Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra honored to be part of NBA’s Africa Game

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been a part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program in Africa this week. (Photo Miami Heat)

Luol Deng played just two seasons with the Miami Heat but he made an impact on coach Erik Spoelstra that goes beyond the court.

Spoelstra is in Africa as part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program and it is because of his relationship with Deng that he made the trip this summer.

Spoelstra spoke with Deng and his former assistant coach, David Fizdale, now the Memphis head coach, after they were a part of the first Africa Game two summers ago and decided he wanted to participate.

“Lu expressing his background and the experiences he had growing up was something that really impacted me and everybody on the team,” Spoelstra said Thursday from Johannesburg, South Africa.

“What they talked about after that week, and how emotional it was and how grateful Lu was for having so many people participate in it, Lu was a big reason why I’m over here now helping and it was great to catch up with him and get back out on the court together again, but doing it from a coaching and service standpoint.”

Spoelstra participated in a call after taking part in a Habitat for Humanity event with other coaches and players.

Since its inaugural year in 2001, the NBA and FIBA have staged 49 Basketball Without Borders camps in 30 cities in 25 countries on six continents.

The Africa Game will be held Saturday in Johannesburg and will feature Team Africa vs. Team World. It will be played in support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa.

Deng, who signed with the Lakers last summer, was born in South Sudan and will serve as a captain for Team Africa. Others on the team include Philadelphia’s Joel Embid, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo.

Among those playing for Team World: Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins, Portland’s CJ McCollum and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.

“I just want to be able to give and serve,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a great game that we all feel so grateful for. I’ve done a lot of the NBA programs in the Philippines and other places in South Florida. But I’ve always wanted to be a part of BWB in Africa.… and to offer my services for the week. However little those may be, I just want to be able to help and contribute.”

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Luol Deng to face Heat for first time after two enjoyable seasons in Miami

 

Luol Deng will face the Heat tonight for the first time since signing with the Lakers. (AP Photo)
Luol Deng will face the Heat tonight for the first time since signing with the Lakers. (AP Photo)

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra misses Luol Deng even after the two needed time to get to know each other and “get on the same page.”

“I really enjoyed Lu,” Spoelstra said Wednesday. Deng makes his first return to Miami tonight since signing with the Lakers.

“I’d love to have Lu right now and have him suit up. I enjoyed my relationship with Lu. At first it took us a while to get on the same page and get to know each other. I really respected him as a competitor playing against him in Chicago in the playoffs a couple of times. But it didn’t click right away. It didn’t click from a basketball standpoint and even getting to know each other in our coach-player relationship. Then we spent a lot of time getting to know each other better off the court.”

After two years in Miami, in which he averaged 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, Deng accepted the Lakers four-year, $72-million contract offer last summer. Deng, 31, told the LA Daily News he called Heat president Pat Riley and Spoelstra to say this was something he could not turn down and Spoelstra agreed.

“We thought there was a chance we would get him at a way smaller number,” Spoelstra said. “There was that discussion that he wanted to come back and we wanted him to come back. But we obviously weren’t in a position to make that kind of deal.”

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The 6-foot-9 Deng joined the Heat during a tumultuous time. It was 2014, LeBron James had just left and Miami was looking to salvage the summer. Hanging onto Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and adding Deng was a nice recovery.

The Heat were so vulnerable at the time that Riley called it “one of the most important free-agent signings” in Heat history.

Deng played in 146 games the next two years, starting all but one. He played power forward and small forward, his role affected by Bosh being in and out of the lineup after he was diagnosed with blood clots.

“I sat back, really just focused on my game and saw how I could help out,” Deng told the Daily News. “I enjoyed it and loved it. It was a great system.”

Deng is averaging a career-low 8.0 points and shooting just 39 percent in 31 games this season.

“When you’re with a new group, guys start to realize what you can do and what you can’t do,” Deng said. “A lot of times at the beginning of the year, guys were just standing still. The way I play, I’m always moving.”

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Miami Heat expected to take biggest fall in NBA; Goran Dragic among players likely to be traded

 

The odds are 9/5 that Heat guard Goran Dragic is traded during the season. (Getty Images Photo)
The odds are 9/5 that Heat guard Goran Dragic is traded during the season according to one Las Vegas book. (Getty Images Photo)

MIAMI – While ESPN analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson believe the Miami Heat can compete for a playoff spot, one sports book has the Heat near the bottom of the league.

Miami is a 500/1 long shot to win the NBA title, according to Sports Betting Dime, and it has the third worst odds of winning the Eastern Conference at 200/1. Additionally, the Heat are expected to suffer the biggest regression in wins from last season.

Only the Lakers, Philadelphia and Sacramento at 1000/1 and Brooklyn and Phoenix at 1,500/1, have longer odds of winning a title. Miami is tied with Denver.

The book has the Warriors the league favorite at 5/7 to win it all following by Cleveland at 7/2.

The Heat, 4-4 in the preseason, open the regular season Wednesday in Orlando.

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And although the Heat are spared from being among the five teams with odds to finish with the worst record in the league, they are listed at 2/1 to have the biggest drop from last season when they finished 48-34.

The book is banking on Miami losing Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson far outweighs adding Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, Luke Babbitt and James Johnson along with retaining Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson.

Speaking of Whiteside and Dragic, Whiteside is tied for third with the best odds of winning defensive player of the year at 11/2 with Utah’s Rudy Gobert and behind San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (7/2) and Golden State’s Draymond Green (4/1).

Dragic is the fifth most likely player to be traded during the season with 9/5 odds. Sacramento’s Rudy Gay has the best odds to be traded during the season at 5/8 followed by Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel ((1/1), Atlanta’s Paul Millsap (3/2), Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez (7/4) and Dragic.

 

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Justise Winslow sees youth, energy, defense as big advantages for Miami Heat

 

Justise Winslow will be growing up fas in his second season. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Heat forward Justise Winslow will be growing up fast in his second season. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

So much has changed with the Miami Heat this season but one thing that hasn’t: The organization’s emphasis on the defensive end.

And second-year player Justise Winslow believes that proving the critics wrong about this team starts with the defense.

“You see the projections they have for us,” Winslow said. “We want to do a lot better than that and I think we can especially with the group we have defensively we can be a helluva team. The offense will come but I think off the bat, beginning of the season, we have a lot of versatile guys that can play defense. As best as we can that defense will keep us in the game. We just got to figure out our rhythm and our flow offensively.”

Winslow – expected to take over the starting small forward spot – like so many others sees the youth and a higher-than-usual number of players trying to prove themselves as a big reason Miami can overachieve.

“It’s a very young, high energy, athletic versatile group,” he said. “I think what we lack in experience we can also use to our advantage as kind of like, if there’s a wall most people would try to run through the wall. We don’t know any better so we are just going to try to go full force into the wall. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad but we’re going to try to use that to our advantage.”

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And though just 20, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 draft is being thrust into a leadership role sooner than expected now that veterans like Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng have left and Chris Bosh is dealing with his health issue.

But it’s something Winslow is ready to embrace even though he said he’s never been a rah-rah type of guy.

“To become a leader, a guy that all the other 14 guys in the locker room respect, a guy that I’m going to hold myself accountable and also my teammates,” Winslow said when asked what will be his biggest challenge this season.

“This is something that is new to me. I’ve never been a super vocal guy but that’s something I had a chance to try to do in summer league, I had a chance to witness (as a member of the USA Basketball Select Team), and so that’s a role I want to take on.

“It should be fun for me and our team taking the next step. But for me becoming more of a leader and a guy that some of the newer guys – they’re older than me but they’re newer to the Heat culture – can kind of look to.”

 

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Miami Heat to win 38 games, finish 10th in East according to ESPN

 

ESPN says the Heat will 38 games, miss playoffs.
Ouch! ESPN says the Heat will 38 games, miss playoffs.

The Miami Heat are projected two win 38 games and just miss the playoffs, according to ESPN’s real plus-minus.

Actually, the real number is 38.3, which puts the Heat No. 10 in the East, two spots being Indiana (38.9), which would grab the final playoff spot at No. 8. Atlanta is ninth with a projected 38.6 wins.

The top spots in the East go to Cleveland (52.1), Boston (49.8), Toronto 48.8) and Detroit (47.5).

The West looks like this: Golden State (66.8), San Antonio (54.5), Utah (47.5) and the Clippers (46.3).

The Heat are coming off a 48-34 season in which it lost Game 7 at Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Heat, though, lost starters Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng in free agency and still are unsure about the status of Chris Bosh, who has missed the second half of the last two seasons because of blood clots.

Miami was 37-45 two years ago.

This is how the RPM works according to ESPN: The RPM estimates a player’s on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors. When used along with playing time projections, it’s proved to be a very accurate predictive tool overall.

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Luol Deng’s classy goodbye to Heat, South Florida

Luol Deng is gone, but he loved his time in Miami. (Getty Images)
Luol Deng is gone, but he loved his time in Miami. (Getty Images)

Luol Deng was one of the most misunderstood players in recent Heat history. He was their most consistent player the past two years and did a disproportionate amount of dirty work without ever complaining. He is a slasher by nature, but Miami asked him to space the floor as a spot-up 3-point shooter. He made it work. He’s played small forward his entire career, but switched full-time to power forward last season because Chris Bosh went down. He made that work, too.
Continue reading “Luol Deng’s classy goodbye to Heat, South Florida”

Heat’s Luol Deng agrees to $72 million deal with Lakers

Luol Deng is leaving Miami. (Getty Images)
Luol Deng is leaving Miami. (Getty Images)

As expected, Luol Deng won’t be back with the Heat next season.
Continue reading “Heat’s Luol Deng agrees to $72 million deal with Lakers”

Heat free agency roundup: Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Dion Waiters

Dwyane Wade's future with the Heat remains unclear. (Getty Images)
Dwyane Wade’s future with the Heat remains unclear. (Getty Images)

The Heat made their first free agency strike this morning by securing center Hassan Whiteside on a four-year, maximum contract, but they have plenty else to manage as they proceed toward Sunday’s scheduled meeting with Kevin Durant.

Here are the latest free agent updates that matter to Miami:
Continue reading “Heat free agency roundup: Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Dion Waiters”

2016 NBA free agents: Chandler Parsons declines option, hits market

The Heat could go after Chandler Parsons as their new starting small forward. (Getty Images)
The Heat could go after Chandler Parsons as their new starting small forward. (Getty Images)

As the Heat explore their free agent options, a new one is available.
Continue reading “2016 NBA free agents: Chandler Parsons declines option, hits market”

2016 NBA free agents: Heat get another shot at Marvin Williams

The Heat made a run at Marvin Williams two years ago. They get another shot this summer. (Getty Images)
The Heat made a run at Marvin Williams two years ago. They get another shot this summer. (Getty Images)

When the Heat went into the 2014 offseason, they were looking for a way to rebuild their supporting cast around the Big Three and felt Marvin Williams would be an ideal fit at small or power forward. He turned out to be beyond their price range at $14.5 million over two years.
Continue reading “2016 NBA free agents: Heat get another shot at Marvin Williams”