Game of the night: Paul Millsap goes Reggie Miller and the Jazz beat the Heat

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It is still one of the greatest basketball highlights out there — Reggie Miller scoring eight points in nine seconds against the Knicks.

Paul Millsap kind of looked like Reggie at the end of regulation in the Jazz’s Monday night’s game against the Heat — a much, much thicker version of Miller, but the unbelievable tying of the game felt the same.

Millsap hit two three pointers — the third and fourth of his career — and tipped in the tying shot as the clock expired to send Monday night’s game into overtime, where eventually the Jazz upset the Heat 16-114.

Millsap’s late game heroics are half the story here, the other half is how the Jazz got back into this one. For once, the Miami offense shouldn’t be the question mark, their defense should.

But first this note: Somewhere Wednesday, in some newspaper or some corner of the Internet, a writer is going to say that three losses in their first eight shows that the Heat have been overrated, that they are not that good. That writer will be wrong. This start may be a disappointment to those who expected 72 wins and a waltz to the title, but what it really is about is the reality of learning to play together and win in the NBA. This league is hard.

The Heat have some flaws, particularly on the inside defensively, that a few teams can exploit. But even most those teams need some luck to make it come together. It will take time to come together in Miami.

The Heat came out early in this one trying to make sure the “lost” Chris Bosh found his way — he had seven of the team’s first 19 points. Meanwhile the Jazz players should have had to join a mason’s union for all the bricks they were laying, shooting 2-18 to start. The Heat were up 21 at the half and they seemed to put on the cruise control. Jerry Sloan teams know not of coasting.

The NBA is all about mismatches — players that can create them and teams that understand how to use them. The Jazz understand. They figure out what works and keep pointing on the sore spot.

In this case, that was Millsap and the fact Bosh could not cover him. What kind of night was it for Millsap? The man now has made four three pointers in his NBA career — and three of them came in the fourth quarter against the Heat. He hit 19 of 28 shots but it was not all right around the rim (he hit 7 of his 8 shots there), it was him going 6 of 13 from the midrange and 6 for 6 from 16 feet and beyond.

What’s more, the Jazz started playing much better defense inside the paint, taking away the easy buckets in the paint — Bosh had just 4 points and 3 rebounds in the second half. The Heat became jump shooters.

LeBron put up a triple double, but let’s not call this a great game from him. He was 1-8 shooting from outside the paint and he settled for that jumper too much.

It took all of that for the Jazz to climb back in this one, and they still needed the highly unlikely Millsap goes Miller just to force overtime.

It’s not going to be easy to beat the Heat, but any intimidation factor, any aura of invincibility is now gone.

Report: John Wall’s extension includes player option

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The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.

Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.

Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.

But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.

Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.

*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.