Posts Tagged ‘Ray Allen’

Morning Shootaround: June 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played June 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Bulls looking to make blockbuster move | Report: Sixers taking extended look at Wiggins | Orlando a big fan of Smart’s intangibles | Report: Heat’s Allen mulling retirement | Nowitzki makes pitch for Anthony

No. 1: Report: Bulls looking to make deals to upgrade lineup — If the just-completed 2014 Finals have taught other NBA teams anything, it’s that building a team like the Spurs — one replete with superstars and solid, dependable depth — is the way to go in today’s NBA. The Chicago Bulls have apparently taken notice and are willing to part with just about anyone not named Derrick Rose, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

According to several NBA sources Sunday, the Bulls have been actively looking to improve the starting lineup at almost any cost, with Derrick Rose the only untouchable player — and not by choice.

“They are looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take,’’ one source said of general manager Gar Forman and head of basketball operations John Paxson.

But the source said it was “doubtful” whether that meant the long-rumored departure of coach Tom Thibodeau could come into play.

Carmelo Anthony is still Plan A as the Bulls and the rest of the NBA await to see if the Knicks forward will opt out of his contract. But the Bulls are more active in their pursuit of Kevin Love than initially rumored. Also, don’t rule out LeBron James coming into play again if the four-time MVP opts out of his deal.

(more…)

For Miami, frustration, humility, speculation and always drama


VIDEO: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade talk about the Heat’s loss in The Finals

SAN ANTONIO – The trek from the court back to the visitors’ dressing room at the AT&T Center is longer than most in the NBA. It requires Spurs opponents to slip through the tunnel at one end and then head down, beneath the stands, almost to the other end. A basic salt-and-pepper, industrial-strength mat shows them the way, behind a little iron railing.

On nights like Sunday, in the moments after their Game 5 elimination from The 2014 Finals, it’s way more perp walk than red carpet.

One by one, the Heat players, coaches and staff trod along that path, San Antonio’s on-court celebration revving up and booming through the building. LeBron James walked fast, head high, a phalanx of cameras and reporters tracking each step. Dwyane Wade came a few beats later, bare-chested, his Miami jersey gifted at some point after the final horn. They were stone-faced, revealing nothing beyond the harshness and letdown of the outcome.

Ray Allen strode by with purpose, inscrutable, deep in thoughts that surely didn’t include cheeseburgers. Then Pat Riley, looking almost wistful, resigned or ground down by the 70-point differential between his team and the Spurs (the fattest cumulative margin in Finals history). Chris Bosh paused, turned and shook hands with Heat assistant Bob McAdoo. Shane Battier spied a friend, smiled briefly and pantomimed a golf swing, a sign of his impending retirement.

None of them looked happy, obviously. None of them, however, was brought to his knees.

That, after all, is social media’s job, along with the rest of this what-have-you-done-for-me-five-minutes-from-now culture. It musters no patience, offers no comfort and certainly treats nothing sacred, particularly with this team, whose critics outnumber its fans 10-to-1, maybe 100-to-1.

However unceremonious its march into the offseason, Miami had wrapped up four consecutive trips to The Finals. The first, against Dallas in 2011, brought hard lessons and a little humility. The next two produced Larry O’Brien trophies, just like they all had pictured it. This one, three straight beatdowns still hanging in the air, had been telegraphed by slippage in the Heat’s defensive ranks and the loss (via amnesty) of Mike Miller from last year’s team.

This one carried with it some payback from the Spurs, who had been on the other side last June,and it naturally brought a skidload of questions, speculation and uncertainty.

Because this was the Heat and that’s how they roll.

So, Erik Spoelstra, have you guys underachieved? That’s how it went and that’s how it will go for days and weeks and months, now that the ol’ smoke-and-lasers pep rally back of July 2010 (“Not one, not two, not three…”) officially has stopped at two, at least temporarily.

Spoelstra referred to it as “the exaggeration that’s out there.”

“Even as painful as it feels right now, you have to have perspective,” the Heat coach said. “Even the team we’re playing against has never been to the Finals four straight years. You can’t be jaded enough not to appreciate that.”

Wanna bet? Only two other franchises – Boston and the Minneapolis/L.A. Lakers – ever had made it to four Finals in a row. But this was supposed to be about rings, not runners-up. It’s the life they chose, once James, Wade and Bosh conspired to sign with Miami four years ago and gild their resumes through a strength-in-superstar-numbers approach. (more…)

Morning shootaround: June 14


VIDEO: Fisher discusses the Knicks’ roster 

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jordan explains Higgins’ exit | Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? | Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo | Cavaliers closing in on coach

No. 1: Jordan explains Higgins’ exit — For years, a lot of casual observers of the Charlotte NBA team (once Bobcats, now Hornets) figured Rod Higgins held his job as president of basketball operations largely because he was a longtime pal of owner/legend Michael Jordan. But in addressing the reason behind Higgins’ abrupt deision to resign – Jordan shifted more responsibilities to general manager Rich Cho – the GOAT made it clear why he valued having Higgins around too. Here’s a peek at veteran scribe Rick Bonnell‘s Jordan exclusive in the Charlotte Observer:

“Rod’s strong points are working with the coaches and the trainers, traveling with the team,” Jordan said. “He was my buffer zone with the coaches. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas, so I’d work with Rod on that.”
Jordan said he wants Cho, with a background as an attorney, dealing more with budgets and managing the salary cap.
“One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams,” Jordan said. “Sometimes when teams would call (proposing trades), they’d bypass Rod to get to Rich.”
Higgins, with the franchise since 2007, teamed with Cho the last three years. Jordan said that arrangement led to some “confusion over who reported to whom. It created a contentious environment where I had to step in.”
That’s when Jordan proposed these shifts in responsibilities, which Higgins considered a demotion. At that point, Jordan said he asked Higgins if they could wait until after the draft to make a change.
“He chose to leave now,” Jordan said.
Higgins, 54, has been a friend and colleague of Jordan’s for roughly 30 years. They played together with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1980s. Jordan later hired Higgins to help him run the Washington Wizards’ basketball operation. Jordan said that made Friday’s parting extra difficult.
“I had to make a decision about a brother,” Jordan said. “I hope he gets a soft landing and finds (the job) he wants.”

***

No. 2: Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? — Before the 2014 Finals began, the suggestion that Miami might find itself in need of help from erratic forward Michael Beasley would have been seen as an implicit admission that the Heat were headed for trouble against the San Antonio Spurs. Well, they are in trouble, down 3-1 and facing elimination in Game 5 Sunday in San Antonio. And more than a few critics have wondered if Miami coach Erik Spoelstra might look to Beasley as an X factor and counter to Kawhi Leonard‘s offensive impact for the Spurs. Our man Jeff Caplan didn’t necessarily see much of a role for Beasley in the series when they chatted prior to Game 1, but now can offer a look at the maddeningly talented but scatter-careered forward:

Beasley has yet to be active in The Finals and has been inactive in 10 of Miami’s 19 playoff games. He’s played a total of seven minutes in three games. During the regular season, he appeared in a career-low 55 games and averaged career-lows in points (7.9), rebounds (3.1) and minutes (15.1).
Yet, Beasley said: “Honestly, this season has flown by faster than any other I’ve been in. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.”
The Heat had no fun in Games 3 and 4 in Miami and now head back to San Antonio for Sunday’s Game 5 in the unenviable position of trailing 3-1. After Game 4, Spoelstra was asked if Beasley could be an option in Game 5 to provide some much-needed scoring punch. While his playing time was sporadic, Beasley did record a career-high shooting percentage of 49.9 percent and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, a better mark than only his rookie season.
Spoelstra didn’t give a direct answer, and in an indication as to how Beasley is still perceived, the questioner was roasted on Twitter by fans and also media covering The Finals for having even broached the subject.
“I shouldn’t say no. I do, but I’m not going to stress over it,” Beasley said when asked if he cares more now how others view him. “People who know me, my family, my kids, my closest friends, they know me. I’m not trying to get everybody to know that I’m a good guy, a great guy or whatever. At this point I’m just focused on playing basketball.”

***

No. 3: Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo — We can assume that, if numbers came up when basketball boss Phil Jackson, new head coach Derek Fisher and GM Steve Mills of the New York Knicks met with Carmelo Anthony and agent Leon Rose Friday in Los Angeles, the Knicks contingent detailed the pay cuts Anthony would be facing were he to leave New York as a free agent this summer. How big would those cuts be? The difference between a nine-figure deal with N.Y. vs. an eight-figure packages from outside suitors, the latest allegedly the Miami Heat in a refurbished Big 4 vision. Knicks beat writer Al Iannazzone laid out some of the basics for Newsday:

Phil Jackson led a contingent of Knicks officials into a meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Friday in Los Angeles, according to a league source, and presented their plan for turning the team into a contender.
The current blueprint includes Anthony, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. All indications are that Anthony will do that.
Jackson has said he hopes Anthony will “opt in” and wait until 2015 to become a free agent. But a league source said Anthony hasn’t changed his mind after saying all season that he would become a free agent this summer.
If Anthony were to opt in, it would give the Knicks more flexibility next summer, and perhaps in 2016, to sign multiple stars. The 2015 free-agent class could include LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Marc Gasol. Kevin Durant is the big potential prize in 2016.
Jackson was accompanied by general manager Steve Mills and new coach Derek Fisher during the sit-down with Anthony and his agent, Leon Rose. It was the first time Anthony met with Fisher since he became coach.
The Knicks can pay Anthony more than any other team in free agency. A maximum deal from them would be five years and roughly $129 million. But Jackson also has said that if Anthony re-signs, he hopes he will take less to give the Knicks more room for other moves.

***

No. 4: Cavaliers closing in on coach — Holders of the Draft’s No. 1 pick, dreamers when it comes to LeBron James’ possible return as a free agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are said to be getting closer to assigning value to at lease one of their multiple variables: their vacant head coaching position. Longtime Cavs beat writer Bob Finnan wrote about the narrowing field of candidates: Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue, both assistants on Doc Rivers‘ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt:

Clippers assistant coaches Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.
Gentry and Lue met with Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert on June 13. It was their second interview with the Cavs.
Blatt reportedly will meet with the Cavs next week. He previously spoke to Cavs General Manager David Griffin about the position left vacant by the firing of Mike Brown on May 12. Blatt told Israel reporter David Pick that he interviewed for the Cavs’ head-coaching job via the phone.
The 55-year-old Blatt announced during a news conference in Israel on June 12 that he was leaving his position as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. It is believed that he would be joining an NBA team. If he doesn’t get the Cavs’ job, he could join Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s coaching staff as his lead assistant.
However, he’s very much in the mix in Cleveland for the head-coaching position.
Griffin has been doing some background checks on Blatt, and Pick reported that he has spoken to former Cavs’ draft pick Milan Macvan, who played for Blatt in Maccabi. Macvan, a Serbian power forward, was a second-round pick of the Cavs in 2011.
There was a report that Blatt wouldn’t come to the NBA unless he got a head-coaching job. He said on June 12 that wasn’t true.
If those are the three finalists, two of them — the 37-year-old Lue, and Blatt — have never been head coaches in the NBA. The third, 59-year-old Gentry, is considered by some as a coaching retread who has a below-.500 record in 12 years as a head coach. All three coaches are known as offensive-minded, who would take advantage of the Cavs’ personnel.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Miami’s Ray Allen has at least one of these three R’s in his future: Return, relocation or retirement? … Celtics assistant Ron Adams might wind up on Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State, and Julius Randle refutes the claim that his right foot needs surgery. … Tim Duncan has until June 24 to opt in for next season. He, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich all have contracts that run through 2014-15, should they choose to give it one more season. … One more inspiring scrap-heap-to-Finals-star Boris Diaw story. … Can Dante Exum vault into the Top 3 and rock the 2014 Draft? … Sid Lowe goes to the Timberwolves for a third (or is it fourth?) go-around, with Sam Mitchell invoking “country club” privileges next. … Larry Bird tries to help disappointed Pacers fans buck up … We’re not clear as to which trio should feel more disrespected by this, the Heat’s Big 3 or the classic comedic geniuses.

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

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s up to Beasley to make believers.

Morning Shootaround — June 7


VIDEO: Popovich discusses Finals opener, looks toward Game 2

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Spurs look to get sharper for Game 2 | LeBron knows he’s an easy target | AT&T Center air is working | Utah Jazz hire Quin Snyder | Kings to give Rudy Gay full-court press

No. 1: Spurs look to get sharper for Game 2 — Even though the Spurs ended up winning Game 1 of The Finals by a whopping 15 points, 110-95, there were several facets of their game that could be tightened up in Game 2. And don’t you just know that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is going to be all over the little things?

Right at the top of the list were 23 turnovers, an amount that almost always spells doom against the Heat. Indeed, Thursday’s game marked just the fifth time in 52 games they’ve lost when forcing at least that many since signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh before the start of the 2011-12 season.

“For us, that’s always a bad sign,” said Popovich, even though his team is 12-6 this season when committing 18 or more miscues. “We escaped last night by shooting the ball the way we did, I guess. So if that continues, we’re going to have a big problem.”

Every bit as galling were the wide-open 3-pointers conceded by a defense that allowed the fewest makes from long range in the NBA this season. The Heat still made 12-for-29 beyond the arc, but it could have been far worse had they capitalized on more looks.

In particular, Ray Allen missed three open 3s in the span of two possessions. They were among nearly 30 Miami jumpers classified as open by NBA.com’s player tracking data, the type of breakdowns that gave Popovich the sweats even beyond the sweltering temperature at the AT&T Center.

“I thought they missed some wide, wide open shots that they had, that scare you to death once you watch the film,” Popovich said. “That’s not just blowing smoke or an exaggeration.  There were about seven or eight wide-open threes they had that just didn’t go down.”

The Heat helped mitigate those mistakes by suffering similar breakdowns. In addition to committing 18 turnovers of their own — leading to 27 points for the Spurs, one more than Miami scored on their miscues — they pitched almost no resistance at the 3-point line as the Spurs made 13 of 25 from long range.

***

No. 2: LeBron knows he’s an easy target — LeBron James was carried off the court with cramps toward the end of Game 1, and despite suffering from an injury where he couldn’t really move, LeBron was still on the business end of a lot of jokes. In an interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, LeBron said he understands that the criticism goes with the territory.

“For me, all I can control is what I control,” James told Wilbon. “For me, as one of the leaders of our team, one of the biggest competitors of our team, and knowing what it takes to win, for me, I’ll maintain my focus and get ready for Game 2. (There’s) anger in the sense that I wasn’t able to be out there for my teammates to possibly help them win Game 1 of the Finals. But what I can control is what I do to prepare myself mentally going to the next game.”

Heading into the 2011-12 season, James made it a point to start attempting to enjoy his life more, and to do that he stopped consuming as much media. After seeking the advice of Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Jerry West, James said that he started to focus on enjoying the process and the journey instead of focusing solely on the end result.

In the three seasons since, James said he has gotten more comfortable and become more immune to attacks.

“I can’t play the game of basketball and live my life on what other people expect me to do or what they think I should do, that doesn’t make me happy,” James said. “What makes me happy is being able to make plays for my teammates, to be able to represent the name on the back of my jersey. That’s what makes me happy. What everybody else thinks? That doesn’t really matter to me.”

***

No. 3: AT&T Center air is working — Big news for everyone playing in Game 2, not to mention all the fans and media who will be in attendance: The Spurs say the air conditioning inside the AT&T Center has been fixed and is working! Probably a good idea to go ahead and hydrate, though, just in case.

The Spurs issued a statement during Thursday’s humid, cramp-inducing game that pinned the blame on an electrical problem. Friday morning the Spurs announced the problem — whatever it was — had been fixed.

“The electrical failure that caused the AC system outage during Game 1 of the NBA Finals has been repaired,” Spurs spokesman Carlos Manzanillo said in a written statement released Friday morning

“The AC system has been tested, is fully operational and will continue to be monitored,” Manzanillo continued.

“The upcoming events at the AT&T Center, including the Romeo Santos concert tonight, the Stars game on Saturday night and Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, will go on as scheduled. We apologize for the conditions in the arena during last night’s game.”

***

No. 4: Utah Jazz hire Quin Snyder — As the Jazz continue their rebuilding campaign, they’ve hired a coach working to rebuild his own reputation. Quin Snyder was once the fast track to a career as a college coach, but when that didn’t work out he ended up bouncing around professional basketball and working his way up. Now he will be the eighth head coach in Jazz franchise history.

One ‘n’ in his first name. Two majors and advanced degrees from Duke University. Three Final Four appearances as a point guard with the Blue Devils. Four previous jobs in the NBA, including with the Clippers, Sixers, Lakers and Hawks.

Five on the list of Jazz coaches since the franchise moved to Utah in 1979, following in the footsteps of Tyrone Corbin, Jerry Sloan, Frank Layden and Tom Nissalke.

Six gigs in the past five years, including this new one and stops in Atlanta, Moscow, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas.

And the list of accolades, accomplishments, trivial tidbits, flowing hair references and, yes, questions about his past go on for this former Missouri coach, who will be formally introduced to Utah in a Saturday morning press conference.

“The opportunity to join the Utah Jazz and to be part of such a highly respected franchise with an incredibly bright future is a great honor,” Snyder said via a statement released by Jazz PR. “I approach this opportunity with gratitude and humility and am committed to doing everything I can to help the Jazz become a championship-caliber team.”

If that last phrase sounds familiar, it might be because Snyder had a working relationship with Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey from 2007-10 when they both worked for the San Antonio organization. “Championship-caliber team” is a phrase Lindsey has repeated often since he was hired as the Jazz general manager since leaving his assistant GM position with the Spurs two years ago.

After deciding to not renew Corbin’s contract following the 25-57 rebuilding season of 2013-14, Lindsey and Jazz ownership believe Snyder is the guy who can best help get this franchise back to that level. Not only is he well known for being a bright basketball mind, but he’s also been credited for developing talent and being a motivating leader.

***

No. 5: Kings to give Gay full-court press — Sacramento forward Rudy Gay has a few weeks to decide whether he’ll use an opt-out clause that could make him an unrestricted free agent. On the one hand, if he hits free agency he could sign a long-term deal. On the other hand, if he doesn’t opt-out, he will make a reported $19 million next season. Seems like an easy choice, but the Kings intend to make sure Gay stays a King by putting together a high-tech presentation that will include virtual reality glasses.

Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, a former Kings star, are expected to join Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Pete D’Alessandro and head coach Michael Malone when they meet with Gay.

Gay was originally expected to have the meeting in his offseason home of Memphis, but preferred to have it in Sacramento.

When asked recently about his decision process, Gay told Yahoo Sports: “I’m just taking my time. That’s all.”

If Gay opts into his contract for next season, it could pave the way for future extension talks. During the meetings, the Kings also will have Gay wear a headset with eyewear that will give him a complete virtual digital tour of the inside of the new Kings arena, including the locker room and arena floor. The new Kings arena is expected to open in September 2016.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Donald Sterling still hasn’t signed the papers to complete the sale of the Clippers … Scott Brooks will be back next season in OKC … Before hiring himself as head coach, Flip Sanders tried to hire Jeff Van Gundy in Minnesota … This guy tracks every tattoo in the NBA … 76ers are looking into building a waterfront practice facility in New Jersey … Jabari Parker might be a nice fit in MilwaukeeAlvin Gentry is still in the mix for the Cavs’ coaching gig … But Derek Fisher is not in the mix in Los Angeles

Morning Shootaround — June 6


VIDEO: The Daily Zap from Game 1 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

A new referendum on LeBron | Spurs Way rises in the heat | Green burns the Heat … again | Jackson-Fisher set to talk

No. 1: A new referendum on LeBron The Alamo won’t go down as one of the favorite places LeBron James has been during his worldly travels. The Miami Heat star wilted under the intense heat at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday night, sparking a new round of criticism from folks who question his mental (and now physical) toughness. And as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports points out, the LeBron debate once again snatches the spotlight from The Finals itself and a Spurs team that put together a monster and record-setting fourth quarter shooting barrage to win the game:

Fair or not, this NBA Finals is now very much about LeBron James because no matter the reality of how a propensity to cramp is the sole known downside to having a 6-foot-8, 265-pound body capable of playing all five positions on the court, no one was spending any time postgame defending him.

“Look,” Heat coach Erik Spolestra said, “both teams had to do it, we’re not making excuses.”

Instead Miami pointed to poor defense (the Spurs shot 58.8 percent from the floor), bad defensive rotations in crunch time sans-LeBron, and its 16 turnovers. The heat, they actually reveled in. LeBron’s faltering, after scoring 25 points and grabbing six rebounds, was shrugged off. Who needs AC? Ray Allen said it reminded him of his non-air conditioned high school gym back in Dalzell, South Carolina.

“I loved it,” Allen said. “… I felt right at home. Keeps my body loose.”

Shane Battier pointed to his college days at Duke, where Cameron Indoor Stadium at the time was left to the elements – and heated by tightly packed Cameron Crazies.

“It didn’t bother me,” Battier said. “It was that hot in Cameron Indoor every single game. It was a huge, huge advantage. Ten thousand people on you, no AC.”

The Spurs’ Tony Parker went with his days back in France and across the European leagues.

“We never have AC in Europe,” Parker said, “so it didn’t bother me at all.”

Even Dwyane Wade just shrugged. Heat and humidity isn’t normally part of the NBA these days, but the game is the game.

“If you play basketball,” Wade said, “you play basketball where it’s hot like this. I think everybody has done it before.”

This sounded like a parade of tough guy talk radio callers wanting to bolster themselves with the illusion of being stronger than LeBron. Only it was James’ teammates and peers, and that’s why this won’t be easy to shake.

Physically, with Game 2 not coming until Sunday, LeBron will recover. Image wise, he’s back to getting bashed like back before he became a champion.

“Everybody was tired,” the Spurs’ Danny Green said. “Everybody was sluggish.”

No sympathy. Just high stakes.


VIDEO: The Game Time crew discusses LeBron and his cramping up late in Game 1

(more…)

Cramps cut down The King

VIDEO: Tim Duncan and the Spurs beat the Heat — and heat — in Game 1

SAN ANTONIO – LeBron James probably has had 140 or so “podium games” in his NBA playoff career (he’s played 154). And then, finally, in Game 1 of The 2014 Finals at the AT&T Center Thursday he had …

A sodium game.

Dehydration from an overheated arena with a broken-down air conditioning system led to severe cramping for the Miami Heat superstar, and the cramping sent James to the bench at pivotal moments in the fourth quarter, a quarter won by the San Antonio Spurs 36-17 as they grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship round.

Grabbed it and were lucky not to have it squirt from their hands, from the perspiration.

“As the game started, I was like, ‘Wow, it feels nice and warm in here. I’m feeling good,’ ” said Miami guard Ray Allen, the leanest and probably best-conditioned player on the floor. “Then when we called the first timeout, [Dwyane] Wade was drenched. And LeBron said, ‘He looks like he played the whole game already.’ “

Playing the whole game was a problem, particularly for James. Temperatures in the building, high at tipoff, only rose with a sold-out crowd of 18,581, the bright lights of network TV coverage and the intensity on the court.

James said he downed a bunch of fluids at halftime and even changed his uniform “to get the sweat up off of you.” Both the Miami and San Antonio trainers gave their players ice bags and cold towels on their respective benches. It was managed as well as it could be, until the mercury rose further and adrenaline mattered less than electrolytes.

“I got all the fluids I need to get,” James said after getting more delivered intravenously in the postgame locker room. “I do my normal routine I’ve done and it was inevitable for me. … I lost all the fluids that I was putting in in the last couple of days out there on the floor.”

The Spurs’ Tim Duncan had noticed James subbing out a couple of times in the second half and assumed he was tired, same as the rest of them. Only it was worse than that. The Heat star had battled cramps before – he had famously returned from a bout with them in Game 4 the 2012 Finals against Oklahoma City to hit a crucial shot – and he was seizing up Thursday night like never before.

The worst of it came deep into the final quarter after James subbed back in with 4:33 left. He drove hard to the rim for a layup and kept going into the baseline area, pulling up, testing his leg and finally just stopping. Was it an ankle injury? Nope, more like his left hamstring and calf muscles caught in a vise grip. He was, in that instant as the Spurs pushed the ball toward the other end, helpless. He had to be hurriedly half-carried to the bench, lest the Heat get charged with a timeout.

“The best option for me to do was not to move,” he told a pool reporter late Thursday. “I tried and any little step or nudge, it would get worse. It would lock up worse and my muscles spasmed 10 out of 10.”

It was not just James’ left leg but, he said, “damn near the whole left side.” Down 94-92 when the cramps stopped James, Miami got outscored 16-3 from over the final four minutes.

To their credit, the Heat didn’t dwell on James’ condition as an excuse for their unraveling. “I was worried about him,” Allen said. “But at that moment, I wasn’t thinking about it as much as what we needed to do. We did let go of the rope a little bit. We gave up stuff defensively and offensively, we didn’t get to our stuff. We had some empty, open possessions we didn’t convert and they did.”

Allowing the other team to shoot 58 percent and turning over the ball 18 times can undercut grumbles about a thermostat.

Still, it was bizarre seeing a Finals opener being decided with James sitting out right in camera range, planted on the bench not by foul trouble but by the body that has been so good to him in this instance betraying him.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra made the decision to shut him down for the night. “Look, at one point he was getting up with 3½ minutes to go,” Spoelstra said, “and I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t even think about it. You can’t even move at this point.’ ” Instead, James was dispatched to the locker room and, minutes later, the Heat were simply dispatched.

Afterward, a few especially creative conspiracy theorists tried to float the notion that the Spurs somehow arranged for the AC breakdown, calculating James’ propensity for cramps. But Rod Thorn, NBA president of basketball operations, considered the circumstances little more than another hot game, like a bunch of other hot playoff games through the years.

“What you are looking for is to make sure that the conditions on the court are fine, and in this case there was no one slipping,” Thorn said. “Once the game starts, it’s in the hands of the referees. Had the referees felt at any time – or I had felt at any time, I was sitting the second row midcourt – that the game should not be continued, then they would have come over and said something to me. Never did.”

Both coaches used nine players, but ran them in and out more like hockey shifts.

“Players were pretty dead,” San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich said. “So we tried to get guys in and out a little bit more than we usually do. Kind of screws up the rhythm but it was mighty hot out there.”

Said Spoelstra: “We’re used to having the hotter arena at this time of year.”

Unpleasant as the temperature in the building was, most of the players had experience performing in similar conditions. Heat forward Shane Battier likened it to his time at Duke, playing in that campus’ famous Cameron Indoor Stadium in its pre-air conditioned days. “It was a huge, huge, homecourt advantage. Ten thousand people on you, no AC – it brought me back,” Battier said.

Allen and James flashed back to their high school gym. San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said: “We never have AC in Europe, so it didn’t bother me at all.”

Thorn said the NBA believes “very strongly” that the air conditioning issue will be fixed by Game 2. Both the AT&T Center and James have until Sunday evening to get right.

“I need it, I need it,” the Heat star said, adding that he and the training staff would start replenishing his fluids Thursday night.

Allen, a fitness maven, offered a more detailed recovery plan for his teammate. “Obviously it starts the day before, coming into the game, just refueling and resting,” the veteran guard said. “But when you’re out there, you’ve got to get that salt back into your body. You’re dispensing so much of it. For him, we’ve got to find a way to keep getting Gatorade into him while he’s on the bench, just to make sure he stays hydrated.”

Technically, James’ endorsement deal is with Powerade. But it wasn’t a night to remember for the sports drink folks, either.

VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses the impact of LeBron’s cramps on Game 1

Green goes from cold to hot in a flash

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Danny Green’s breakaway dunk is the Play of the Day

SAN ANTONIO – Inside a house that was hotter than a bowl of South Texas salsa, Danny Green was the frozen margarita.

The San Antonio Spurs’ sharpshooter entered Game 1 of these NBA Finals warming the home nets in the postseason to the tune of nearly 60 percent from beyond the arc. Thursday night, his team trailing the Miami Heat near the halfway point of the final period and legs getting heavier by the ticking second inside the humid, steamy, air-condition-less AT&T Center, Green was so cold — 0-for-5 overall and 0-for-4 from deep — that he might as well have been dropping Spalding-sized chunks of hail.

“That’s what he does, you know? That’s [shooting 3s] his major skill,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “If he’s not going to do that, then we might as well play somebody else. That’s the honest-to-God’s truth. I thought the percentages were with him. So we stuck him back out there and he came through.”

Green suddenly sizzled, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers, then slamming home a dunk in transition before splashing another 3 — 11 of his 13 points in a span of two minutes, 17 seconds of the fourth quarter that turned an 86-84 Spurs deficit into a 97-92 lead that would become a 110-95 victory.

It was all part of a 31-9 blistering to close out a monstrous fourth quarter that left LeBron James badly cramping, defeated by the stifling heat and out of the game for the final 3:59 as the Spurs padded their cushion and seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“I felt it, too, but lucky for me I didn’t cramp up,” Green said of the heat that had 18,581 fans fanning themselves with whatever they could find to initiate even the slightest breeze. “He [James] played a lot of minutes. Everybody was tired, everybody was drained, everybody was sluggish, but I’m proud of my guys that fought through it.”

For three quarters, Green was just fighting it.

Popovich removed him with 9:38 to go in the fourth quarter. Heat forward Chris Bosh had completed a four-point play, fouled by Tim Duncan out beyond the arc, that pushed Miami ahead 86-79.

The Spurs seemed to be the team wilting late in the stifling, stagnating air that had players downing fluids and flopping cold, wet towels over their heads in an attempt to lower body temperatures. For most of the game it was warmer inside the arena than outside because an electrical problem knocked out the arena’s capability to run the air conditioning for the entire game.

After Bosh’s free throw, San Antonio cut it to 86-84 and Popovich, playing the percentages that Green would heat up, subbed him in for Kawhi Leonard with 7:31 to go.

With 6:07 to go, Green banged in his first 3-pointer of the game to make it 88-87 Heat.

“It helps with the next one,” Green said. “When one goes in it helps gain a little rhythm.”

Ray Allen missed a layup at the other end and Green popped in a 25-footer to give San Antonio the lead back, 90-87.

“Once two go in it helps with confidence as well,” Green said, and he told himself: “Just continue to shoot the ball and not think about the previous shot, just stick to the basics, the fundamentals, take my time and hold my follow-through.”

His one-handed slam after a long, arching lead pass from Duncan made it 94-90. Then James’ layup made it 94-92, but once he landed he couldn’t move, paralyzed by a cramp up and down his left leg. He limped up the floor and finally had to be carried by teammates the final few feet to the Heat bench.

Nine seconds later, Green had his third 3-pointer to make it 97-92, and the previously melting Spurs were suddenly in the midst of a scorching 14-for-16 final quarter (87.5 percent) with Green a perfect 4-for-4.

“He kept his head in the game and he was the difference-maker,” Manu Ginobili said.

A year ago, Green’s hand was so hot from deep that he was on his way to likely becoming the Finals MVP had the Spurs closed it out in six games. Of course, they did not, and his hot start drifted into an arctic freeze, 2-for-19 in the final two games.

“No added pressure,” Green said. “I know sometimes I’m going to be open, sometimes I’m not; sometimes it’s going to fall, sometimes it’s not. But one thing throughout the years I’ve learned as a shooter, you can’t think about it too much. Shooters shoot.”

That was Popovich’s philosophy — a belief that the coldest player on the floor, would soon turn as hot as the building.

VIDEO: Danny Green talks to the GameTime crew after Game 1

GameDay Live: Heat-Spurs Game 1


VIDEO: The AC went out and so did LeBron James late in Game 1 of The Finals won by the San Antonip Spurs

SAN ANTONIO — What do you do when your best player, the best player in the world by most people’s standard, cannot handle the heat in the AT&T Center?

If you’re the Miami Heat, you watch LeBron James head to the locker room early with cramps and fall victim to a San Antonio Spurs team that beat the Heat twice Thursday night in Game 1 of The Finals.

The air conditioning in the building went out early (officially, “An electrical failure for the power that runs the AC system” went out). LeBron went out late. And Danny Green helped the Spurs turned the lights out on both the heat and the Heat in the final four minutes of the game.

The Spurs handled their business, winning a fantastic game with a late push (their 14-for-16 shooting effort was the best in Finals history) to hold on to home court advantage.

Bigger questions linger for Game 2 Sunday … will LeBron recover in time and will the AC be fixed?

***

This is how you #BeatDaHeat …

Spurs doing what you’d expect from a championship outfit … finishing in style! Game 1 in the books.

Believe the hype (and the numbers) …

Numbers never lie, right?

Down goes James! Down goes James!

LeBron comes back in and makes a layup to stop the bleeding but cannot make it back up the floor. Ball game for the Spurs. Seriously, if he sits the rest of the way it’s over.

The AC issues in here are legit, btw. But LeBron’s going to get hammered for this by his haters. No way around it.

(more…)

Jones: Collective sacrifice fuels Heat


VIDEO: Ray Allen talks about how the Heat handled themselves in advance of another Finals trip

SAN ANTONIO — As much as the narrative of the Miami Heatles has centered on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh from the start, the four-year journey this team is still on is not strictly about those stars.

Yes, they sacrificed individual glory to be a part of what has become a movement, of sorts, in Miami and beyond. But they are not the only ones. Every man on the Heat roster has had to make some sort of sacrifice to be here, and that’s not lost on any of them.

The same “Heatles” t-shirts worn by Wade and Bosh after the Heat’s shootaround Thursday morning were like the ones worn by Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and James Jones.

The Big 3?

Sure.

But this Heat team is so much more than that, the connection goes so much deeper than that and the collective sacrifice is so much greater than it appears from the outside.

“This is just the continuation of our chemistry,” Jones said of the Heatles t-shirts and the energetic vibe surrounding the Heat as they head into Game 1 Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs. “We came into this thing, basically, all committed to an ideal and goal of winning a championship. And that meant we had to sacrifice on a lot of fronts. And until you get a chance to know these guys  … some people look at it financially, just the money [sacrificed] or the opportunity to win a championship. But for each guy, those ideals are different. So for each guy, as you get to know them better, you get a chance to help each other cope with those sacrifices. Because it’s not easy. And the better we can help each other manage it, the better our team becomes.”

For the role players, the sacrifice is more about playing time and prominence. A role player, a veteran shooter, like Jones might log major minutes depending on a matchup. Or he might not see the floor, for the exact same reason. Either way, he has to be ready on a Heat team where coach Erik Spoelstra will not hesitate to go outside of the box to get the desired results.

It’s an approach I’ve dubbed #ByAnyMeansNecessary, and one that Spoelstra and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have utilized to the fullest last season when they led their teams to The Finals and again throughout this postseason to deliver us all the rematch.

It’s all born out of the same place, though, for the Heat and the Spurs … the collective sacrifice. No matter how you come together (be it for four years or 12), to reach this point in a season takes the ultimate sacrifice on the part of so many.

“Until you’re a champion no one can ever really imagine how difficult it is to get here [four years in a row or two straight year],” said Jones, who has been on the Heat roster longer than anyone except for Wade, Udonis Haslem and as long as Chalmers, who said, “It’s not all physical and it’s not all mental. It’s a mix. And when you throw expectations, your own expectations, on top of that, it’s a heavy load. And the champions find a way to manage that and overcome it.”