Heat mailbag: Where does Carmelo Anthony fit it with the Heat (if he does at all). That & more on tanking

Carmelo Anthony cheers on his Oklahoma City teammates during the Thunder’s playoff series against the Utah Jazza in April. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Time for another Miami Heat mailbag

If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpost.com.

From @ChrisHypeTrain: Where would Carmelo Anthony fit in with the Heat?

Oklahoma City is moving on from Anthony. The question is how do they part? Will it be a trade? Will OKC stretch the $27.9 million they owe him in the final year of his deal? Do the two sides agree to a buyout?

The later two scenarios would make Anthony a free agent and available to any team – presumably for the $3.4 million veteran minimum – including the Heat.

Does an Anthony deal make sense for the Heat?

Miami has two obstacles. First, with 11 players due about $120 million, the Heat are about $18 million over the cap and just $4 million shy of the luxury tax line, something Pat Riley is trying to avoid crossing. Without any other moves, Anthony would put you closer to that luxury tax line, and that’s without Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade or Udonis Haslem under contract. And if Anthony wants to come to the Heat, one of the biggest reasons would be to play alongside his friend, Wade.

Secondly, the Heat’s roster is lacking great players but has an excess of good players who could be in the rotation. The 6-foot-8 Anthony played most of his minutes at power forward last season which means coach Erik Spoelstra would have to find minutes for Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and Anthony in the power rotation. And if the thought is to give Anthony more minutes at small forward then he’s competing with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Derrick Jones Jr. for playing time.

As for his role in Miami, Anthony would step in as one of the top scoring options and the Heat would find a way to hide his defensive deficiencies.

Unless a third team is involved, and Atlanta really is the only one with enough cap space, the Thunder likely are not going to trade Anthony to the Heat because Miami would then have to match Anthony’s salary in the deal and that does nothing to help OKC reduce its mammoth luxury tax bill.

So, for the Heat to sign Anthony, they need to make a trade that not only would shed salary but also include a player or two, especially one of the power forwards. Ideally, enough cap space is created to fit in Anthony, Wade and Ellington.

The best fit among the three teams linked to Anthony is Houston. There, he also gets to play with one of his friends, Chris Paul, but more importantly, he’d replace Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Suns, although it is not ideal considering Ariza is a small forward. Anthony’s role in Houston would be similar to what is was in OKC as the third option.

As for the Lakers, yes, Anthony also is close to LeBron James, but the Lakers have an overabundance of players up front. The plan is to play James at power forward with Kyle Kuzma coming off the bench. We know James will play 36-38 minutes a game. Signing Anthony could cut into Kuzma’s minutes, something the Lakers do not want to do after he had such a strong rookie season.

From DjHitbwoy: Is this the perfect season for the Miami Heat to trade and tank? With us having a 2019 first round pick we can look forward to drafting Zion Williamson and try trading Whiteside contract to LA Clippers

Didn’t we hear enough of this in 2017 when fans wanted the Heat to go against everything the franchise stands for an tank after that 11-30 start? The Heat never will enter a season with the objective to lose as many games as possible and hope for a high pick. Trading Hassan Whiteside will be challenging and may not happen this summer. If not, the Heat will work tirelessly with Whiteside to improve his game with the hopes of moving up in the standings.

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NBA Finals: What’s it like to face the Warriors? LeBron James says it’s ‘like playing the Patriots’

Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors celebrate with Kevin Durant #35 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

How big is the gap between the Cavaliers and Warriors? Just look at Cleveland’s razor-thin margin for error and Golden State’s not-so-small margin for error.

The Cavaliers got a triple-double from LeBron James and a combined 48 points from Kevin Love, Rodney Hood and JR Smith. But that wasn’t enough in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, and neither was a 51-point performance from James in Game 1.

The Warriors got a 3-of-16 shooting performance from Stephen Curry and a 4-of-11 shooting performance form Klay Thompson, as the Splash Brothers combined for just 21 points on 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range. But that was actually enough because Golden State also has Kevin Durant. Continue reading “NBA Finals: What’s it like to face the Warriors? LeBron James says it’s ‘like playing the Patriots’”

LeBron James, Stephen Curry to President Trump: No matter who wins, we are not coming

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

 

The Miami Heat are not in a position to be invited to the White House, let alone refuse the invitation, not now and who knows if ever while Donald Trump holds the title of president.

But several teams have and the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are the latest who will not be honored in the nation’s capital, as was the case with the Golden State Warriors a year ago when Trump withdrew an invitation for the NBA champions to visit the White House. Trump’s decision came after learning Stephen Curry was considering boycotting the trip. And like the Warriors, few members of the Eagles planned on visiting the White House even before the invitation was rescinded.

With the Warriors holding a 2-0 lead over the Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals, players were asked today about Trump’s decision to disinvite the Eagles. Cleveland’s LeBron James said today that “no matter who wins this series, no one wants the invite anyway. So, it won’t be Golden State or Cleveland going.”

Curry added: “I agree with ‘Bron. Pretty sure the way we handled things last year kind of stayed consistent with that.”

James, Curry along with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Spurs coach Greg Popovich and former Pistons and Heat coach Stan Van Gundy have been among the most outspoken critics of Trump, his policies and what Kerr has labeled his “racist, misogynist, insulting words.”

Last year, Trump posted a tweet that read: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

The Warriors still celebrated its championship during the season on their trip to Washington D.C by touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

As for the Heat, though not as outspoken, the vibe is most would take the same stance if one day they had the opportunity.

Prior to last season, Justise Winslow said Trump has “damaged” the honor of visiting the White House. Winslow was part of the Duke contingent that visited the White House when Barack Obama was president. The invite came after the Blue Devils captured the NCAA title in 2015.

“As a kid that’s something I dreamed about, winning the championship and going to the White House and I did it and it was such an amazing experience,” Winslow said in September. “Now, it is damaged.

“If my time comes during his run I’ll probably also sit out. Hopefully one day it can be that honor that it once was. Hopefully I will be OK with going back one day.”

Udonis Haslem has been one of the Heat’s more outspoken players when it comes to Trump and comments, especially concerning the issue of NFL players conducting protests to racial injustices by kneeling during the National Anthem.

The NFL recently banned kneeling on the field during the National Anthem, with many saying the league caved to Trump.

“It’s like every time he opens his mouth. … it’s like, oh, really?” Haslem said prior to last season. “When you think you can’t say anything worse he just kind of figures it out. It’s unfortunate.”

Winslow, who is very socially-aware, is offended by Trump’s tone.

“One of my biggest problems is the way he uses his platform, his language, I don’t think that’s how our president should be speaking, that vulgar tone,” he said. “And we saw that during his run for presidency, his character. I think that’s kind of where the problems start.”

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[Heat Mailbag: Is the Brightline station mural a message to Whiteside? That & more on Richardson]

[Heat Mailbag: Does LeBron James look like a man who is ready to bolt Cleveland again? That & more on Whiteside, the draft]

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NBA Finals: Stephen Curry puts on a show; Cavaliers look deflated in Game 2 loss to Warriors

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors celebrates with Draymond Green during the fourth quarter of Game 2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Coach Tyronn Lue insisted the Cleveland was not a broken team after squandering a great opportunity to steal Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Lue said the Cavaliers were ready for Sunday’s Game 2 in Oakland.

Lue’s team did not back him up.

Game 2 was more like what most expected from this series. The Cavaliers fell behind early and never led. Now they limp back to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday down 0-2.

“I didn’t think we started the game like we needed to start,” Lue said as Golden State made its first seven field goal attempts. “Not being physical enough. We can’t start the game like that. … We have to start the game better, being more physical, bringing the physicality. We didn’t do that tonight to start.”

The Cavaliers can say what they want but Thursday’s loss was deflating and took something out of the underdogs. Cleveland was flat on both ends of the court for most of the first half and after cutting into the lead in the third quarter, quickly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter as Golden State stretched the lead to 23 before setting fo a 122-103 victory.

Cleveland reverted back to the shaky defensive team was saw all season, allowing the Warriors to shoot 57.3 percent from the field and LeBron James wasn’t anything close to matching his extraordinary Game 1 effort. And unless James plays out of this world, the Cavaliers have no chance.

James once again filled the stat sheet with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 13 assists, but his impact was nothing like Game 1 when he dropped 51. And James looked fatigued at times playing all but the final 4:09. He now has played 185:29 of a possible 197 minutes in the last four games. When LeBron is tired it shows more on the defensive end and in his effort getting back on defense. And he spent more time whining about non-calls than usual.

“It sucks to lose,” said James, who insists he got tired once during the game. “It sucks when you go out there and give everything you have – your mind’s into it, your body’s into it and you come out on the losing end.”

Cleveland forward LeBron James sits on the bench during the second half of the Cavaliers’ Game 2 Finals loss to the Warriors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Stephen Curry highlight film: The first one came with 7:54 to play in the game. With the shot clock running down Curry briefly lost his dribble, picked up the ball and threw up a high-arcing shot from about 30 feet over Kevin Love that cleaning went through to push the Warriors lead to 14. About two minutes later, Curry raced to the corner and launched another 3-pointer, again over Love. The only difference this time was he landed on his back as he was fouled by Love and the shot turned into a four-point play.

“A big moment where we had a significant lead and we could extend it a little bit and create some separation down the stretch,” Curry said about the three that beat shot clock. “It was a cool moment for sure.”

The two 3-pointers were part of Curry’s Finals record of nine (in 17 attempts). He finished with 33 points and placed himself as the leading contender for Finals MVP. And that is saying a lot when for the second straight game the Warriors’ Big Three all topped 20 points with Kevin Duran scoring 26 (on 10-of-14 shooting) and Klay Thompson adding 20 (8 of 13).

    Warriors fans taunt JR Smith: Cleveland’s JR Smith wasn’t going to forget about one of the biggest blunders in Finals history in Game 1, a play that dominated the conversation during the two-day break between games. Smith’s meltdown in the final seconds of regulation – he dribbled out the final 4.7 seconds with the score tied – gave the Warriors life, who took advantage and dominated the overtime.

Warriors fans first showed Smith how much they appreciated his contributing to their team’s win by loudly cheering him during pregame introductions. Then, with Smith at the foul line, he heard chants of “MVP, MVP.” One fan brought a sign saying Smith was “DA REAL MVP.”

And how did Smith respond? He finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting but wasn’t about to admit the taunts got under his skin. Then again, this is a man who wanted everybody to believe that he knew the score at the end of Game 1 and was dribbling the ball to halfcourt looking for a better shot.

“I’m always a person who the fans like to talk to or heckle,” Smith said. “I like it. I’d rather they do that than not acknowledge me at all. I appreciate it.”

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One local product had his JR Smith moment in postseason 34 years ago

Cavaliers guard JR Smith’s meltdown in the final seconds of regulation in Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be a part of his legacy.

But one former NBA star was able to overcome the same blunder much earlier in his career.

Derek Harper, who was raised in West Palm Beach and starred at North Shore High School, had a similar experience during the 1984 Western Conference semifinals while a rookie for the Dallas Mavericks. Harper shook off the mistake and went on to play 16 solid seasons in the NBA, including 12 with the Mavericks, who retired Harper’s No. 12 jersey this past season.

Derek Harper speaks before his #12 jersey is retired by the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on January 7, 2018 in Dallas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Harper, an 11th overall pick out of Illinois in 1983, was on the court for the final seconds of Game 4 of the 1984 Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers. The score was tied at 108 when Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar missed a shot with 12 seconds to play. The ball eventually went to Harper with about six seconds remaining.

Thinking Dallas had the lead, Harper stood near midcourt and dribbled out the clock with Magic Johnson loosely guarding him.

The Lakers took control in overtime, winning 122-115 to take a 3-1 series lead. L.A. closed out the Mavericks in five games.

“Yeah, I saw J.R.’s mistake. Of course you feel for him,” Harper told the New York Post Friday. “You (feel bad) even though we live in a society that pushes you to fail more than succeed nowadays because of social media. People want controversy, whether it’s at somebody else’s cost or not. So of course you feel sorry for the guy. It’s human error when you think about it, and we’ve all experienced human error. It’s just not exposed in front of millions and millions of people watching an NBA Finals game.”

Lakers general manager Jerry West called it “one of the strangest, most bizarre things I’ve ever seen,” during an interview before the next game.

“When he kept dribbling, I had to look at the scoreboard to make sure of the score,” West said. “Everything crosses your mind in a situation like that, so I was wondering if he wanted the game to go into overtime and, if so, why. … It was a good break for us.”

West added, “I just hope it doesn’t have a lasting effect on Harper’s career. He does a nice job for Dallas.”

It didn’t. Harper had a solid career averaging 15.2 points, 6.3 assists and twice being voted to the All-Defensive second team. From 1987-88 to 1992-93 Harper started all but three games and averaged 18.0 points and 6.8 points.

“I was (a rookie) at the time and it was an honest mistake,” Harper told the New York Post. “The question becomes how you rebound from it.

“You’re always supposed to know the time and the score. I’ve been hearing that since I was 5 years old, but people have mental lapses. The repercussion is for everybody to go crazy and talk about how bad the play was and ‘What were you thinking?’ You could look at (LeBron James’) reaction to see how he felt about it.

Smith rebounded teammate George Hill’s missed free throw with less than five seconds remaining in Thursday’s Game 1 and the score tied at 107. He dribbled to halfcourt before realizing Cleveland was not leading. By that time it was too late as he tried to get the ball to Hill for a desperation shot.

Like the Mavericks in 1984, the Cavaliers wilted in overtime, losing 124-114.

But unlike Harper, Smith did not admit to his mistake. He said he knew the score and dribbled toward halfcourt looking for an opening for a shot. But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith thought the Cavaliers were leading.

“That’s the wrong way to go about it. When you make a mistake, you own the mistake and move on,” Harper said. “The only thing that will set you free is to be open and honest. I don’t know how else to say it.”

Heat president Pat Riley was coach of the Lakers at that time. Harper later joined up with Riley in New York and was Riley’s starting point guard for the Knicks team that went to the 1993-94 NBA Finals.

Harper works as an analyst for the Mavericks television broadcasts.

 

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Heat’s Kelly Olynyk weighs in on bizarre ending to Game 1 of Finals

Miami’s Kelly Olynyk reacts during at game against Boston this past season. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Miami Heat big man Kelly Olynyk is half a world away, in India, and did not have a chance to watch Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

But Olynyk, who is at the NBA Academy India in the National Capital Territory of Delhi to serve as coaches for Basketball Without Borders Asia, knows how one of the more bizarre Finals games ended Thursday with controversial plays at the end of regulation and overtime of the Warriors’ 124-114 victory over the Cavaliers.

Olynyk, talking with Heat writers on a conference call, was asked about Cleveland’s JR Smith forgetting the score at the end of regulation and dribbling out the clock with the game tied and the Cavs’ Tristian Thompson taking offense to Golden State’s Shaun Livingston taking a shot in the final seconds of overtime instead of holding onto the ball and being called for a shot-clock violation.

Olynyk, a five-year veteran who spent his first four seasons in Boston, said it’s not that unusual for somebody to lose track of the score.

“I feel like I’ve forgotten the score before,” he said. “You’re down one and you think you’re up one. Then you realize it and it’s too late. That happens all the time. It’s human. Everybody is a human.”

But Smith happened to do it at the most crucial time on the biggest stage after rebounding teammate George Hill’s missed free throw with less than five seconds remaining with the score tied at 107, and dribbling to halfcourt before realizing the situation.

Smith tried to say he knew the score and was looking for an opening for a shot. But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith thought the Cavaliers were leading.

Olynyk said the only thing a team can do is move on and get ready for overtime, something the Cavaliers did not do very well being outscored by 10 points.

“It’s in the past,” Olynyk said. “You’ve got to strap up and play overtime. There’s not much else you can do. You have five more minutes to win a basketball game.”

As for the final seconds of overtime and Thompson being called for a Flagrant 2 foul and being ejected, Olynyk said it does not matter to him if a team tries to score late in a game that is decided. He referenced the Heat’s Game 2 playoff win over Philadelphia when some of the  Sixers were not happy that Heat guard Goran Dragic dribbled down the court for an uncontested layup with 1.2 seconds remaining in Miami’s 113-103 victory.

“Obviously it depends on where you’re playing and what you’re playing for,” Olynyk said. “If you’re playing in FIBA, points for and against count. So you have to do that. That’s been Goran’s approach his whole life. That’s part of basketball in the international game. Points for and against, sometimes tiebreakers come down to that.

“In the NBA it’s a little different. It’s kind of like a sportsmanship thing. It’s something you do that you run out the clock. I don’t really think it makes a difference personally. Whether you lose by 17 or 20 or whether you win by eight or win by nine or whether you have 12 turnovers or 13 turnovers. It’s not affecting the outcome of the game. It doesn’t really matter to me. It doesn’t really make a difference to me. It doesn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game, win and loss record. If a guy wants two more points we’ll give it to him and move onto Game (2).”

The Warriors said it’s their philosophy never to take a turnover.

“It’s habit,” Olynyk said. “They don’t want any habit that leads to a turnover. I guess that’s whatever. … their prerogative.”

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NBA Finals: JR Smith’s blunder costs LeBron, Cavaliers chance to steal Game 1 from Warriors

Cleveland’s LeBron James looks at JR Smith as time expires in regulation against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals with the score tied at 107. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers – the biggest underdogs in the Finals in 30 years – squandered a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 and now must be wondering just what they have to do to win a game against the Golden State Warriors.

In the final minute of regulation, the Cavaliers were victimized by a little-known rule that allowed the officials to change a call and then watched JR Smith dribble out what could have been their only chance at a win.

Smith rebounded a missed George Hill free throw with 4.7 seconds to play in regulation and thinking the Cavs had the lead raced to halfcourt with the ball. The problem was the game was tied and Smith’s brain cramp send the game into overtime where the Warriors dominated for a 124-114 win.

Although Smith tried to save himself by saying he knew the game was tied and he was trying to find room to get a shot and then thought Cleveland going to call a time out, he clearly believed the Cavs had the lead.

Cavs coach Tryonn Lue confirmed that.

“He thought it was over,” Lue said. “He thought we were up one.”

The look on LeBron James’ face told the story. James finished with 51 points and must have been wondering if his effort was going to go to waste.

It did.

Smith’s mental meltdown concluded a bizarre final minute filled with drama and breakdowns.

It all started with a reversal on a block-charge call with 34.6 seconds to play that had a huge impact on the outcome. Kevin Durant was originally called for an offensive foul but because the officials could review the play to see if James was in the restricted circle, the actual call was also able to be reviewed. It was changed – correctly – to a block on James.

Instead of the Cavs leading 104-102 with the ball, Durant made both free throws and the game was tied.

“For our team to come out and play their hearts out, compete the way we did, it’s bad,” Lue said about the overturned call.

Fast forward to the final seconds with the Warriors leading 107-106 thanks to a Stephen Curry basket and free throw. The Warriors fell asleep on the biggest possession of the game and Klay Thompson had to grab Hill, who was cutting to the basket and would have been wide open as James was making the pass. Hill made the first free throw to tie the score and missed the second, setting up Smith’s blunder.

All of which must have James wondering: “What more can I do?”

James had the sixth 50-point game in NBA Finals history. He also tied Michael Jordan with his 109th playoff game with at least 30 points. James shot 19 of 32, had eight rebounds and eight assists and still could not will his team to a win.

In addition, the Cavaliers finished with a 52-38 rebounding advantage and the Warriors were just 8 of 30 on 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter. They finished 13 of 36.

While Lue said the  Cavs were robbed, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team was lucky.

“We played as well as we’ve played all postseason,” James said. “We gave ourselves a chance possession after possession after possession. And there were some plays that were kind of taken away from us.”

Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson confronts Golden State’s Draymond Green late in Game 1. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Let’s get physical: With the Cavaliers’ frustration level already boiling over, tempers flared in the final seconds of overtime and it could impact Sunday’s Game 2. After James had words with Curry and Thompson, Cleveland’s Tristian Thompson took offense to Shaun Livingston taking a shot with four seconds remaining and threw an elbow at Livingston.

Thompson said the thought Livingston should not have shot the ball and taken the shot clock violation. “That was some bull****,” he said.

Livingston, and the rest of the Warriors, disagreed.

“We don’t ever take a turnover,” Livingston said. “We finish the game out, that’s just how we play. That’s not disrespect to any team.”

Thompson was immediately ejected and as the teams came together Golden State’s Draymond Green started talking and waiving goodbye. Thompson shoved the basketball and his hand in Green’s face. Green backed off.

The league certainly will take a look at the play today and could fine or even suspend Tristian Thompson for a game.

Klay Thompson is in pain after injuring his left knee. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Warriors let out sigh of relief: As much as we all believe this will be a quick series the first quarter reminded us how quickly things could change.

Everybody connected to the Warriors held their breath when Smith slipped and rolled into Klay Thompson’s left knee about six minutes into the game. The Warriors guard went down grimacing and slapped the court, a bad sign. But the news was as good as it could have been for the Warriors as Thompson was diagnosed with a leg contusion and returned at the start of the second quarter. He finished with 24 points.

But the play illustrates why nothing is guaranteed. This could easily have ended differently and suddenly the Warriors are down one of their stars and the series takes on a whole different look.

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[Miami Heat ties to Finals not limited to LeBron James]

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Miami Heat ties to Finals not limited to LeBron James

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh led the Miami Heat to four consecutive Finals appearances and two championships. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat were eliminated from the playoffs more than five weeks ago. But the Heat have plenty of ties to the Finals, which starts Thursday and pairs Cleveland and Golden State for the fourth consecutive year.

But for the Heat, this isn’t exactly how they want to be connected to the Finals.

Here are six Heat ties to the 2018 Finals:

LeBron James: OK, we get the most obvious out of the way first. James is playing in his eighth consecutive Finals, half of those with the Heat and half with the Cavs. With Miami, he won two titles. Unless the Cavs pull off the upset, he likely will be 1-for-4 with Cleveland.

A Finals four-peat: The Cavaliers and Warriors join just three other franchises to appear in at least four consecutive Finals, including the Heat, the last to do it from 2011 to 2014 with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Until then, just the Celtics (1984-87) and Lakers (1982-85) accomplished the feat. Boston also appeared in 10 straight Finals from 1957-66.

Kevin Durant: The Heat were one of six teams the former MVP met with during the summer of 2016, giving the contingent led by owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley about two hours of his time in the Hamptons. The Heat thought they were in a good spot considering they were the second-to-last team – in front of the one he had played with for the first nine years of his career, Oklahoma City – to meet with the jewel of the summer’s free agent crop. But in the end, it was Golden State, which sent Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to the meeting, that landed Durant. The quintet has now become known as the “Hamptons Five.”

Okaro White: Okaro White has not played a minute this season for the Cavaliers and he’s been on the inactive list for all 18 playoff games, But he’s in the Finals. White, from Florida State, turned two 10-day contracts with the Heat during the 2016-17 season into a two-year deal. He started this past season in Miami and had surgery for a broken foot a month into the season. White was traded to Atlanta on Feb. 8 for Luke Babbitt, waived by the Hawks and signed to a 10-day contract by the Cavs. Cleveland then signed him for the rest of the season on April 6 giving him a front-row seat for the entire playoffs.

The Cleveland staff: Former Heat players James Posey and Damon Jones are a part of Tyronn Lue’s staff. Posey played two seasons with the Heat (2005-07) and was a key member of the 2006 title team. Jones played one season in Miami (2004-05) but made his mark. Jones played in all 82 games, starting 66, and set a franchise record with 225 3-point field goals, one that held until this past season when Wayne Ellington recorded 227 threes. Jones then signed with the Cavs prior to the 2005-06 season.

Shaun Livingston: The Heat took a chance on Livingston, signing the free agent guard in October 2008 after a knee injury forced him to miss the entire previous season. But three months later, and after playing in just four games for the Heat, Livingston was traded to Memphis. Since, Livingston has been with eight different organizations, waived four times and traded twice before finding a home with the Warriors in 2014. He joined Golden State at the start of their Finals run and now has been an integral part of two (and perhaps three) title teams.

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Comparing LeBron James’ legacy with Heat to his last four years with Cavaliers

LeBron James will play in eighth consecutive Finals this year. He has won three titles, two with the Heat and one with the Cavaliers. (Photos Getty Images)

In two weeks LeBron James is going to be playing his final game in a Cavaliers uniform, or he’s not. James is going to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for a fourth time, or he’s not.

But one thing is for sure, James will have completed an eight-year run that in the era of free agency is unmatched. … in any team sport. And one that the only players from his sport can equal or exceed are a handful that were part of the game’s greatest dynasty – the Celtics teams that won 11 titles from 1957 to 1969.

LeBron James is going to his eight-consecutive NBA Finals – which start Thursday – something all Heat fans should appreciate considering half of those were while he was wearing those red, black and white uniforms while setting up shop on the shores of Biscayne Bay.

James secured No. 8 on Sunday with another historical performance posting 35 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 blocks while playing all 48 minutes in Game 7 against the Celtics in Boston on Sunday. His night will go down as another in a career filled with transcendent achievements.

But to gauge the level of his greatness think of it this way: Sunday’s game may not even qualify for his top five when it comes to clutch performances. In fact, James’ point total was his average when it comes to Game 7s, of which he now has played in eight and won six. And in his two Game 7s in which championships were at stake, James had 37 points, 12 rebounds in four assists in the Heat’s 2013 victory over the Spurs; and 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Cavaliers’ 2016 victory over the Warriors.

And this is not about who is the greatest ever and comparing James to Michael Jordan – although me belief is James has now surpassed Jordan because of the bigger and stronger James’ ability to do just about everything Jordan could do and most of those things even better.

This about comparing James to himself, but more specifically, the Miami Heat version of James from 2010 to the Cleveland Cavaliers version of James from 2014 to present.

Or put another way: the James who played on the shores of South Beach vs. the James who is playing on the shores of Lake Erie.

James played his first game in Miami at the age of 25. During his four years the Heat averaged 56 wins, advanced to the Finals all four years with two titles. In the postseason (which is what this really is all about), he averaged 26.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists while with the Heat.

James rejoined Cleveland at the age of 30. The Cavs have averaged 52.8 wins the last four years, advanced to the Finals all four years and are in pursuit of their second title. In the postseason, James is averaging 30.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists in the last four years.

So much depends on the next two weeks but if Cleveland is able to somehow pull off the upset, James equaling his title count with this supporting cast compared to having Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side for four years on the Heat is indeed an achievement that at least equals what he did in Miami.

And part of that conclusion: Neither title in Miami will mean as much to James as the championship he brought Cleveland in 2016, fulfilling a promise for a city that sits about 35 miles from his hometown of Akron and one that he spurned in 2010 and hoped to fall back into their good graces four years later.

But even if Cleveland falls short this year, what James has done the last four years individually borders on the superhuman.

Consider: James had two players who are Hall of Fame locks in Wade and Bosh as his wingmen for four years in Miami and Wade is undeniably James’ greatest teammate. And some may even say they underachieved with two titles seeing the Heat clearly were the more talented team (and heavily favored) in the 2011 Finals when they lost in six games to Dallas and Miami started fracturing when attempting to three-peat against San Antonio, which was a slight favorite, in 2014.

Kevin Love has been with James all four years in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving for three. Both could one day end up in the Hall of Fame, Irving especially if he continues this trajectory. And Irving was a stud the last two years, the closest thing to what James had in Wade in Miami. But the consistency with Irving and Love (of which injuries certainly has played a part) is not close to what James got with Wade and Bosh.

Still, whether James is able to pull off the upset in these Finals, the weight on his shoulders the last four years in Cleveland was a much heavier load than what his carried in Miami.

With the exception of Boston’s Game 5 victory, James has been indefatigable in the postseason, perhaps saving his best for last (if this is his last season in Cleveland) by taking on more of the burden this postseason than he has in any of his last seven trips to the Finals.

James is averaging 34.0 points this postseason, his most since he was forced to put up 35.3 points a game to get the Cavs to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009. He has been without Irving, who was traded to Boston before the season started, and an inconsistent and at times broken down Love, who missed Sunday’s Game 7 entirely because of a concussion.

And, yes, the level of competition in the East the last four years has not exactly been stellar, especially with the Celtics missing their two best players in Irving and Gordon Hayward this season, but it could be argued the Heat never faced a team like Cleveland has the last three seasons in Golden State. The Warriors were the clear favorite to win the Finals the last three years and the Cavs once again will enter as underdogs this year.

Win or lose, James’ legacy is secure.

Now about that greatest-player-ever thing. …

[Heat’s Rodney McGruder volunteers time, learns Memorial Day lesson]

[Should the Heat explore a sign-and-trade deal for DeMarcus Cousins?]

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Mailbag: Are Heat even farther away than we thought they were entering playoffs? That & more

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and players stand in the final seconds of their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Time for another Miami Heat mailbag

If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpost.com.

    From Ken, Stuart: Have the playoffs told us anything more about how far away the Heat are?

The Heat had a short stay in the playoffs, being bounced from the postseason in five games by Philadelphia. And while they were competitive for one half in every game, in the end, nobody believes Miami’s future is anywhere close the Sixers’.

If that is the case, and Philadelphia is much closer to competing for a title than the Heat, where does that put the Heat when it comes to the Celtics, who eliminated Philadelphia in five games and now are two games away from the NBA Finals?

The Heat have a lot of work to do to return to the top of the Eastern Conference, probably more than we thought after watching the playoffs unfold. The Sixers not only have two of the league’s young budding stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, they have enough assets to make a blockbuster trade, the 10th and 26th pick in the draft and are one of a few teams with cap space. So, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Philadelphia could end up with both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.

And they aren’t even the team with the brightest future in the conference. That is Boston, which continues to win in the playoffs without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, its two best players. While the Celtics are capped out, they still are the future of the conference because of their star power, several young assets and future draft situation (the Celtics could have three first-round picks in 2019), which gives Boston flexibility if it wants to make a move for someone like Leonard.

We haven’t even touched on teams like the Pacers, and others with more stars than the Heat like the Bucks, Wizards and Raptors (all of whom have underachieved but still are in position to make deals), and even the Bulls, who have a nice nucleus and will be adding the No. 7 overall pick.

All of this means Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg have some work to do. It is hopeless? Not at all. The Heat won 44 games without Dion Waiters for most of the season and they have some nice young players with a lot of room to grow. Their flexibility is limited and they do not have a draft pick but Riley has been in situations like this before. He will be active this summer when it comes to the trade market and if he can make a couple of moves to bring in a star player (there are several on the market) or free up cap space the Heat could start making a move up the conference ladder.

From @MOB_4LIFE_: Will not tanking for one year in the 2016-2017 go down as the biggest mistake in franchise history? Season riddled with injuries, high chance of a transformative player, and most importantly not over pay on journey men in the off-season.

I totally disagree: First, someone has to explain just how the Heat were going to ‘tank’ in 2016-178. Should Erik Spoelstra not have played Goran Dragic or Waiters or Hassan Whiteside (remember, Whiteside led the league in rebounding and averaged 17.0 points per game)? Or should he have told Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder to not try hard? Just go out there and stink up the joint. Miami was 30-11 the second half of the season, thinking this team should have thrown away a season, stopped developing its young players and tried to play like it did the first half is unrealistic.

Additionally, just how many “transformative” players were in the draft? Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell are the closest. Otherwise, there are about eight solid players, none transformative. The Heat took Bam Adebayo at No. 14. Adebayo’s future is much brighter than about four players taken ahead of him.

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[Heat offseason Q&A: Tyler Johnson talks about surgically-repaired thumb, his teeth and his impending pay raise]

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