The terrifying possibility of a LeBron-Wade-Bosh triumvirate in Miami inches closer to becoming a reality

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Thumbnail image for bosh_wade.jpgUPDATE 11:12 am: The Miami Herald and other sources are reporting that this summit did not happen in Miami. Turns out Wade spent last weekend in his hometown of Chicago. Although ESPN’s sources say they were all together in Miami.

Whatever. See, there is this fancy new technology called the telephone where the three of them could have had a conversation from wherever they were in the world. Amazing, I know. So to recap, a summit may have happened, but maybe not face-to-face one in Miami. And it may all not matter because they could talk any time they want.

10:24 am: Call it a summit, a book club, or whatever you’d like, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have met to determine the league’s future over a nice game of Parcheesi. What an ominous yet delightful development!

The particular endgame the three are discussing is a future in which James, Wade, and Bosh all play for the Heat. Miami doesn’t have the cap space for such an unprecedented move as of yet, but they’ll continue trying to clear as much cap as possible to keep this dream alive. They just have to move Michael Beasley’s deal, and Pat Riley has been on the phones begging other GMs to do just that. Our own Ira Winderman reported he may have found a landing place, but nothing has been made official yet.

Reports have LeBron James as being the non-committed one to this idea. The man wants to be courted, he wants the teams to come to him and tell him how much they love him. Then he will decide, and Miami may now be a front runner. But first, he wants to be wooed.

The thought of the three biggest prizes of the 2010 free agent class all ending up in Miami is…frightening, to say the least. Supposing the Heat do end up moving Beasley, then Mario Chalmers and second round selections Dexter Pittman and Justin Varnado would be the only locks for the roster. The rest would need to be picked up using cap exceptions and minimum contracts. However, given the drawing power of the triumvirate, I’m sure a few capable veterans could be persuaded to sign for a discount.

If the three are to ever team up, it would require sacrifice. The price of converting three incredible, distinct talents into a supergroup would be substantial, particularly for their individual résumés. Initially, someone would have to sacrifice money; even if the Heat shed Beasley’s contract in order to have a realistic chance of signing all three free agents, they won’t have enough cap space for three max contracts.

Then, all three would likely have to sacrifice in usage. James, Wade, and Bosh are all high-usage superstars, and while their combined presence would open up easier scoring opportunities for all, it would also decrease their general frequency. It seems unlikely that any of the three players would be able to maintain their current statistical excellence if they were sharing a ball. Stats don’t mean everything, but they do factor into current evaluations of their game, All-NBA selections, Hall of Fame chances, and eventually help to determine their place among the all-time greats. After all, how often are numbers used for historical comparison, regardless of context?

If the thought of neo-Miami’s core is remarkable, it’s made even more so by the level of subjugation required to obtain it. This would be more than three superstars in their prime wanting to play together; James, Wade, and Bosh would all have to surrender their egos, their touches, their production, and their excuses at the door. If they fell short of an NBA title, there would be no wiggle room, as each would finally have at least two teammates worthy of their own impressive skills. That may not be an issue, though. The sheer force of James, Wade, and Bosh alone would incite an all-out panic across the league, and there’s a distinct possibility that they could rule the NBA with an iron fist.

But only if they decide that it’s really worth it. Only if they conclude that recognition of their work as a collective is enough to sustain them for the next few seasons. Only if three guys who have played up this summer’s market, promoted themselves, and been showered with attention suddenly determine that they don’t need all eyes on them and them alone. Only if they sacrifice the money, their places in the record books, and surely some individual awards along the way. Only then can we start reserving trophies for the new-and-improved hypothetical Miami Heat, the team that would somehow act as a caricature of the superstar system while defying it. 

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.