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Udonis Haslem speaks of his mother to inspire Heat teammates

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Udonis Haslem’s mother died this summer. Damn you, cancer.

Monday afternoon, with the Heat’s 2006 championship trophy in the room along with just the players, Haslem spoke about it. Passionately. And moved his teammates.

Haslem was close to his mother, he spent a lot of time by her side in Miami this past year as she got more ill and more ill. The Palm Beach Post asked the last time he saw her smile.

“When she learned I was coming back to the team,” Haslem said.

Haslem, the long-time Heat player, was named co-captain along with Dwyane Wade. He spoke to the team from his heart Monday, being raw and truthful with them in a way rarely seen in an NBA locker room.

“There’s only one way we’re going to get this done, and that is together,” Haslem said, adding, “What I want guys to understand is it’s not just about basketball for me, or else I would have gone somewhere else. And other guys could have done the same thing. I don’t want (anything) to come between us and winning an NBA championship that we can control. That starts with everybody being vocal, everyone being leaders, not just me and Dwyane.”

Unlike the stars of this team, Haslem was not blessed with an NBA game at birth. He earned it. He had to go to France to play after the University of Florida, he had to drop 70 pounds and work on rounding out his skills (in college he was a back-to-the-basket center), plus finding what he could be exceptional at. He worked hard at his craft. He was passionate about it.

Starting in 2002, he earned a spot on the Heat. Now he has a chance to help earn his second NBA title, and he doesn’t want that to slip away. He wanted his teammates to understand his passion, and what needs to be done.

LeBron James told Fox Sports Florida the team got that.

“Udonis is a real heartfelt, pure person,” James said. “With the passing of his mother this past summer he has a lot to play for. It’s difficult when you lose a loved one and wish that she could be around this moment. We have to, as players, make sure we understand what type of year this could be for him and have his back all year.”

Report: Celtics re-sign Tyler Zeller for two years, $16 million

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19:  Kyle Korver #26 of the Atlanta Hawks grabs a rebound against Tyler Zeller #44 of the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Tyler Zeller is one of the few restricted free agents left on the market who could make an actual impact next season, and on Saturday morning, he’s come off the board. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports that the fourth-year big man has agreed to a deal to stay with the Celtics. It’s for two years and $16 million, with the second season being a team option.

Zeller isn’t a starter, but he’s a nice rotation big man, especially at that price. He can play minutes off the bench for Boston, and his contract is also very movable with the second season being unguaranteed. He played just 11.8 minutes per game last season, but averaged 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Watch Charles Barkley struggle to pronounce “Jonas Valanciunas” last season

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The Toronto Raptors were good last season, second best team in the East. That means the guys on Inside the NBA on TNT had to talk about them.

Which means Charles Barkley had to say “Jonas Valanciunas” a lot. Which is high comedy. While a lot of people struggle to say his name the guy is a solid NBA center who, with a little practice, you can say (and spell) his name pretty easily.

This comes from a YouTube user, via Reddit, with a hat tip to Eye on Basketball.

Watch highlights of USA’s 111-74 rout of Argentina in exhibition game

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Argentina isn’t considered a medal contender heading into the Rio Olympics. Their golden generation — led by Manu Ginobili — has picked up a lot of speed on the downhill side of their careers at this point.

They didn’t provide much of a challenge for Team USA in an exhibition game Friday night in Las Vegas, one won by the USA 111-74. Kevin Durant impressed playing with his new teammates in dropping 23 points, Paul George had 18, and the Americans had their way in the game.

Which is what we’re going to see a lot of in Rio — the USA’s talent level is just steps above any other team in the tournament.

Kevin Durant: Nobody has said something negative to my face about joining Warriors

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07:  Kevin Durant speaks to the media during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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When Kevin Durant chose the Warriors, he received criticism from all angles.

Fans burned his jersey. Charles Barkley decried the decision. Markieff Morris said, “That ain’t right.” Durant’s former Thunder teammates leaked their displeasure with the process.

Durant was so reluctant to face the backlash, he stayed in his bed luxurious rental house for two days.

It, uh, worked.

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

Though he has heard some criticism from Barkley and fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, various talking heads and people in social media who believe he has cheated the system and cut corners to a ring, Durant said the reaction to his choice hasn’t been too bad: “All that stuff happens on the Internet. I haven’t had one person come to me and say anything negative. … It’s easy for the critics on the outside to tell you what to do, to tell you how to play. I’m the one that’s going through it, so I can’t really worry about the outside noise. The work don’t stop. Everything stays the same.”

This is a good reminder how insulated NBA players, especially stars, can be.

And it adds to why Durant signing with Golden State makes sense. While we’re debating his legacy and discussing the backlash (and the backlash to the backlash and the backlash to the backlash to the backlash and the…), he’ll be playing high-level basketball with his friends in a desirable city for a max salary.

Sure, it’s not all rosy. Durant altered his relationship with his friend Russell Westbrook, and Durant will have to return to Oklahoma City for a game. There, he’ll face plenty of booing fans.

But, all in all, Durant should have little trouble tuning out the critics.

They’re too far away for him to hear them much.