it be enough?

Though James played more than 43 minutes at a level that no one else in the world can reach, his team barely won on Monday. The Nets are one of the teams in this league that matches up best with the Heat, but those West teams have more weapons, and the Spurs and Clippers have the requisite ball movement and shooting to beat the Miami defense.

The Spurs, of course, were seconds away from beating the Heat last year. And several members of the Miami rotation have regressed since then.

That defense hasn’t been inconsistent all year. In the last two games, Brooklyn has scored 120 points per 100 possessions. And if the offense has to be so James-heavy more often than not, his third championship will be much harder to get than either of the first two.

It has become abundantly clear that James will need a new supporting cast this summer. The question is whether the current one can do enough to win nine more games.

24-Second thoughts — May 12

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron talks about his crazy, 49-point night in a win over the Brooklyn Nets

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — LeBron James. Paul Pierce.

Their careers have been intertwined for years. They’ve been at this, the sniping and swiping on and off the floor, for years now.

So, there’s no better way to dive into Game 4 of the Miami Heat-Brooklyn Nets Eastern Conference semifinal than through the eyes, hearts and minds of the main two combatants in a series filled with feisty competitors and at-times, larger-than-life personalities.

“What I try to do in this locker room and with my teammates is just try to give them belief — that we can beat this team,” Pierce said after the Nets’ Game 3 win that included 15 makes from beyond the 3-point line for the home team at the Barclays Center. “They’re not unbeatable. You’ve got to have that mental [approach] if you’re trying to get over that mountain that you’re trying to climb.”

LeBron’s response was what you’d expect from a man who has had to go through Pierce and his Boston Celtics while starring in both Cleveland and later Miami, to reach the top of the heap in the conference and the league.

“Words don’t win the game, you’ve got to go out and play,” LeBron said. “Why should there be a fear factor, it’s just basketball? We’re not trying to win a war here, it’s just basketball. We’re all grown men, who cares about who is fearing who? We’ve never been a team that talks, we don’t get into that. We’ve never been a bulletin board team. We just want to play the right way and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Game 4 @ Barclays, bring it on …

24 – No one gets it in like the venerable Ray Allen!

Deron Williams, however, has his own designs on how to prepare for the biggest game of the Nets’ season …

Good to know Shaq and the TNT crew are already warmed up as well …

23 — Alan Anderson gets tangled up with LeBron and the real playoff MVP (double technical fouls) makes an early appearance tonight …

22 – This is as much a mind game for both sides as it is a basketball game …

21 – These two have rolled together before a time or two …

20 – Just turn to TNT and watch playoff hoops!

19 – “AK-47 is the tool!”

– BREAKING NEWS –

NO Mo (Williams) again in Portland …

18 – “Watch what I do to these jokers in the last six minutes.”

LeBrooklyn James is getting whatever he wants out here. Going hard in the paint. Killing it in transition. Facilitating. He’s giving us the whole experience right now. Had 13 points in the final six minutes of the second quarter. Uh, Ballin’ … in #AttackMode …

BTW, Paul Pierce can’t handle the truth tonight …

–Another dispatch from Portland — 

Oh, and Extra Big Ups to Craig Sager!!!!!!!!!!!

17 – Sooner rather than later …

https://twitter.com/HerringWSJ/status/466027919634993152

And yet the Nets are right where they want to be, down 65-63 with 7:01 to play in the third and KG acting like it’s 2004 or something. Rebound on one end, tip dunk on the other to cap a 7-0 Nets run! #weaintdoneyet

16 – “Six minutes, six minutes” …

This LeBron and the Miracles thing is not going to work the deeper the Heat go into these playoffs. #justsayin

15 – Pierce with the dunk for the Nets lead right on cue …

And D. Will with the steal on Birdman and the put back …

14 – The #Truth has shown up for the Nets at crunch time. Now the battle with LeBron is really on …

– Just so we’re clear: 22 of LeBron’s 48 points have come in the paint …


VIDEO: Welcome to the drama that is the Sterlings and the Los Angeles Clippers Dick Parsons

– Sterling foolishness on CNN elicits a prompt response from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver …

13 – Third time’s the charm for Bosh. After two misses from deep he nails the one that matters. #corner3 for 97-94 Heat lead. The Nets’ comeback play …

LeBron finishes his ridiculous night with a playoff career-high tying 49 points …

12 – Thanks for taking the high road Magic!

11 – Another head-scratcher to ponder while we enjoy the Spurs’ reserves go toe-to-toe with the Trail Blazers early in the night cap …

10  Still nothing official from New York and the coaching search …

9 – Raise your hand if you love watching Will “Buckets” Barton crank it up, Patty Mills style, when he tears those Rip City warm ups off. He’s got 22 points in 31 minutes in this series through halftime of Game 4 …

8 – Damien Lillard will not go down without a fight (and a few highlights) …

https://twitter.com/ChrisBHaynes/status/466063147665600512


VIDEO: Damian Lillard throws it down over The Big Fundamental!

7 – They won the game, and then raided the New Jack Swing closet for this #NBAStyle pic after it was over …

6 – LaMarcus Aldridge worked the Houston Rockets over. Dwight Howard. Omer Asik, Terrence Jones and whoever else was unlucky enough to draw the assignment of guarding him in that series. But the LA that dominated that series has vanished against the Spurs. Tiago Splitter, that’s right Tiago Splitter, has done the job defensively …

His partner in low-post crime has been, as the kids say, on one tonight. Robin Lopez = ballin’ …

5 – It’s Batum Time! He’s shoving his countrymen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw aside as he tries to keep the Trail Blazers’ season alive with 4-point plays and anything else he can muster …

4 – #putthebroomsaway?

3 — Good to see Lillard bounce back like this. A sweep and individual struggles would have disrupted his wicked rise …

#RipCityReserves doing their part to make sure this season doesn’t end tonight. Buckets Barton and T-Rob playing wtih crazy energy on both ends …

2 – Spurs,

Put the brooms away please.

Sincerely,

Buckets Barton

1 – Another double-header Wednesday, courtesy Nic and friends …


VIDEO: Will Bartton goes coast-to-coast and finishes with the layup