At some point, the Miami Heat are going to have to consistently beat very good teams to reach their goal.
That point is in May. Nearly six months from now.
Right now, the Heat’s much publicized 3-7 record against teams over .500 is pretty meaningless as a predictor of future success. The Heat team that takes the floor in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs will feel different than the one than takes the court Monday night in Milwaukee.
As Tom Ziller points out at SB Nation the Heat’s struggles are not uncommon. Right now the Lakers are 11-2 against teams under .500 and 2-4 against “good” teams over that threshold. Do you question if they will be good in the playoffs? Ziller then goes on to point out every team has a worse record against the good teams than the bad ones. Which is logical, it’s harder for everyone to beat good teams.
What has been the best statistical predictor of playoff success is point differential per possession — how much do you outscore your opponent by. It’s not perfect, but it is more accurate a predictive tool than anything else out there.
And the Heat have outscored their opponents by an average of 8.9 points per 100 possessions. Who is better than that? Boston (9.6), the Spurs (9.5) and the Lakers (9.4). Nobody else. That is pretty elite company.
And as Tom Haberstroh points out at ESPN, each of those teams brings back its core of the last few years. Those teams have their identities, their patterns for success that the Heat are just trying to figure out. It was never going to be simple to blend LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together (especially with key players like Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem injured).
You don’t have to like it, but the fact is the Heat are elite. You can pick apart their record however you wish, but notice that the key indicators are all good and this team seems to be picking up confidence. They are very good now. They will be elite come May.
The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.
Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.
Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:
Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.
Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.
But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.
Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.
In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.
76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.
Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.
Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”
“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”
“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”
“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”
We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.
Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.
Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.
At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James may miss Cleveland’s opener Tuesday night against Boston because of a sprained left ankle.
James injured his ankle in practice on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition game. He participated in the team’s morning shootaround, and a team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether he faces the Celtics. James is officially listed as questionable.
James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavs work out.
It’s hard to imagine James missing the first opener of his career and a chance to play against former teammate Kyrie Irving, who was traded this summer to Boston after telling Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out. James and Irving had a sometimes rocky relationship during three seasons together, but they made it to three straight NBA Finals and won the title in 2016.
Kyrie Irving said he requested a trade from the Cavaliers because he wanted to be happy and maximize his potential.
But why did he feel that couldn’t happen in Cleveland?
Irving hasn’t come close to directly answering that question, saying things like, “My intent, like I said, was for my best intentions.” Returning to Cleveland with the Celtics, Irving was again pressed to explain.
Irving, via MassLive:
Going forward, I kind of wanted to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to figure out and dive in and continue to dive into a narrative that they have no idea about and that probably will never, ever be divulged, because it’s not important. This was literally just a decision I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything. I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do. They continue to move on with their life and and continue to progress, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Perhaps, Irving is just following Dwyane Wade‘s advice and taking the high road. But that won’t ease our collective curiosity. Fans will continue to speculate about why Irving wanted out, and reporters will continue to dig into it. Reporting and speculation have both centered on LeBron James.
If Irving eventually wants to set the record straight – and he doesn’t sound interested, lending credence to the theory he wanted to leave LeBron behind – everyone will be all ears.