Last time the end of the game had all the suspense of a North Korean election. It was over before it started. Back on March 4, the Spurs walked out of the locker room draining threes while the Heat had just 12 first quarter points. Miami was down more than 20 less than 12 minutes in and never seriously changed after that.
Ten days later, the Heat seek redemption. After beating the Lakers last week by out executing the defending champions at the end of the game, the Heat get another shot at this season’s end-of-game execution champions in the Spurs.
But the Heat need to be in at the end for that to matter.
And that’s why you need to tune in early Monday — the teams that have beaten the Spurs or had a shot to at the end usually grab big leads early. The Spurs, in the regular season, will fold up the tents pretty early and rest guys if they think there is no point in mounting a comeback.
Getting out to a fast start means the Heat have to do a better job defending the three-point line. Which is easier said than done — the Spurs run a lot of high pick-and-rolls with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili slashing into the defense, forcing rotations, then they make you pay with good spot up shooters. The Lakers defended this by having Andrew Bynum lay back and protect the paint from slashing guards. While the Heat do not have a guy who can defend the rim like Bynum look for them to take something out of playbook.
The Heat also need to get some points in transition — they are beasts when they steal the ball or get out and run off long rebounds. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are otherworldly forces of nature in the open court. Last meeting it was the Spurs — and Parker in particular — that was controlling the open court and getting the transition points (a lot on secondary break stuff). The Heat need to get back better in transition defense while getting out more and running themselves.
The Heat also need to get another big game from Chris Bosh, making Tim Duncan really work on the defensive end of the floor. The Heat need to get inside the Spurs defense.
Do all that… and the Heat still better hope they are up comfortably at the end of the game. Because if it comes down to end-of-game execution it is the Spurs that have to be the favorites.
But if the Heat come out and play with the desperation they showed against the Lakers, maybe once again it will not come down to the end of the game. And the Heat will get the win this time.
J.J. Redick and the Clippers seemed done with each other before free agency even began.
Redick – who signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the 76ers – gave Uninterrupted a behind-the-scenes look into his free agency. In the above video, he revealed plenty about his situation in L.A.:
It’s s—y to say this, but I think I’ve had a loss of joy. I look at our team and how we play, and it’s just there’s no joy in it. That bothers me.
On June 29th at about 10 p.m., I got a call from Lawrence Frank from the Clippers. I jokingly call it my breakup call. He just told me they weren’t going to offer me a contract. I wasn’t going to be back.
There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Blame Chris Paul for not relenting enough in his grating perfectionism and being petty. Blame Blake Griffin for being aloof about weight of his actions. Blame Paul and Griffin for waiting too long to get serious about bonding. Blame Doc Rivers for bringing in Austin Rivers and inviting accusations of nepotism. Blame Doc Rivers for too long setting a tone of whining.
Blame a tough Western Conference and injury for keeping a team with championship aspirations from never advancing past the second round. Blame familiarity, which bred contempt over several years with the same core.
Whomever or whatever you blame, the outcome seems tough to dispute: The Clippers looked joyless by the end of their run. Redick saying it only confirms the perception.
I’m curious whether he’ll find more joy in Philadelphia. A new situation will be refreshing, and the 76ers – young and talented – are hungry. Expectations are low after years of tanking, so even modest gains will be celebrated. But they’re also worse than the Clippers were, and losing more often will be an adjustment.
To get a better idea where Redick is coming from as he begins in Philadelphia, I recommend watching the video in full. It’s quite illuminating.
After signing Jrue Holiday to a massive contract, the Pelicans added Rajon Rondo while putting out word that the two point guards would play together.
They won’t just play together. They’ll start together.
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed the plan on Dunc & Holder then expanded (hat tip: Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots):
I like Jrue off the ball to start the game as a scorer. I like Rondo being on the floor as a leader. Now, obviously, Jrue is going to play some where he’s the primary ball-handler. I spoke to Jrue at length about this, and I think it’s something that can really help us.
Holiday’s value is maximized at point guard. He’s better than Rondo, and it’s generally better to give the ball more often to the better point guard.
But Holiday can defend multiple positions and work off the ball. Rondo can’t. New Orleans is short on wings, so shifting Holiday there is a reasonable option.
Rondo is a minus shooter for his position, but Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have improved their range immensely. This won’t necessarily be a prohibitively cluttered starting lineup. Paying a starter just $3.3 million is a bargain – one the Pelicans needed considering their self-inflicted constraints. They couldn’t afford someone who’d create no complications. I just think the difficulties causes by starting Rondo are manageable.
The bigger question is what New Orleans does on the wing beyond E'Twaun Moore. Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham (who’s unsigned but whose Bird Rights are still held by New Orleans) are better at power forward. Darius Miller is far from a proven NBA commodity. Quincy Pondexter can seemingly never get healthy.
If Quinn Cook is ready for the rotation, that could help. He could play when Rondo sits and allow Holiday to spend all his time at shooting guard. But I’m not sure Holiday is ready to cede all his minutes at point guard, the higher-profile position. (I’m also unsure Cook is ready to play regularly.)
Starting Holiday at shooting guard mitigates the wing problem, but it doesn’t solve it. There are still too many wing minutes to go around, and New Orleans is running out of money to spend – both with exceptions and below the luxury-tax line.
Jonah Bolden – No. 16 on my draft board – slipped all the way to the 76ers at No. 36 in the NBA draft. An impressive summer league has raised his stock significantly.
But Philadelphia won’t reap the rewards this season.
Bolden signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced. The club also said the deal contained NBA outs and the 76ers helped facilitate his move from his previous team, Red Star in Serbia.
This is a helpful arrangement for Philadelphia, which is running out of roster spots. Bolden will develop elsewhere while allowing the 76ers’ to maintain his exclusive negotiating rights.
Bolden must get stronger and more adept at handling physicality. The athletic stretch four can also continue developing his burgeoning perimeter skills.
Then, next year, maybe the 76ers will have room to sign him themselves.
If you’re not up with what the kids are doing, the cool thing this summer is the #DriveByDunkChallenge – driving to random houses, running out of a still-running car, dunking on their basketball hoop, running back into the car then driving off.
It sounds like a lot of fun for those who can dunk (and don’t get accosted by startled homeowners). An example:
Pelicans star Anthony Davis took his turn: