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.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.

Rockets easily overcome James Harden’s horrid shooting night, win Game 2 over Timberwolves

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
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James Harden shot 2-for-18 – the worst field-goal percentage (11%) on so many attempts in a playoff game in nearly a decade and the worst ever in a first-round game.

The Rockets still won by 20 because of their stout defense, a strong supporting star in Chris Paul and Harden’s foul-drawing ability.

Houston’s took a 2-0 series lead with a 102-82 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Game 3 will be Saturday in Minnesota, but the top-seeded Rockets have seized firm control.

Every No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seed to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven first-round series have won it. There’s little reason to believe Houston will become the exception.

The Rockets are no longer as reliant on Harden, the likely MVP who seemed to wear down last postseason.

They buckled down defensively before letting up in a fourth quarter that was entirely garbage time. Houston forced more turnovers (16) than allowed assists (15) and contested shot after shot.

It’s becoming increasingly clear the Timberwolves have no quick solution to the Karl-Anthony Towns problem, and it’s not simply a matter of deciding to feed him more. Yes, he can get favorable post matchups against the Rockets’ switching scheme. But Minnesota lacks quality entry passers. The Timberwolves are also short on shooters and need him to spread the floor – even if that skill is less-helpful after a switch. Towns scored just five points in 24 minutes tonight.

His teammates were barely, if at all, better. The focus has turned to Towns, but this was a far-wider letdown.

On the other hand, Paul (27 points and eight assists) led Houston’s offense. Gerald Green (21 points and 12 rebounds) got hot. Even Harden (7-of-8 on free throws) chipped in thanks to his elite foul-drawing ability.

The Rockets aren’t always the most enjoyable team to watch, and that was the case tonight. Mostly, because they put this game out of reach long before it actually ended.