2018 Free Agency Update: LeBron lays low during early morning madness, as do Heat

Cleveland’s LeBron James during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on May 27, 2018. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

As LeBron James’ private plane was tracking from Anguilla to Van Nuys Saturday, backroom deals were being struck all over the NBA landscape.

The frenzy started minutes before the ball dropped on the NBA New Year at midnight and continued well into the morning. Within hours about 20 players reportedly agreed to deals, with most not allowed to sign before noon on Friday.

One team sitting out the madness: the Miami Heat. The Heat’s lack of flexibility makes it very difficult for Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg to become a major player this summer, other than through the trade market.

The biggest names – Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City’s Paul George, Houston’s Chris Paul, Denver’s Nikola Jokic – are returning to their old teams. The four will re-sign on deals ranging from two to four years and totaling more than $500 million. (And this is a summer in which the theme is fiscal responsibility.)

The most intriguing names on the move so far are DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers to Dallas, Trevor Ariza from Houston to Phoenix and two players who obviously do not Trust the Process in Philadelphia, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who will sign with Milwaukee and San Antonio, respectively.

Other than that, few names will tilt the needle as we enter the week, with, of course, one exception.

James spent most of last week holed up in the Caribbean, weighing his options. Saturday morning, he and his financial team boarded his jet for Southern California, where, let’s face it, all signs point to him ultimately staying put as a member of the Lakers. But on Sunday, James’ agent, Rich Paul, reportedly was set to meet with a high-level Sixers contingent in Los Angeles.

Before meeting with Philadelphia, the only reported contact James had with any team after midnight was a phone call with Cleveland general manger Koby Altman. James owes the Cavaliers nothing after delivering on his promise to bring Cleveland a title after returning four years ago but perhaps he learned from the embarrassing way he left his hometown team the first time with a poorly-planned, hour-long infomercial in which he declared he was “taking his talents to South Beach.”

James is not holding this free agent season hostage as he did eight and four years ago, when he bolted Miami and returned to Cleveland. A sign that many believe James’ decision has been made is so many deals being reported in the early hours of free agency. If James had a long list of teams he was considering, everything would have been on hold, much like it was two years ago for Durant and last year for Gordon Hayward.

But James has been trending toward the Lakers for weeks and that narrative become stronger Friday when James informed Cleveland he would opt out of the final year of contract, which realistically narrowed his choices to the Lakers, Cavs and Sixers. The biggest question now is who rides James’ coattails to L.A. With George staying put in OKC, the Lakers (and likely James) have targeted New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins.

Despite the early rush, this will be a tight market for free agents. Just eight teams have cap space of any significance and already two of them, Dallas and Phoenix, have made their big moves. Of those remaining teams, just the Lakers, Philadelphia and Indiana appear willing to hand out substantial contracts. The others – Atlanta, Chicago and Sacramento – could sign mid-tier players and/or use their space for trades.

Many teams are looking back at the summer of 2016 when spending got out of control and some of the worst contracts in league history were handed out, and ahead to next summer when the cap will rise to a projected $109 million and the market will be deeper with Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and Kevin Love among those all likely to be available.

As for the Heat, the first bit of news likely will involve free agent guard Wayne Ellington. Miami would like to retain the franchise’s record holder for the most 3 pointers in a season, but at what price? The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights and can pay him as much as $10.9 million next season but that could put them above the new luxury tax line, which was revealed last night as $123.733 million, unless other salary is shed through a trade.

Ilyasova, Belinelli and Doug McDermott (Indiana) are long-range shooters like Ellington and their contracts were in the $6-$7.3 million per year range. Ellington will receive interest as the market settles but expect him and the Heat to have several conversations.

[Miami Heat swingman Rodney McGruder’s contract guaranteed for 2018-19]

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Tonight’s matchup: Life without center Hassan Whiteside continues for Heat vs. Hornets

CHARLOTTE HORNETS VS. MIAMI HEAT

When: Friday, 8 p.m.

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Records: Charlotte 8-12, Miami 10-11 Continue reading “Tonight’s matchup: Life without center Hassan Whiteside continues for Heat vs. Hornets”

Former Heat guard Tim Hardaway a Hall of Fame finalist again

 

Former Heat guard Tim Hardaway is a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame for the third time.
Former Heat guard Tim Hardaway is a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame for the third time.

Former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway is one of 14 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2017.

Hardaway, a finalist for the third time, played six seasons for the Heat and, along with Alonzo Mourning, led Miami to six consecutive trips to the playoffs, including the 1997 Eastern Conference finals. His is one of three Heat players to have their numbers retired by the organization joining Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal. Mourning and O’Neal are in the Hall of Fame.

Hardaway was a finalist in 2014 and 2015.

A clutch, 6-foot point guard with a killer crossover, Hardaway is the Heat’s all-time leader with 806 3-point field goals.

Heading the list of finalists are Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber, Sydney Moncrief, Rudy Tomjanovich and Rebbeca Lobo. In addition, Rollie Massimino, the coach at Keiser University in West Palm Beach who led Villanova to the 1985 NCAA title, and Kansas coach Bill Self also are among the finalists.

Hardaway joined the Heat in a trade deadline deal orchestrated by Pat Riley in 1996. A 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist and five-time NBA All-Star, Hardaway played 13 NBA seasons scoring a total of 15,373 points while averaging more than 20 points per game five times in his career including 20.3 in 1996-97 for Miami when he was named first team All-NBA.

Hardaway is second in Heat history with 2,867 assists and 16th in NBA history with 7,095 career assists.

Before joining the Heat, Hardaway was part of the Warriors Run TMC along with Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. Mullin and Richmond are in the Hall and Hardaway is a favorite to join them.

All-Star Kemba Walker of the Hornets was asked this weekend who he watched and idolized.

“One of my favorites was Tim Hardaway,” he said. “Another small guard, and I just loved the way he played. There’s a lot of similarities in our game.”

Hardaway currently is an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons.

[Our Miami Heat awards at the break: We agree on the MVP]

[While his teammates are hitting the beach, Heat forward James Johnson will be hitting the weights]

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2016 NBA playoffs: Heat spiraled in last three minutes of Game 5

Courtney Lee and the Hornets capitalized on a lot of Heat lapses late in Game 5. (Getty Images)
Courtney Lee and the Hornets capitalized on a lot of Heat lapses late in Game 5. (Getty Images)

Any good team would like its chances in this situation. The Heat, playing at home in Game 5, went up 88-85 on Dwyane Wade’s jumper off a pick-and-roll with 2:27 remaining. From there, though, it was a nightmare for Miami.

The Heat never scored again, losing their best chance when Wade drew contact going for a layup with 4.5 seconds left and didn’t get a call, and Charlotte beat them 90-88 to take a 3-2 series lead. Now Miami is fighting to save its season on the road in Game 6 on Friday.

Here’s how it unraveled:
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Heat spiraled in last three minutes of Game 5”

2016 NBA playoffs: Heat, Hornets keep bickering on flops, refs

Steve Clifford has had enough of the Heat's flopping complaints. (Getty Images)
Steve Clifford has had enough of the Heat’s flopping complaints. (Getty Images)

The name-calling and accusations are ongoing in the Heat-Hornets series.

It started when Hassan Whiteside called for the NBA to fine Charlotte forward Cody Zeller for what appeared to be an obvious flop in Game 2 and continued when Whiteside called this series “the flop-offs” instead of the playoffs after Game 4.

Clifford answered back this morning by saying the whole Heat team flops.
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Heat, Hornets keep bickering on flops, refs”

2016 NBA playoffs: Three things for Heat to get back to in Game 5

Could Josh McRoberts ignite the Heat offense? (Getty Images)
Could Josh McRoberts ignite the Heat offense? (Getty Images)

The Heat started this first-round playoff series with a deluge of offense, but got way off track when the action shifted to Charlotte.
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Three things for Heat to get back to in Game 5”

2016 NBA playoffs: Q&A with Josh McRoberts on rocky season

Josh McRoberts is on the other side of the Miami-Charlotte series this time. (Getty Images)
Josh McRoberts is on the other side of the Miami-Charlotte series this time. (Getty Images)

Josh McRoberts is one of the Heat’s most versatile and interesting players, but his time with the team has been nothing like what he expected.

After having most of last season wiped out by injuries, McRoberts lost his starting spot because of Hassan Whiteside’s emergence. He came into this year with a significant role off the bench, but that got away from him after missing nearly two months with a bruised knee.
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Q&A with Josh McRoberts on rocky season”

2016 NBA playoffs: Heat-Hornets was wild regular-season series

The Heat had some crazy games against the Hornets this year. (Getty Images)
The Heat had some crazy games against the Hornets this year. (Getty Images)

A funny thing happened Wednesday night after the Heat learned they were facing Charlotte in the first round. It took several minutes of confused recollection as two players tried to remember exactly how their season series against the Hornets went.

That can certainly be forgiven after this 82-game. With the playoffs starting Sunday in Miami, here’s a look at the two teams’ clashes this year:
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Heat-Hornets was wild regular-season series”