NBA playoffs: J.J. Redick, 76ers out to hit Heat with ‘crushing blow’

J.J. Redick is enjoying the back and forth of the 76ers-Heat series.(Getty Images)

CAMDEN, N.J. — The first-round playoff series between the Heat and 76ers feels more contentious to the players than it’s actually been. Philadelphia has a 3-1 lead after sweeping two games in Miami and can win its first postseason series since in six years by taking Game 5 on Tuesday.

The 76ers’ victories in Games 1 and 3 came by a total of 47 points, though they were interrupted by Dwyane Wade leading Miami to a 113-103 win in between. Game 4 saw the Heat lead by as many as 12 in the third quarter before Philadelphia zeroed in to overtake them 106-102.

Now that they seem to know exactly what they’re getting from each other, the next game promises to be a compelling fight.

“At the start of the series you’re throwing jabs,” guard J.J. Redick said. “Why are boxing analogies just so perfect for every other sport? You’re throwing jabs and feeling each other out, then later on in the series you have to deliver a crushing blow.

“You have to finish them. A team like Miami, their culture and organization and their group of guys, they have fighters and warriors on their team. Every game in the series has been tough. There’s no expectation that Game 5 will be any different.”

The Heat have quite a bit of playoff experience up and down their roster, but Philadelphia is learning on the fly. Redick is the only starter who’s been to the postseason before this year. Its best two players, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, haven’t even logged 100 regular-season games yet.

For coach Brett Brown, who spent more than a decade with the Spurs, the leadup to the playoffs and this series have been full of lessons for his young team. He believes the 76ers are still trying to get accustomed to playoff basketball, particularly the way defenses typically play much more attentively, and still haven’t peaked.

“We have as much room for growth as anybody,” he said. “I look at that as a really exciting opportunity.

“You sort of go through college and then here we are in grad school, if you will, and we have a chance to learn a lot more. And we need to.”

Brown used the Game 4 win as an illustration for his players to see the Heat knocked them out of rhythm at both ends of floor in the first three quarters.

At that point, the Sixers had committed 24 turnovers on offense and allowed Miami to shoot 46.5 percent. They took control like a veteran team, however, with a 27-19 fourth quarter in which they turned the ball over just three times and held the Heat to 8-for-23 shooting.

Doing something like that on the road is a key breakthrough for a team that aspires to be a perennial contender. Their next graduation requirement is fighting off the desperation they’ll encounter from the Heat in an elimination game.

Redick’s rhetoric about delivering “a crushing blow” isn’t exactly how Brown wants his team thinking.

“You can make it too hard,” Brown said. “Everybody’s trying to break somebody’s spirit. It’s always the same thing.

“It happens on the other side of it. I know (Erik Spoelstra) will be in his locker room saying, ‘All we gotta do is win a game and come home.’ They’re gonna live in a really isolated, zoomed-in world of, ‘Let’s just win a game. We won a game last time we were here. Just come home and figure it out.’”

[In a series that Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid have thrived, Heat pleased with progress from their own young duo]

[Heat must finish vs. Sixers, or season will be finished]

[Was Heat’s Game 4 loss Dwyane Wade’s final game in Miami? Wade: ‘I don’t want to answer that right now’]

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UPDATED: Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra flew to L.A. Saturday to meet with guard Dion Waiters

Heat guard Dion Waiters is lining up meetings with other teams. (AP Photo)

ORLANDO – Miami Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra flew to Los Angeles on Saturday to meet with guard Dion Waiters, sources confirmed to the Palm Beach Post.

The Heat are not the only team talking to Waiters, who is getting a little busier as the market starts to shrink.

Waiters, who had the best year of his career in his one season in Miami, has spoken to Chicago, New York and Sacramento, according to the Associated Press  and had meetings scheduled for today in L. A. with teams besides the Heat.

Waiters also could return to the Heat but the expectation is that possibility remains tied to Miami’s pursuit of Gordon Hayward. If the Heat lands the Utah Jazz small forward and signs him to a max deal starting at $29.7 million, it is believed they will then re-sign power forward James Johnson, which, barring any trades, should leave the Heat with just a $4.3 million exception.

But Miami likely would turn to both Johnson and Waiters if it fails to sign Hayward, bringing back Waiters as its top scoring wing. In that case the Heat could have up to $17 million left over to add additional players.

Waiters said six weeks ago his preference is to return to the Heat.

“I want to be there,” Waiters told WQAM. “When that time comes and we sit down, we just got to make it happen. Let’s get it over with as quick as possible.

“We just got to make it work and hopefully everything can come full circle.”

Waiters made $2.9 million last season before declining a $3 million player option after averaging 15.8 points and 4.3 assists and playing much better in the second half of the season when the Heat were putting together the second-best record (30-11) in the league. What hurts the 25-year-old is he played in just 46 games, mostly due to a torn groin muscle early in the season and a sprained ankle that forced him to miss the final 13 games of the season. Miami was 7-6 in those final 13 games and missed out of the playoffs because of a tie-breaker.

J.J. Redick is the best shooting guard to sign. Although he was seeking a multi-year deal, Redick settled for one year from Philadelphia, albeit for $23 million. Waiters never was linked to the Sixers despite being from Philadelphia.

Waiters is among the best shooting guards remaining on the market along with Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Atlanta’s Tim Hardaway Jr., both of whom are restricted.

[Mailbag: Looks like James Johnson is helping Heat recruit Gordon Hayward. Does that mean Johnson will be back in Miami next season?]

[Bitter rivals Pat Riley, Danny Ainge going head-to-head for Gordon Hayward]

[Is Hassan Whiteside using Snapchat to recruit Gordon Hayward to Miami?]ot in summer league debut]

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Mailbag: Who are the Miami Heat’s biggest competitors for free agent Dion Waiters?

 

Will another team make Heat guard Dion Waiters and offer he cannot refuse? (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat have said they want him back. And guard Dion Waiters certainly has sent out strong signals he would like to return.

But will it happen?

That not only depends on the Heat’s offer but what other teams think of Waiters, and if anybody makes him an offer he cannot refuse.

Who could that be? We answer that and more in today’s Heat mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From @SrMayo1: Do you see any teams with a big enough need at the 2 to offer (Dion Waiters) $18 million plus?

Even if the market is that high for Waiters (my guess is closer to $15 million a year), two teams come to mind:

The Lakers are overhauling their backcourt. They could take point guard Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick and shooting guard Nick Young, who has been shopped the last few years, is expected to decline his player option for $5.6 million and become a free agent. Add to that the Lakers will have about $24 million in cap space and, most importantly, Waiters’ former agent, Rob Pelinka, is the Lakers new general manager. Pelinka is in a interesting situation. After having spent years trying to convince teams to pony up for his clients, now he will be trying to make deals with some of those same players to come to L.A. for less money than they’ll be seeking. But if Magic Johnson likes the idea of a Ball-Waiters backcourt it just might happen.

Philadelphia likely will be the only team with more money to spend than the Heat. The Sixers need help in the backcourt, are looking to boost their 3-point shooting and Waiters is from Philadelphia, having been born and raised there. J.J. Redick has been linked to the Sixers. Although Redick, 32, is seven years older than Waiters, Philadelphia reportedly is seeking more of a veteran presence in the backcourt, a player who has playoff experience. But if Redick is looking for a better situation the Sixers could make a run at Waiters.

From @AsherWildMan6: with the way teams want bigs that can shoot, how come John Collins from Wake doesn’t get much love for Heat pick? 6-10 forward that has proven to be a scorer. I’m not saying he is Draymond, but with McRoberts back, he can also play back up center and add the element of outside shooting which Whiteside does not have. Also assuming Reed walks.

A few mock drafts had Collins going to the Heat early but some have backed off and now only Bleacher Report is sticking to that projection. UCLA’s T.J. Leaf, Indiana’s OG Anunoby and Duke’s Harry Giles now appear to be the more popular choices for the Heat. And many see how Luke Babbitt stretched the floor as the starting power forward last year and think Leaf is a better fit because of his outside shooting. Collins still is in the mix but been showing up in the 15-18 range more.

Also, I think a lot depends on who the Heat are more confident in re-signing among James Johnson and Waiters as to whether they draft a wing or a power forward. If they are confident they can sign both I believe they will pick the player they believe is the best among those from those two positions.

[South Florida is paying attention to the 2017 NBA Finals. A look at the numbers …]

[Do Heat need another ‘super team’ to compete with Warriors and Cavaliers? Udonis Haslem says, ‘No’]

[Will Dion Waiters give the Heat a hometown discount in free agency? Waiters didn’t rule it out]

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Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters will opt out of contract, become a free agent as expected

Heat guard Dion Waiters will opt out of final year of his contract and become a free agent. A decision that was not unexpected. ( AP Photo)

Dion Waiters has made just under $20 million in his five years in the NBA.

But he could come close to doubling his career earnings in one season with his next contract.

Waiters, as expected, will decline his player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent July 1, according to reports. Waiters, 25, was scheduled to make a little more than $3 million in 2017-18, the second season of a two-year, $5.9 million deal he signed with the Miami Heat last summer.

But after a season in which Waiters rejuvenated his game on the court and his reputation off of it, he will opt out of the second year of that contract for his first big-time payday.

Waiters officially has until June 29th to opt out of the contract. ESPN says the Heat are aware of his intentions.

[Medical ruling moves Heat closer to getting Chris Bosh’s contract off salary cap]

[UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu could be in mix as Miami Heat seek help at backup center]

[Willie Reed to opt out of contract and test free agency — how can Heat keep him?]

In a lean free agent year, especially among shooting guards, Waiters could command a four-year deal that starts somewhere in the $16- to $18-million a year range. He already has said publicly he wants to return to the Heat and President Pat Riley said the team will make re-signing its top two free agents, Waiters and forward James Johnson, a priority. But it takes just one team to make Waiters an offer the Heat, with their expected $38 million in cap space, are not willing to meet.

“I want to be there,” Waiters said during a radio interview on WQAM two weeks ago, reiterating his desire to return to Miami. “When that time comes and we sit down, we just got to make it happen. Let’s get it over with as quick as possible.”

Waiters generally is ranked among the top four potential free agent shooting guards behind Chicago’s Dwyane Wade, the Clippers’ J.J. Redick and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Pistons. Wade, though, is expected to pick up his option for $23.8 million and return to the Bulls. Waiters replaced Wade in the Heat starting lineup last season after Wade signed with Chicago.

Teammates and coaches praised Waiters last season as a player who not only worked hard off the court to get himself in the best shape of his career but one who was solid defensively and became the consummate teammate.

Waiters averaged 15.8 points, shot 42.4 percent overall and had career highs with 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 39.5 percent 3-point shooting in 46 games. He was a key figure in the Heat’s turnaround the second half of the season, going from an 11-30 start to finishing 41-41. An ankle injury that forced him to miss the final 13 games of the season is cited as a primary reason the Heat missed the playoffs by one game. Miami went 7-6 in those games. Waiters also missed 20 games earlier in the season with a torn groin muscle.

Waiters teamed with Goran Dragic to form the best backcourt in the league when it comes to getting to the rim. Waiters was sixth in the league with 11.0 drives to the basket while Dragic was third with 11.9. Waiters also gained a reputation for making clutch shots, his most celebrated being the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.6 remaining to defeat Golden State. He also made late threes to seal wins at Brooklyn and Cleveland.

“Dion can create off the dribble and create space and get to areas of the court when you can get up shots in late clock situations,” Riley said soon after the season ended.

“He’s going to become a better finisher, higher percentage as a finisher because he goes to the rack all the time. I think he just realizes now what it takes to be a great player.”

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Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters receiving little love in free agent rankings

By all accounts, Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters turned the corner in his NBA career last season.

Waiters, 25, came to the Heat with a reputation for being a selfish, moody player his first six seasons in the league, more concerned about his stat line. But by the end he was being praised by teammates, coaches and executives as a player who, not only worked hard off the court to get himself in world-class shape but was solid defensively and became the consummate teammate and a primary reason Miami recovered from an 11-30 start to finish .500.

Heat guard Dion Waiters is not receiving high rankings among free agent shooting guards. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“I think he just realizes now what it takes to be a great player,” president Pat Riley said.

But not everyone agrees.

The 6-foot-4 Waiters signed a two-year, $5.9 million contract last summer, with an early termination clause for 2017-18. He is expected to exercise that clause – leaving $3 million on the table – and become a free agent where he might command a contract starting at at least $15 million. And before spraining his left ankle causing him to miss the final 13 games of the season, Waiters appeared to be among the top shooting guards on the market, and possibly the No. 1 option depending on whether Dwyane Wade was available.

But several outlets believe that is not even close.

The Vertical ranks Waiters fifth among free against shooting guards behind Wade – if he declines his player option with the Bulls for $23.8 million, which appears unlikely – Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Clippers’ J.J. Redick and Atlanta’s Tim Hardaway Jr.

Basketball Insiders lists Waiters in its Tier 2 of shooting guards along with Hardaway and Brooklyn’s Sean Kilpatrick. Tier 1 includes Caldwell-Pope, Redick and Wade.

And Hoops Hype ranks Waiters 25th among all free agents, one spot behind the Knicks Derrick Rose and two spots behind Golden State’s Andre Iguodala.

Perhaps the biggest knock on Waiters is he played just 46 games, having missed additional time because of a torn groin muscle. He averaged 15.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds, while shooting 42.4 percent. But his per-36-average was 19.0 ppg (Redick’s was 19.2, Hardaway’s 19.1 and Caldwell-Pope’s 14.9).

But those numbers become more impressive over the second half of the season, starting when the Heat were 11-30 and went on a 13-game winning streak.

Waiters played in 25 of Miami’s final 41 games, averaging 18.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds. He shot 46.7 percent from the field and 44.5 on 3 pointers.

“Dion can create off the dribble and create space and get to areas of the court when you can get up shots in late clock situations,” Riley said. “He’s going to become a better finisher, higher percentage as a finisher because he goes to the rack all the time. I think he gets into the paint 12 to 14 times per game and he’s kicking and everything.

“Dion has this affable defiance. … you got to have that in a guy that wants to win games and take big shots.”

It will be interesting to see if the people that matter – NBA teams in need of a shooting guard – agree. If so, and Waiters does not receive the offers he is expecting, the Heat have indicated they would be happy to have him back.

[Miami Heat’s Shane Battier surprises high school students with college scholarships]

[Dwyane Wade ‘back home in Miami,’ with looming player option decision with Bulls still undecided]

[Heat’s Tyler Johnson: ‘We all want James Johnson back’]

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With the Clippers’ uncertain future, could the Miami Heat have interest in any of their free agents?

Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers looks on during Game 5 of their opening-round series against the Jazz. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The storyline of the week in the NBA: Is it time to break up the Clippers?

And if it is – if president/coach Doc Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer decide not to bring back a team intact that for the fifth consecutive season was unable to reach the conference final after winning at least 50 games – can the Heat benefit?

The immediate future of the Clippers – who lost in seven games to the Utah Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs – centers around three primary players that are expected to become free agents this summer: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick.

Griffin and Paul both have early termination clauses in their contracts, meaning they can become unrestricted free agents. Both are expected to exercise that option but reportedly they are in different places with the organization.

Paul, who would make $24.3 million next season if he did not opt out, remains among the league’s elite point guards. Reports have circulated for months a deal is in place for him to return to L.A., one that would pay him about $205 million for five years. The Heat – and any other team – could offer Paul a maximum four-year deal for about $158 million.

[How do Heat players compare to rest of NBA? Here’s what HoopsHype had to say]

[Pat Riley, Larry Bird have been fierce competitors for nearly 40 years]

But even at that price, Paul would start at about $36 million. Goran Dragic is returning next season for $17 million. Although Paul would be an upgrade, is he worth twice the money than Dragic next season and a lot more over the duration of the contract? Here are their numbers from 2016-17 for two players born on the same day (May 6) with Paul turning 32 on Saturday and Dragic turning 31:

Paul averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 assists while shooting .476, .411 on 3 pointers. His player efficiency rating according to NBA.com was 24.8

Dragic averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists while shooting .476, .406 on 3 pointers. His player efficiency rating according to NBA.com was 19.3.

Even if deals could be worked out where the Heat could trade Dragic along with shedding more salary, don’t look for Paul in a Heat uniform. In fact, with these reports out there for months, it would be very surprising if Paul does not return to the Clippers.

Griffin’s future in L.A. is much more uncertain. Although just 28, he has had his last two postseason’s cut short because of injuries and has missed a full season’s worth of games (83) over the last three years because of various injuries.

Griffin will opt out of his $21.4 contract for 2016-17 with the hopes of signing a max deal. If it is with the Clippers, is would be for about $175 million over five years. If the Clippers decide to move on from Griffin, his max deal would be four years for about $130 million.

Both would start at $31 million. If the Heat got involved it would basically mean adding Griffin and one or two more low level free agents but losing Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Willie Reed and likely Wayne Ellington.

Anthony Chiang broke down the pros and cons of Griffin joining the Heat here.

J.J. Redick who is coming off his worst postseason performance in many years (9.1 points on .380 shooting including .346 on threes) will be an unrestricted free agent. He earned $7.3 million this season and will receive a nice raise.

Redick will be overpaid this summer. The speculation is he’ll receive somewhere from $17 million to $20 million a year. At that price, the Heat will stay far away, especially if they can bring back Waiters at an equal or slightly lower price. Last season Redick averaged 15.0 points and shot 44.5 percent, 42.9 on threes. Waiters averaged 15.8 points and shot 42.3 percent, 39.4 on threes.

At 25, Waiters is seven years younger than Redick and his drive-and-kick game is far superior to Redick’s

One Clippers player who could interest the Heat is small forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who is expected to decline his player option of $2.3 million and become a free agent.

The 6-foot-8 Mbah a Moute is defensive oriented with very little offensive game (6.1 points in 22.3 minutes). He would not cost much, possibly an exception. The question is with the makeup of their team, would the Heat need more offense or defense coming off the bench?

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Mailbag: What would be a successful offseason for the Miami Heat?

Re-signing guard Dion Waiters would be the start toward a successful offseason for the Miami Heat. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Pat Riley admitted that ‘whale’ he’s always fishing for in free agency may not be out there going forward so it will take more creativity to find the player or players the Miami Heat need to become a championship contender.

Remaking that roster will be a challenge, which leads us to one of our question for today’s mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

@MResto6: What would you consider a successful offseason for the Heat in terms of roster moves?

So many ways this could happen but the most obvious is bringing back the key pieces to a team that had the second record in the league the final three months of the season and add another rotation player or possibly two. That would mean re-signing Dion Waiters and James Johnson, possibly picking up the team option on Wayne Ellington, hitting on the first-round pick and a low-priced free agent.

But Riley is looking for more than hoping to be a fourth or fifth seed. I believe he still will attempt to land another foundational player to go along with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, try to keep someone like Johnson and add a solid veteran at a lower cap number, kind of the way he added Johnson and Waiters last season for a combined $7 million.

Who is that player? If it’s through free agency possibly Gordon Hayward or even Blake Griffin. If it’s a trade maybe figure a way to lure Paul George from Indiana or Jimmy Butler from Chicago. But adding any of those names could put the Heat in much better position to challenge the top two or three teams in the East.

@rzapataluyanda: Do you see the possibility of the Heat looking to sign JJ Redick? I think would be a nice fit with Dragic & Whiteside.

I’m not thrilled with the idea of spending $12-$14 million a year on Redick to be the starting shooting guard and I am guessing Redick is down the Heat’s shopping list and certainly behind Waiters.

Redick averaged 15.0 points per game on .445 shooting, including .415 on 3-pointers. The Heat have a similar player in Wayne Ellington in which the team has the option to keep at $6 million, which could be half of what Redick might command.

Ellington averaged 10.5 points in four fewer minutes. Their 36 minute stats: Redick 19.2 points per game, Ellington 15.6. Granted, Redick is a better shooter (Ellington shot 41.6 percent overall, 37.8 on threes) but is he worth twice the price?

[Dion Waiters: ‘I love Miami. … Hopefully, we found a home down here’]

[Goran Dragic, the ‘backbone’ of the Heat, has found a home in Miami]

[Mailbag: Would Gordon Hayward be a good fit for the Miami Heat?]

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