Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Arison’

It’s Still Heat And Everyone Else


VIDEO: Chris Bosh’s game-winning 3-pointer sinks the Blazers

Dwyane Wade flips a behind-the-back pass with a move that is slicker than anything on a South Beach dance floor and Chris Bosh lets fly a 3-pointer that would have sailed over the top of a palm tree.

Bosh’s game-winner did not just serve as the deciding margin in the most entertaining NBA game of the season to date, but as another difference between the two-time defending champs and everybody else.

The Heat have it figured out.

Even with the Trail Blazers rising to the challenge against a full-throated home crowd. Even with LaMarcus Aldridge showing why he belongs in the MVP conversation. Even with Wesley Matthews lighting it up. Even with LeBron James left to only play the role of world’s roughest, toughest cheerleader.

As we prepare to flip the pages another calendar year, the one thing that doesn’t change is Miami’s ability to survive and thrive. Is it myopia or jealousy or sheer boredom that keeps running new contenders up the flagpole and ignoring the resolve and sheer talent of the Heat’s Big Three?

This is, after all, why Pat Riley went to such great lengths to put them in the same uniforms, so that they wouldn’t ever be forced to rely on just one of them?

Here was yet another season that began with yet another set of questions about Wade’s knees and Bosh’s guts and whether James was already peeking ahead to next summer and a chance to return to the Cleveland. And here they are looking like anything but a trio that is ready to surrender its championship grip or prevailing aura.

The standings may show the Heat currently with the fourth-best record in the league, behind the Pacers, Thunder and Blazers and yet you can have the entire field of 29 teams as long as I get to keep Miami.

The Pacers are a fierce and committed blend of burgeoning youth and smart veterans who have made it their goal to finish with the best regular season record and grab home-court advantage all the way through the playoffs into late June. Paul George is an MVP-in-waiting, only the year(s) in question, Roy Hibbert brings the inside bulk and power of a road grader and the rest of the Pacers lineup is filled with weapons.

Yet after beating Miami in Indy on Dec. 10, they let a 15-point lead slip away eight nights later in a rematch, even on a night when James and Mario Chalmers were jawing at each other on the sidelines.

The Thunder were in the spring of 2012, and are still, supposed to be rising young challengers whose games swell with growth and confidence each season. But it’s that swelling in Russell Westbrook’s right knee that has now once more required surgery and could stop OKC from ever reaching its full potential. With James Harden in Houston, they don’t have the three-way luxury of the Heat lineup, and the 2013 playoffs demonstrated that as good as he is, Kevin Durant likely can’t finish the job himself.

The explosive rise of the Blazers behind Aldridge and Damian Lillard and Nic Batum has been as fun and exciting a story as any in the league this season. Yet even on a night when they drop in 11 3-pointers and out-rebound the Heat, they couldn’t close the deal.

The Spurs are still piling up wins against the lesser lights in the league, but may have permanently lost their grip on any chance for a fifth franchise championship in those fateful 28 seconds of Game 6 in The Finals.

The fretting over or knocking of Miami arises any time the Heat lose two straight games, a leftover product of the hype and expectation that greeted their coming together. But if the past three seasons should have taught anything, it is that James, Wade and Bosh are the ones who have assumed nothing and put themselves to the task.

While the Pacers, Thunder, Blazers and the rest are trying to figure it all out, the Heat have amassed what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich calls “the corporate knowledge” of what it takes to play with each other, trust each other and get the very most out of each other.

The result is an offense that is second-best in efficiency this season and a defense, rated eighth, that can close like a fist around a windpipe and choke off opponents when it’s time.

There is no doubt that, at 32, Wade’s knees require the delicate care of hothouse orchids, yet he can still bloom and take your breath away. Bosh continues to have his inner strength and his consistency questioned, but explodes for 37 points and leaves nothing untapped in Portland. James, well, simply plays the game on a planet where he is the only inhabitant.

So while everyone else around them in the NBA is wondering how Riley and team owner Micky Arison can — and whether they want to — keep the band together after next summer, the Heat keep knocking out hits and asking the only question that matters: Why not?

Cuban Says Heat As ‘Bad Guys’ Is Good

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DALLAS —
Villains is how Mark Cuban thinks fans still view the two-time champion Miami Heat, and that’s great for the NBA, he says.

The owner of the Dallas Mavericks on Friday compared the LeBron James-led Heat to the Oakland Raiders in their glory days — saying fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and that polarization makes for a far more intriguing league for fans, and heightens the competitive juices of rivals.

Cuban’s 2011 Mavs remain the lone team to beat Miami in the postseason since James took his talents to South Beach before the 2010-11 season.

“With the two titles, they’re still like the bad guys,” Cuban said. “There’s a confidence bordering on arrogance that is good for them as a team and good for us as a league because it also makes them the team that everybody wants to knock off.

“They’re kind of in some respects the Oakland Raiders … when they were winning. I don’t want to compare [Heat owner] Mickey [Arison] to Al Davis, that’s not fair, but you either love them or hate them. That’s always good for the NBA when you have a team that everybody looks forward to beating. It’s just like when we beat them, I would go in places I’ve never been and people would give me a standing ovation. That’s good for the NBA.”

In 2011, the Mavs had the city of Cleveland and, seemingly, an entire nation behind them against the villainous Heat in their inaugural season as the Big Three, with James and Chris Bosh having joined Dwyane Wade through free agency. Basketball fans recoiled at James’ disastrous “The Decision” on ESPN when he infamously announced his departure from Cleveland for Miami. Fans who once worshiped James had turned fiercely against him and the Heat.

That wasn’t the case in 2006 when Shaquille O’Neal helped Wade win his first championship as the Heat rallied from a 2-0 hole to beat the Mavs in six games.

On Friday, Cuban made a rare appearance at the Mavs’ practice court. His visit came two days after having spent the previous two weeks fighting a different kind of court battle. On Wednesday Cuban was exonerated in a SEC insider trading case. Cuban said his attorney fees to fight the government’s charges were far greater than the fine he faced if found guilty.

“It wasn’t a maxed-out contract,” Cuban said, “but it was in shouting range.”

Luxury Tax Reality: Heat Amnesty Miller





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat are not immune to the harsh economic realities facing the league’s biggest spenders under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The waiving of veteran shooter and surprise 2012 Finals hero Mike Miller via the amnesty provision this afternoon is proof. Miller joins Metta World Peace, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers and now a member of the New York Knicks, as the most prominent players to be amnestied this summer. The Charlotte Bobcats also used the amnesty provision on Tyrus Thomas last week.

(You can see all of the players who have suffered the same fate on NBA.com’s Amnesty Tracker.)

The move came as something of a surprise after Heat boss Pat Riley addressed the possibility of this happening by saying there would be no need for the Heat to use this one-time measure to clear salary cap space.

“After many discussions internally and a sincere effort to explore the trade market, we made a very difficult decision to use our Amnesty provision on Mike Miller,” Riley said in a statement. “Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat; helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back world championships. This was a very difficult decision for me personally, the Arison family, Erik and the entire Miami Heat organization. Mike was one of the best we have ever had here, and will be sorely missed. We wish Mike, his wife Jennifer and their family nothing but the best.”

This was a purely economical move for the Heat, who could save $30 million in luxury tax payments over the nest two seasons simply by removing Miller’s $12.8 million in salary from the books for the 2013-14 season and the 2014-15 season. The Heat still will have to pay Miller the salary he is owed but it won’t impact their own salary cap bottom line.

Miller, whose penchant for knocking down big shots at big moments in both of the Heat’s title runs, was clearly wounded  by the move.

“I understand the business side of basketball,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s a combination of being very, very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had, but it hurts that we had a chance to do something very, very special and I’d love to have been a part of it.”

This is the strictly business portion of the program for veterans like Miller and World Peace, guys who helped their now former franchises to championships.

“I know I can be very, very productive for a couple years for sure,” Miller said. “But at the same time, it would be very difficult to go into a situation where you’re not competing for a title. So I’m going to have to weigh those things, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Miller’s time in Miami was well spent. He leaves having been an integral part of a Heat crew led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that made three straight trips to The Finals and walked off with Larry O’Brien trophies in back-to-back years.

Heat fans will surely never forget some of his most memorable moments from the title runs, and that includes his shoeless 3-pointer from Game 6 of last month’s Finals and certainly the seven 3-pointers he made in the title-clinching Game 5 win over Oklahoma City in 2012.

“I love Mike. We all love Mike,” Wade told The Associated Press. “It’s tough to lose one of our brothers. But I think we all understand it’s not personal. It’s a business decision.”

It’s strictly business these days for the NBA’s biggest spenders.

Small Markets Scrap For Success

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – When a couple small-market Western Conference teams battled for seven grueling games in the semifinals of the playoffs two years ago, who could have foreseen that they would meet again this postseason — after each was forced to deal with the inescapable repercussions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Rudy Gay was injured and out of that postseason two years ago. But at only 24 and locked into a lucrative contract, the No. 8 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft was a central figure for the fast-rising Memphis Grizzlies. Yet on Jan. 30, 2013, Gay, the team’s leading scorer, was traded to Toronto.

In Oklahoma City, the Thunder were coming off a loss to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals when, days before this season began, Thunder general manager Sam Presti dealt former No. 3 pick James Harden, just 23 and an integral part of the team’s success, to Houston.

In a postseason marked by a surprising domination of small-market teams — all four teams remaining in the playoffs are in the bottom half of the league in market size — the second-round showdown between the Grizzlies and Thunder (won by the Grizzlies in five games) demonstrated just what many teams have to do to thrive in the era of the still-new CBA.

“With the rules set up the way they are, there’s minimal room for error,” said Jason Levien, the first-year CEO of the Grizzlies under a new ownership group led by one of the world’s youngest tech billionaires, Robert Pera. “You’ve got to be very thoughtful in your approach to how you build your team, how you build a roster, and you’ve got to keep the cap and the tax in mind.”

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Avoiding the taxes

Cap and tax are at the forefront of the strategy the Oklahoma City management team is using under the ownership of billionaire energy mogul Clay Bennett. Presti, who has managed to re-sign superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus emerging power forward Serge Ibaka, to long-term deals that fit within the team’s cap structure, chose to hold firm to a policy of not commenting on matters related to the CBA.

In Memphis, where the Grizzlies will look to start digging out of a 2-0 hole against the San Antonio Spurs in Saturday’s Game 3 of the West finals (9 p.m., ESPN), Levien has defended the trade of Gay (for veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and youngsters Ed Davis and Austin Daye) as being made to improve the team.

While that might be true — Memphis won a franchise-best 56 games after a strong start with Gay — the Grizzlies also got out of the $37.2 million owed to Gay over the next two seasons. Memphis will pay Prince, Davis and Daye a combined $26 million over that span ($22 million if Daye is not retained beyond next season). With Zach RandolphMarc Gasol and Mike Conley owed a combined $40.9 million next season, keeping Gay and a payroll under the tax line (this season it was $70.3 million) would have been a near-impossibility. (more…)

Red Hot Now, Heat’s Shelf Life Up In ’14

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Loving the Miami Heat’s dominance or loathing it?

Revel or wallow while you can because the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh Heat are a short-term dynasty, a manufactured championship club stamped with an expiration date: June 30, 2014.

As the Heat seek a 24th consecutive victory in their chase to 33 tonight at Cleveland (7 ET, League Pass), the team’s life span, as projected through the lens of contract kill clauses and a screw-tightening collective bargaining agreement, is approaching 15 months and ticking.

Consummated under the old CBA rules in the summer of 2010 by the free-agent signings of James and Bosh and the re-signing of Wade, the Heat have a chance to secure not three, not four, not five … but just two more titles, this season and next, before the franchise is left without its core to (potentially) go for four.

Following the 2013-14 season, James, Bosh and Wade each have an early termination clause that, if exercised, will nullify their respective contracts one season short of completion. Despite all three set to collect in excess of $20 million for the 2014-15 season, it is already being speculated — if not already accepted — that James, if not all three, will terminate and become free agents on July 1, 2014.

James and Bosh, both of whom make $17.5 million this season — less than Joe Johnson, Pau Gasol and Amar’e Stoudemire — agreed to sign with Miami for less money to join Wade, who also took less ($17.2 million this season). That made the union possible and gave president Pat Riley the flexibility to put pieces around them.

Each could have garnered the maximum amount from another team with cap space. Recall the Knicks, like the Heat, dumping salaries solely to carve room to woo James? Now, on his way to a fourth MVP trophy in five seasons, James is nearly certain to cash in his maximum value by taking his talents elsewhere as the league’s teams adjust to the new CBA.

Even if exceptional Heat owner Mickey Arison dreamed of keeping all three together beyond the 2013-14 season, the new CBA makes it painfully, and impossibly, expensive. James, Bosh and Wade, who will turn 33 during the 2014-15 season, would eat up more than $60 million of the roster, already putting the Heat at or close to the salary cap, and about $10 to $13 million short of the luxury tax.

With luxury tax fines that are no longer dollar-for-dollar, but rather increase with each $5 million over the luxury tax line, crippling limitations on trades and devaluing the important mid-level exception for teams over the luxury tax “apron” — $4 million over the tax line — and the looming hammer of the “repeater” tax for chronic high rollers (a tax that a team with more than two high-dollar, long-term contracts can’t dodge), the three-star roster model is being downgraded to a more economical two-star configuration by the CBA the owners and players agreed to over Thanksgiving 2011.

As Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen wrote in December, if the Heat kept the Big Three, plus the four other players under contract for the 2014-15 season, then filled out the roster with minimum-salary players, the Heat could be looking at a summer 2015 tax bill, including the “repeater” tax, of $48 million for a total one-season roster cost of $141.3 million.

So, where will James play next? That speculation has already begun. Maybe he’ll usher out the Kobe Bryant era and begin a new Lakers reign with Dwight Howard. Or maybe he’ll return to Cleveland to re-conquer his home territory and pair with rising All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Wherever he lands, the writing is on the wall for this unbeatable Miami Heat team.

Love them or hate them, enjoy them or loathe them while they’re still intact. Because after next season, the Heat’s Big Three will almost undoubtedly go their separate ways.

Thunder-Heat The New Lakers-Celtics?


MIAMI –
 Magic Johnson and Larry Bird duked it out in the NBA Finals three times in four seasons, although it seemed more like a million glorious battles. The two regular-season games between the rival Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics throughout the 1980s were must-see TV as those teams and their transcendent stars swept up a generation of new fans.

Michael Jordan followed as arguably the league’s greatest solo act with no equal to challenge him during the 90s.

Tuesday’s Christmas Day Finals rematch between the pillars of their respective conferences, LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, the Miami Heat vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, reminded just how riveting last season’s title series was and the undeniably tantalizing prospect of more to come, of an emerging Magic-Bird, Lakers-Celtics-style rivalry.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, a teenager during that great period, and assistant coach Bob McAdoo, a Lakers reserve for two Finals series against the Celtics, saw the makings of a modern-day rivalry between dueling MVP candidates and their championship-chasing teams last June.

“Both teams have multiple, once-in-a-generation players,” Spoelstra said prior to the Heat’s 103-97 Christmas Day win, referring to the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook as supporting superstars. “You don’t see that too often, but we remember when we were in the Finals last year, the speed, athleticism, and competitiveness of that series, what we talked about was probably similar to what you saw in the 80s with those Celtics and Lakers teams. Coach McAdoo even said it reminded him of that because it was a force of nature of two teams of young, talented future hall of famers in their prime, and multiple ones on each team. That was a fierce, fierce series, and the five games did not properly tell how competitive that series was.”

The Heat won Games two through four by a margin no greater than six points. Tuesday’s intense matchup made it four of the last six between the two decided by six or less.

“Of course that’s a sexier matchup, as far as LeBron and me and Russell and D-Wade, Serge [Ibaka] and Chris Bosh, of course that’s the matchup everybody wants to see,” Durant said. “But you never know. We never try to concern ourselves like that, we try to take it a day at time, but it does play on last year, everybody talks about us building a rivalry. So, you know, if it does happen, that’d be fun, that’d be something great to be a part of.”

The new collective bargaining agreement, with its harsher luxury tax penalties, might ultimately determine the fate of this rivalry. The Thunder are in excellent position to contend for the foreseeable future. They made the difficult decision to trade James Harden before the season after locking up its young core of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka at manageable salaries through 2016.

“We’re excited about where we’re going, but still we want to win a championship now,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re not playing for next season or the next season after. We’re like every team, if you have a chance to win you want to win now.”

Heat owner Mickey Arison got one title with his dream-team trio and the Heat are prohibitive favorites to repeat. But, he’ll will have to commit to paying stiff luxury taxes to keep James, Wade and Bosh together to fulfill LeBron’s “not one, not two, not three…” prophecy.

The three All-Stars are under contract through 2016-17, but all three have early termination clauses after next season, and whispers of a James departure for the Lakers are already coming in like the warm Atlantic lapping the South Beach sands at low tide.

Labor Talks: Getting Down To Business

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – After months of disagreeing on almost everything, the end of September has delivered the first common ground NBA players and owners can share: time is of the essence.

With a clear understanding that the calendar is not on anyone’s side in the league’s labor dispute, the sense of urgency for both sides has cranked up. We offer the robust attendance and reported tone of the action during Friday’s meetings in New York Friday, which will continue today as reported by NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, as Exhibit A:

A source told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that at one point, NBA commissioner David Stern was emphatically directing a comment — and pointing his finger — at [Dwyane] Wade, the Miami Heat’s All-Star guard. Wade objected and interrupted Stern, reportedly saying: “Don’t point your finger at me. I’m a grown man. I have children.”

The meeting broke at that point. A few minutes later, Stern sought out Billy Hunter, NBPA executive director, to briefly talk privately.  Soon thereafter, the session resumed.

While no one sounds ready to declare that a deal is imminent or even in the works, there is no doubt that everyone involved understands that it is time to get down to the business of solving their differences before it’s too late …

Stars Step Into the Spotlight

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Before a stunning confrontation between Dwyane Wade and NBA commissioner David Stern in Friday’s labor meeting, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul told their Players Association peers that they’re willing to sit out the season rather than make further concessions to the owners, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.

“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”

“LeBron, Wade and Paul want to fight this so hard, they don’t seem scared about missing the season,” one source in the negotiating room told Yahoo! Sports.

James, Wade and Paul believe the owners are bluffing in threatening to ultimately cancel the season to get the changes they want in the collective bargaining agreement, a source in the meeting said. In the meeting with union peers, the three stars declared their willingness to miss games rather than drop down from the 53 percent of BRI the union has proposed to the NBA.

Despite the bold talk out of the sport’s biggest stars, the union privately has expressed a willingness to move further toward ownership this weekend with an understanding that Stern wants desperately to cut a deal with the players and avoid a prolonged work stoppage.

If nothing else, the owners did see the star players’ resolve on Friday. Once the players entered the room with the owners, Wade reacted harshly to what he perceived as Stern’s condescending way of lecturing him on the issue.

Union Holding The Line

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: There was widespread speculation entering the weekend that the union might be willing to make compromises in order to salvage the income from a full 82-game season. But two union sources said the players agreed to hold firm during an emotional private meeting Friday before the afternoon negotiations, with crucial leadership provided by [Paul] Pierce, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP of the Celtics.

The union leadership reviewed the recent give-and-take of the negotiations amid repeated questioning by Pierce and heated talk from James. Others spoke up as well, but when Pierce was told that the union had already offered to cut its revenue-share from 57 percent to 54 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) in order to help the owners deal with their operating losses, he urged his fellow players to unite behind Fisher and union chief Billy Hunter in not yielding further.

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Glory days

Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.

Remember the sound and fury? The music and the strobe lights? The indoor fireworks? The D.J. screaming and the crowd roaring? The hydraulic lift that brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh up onto the stage through the outpouring from a fog machine?

Remember the good old days of the Miami dynasty, that hot, sizzling evening inside American Airlines Arena when the Heat had not lost a single game? Or even six.

That was the night when the Heat held a championship celebration three months before the opening of training camp. That was the time when the world was their oyster and James, Wade and Bosh swapped pearls.

“The goal is to win championships,” said Wade, emphasizing the plural.

“We’re not afraid to be great,” Bosh said.

“I need a few of those,” said James, referring to championship rings. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…”

The crowd that filled the arena and danced in the aisles chanted: “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!” Nobody mentioned anything about first trying to beat Indiana.

The players hugged and they joked and they traded fist-bumps and one-liners. They all said that Erik Spoelstra was their coach of choice, and that Hall of Famer Pat Riley would not have to come out of the executive suite to lead them. In fact, they taunted him and said he wasn’t needed or wanted in that role.

They could break the Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season in their imaginations, if not go 82-0.

Now this. A 16-point loss at home to the Pacers.

“They’re still kind of searching out how they’re going to find a role and work their roles together,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

“The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Mickey Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you (Riley) can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know. That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the (Stan) Van Gundy thing all over again.”

Reality bites.

Seems it’s no longer how many championships they can collect, but how much indignity they can stand. It’s no longer if the ax falls on Spoelstra, only when.

Remember the Miami dynasty. Those were the days, my friend.