Miami Heat goes big: re-signs Joel Anthony, inks draftee Dexter Pittman

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Janthony_rondo.jpgIt’s the question a lot of basketball people were asking after Miami pulled off the LeBron/Wade/Bosh coup: Who protects the rim on defense? Who is your real big man?

The answer: Joel Anthony. And Dexter Pittman is in there too.

Miami re-signed Joel Anthony to a five-year, $18 million deal, according to our own Ira Winderman, writing for the Sun Sentinel. Second round draft pick Dexter Pittman — a real big body — also inked his deal with the Heat and will make the roster.

And those are not the only big men the Heat will get, Winderman says: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard will have deals done in the next few days, and Jamaal Magloire also will very likely get a deal.

Anthony may well be the opening-night starter at center, he’s a defensive specialist and with this roster that is what is called for. Although you can bet everyone from the paragraph above will get their chance to lay claim to the five spot.

Anthony played 16.5 minutes per game last season coming off the bench for the Heat, and spent most of those minutes hunting for blocks. Miami needs him to play like a starter now. He’s undersized for the center spot at 6’9″ but he likes to be physical inside. Miami needs that. Anthony isn’t much of a scorer. Which is fine, Miami doesn’t need that.

The Heat need Anthony to do the defensive and rebounding dirty work because
Chris Bosh is not a real center. He can’t physically bang with the
Jermaine O’Neals and Dwight Howards of the league. Think of him like Pau
Gasol in this sense: You can play Bosh at the five, but he is most
effective and the biggest matchup problem as an oversized, skilled four.

Dexter Pittman is a big body — too big a body. He’s listed at 6’11” and 308 pounds.

David Thorpe, the player development specialist and Executive Director of the Pro Training Center (plus ESPN writer) said that Pittman has the athletic side of the game down but not the body. He has shown that athleticism and some nice skill in Vegas at Summer League. But he is so big he is getting out-quicked by more fit players — and the NBA is quicker than Summer League.

He needs a pro body, not a college body, Thorpe said, maybe needing to drop 50 pounds or more. He also said he is betting Miami’s staff can help get him there by the start of the season.

There is precedence — DeJuan Blair reshaped his body like that last year (with the help of Thorpe) and he went on to have a very good rookie year. Blair was a second round steal that had fans of a number of teams asking, “why didn’t we draft him?” (Well, the fact he had no ACLs also scared teams off).

Pittman can be that guy this year, if he makes the same commitment to getting in shape.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.