Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat

Winderman: Heat charging fans to line up on wrong side of velvet rope

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On a day when LeBron James revealed a bracket on his website that has Duke as his choice, after he previously said he thought Ohio State would win the NCAA Tournament, apparently the rules have changed.

Based on a Wednesday announcement from the Miami Heat, that has become abundantly clear.

Upon announcing that the team has sold out its 2011-12 allotment of season tickets, the Heat unveiled a “Heat Priority Access Club,” one that has $50, $150 and $250 levels of membership.

And what does that get you? Nothing tangible. But it does buy hope.

By joining the club, with those fees due annually, fans can move up on the team’s priority lists when future season tickets become available.

While the team said the memberships would not be refunded if there is a 2011-12 lockout, the memberships would revert to the season when the league returns.

The different levels of membership reflect the ability to purchase playoff tickets in different rounds and other priority lists for individual game tickets. None of the plans guarantee the right to purchase tickets to a 2011 NBA Finals appearance.

According to Heat President Eric Woolworth, “The new Heat Priority Access Club is now the best way for fans to move to the head of the line for Heat playoff tickets even as they wait for future opportunities to purchase Heat season tickets.”

In other words, space on a line that doesn’t necessarily get you in the building now comes at a price.

Those who purchase Priority Access Club at the $50 level receive, according to the team, “benefits such as access to the regular-season presale for individual game tickets and wait-list priority for season tickets.”

Those who purchase Priority Access Club at the $150 level receive, according to the team, “all the benefits of the ($50) level, plus the guaranteed opportunity to purchase Heat playoff tickets for Round 1 of the 2011 NBA playoffs before they go on sale to the general public. In addition, fans who select the ($150) level will also have the opportunity to purchase a Heat partial (2011-12) plan before the general public.”

Those who purchase Priority Access Club at the $250 level receive, according to the team, “all the benefits of the ($50 and $150) levels, as well as the guaranteed opportunity to purchase playoff tickets for Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the 2011 NBA playoffs.”

Tickets for the Heat’s July welcome party for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were free.

Now getting in line comes with a cost.

And to think that all those New York Knicks fans are angry about price increases that are accompanied by an actual seat to the games.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.