Miami Heat players frustrated with Spoelstra, Riley’s shadow looms

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On every struggling team in the NBA there are players frustrated with the coach.

But no other team has the star power or scrutiny of the Miami Heat. And no other team has the long shadow of Pat Riley cast across the organization and the head coach.

So the reports out of ESPN’s Heat Zone today by Chris Broussard that Heat players are frustrated with coach Erik Spoelstra take on a special gravity.

Sources say the players believe he is not letting them be themselves, that they are questioning his offensive strategies, and that they think he is panicking because he fears losing his job.

In contrast to the popular view that Spoelstra has been hesitant to jump on superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, sources say the Heat coach has shown no fear in criticizing them…

“He’s jumping on them,” one source said. “If anything, he’s been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn’t believe it. They feel like Spoelstra’s not letting them be themselves.”

According to the sources, the Heat players believe Spoelstra’s offensive strategies have been too simplistic. They feel like he is running nothing but pick-and-rolls and telling the Heat’s secondary players to find open spots on the floor for catch-and-shoot jumpers…

“He’s not a motivator,” one of the sources said. “Instead of coaching he’s at the point where the players are starting to sense that he’s fearing for his job.”

The team had a clear-the-air meeting after losing Saturday in Dallas. We’ll see what if any impact that has.

The Heat’s offense has been simplistic and relatively easy to defend, with almost no off-the-ball motion. Teams are packing the paint, the Heat are too happy to settle for long jump shots. They play at a slower pace that does not take advantage of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in transition.

However, the team has little depth and injuries to Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have made that all the more evident. There are issues with this team right now beyond what any coach can fix, including Wade’s shooting percentage falling 30 points and his PER going from a team carrying 28 last year to a good but not the same 19.5 this season.

Pat Riley does not want to return to the bench, but owner Micky Arison could force the issue, either of his own volition or because players come to him. Wade has gone to Arison before with concerns about the direction of the franchise and the two have a good relationship.

Aging Pelicans’ owner couldn’t remember Anthony Davis’ name in deposition

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Tom Benson, the now 90-year-old owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, a few years back changed around the succession of control of the team after his passing — his wife Gayle will take control. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter and former handpicked successor, sued saying Benson had been manipulated. After meeting privately with Benson, a judge ruled that while Benson suffered some “cognitive impairment” he was capable of making his own decisions and that Gayle remained the successor.

Benson has been sued multiple times since then, including by former Saints employee Rodney Henry, and the then-89-year-old Benson was deposed in that case last year.

Someone broke the gag order and sent a copy of the deposition to The Advocate of New Orleans, and it shows that Benson’s mental acuity is fading. He couldn’t remember who Anthony Davis was by name.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

“Who is this?” Williams asked.

“It’s Rodney and a basketball player,” Benson said. “Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he’s a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no.”

When asked “is it Anthony Davis,” Benson said yes. The man is 90, I’m not sure that we should expect much. He had the foresight to bring in people to run his businesses — including his sports teams — and set up a line of succession for when he does pass. Smart moves.

Would Benson’s mental state impact potential changes coming to the Pelicans? Probably not. New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps bet big on going big in a league trending smaller, pairing Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If that doesn’t work out, plenty of people around the league expect a house cleaning on the basketball side with the Pelicans. Benson’s mental state, whatever it may be, does not impact that.

The deposition leak came from an anonymous source (and anonymous email account, the paper verified the document before publishing). Who leaked it? It may be nearly impossible to find out, but only one side benefits from all this becoming public. And it’s not Benson.

K.J. McDaniels signs with Raptors for camp, can he make roster?

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A few years back in Philadelphia, the athletic K.J. McDaniels was a highlight factory and looked like a guy who could develop into a role player on the wing in the NBA.

Except, he never actually developed. Houston gave him a chance (three years at a total of $10 million), and it didn’t work out, then last season Brooklyn had him for 20 games, but they decided to move on.

Now Toronto is going to give him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

McDaniels’ agent later confirmed the news. This is a training camp, make-good contract for McDaniels. But unlike a lot of those contracts being handed out around this time, there is space on the Raptors roster for a player or two.

McDaniels will compete with Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer for one of the final roster spots in Toronto. Of that group, I’d most likely want to keep McDaniels because of the shot blocking and his potential — but his outside shot has to improve.

The Raptors can carry 15 on the roster and very possibly will until at least Jan. 10, which is the date these partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed for the season. Toronto is flirting with the tax line, and ownership is not going to want to pay the tax for this team, so if they do carry 15 they likely will cut it to 14 by that date.

Watch James Harden do the #DriveByDunkChallenge from a speed boat (VIDEO)

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The #DriveByDunkChallenge has been a fun distraction this summer. If you don’t know what it is, it essentially involves NBA players jumping out of their cars to dunk on regular folks on community basketball hoops.

Players like Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown have led the charge in the social media video fad, and now it appears that Houston Rockets guard James Harden is setting a new trend.

That trend? Doing the #DriveByDunkChallenge from dang boat.

Yup, seriously.

Via Twitter:

I can’t think of anything more baller than dunking on somebody from a speed boat, so congrats to Harden for winning the NBA offseason.

Photoshop no more: here’s Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics uniform (PHOTO)

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I suppose it will take some time to get used to seeing Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics jersey. This photo is the first step on that journey.

In a photo posted to Hayward’s Instagram on Wednesday, many of us got our first look at the former Utah Jazz forward in his new digs.

Specifically, the new Celtics Nike jersey in green with the GE patch on the left shoulder.

Via Instagram:

🍀🔥

A post shared by @gdhayward on

There are still some serious doubts about whether the Celtics will be able to unseat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps they won’t need to wait for long. Rumors are starting to trickle in about LeBron James leaving Ohio, so maybe by the time we are used to seeing Hayward in Celtics green next season they will have less competition out east.