NBA Finals: How does LeBron James’ past four seasons with Cavaliers compare to his time with Heat?

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defended by Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe, but LeBron James has now played 15 full NBA seasons.

And still, the 33-year-old James is widely considered the best player in the league. He’s not part of the league’s best team, though.

That title belongs to the Golden State Warriors, which completed the 4-0 sweep of James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals on Friday to become back-to-back NBA champions. Continue reading “NBA Finals: How does LeBron James’ past four seasons with Cavaliers compare to his time with Heat?”

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 And like the Warriors, few members of the Eagles planned on visiting the White House even before the invitation was rescinded.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.”

[Here are 10 big names – and possible Heat targets – that could be on the move as NBA offseason is days away]

[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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New format breathes life (and defense) back into NBA All-Star Game

Team Stephen’s Joel Embiid battles for the ball against Team LeBron’s Kevin Durant and LeBron James in Sunday’s NBA All-Star game. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

LOS ANGELES – The NBA and its players association have stumbled onto something. And they shouldn’t let it go by the wayside.

The out-of-the-box thinking for the All-Star Game — scrapping the traditional East vs. West format and allowing the players to choose sides to create more competition — worked.

Sunday’s game, won by LeBron James’ team 148-145 over Stephen Curry’s squad was more than a showcase. It was actually a competitive game.

And not a laughable display of nine players standing around and choosing whose turn it is to fly to the rim or take a 35-foot jumper.

After a slow start — though not nearly as slow as the pregame show featuring the overexposed Kevin Hart — the players warmed up to actually playing defense, an art that had been lost in the last four All-Star games.

“The beginning of the game was basically no difference, a little bit of highlights,” said Heat guard Goran Dragic, who had two points, four rebounds and an assist in his All-Star game debut. He played 11:28.

Goran Dragic

“But then when the game was getting to the end, the last six, seven minutes was really a competitive game. We were down (13) points and we were really competing on defense. I think that’s good for the fans. You want to have a close game and we had one. It’s fun. You can see some highlights — alley-oops, crazy dunks — but I think the fans wanted competitiveness.”

They certainly got it.

Team LeBron trailed 133-120 with just under seven minutes to play, but went on a 24-17 run to tie the score with 1:30 remaining. Then, with the help of a finger-roll layup by MVP LeBron with 34.5 seconds to go, his team took a one-point lead.

Following a turnover by DeMar DeRozan, Team LeBron got the ball back and a Russell Westbrook bucket gave them a three-point lead with 10.7 seconds left.

Team Stephen, though, had one last chance to send the game into overtime. But Curry let his boys down when he could not get a shot off with LeBron and his Golden State teammate, Kevin Durant, smothering him. Curry was forced to give up the ball to DeRozan, who couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.

The last time an All-Star Game was decided by one possession was 2010.

“We tried to set the tone early of playing a little bit of defense, creating that competitive environment that was a great change for the fans,” Curry said. “I think we accomplished that all the way down to the finish.”

Yes they did. There was defense (a shocking concept for an All-Star game). There were strategic timeouts by coaches Dwane Casey of Toronto and Mike D’Antoni of Houston (again, something the All-Star game has not seen in awhile). There was James shouting out defensive calls. There were eight blocked shots, 20 steals and the first ever All-Star Game referee’s review (which, by the way, they got wrong).

Oh, and there were 28 free throws, another indication that defense was being played at the rim. The last two All-Star Games, which turned into unwatchable slam-dunk contests, had 16 free throws combined.

And the winning team the last two years, the West on both occasions, scored 196 and 192 points, forcing the NBA to get out ahead of this deteriorating snoozefest before someone cracked 200 points.

DeRozan and Durant both said it was the most fun each has had playing in an All-Star Game. And most players had to agree especially when the winning team has averaged 178.5 points the last four years.

“Both (teams) competed and they went after it, and that’s what you want to see,” said Heat general manager Andy Elisburg, who was part of the team’s contingent at the game to support Dragic.

“You want to see a game where there’s excitement and you got a one-possession game at the end.”

Elisburg doesn’t know if the format will continue — although with the positive reviews coming from the Hollywood crowd and beyond, the NBA has no choice. Now the league must take this format one step further and televise the draft.

Make it part of All-Star Weekend, say Friday night. Have all 24 players shooting around on the court and the two captains at midcourt pointing to a player and that player dropping the ball and walking over to stand next to his captain.

Just like they probably did hundreds of times on the playground.

Talk about ratings!

[Our Miami Heat awards at the break: The biggest surprise has been …]

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[One point shy of advancing, Heat’s Wayne Ellington knocked out in first round of 3-point contest]

[If Cleveland’s Kevin Love has any animosity toward Dwyane Wade he’s not showing it]

[Ray Allen made biggest shot in Heat history and now is a Hall of Fame finalist; Tim Hardaway not on list]

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Miami Heat 2017-18 schedule: 10 games on their schedule you won’t want to miss

MIAMI — The Heat’s regular-season schedule is set.

The NBA released the full 2017-18 schedule Monday evening and, as always, there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be excited for. For the Heat, there are two home games against Dwyane Wade and the Bulls, an early-season game against Gordon Hayward and the Celtics, and even an international contest against the Nets that will be played in Mexico City.

Here are 10 games that you won’t want to miss from the Heat’s 2017-18 schedule Continue reading “Miami Heat 2017-18 schedule: 10 games on their schedule you won’t want to miss”

Miami Heat president Pat Riley’s theory on the best way to catch the Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors have won two of the last three NBA Championships. Heat president Pat Riley isn’t sure the best way to catch them is the way they were built. (Getty Images)

Pat Riley remembers the feeling, how his organization once was the gold standard, the one every team was trying to chase and build to unseat.

Now it’s Golden State. And Riley understands what it will take to catch the Warriors.

Riley recently spoke about how the Warriors were built. “Organically,” he said. The Warriors original foundational pieces – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green – all were acquired through the draft.

Once Golden State became a contender it started supplementing and building depth by acquiring players through trades and free agency.

[Pat Riley kept his word and Wayne Ellington is ‘ecstatic’ he did]

[Former Heat center Willie Reed’s decision to decline option results in less money with Clippers]

[Two Heat players make a list of the league’s worst contracts. … and they have the same name]

“They drafted well, but they also made some very good acquisitions via trade and free agency,” Riley said last week. “They got (Andre) Iguodala, they ended up getting (Andrew) Bogut in a trade. The very first championship they won, they signed Shaun Livingston. They drafted Draymond Green in the second round. So they had a very low contract with Steph, they got Klay, so they grew organically. … They used all three areas.”

After their first title the Warriors slipped before deciding they needed one more final piece to truly separate them from the rest of the league.

That was Kevin Durant.

Now, everyone is chasing the Warriors and Riley has an interesting take in how that should be done.

Riley is not sure the best way to beat Golden State is to build your team the way Golden State did. His reasoning. … it will take too long.

“I think today in order to catch them, if you want to do the organic trip, it’s going to take you a long time,” he said. “Because the organic trip obviously is through lotteries and draft, and maybe some real good trades. But to be able to pick off the free agent that can change that organic trip and make it a little faster, I think will always be there.”

Which lends more insight into the way Riley has been thinking as he attempts to rebuild the Heat.

Riley isn’t interested in tanking and trying to rebuild through the lottery. What he wants is to remain competitive and then hit on another superstar free agent signing or a blockbuster trade.

Riley attempted that last summer in his pursuit of Durant and again this month by unsuccessfully going after Gordon Hayward. But even Hayward alone would not have been enough.

Still, he has put together a competitive team with a core of Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justice Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington.

But the Heat remain a star player (or two) away from becoming a true contender, one Riley always believes will be out there to chase.

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More sanity to free agency could benefit Miami Heat if they look to bring back both James Johnson, Dion Waiters

James Johnson and Dion Waiters will sit and wait to see what are their best options as the free agency period moves along.

Meanwhile, Dion Waiters and James Johnson sit back and wait.

The Miami Heat’s top two free agents were under the radar during the early hours of free agency, which was otherwise busy and brought a few surprises.  As a handful of players agreed to terms with the majority returning to their original teams, the Heat – and their free agents – were quiet.

Miami was preparing for their Saturday morning meeting with Gordon Hayward and Waiters and Johnson were waiting for the dust to settle to see where they fit in. And with the early signs that some sense of sanity may be returning to the process, that should be good news for the Heat.

The Heat will wait for Hayward’s decision before making their next move. After sitting down with Miami, the small forward will meet with the Celtics on Sunday and his original team, the Jazz, on Monday. But if Pat Riley gets a sense of what Hayward will do today he might proceed with the rest of his plan, which certainly will include one or both of Miami’s top free agents.

Outside of the two max deals – Stephen Curry agreeing with the Warriors for $201 million and Blake Griffin returning to the Clippers for $173 million, both for five years – the deals seemed reasonable and measured. This could benefit the Heat when it comes to Waiters and Johnson.

The only teams showing initial interest in either player was the Clippers with Johnson. But that likely ended when Griffin agreed to return. So both players are sitting out there without any reports of scheduled meetings.

The Heat certainly will talk to both but their interest in bringing them back could vary. If Hayward buys into the Heat’s sales pitch, that should leave enough money to re-sign either Johnson or Waiters and all signs point to then bringing back Johnson because of the need of a power forward. And on Friday Johnson told the Miami Herald he is “a patient guy” and the Heat “can take as long as they want” with Hayward.

Johnson’s willingness to stand by while Miami conducts its initial business is a great benefit to the Heat and eases the concern they could lose him over the next few days.

Waiters’ situation is a bit more complicated. He has not spoken to reporters recently and although, like Johnson, he has said several times since the end of the season his preference is to return to Miami, the test would come if he received a decent offer in the next couple of days.

Miami will be willing to let Waiters walk if it reels in Hayward, the tricky part will be circling back to Waiters if Hayward chooses Boston or Utah. The Heat’s ‘Plan B’ is more and more looking like re-signing both Johnson and Waiters to a manageable number and having extra cap space to either bring back Wayne Ellington or pursue another free agent.

Other than Curry and Griffin, the deals announced early Saturday were reasonable compared to the first-day frenzy last season. Riley recently called those contracts “out of whack.”

And with little buzz surrounding Johnson and Waiters, if Miami opts to bring back both perhaps it could get them for $22-$25 million combined. That could leave the Heat with $14-$17 million available to add another very valuable piece depending on what they do with Wayne Ellington and if they release Josh McRoberts to stretch his contract.

[2017 Miami Heat Free Agency Primer: What you need to know about the Heat’s salary cap situation]

[Add ‘culture’ to the Miami Heat’s list of selling points in free agency]

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Miami Heat have balancing act to consider early in free agency

 

President Pat Riley and the Miami Heat will start chasing free agents at 12 a.m. Saturday.

MIAMI – Every season, the anticipation for midnight July 1 builds. Every team is poised with a big board of free agents that most years tops 100 names, phone numbers are programmed into cell phones and meetings have been arranged.

Nothing – not the start of training camp, the regular season or even the Finals – has executives, coaches, players and fans more lathered than the start of free agency.

The Miami Heat hit the open market with one thought: To never experience another season like last, which ended with the team missing the playoffs because of tiebreaker. And if you think coming from 19-games below .500 to finish 41-41 was celebrated? Think again.

“I’m not all goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired. That’s not my makeup,” Riley famously said days following the end of the regular season. “I was pissed off. I was upset.”

Now, to see that does not happen again, Riley and GM Andy Elisburg have some work to do.

[Mailbag: Will James Johnson really give the Heat a hometown discount?]

[2017 Free Agency Preview: What mid-level free agents should the Heat pursue?]

First up is trying to squeeze lemonade out of a free agency class that mostly is filled with lemons. Okay, it’s not that bad, but with the biggest names (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry) re-upping with the Warriors, and the Clippers’ Chris Paul already being traded to the Rockets, this is not a stellar class.

Who does that leave? Utah’s sharp-shooting forward Gordon Hayward, Clippers multi-faceted forward Blake Griffin, Toronto’s ever-improving Kyle Lowry. When it comes to max free agents that should do it.

Not exactly LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade now, is it?

The next tier – Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka, Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday – certainly will help but are not exactly foundational pieces for a super team.

The Heat find themselves in a precarious spot. They will have at least $35 million in cap space once Bosh is released, a number that can be increased by sign-and-trades and stretching Josh McRoberts’ contract.

Miami has set up a Saturday meeting with Hayward, according to reports, and likely will kick the tires on Griffin, although their level in interest in the power forward is unknown.

But the sticky part is the timing. Miami remains interested in bringing back its top two free agents, Dion Waiters and James Johnson, but they essential play same positions as Hayward and Griffin (wing, power forward), though different styles.

Will the Heat be burned if they put Waiters and Johnson on hold while gauging the chances of signing either Hayward or Griffin or both? And do other teams swoop in and try to steal Waiters and/or Johnson Waiters early?

“We hope we’ll have some information on that first night,” Riley said last week.

This balancing act is key even though Waiters and Johnson have said all the right things. Both credit the organization for putting them in this position to cash in for the biggest payday of their careers. Johnson is 30 and looking at tripling his career earnings of about $16 million in one contract. Waiters is 25 and likely will do the same after making about $20 million in his first five years.

And while Waiters and Johnson likely are not at the top of too many teams’ shopping list, they still will be wooed early. Heat free agents Luol Deng and Joe Johnson were not close to the top of the list a year ago – some didn’t even have them among the top 30 free agents – and both agreed on the second day of free agency, Deng with the Lakers and Johnson with the Jazz.

If Waiters and Johnson are scooped up early, that could leave Miami in the case for Ibaka or Sacramento’s Rudy Gay.

One variable from a year ago, fewer teams have cap space and fewer dollars are available this summer than last. The cap rose about $15 million last summer. This year it will increase by about $5 million.

Still, the Heat have a “plan A. … a plan B” according to Riley, and those plans have worked out more often than not.

“We’ll attack it the way the Miami Heat typically does and well see what happens,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.

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Pat Riley is looking for major upgrades to Miami Heat roster but he warns free agency movement could be limited

Miami Heat President Pat Riley thinks teams might be more disciplined during free agency this year.

MIAMI – Heat President Pat Riley has said several times he is not expecting mass movement during free agency this summer. And if he’s right, it won’t be because he and GM Andy Elisburg sat back and watched the big names come off the board without the Miami putting up a fight.

The free for all starts July 1 and the Heat are major players with around $35 million in cap space, a number that was reduced by about $3 million this week for all teams when it was announce the projected salary cap will be $99 million. And although we saw a frenzy last summer with inexplicable contracts being offered that many teams now have come to regret, Riley believes many hard lessons were learned.

“A lot of the business was done quickly over the phone with a lot of these players and some of the contracts out of whack,” Riley said about the summer of 2016. “I don’t know if you’re going to see that this year. I think there might be a little bit more discipline in how teams go about that whole process.”

Some teams started dumping those bad contracts in the last week. The Lakers dealt Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to the Nets and the Hawks peddled Dwight Howard (three years, $70.5 million) to the Hornets.

[Heat didn’t see anybody in second round worth spending money on]

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Riley expects several of the max free agents – Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry – to re-sign with their existing teams because of the rules that allow those teams to offer their players longer, more lucrative deals. For some, staying put will mean up to $75 million more and for others up to $40 million more. Those numbers, though, are a bit misleading because players can sign for five years with their existing teams and are limited to four years if they jump ship.

“From what we understand most of the great ones will re-sign with their teams and I can understand why they would,” Riley said.

While that almost certainly is true for Durant and Curry, others appear in play, including Paul and Griffin, who could leave the Clippers under the right circumstances.

Even though most of the speculation has Riley making a serious pitch for Hayward – the seven-year veteran is coming off his breakout season (and first All-Star game) in which he averaged 21.9 points – he is bracing Heat fans for the possibility that the 2017-18 team closely will resemble the one that needed a 30-11 run during the second half of last season to finish .500.

Riley was asked if he would consider it a successful summer if he re-signed forward James Johnson and guard Dion Waiters and brought back guard Wayne Ellington.

“Yes, I would,” he said early Friday morning. “We’re working on that, talking about that. But now we can spend the next (eight) days getting that together.”

Bringing back all three likely would leave the Heat with $5 to $8 million to spend, along with two exceptions for $4.3 million and $3.3 million.

“We have a plan,” Riley said. “We have a Plan A. And we have a Plan B. There’s no D, E, F or G. We feel good about the plan. You never know what’s going to happen in free agency. We have great respect for the two guys, three guys, four guys that we have that are free agents. But, we’ll see what happens on July 1st. It’s always a pretty exciting time.”

Riley is hoping the Heat have some resolution on the first day – free agency starts at midnight. He believes a shorter moratorium – July 1 to July 6 – could speed up the process although last year Hassan Whiteside announced just hours into free agency that he was remaining with the Heat and Dwyane Wade’s decision to sign with Chicago came on July 6.

Riley referenced the crazy summer of 2010 when he landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. James’ made-for-TV announcement was July 9, two days after it was reported Bosh was leaving Toronto for Miami.

“It’s not like it was in 2010 when you had a (longer) moratorium and guys are flying all over the place, taking meetings,” Riley said. “That was incredible the itinerary we had and the number of players we flew around in 36 hours to see.”

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NBA Finals: Should this Golden State Warriors team be considered among the all-time greats?

The Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant carries his MVP trophy as he celebrates with fans a championship after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-120, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 12, 2017. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

The Warriors have earned another spot in the NBA history book.

With Monday’s 129-120 win over the Cavaliers, Golden State didn’t just claim its second NBA championship in three seasons. The Warriors also posted a 16-1 record (.941 win percentage) in these playoffs to go on the best title run ever, percentage points better than the 2001 Lakers (15-1, .938). Continue reading “NBA Finals: Should this Golden State Warriors team be considered among the all-time greats?”

NBA Finals: What does it take to beat the Golden State Warriors? A historic offensive performance

What does it take to beat Golden State?

Just take a look at the incredible offensive numbers Cleveland had to put up to avoid a sweep in the NBA Finals on Friday night.

The Cavaliers made an NBA Finals record 24 3-pointers on their way to defeating the Warriors 137-116 to force a Game 5. Cleveland also set a new NBA record for the most points in the first half of a Finals game with 86 points. Continue reading “NBA Finals: What does it take to beat the Golden State Warriors? A historic offensive performance”