Miami Heat hold players-only meeting after (latest) disappointing loss

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The Heat will have to forgive us, the Heat-seeking public, if we’re not overly impressed by this latest overture. It’s not that it wasn’t, that it isn’t, needed, it was and is. It’s a good sign. But it’s just one lost among so many other bad, bad signs.

After Saturday night’s 95-106 loss to the Mavericks, one in which they had pulled to within 6 with five minutes to go, only to see the Mavericks calmly and deliberately blast them back into a double-digit deficit, Yahoo! Sports reports the Heat held a players-only  meeting. The tried and true measure of how bad things can get when the players decide to boot the coaches to talk amongst themselves in an effort to obtain some measure of accountability and refocus.

Again, pardon us if we’re not overly impressed.

This is a gesture, and gestures simultaneously mean something and nothing at all. Were the Heat to now get themselves “right” (whatever that is since we haven’t seen it yet in their existence during this incarnation’s 17 games), then the gesture was the start of their coming together, of pulling together and reaching at least some measure of their lofty goals they set for themselves. However, if the Heat go out versus the Wizards on Monday and Detroit on Tuesday, in preparation of “Bring Your Own Molotov Cocktail” night at the Q, then it’s simply another in a long line of indications that this team is all hype and no hope, the trend which it has exemplified through the first near-fifth of the season.

One problem with this team can easily be identified in their quotes:

From Bosh:

“We were just looking at each other and being honest, that’s what it’s all about,” Bosh told Yahoo! Sports about the meeting. “I think when you’re in situations like these and around guys all the time, you need to be honest with each other. Just talk and put our foot down about the season and put it in minds that we’re better than this, and we’re going to do better than this.”

To Wade:

“This is a new team, a new group of guys,” Wade said. “Guys need to understand and know each other and get to hear each other talk. And I think we all feel better after the talk we have.”

To James:

“This is a team that is new to each other,” James said. “It’s going to take time. But the thing we can do right now is just go out and just play, play harder, don’t have any lapses. I think the fact that we know we are so talented individually, we feel we can have lapses at times.”

Notice how in every instance it’s about “we” and not “I?”

Now, this is a tricky thing. If the three were all talking about themselves and what they need to do better, the media would no doubt be slamming the door on their hands about being selfish and thinking me-first. The Heat have every justification for saying they can’t win in this situation, and that they’re just trying to make it clear they think of themselves as a team, and not individuals.

The problem?

Responsibility can be shared but leadership needs to be expressed by the individual taking hold of his own shortcomings and setting an example to the rest that “this has to start with me.” There’s not enough among the three of talking about how they need to improve their own performance. There’s not enough about how they need to start leading, taking charge, and being the stars that they are.

In a crucial possession last night, Dwyane Wade did what he’s done a million times this season, seemingly. He drove past his defender. He reached the paint. He found the defender closing in to make contact and… jump passed to James Jones who badly bricked a three.

That’s not going to cut it. The Big 3 should make it easier on one-another to produce points with the attention they draw, not James Jones or Eddie House or Joel Anthony or Zydrunas Ilgauskas or whatever retread player they’ve filled the gaps in with. It starts and ends with the Big 3. And so far they’ve been a lot of talk, in front of and behind closed doors, and very little action.

We’ll see if they can capitalize on whatever it is they sorted out last night in the locker room or if this situation only continues to disintegrate, in this, the Big Letdown so far.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.