Miami Heat's LeBron James gestures after being fouled in NBA basketball playoff action against the Philadelphia 76ers in Miami

NBA Playoffs: Can Philly do more than keep it close in Miami?

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Prediction: LeBron James is going to break out in Game 2.

LeBron had a quiet 21 points in Game 1, but was just 4-of-14 shooting. He was more passive than normal, early on in the game he was patiently waiting for the double team to come so he could pass out of it. Don’t expect patient, assist-happy LeBron in Game 2 Monday night. Expect “I want to make a mark on this series” LeBron.

The question is will the Sixers be able to contain him? Can Andre Iguodala keep him relatively in check and help keep the game close? And is this give the Sixers a better chance than Chris Bosh going off?

Game 1 was a lot more Bosh than we normally see and that is good for the Heat — they win a lot more when he is the second leading scorer on the team. Philadelphia is undersized and they paid for that with Bosh getting 25 points on 17 shots. Philly also paid on the glass, where Miami grabbed 15 offensive rebounds (a very high 35.7 percent of their missed shots). The Sixers need to find a way to clean up on the glass to stand a real chance in this series. Which is hard when you’re facing good rebounding wing players in LeBron and Dwyane Wade.

The other thing Philly wants to change is the free throw disparity — Miami got to the line 39 times to the Sixers 15 in Game 1.

Sorry to tell you this Doug Collins, that was not about the referees, that was about Miami attacking the rim and penetrating, trying to get inside, while your Sixers slowed it down and settled for jumpers. Philly needs some transition baskets and some fouls by attacking, the problem is they have to keep the tempo controlled because they cannot run with LeBron and Wade. The other problem is how much Lou Williams can help with those things. They miss him being healthy.

How and how much Wade gets used will be another thing to watch as he is coming off debilitating migraines. He will play in Game 2 but may have on glare-reducing goggles. Which by Wednesday will be all the rage in Miami nightclubs.

At the end of the game, if the Sixers can keep it close again, the Heat have made the Wade/Bosh pick-and-roll their go-to play. And it works. It will be interesting to see how the Sixers adjust to this. Not that there are really great options, that is a killer combo for the pick and roll or pop.

The other thing I’m curious to see — is the Miami zone back? The broke that out and Jrue Holliday admitted it worked because the 76ers were stunned and unprepared for it. The Heat will not make a habit of it, but it is a nice change of pace defense for a couple trips down.

Collins deserves a lot of credit for getting the most out of this Sixers roster. But that is different than getting them over the hump of a road win in the playoffs. They are going to need a big game from Williams to make it happen — they need his shot creation and ability to draw fouls — but his hamstring continues to hamstring the team.

GM David Griffin: Cavaliers have made J.R. Smith ‘incredibly competitive and aggressive offer’

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers acknowledges the crowd during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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We’ve now reached the “negotiate through the media” stage of J.R. Smith‘s free agency.

Everyone expects Smith to re-sign with the Cavaliers, but training camp opened without a deal. Reportedly, discussions are somewhere between $10 million and $15 million annually with contract length a roadblock.

Cavs general manager David Griffin, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“As we have stated and coach has previously stated, we think very highly of J.R. and we love him as a member of our team, as a member of our locker room,” General Manager David Griffin said. “He was essential to our success and for that reason we have made an incredibly competitive and aggressive offer in re-signing him.”

I bet Smith’s agent, Rich Paul, would say his contract demands are perfectly reasonable, too.

The Cavaliers want to maximize chemistry as the they defend their title, and that means getting Smith signed as quickly as possible. But they also want to avoid paying Smith a large salary – and taking a big luxury-tax hit – as he declines into his 30s.

Something will eventually give, but first, Griffin is telling the world ending the stalemate is in Smith’s court – though not revealing the exact offer(s) to be judged publicly. We’ll see how Smith and Paul respond.

Report: Derrick Rose more concerned about rape allegation than he’s publicly revealing

FILE - In this June 24, 2016, file photo, New York Knicks' Derrick Rose speaks during a news conference at Madison Square Garden in New York. Phil Jackson made a risky move when he traded for the injury-prone Rose in June, and now the Knicks face the possibility of their point guard's involvement in a rape trial in California during his first preseason with the team.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
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Phil Jackson said the Knicks aren’t concerned about the civil and potentially criminal rape allegations Derrick Rose is facing. Rose doesn’t sound concerned, either.

But is Rose just putting on a front?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

For now, the Knicks wait – and hope. Hope that the civil suit is resolved quickly. Hope that Rose – who has been troubled by the uncertainty of his legal entanglements more than he is letting on, sources familiar with Rose told The Vertical – is able to block out the distractions and build on the progress he made last season.

Rose should be concerned. Whatever happened that night, the specter of criminal prosecution and/or civil judgment against him are daunting outcomes. He can try to put that aside and focus on basketball, but this is a major event in his life.

Jimmy Butler still begging Fred Hoiberg to coach him harder

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Head coach Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls talks with Jimmy Butler during a game against the Golden State Warriors
at the United Center on January 20, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly has chemistry issues last season stemming from the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg relationship. Butler’s most public critique of Hoiberg came in December, when the wing said, “We probably have to be coached a lot harder at times.”

A reasonable criticism for the mild-mannered Hoiberg? Perhaps, especially for a team that responded so well to the hard-driving Tom Thibodeau for the better part of five years.

The best delivery? Probably not, considering Hoiberg was still trying to find his way in his first NBA season.

But Butler hasn’t changed his message.

Butler, via CSN Chicago:

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

Tim Duncan was celebrated for years for taking the brunt of Gregg Popovich’s criticism in San Antonio, setting an example for younger Spurs. So much of what Butler has done lately has been spun into a negative, but it seems he’s really trying to sacrifice his pride to help teammates like Doug McDermott and Tony Snell.

If Hoiberg goes along, this could quiet complaints about Butler’s leadership and preferential treatment.

With Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in New York, the Bulls are Butler’s team now. Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have said as much.

It seems Butler is doing what he can to lead the Bulls – his way. The question: Does Hoiberg also think that’s the best way?

Jeremy Lin: My race made Linsanity bigger

Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks
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Jeremy Lin might want to move past Linsanity, but  he’ll always be linked to that period in 2012. It was so enthralling for numerous reasons, including:

  • Lin played unsustainably great basketball, leading the Knicks to a 7-1 record while starting with Carmelo Anthony injured and averaging 25.0 points and 9.5 assists per game in that span.
  • Lin was excelling in New York, America’s biggest media market.
  • The Knicks were desperate for success, having not won a single playoff game in the last decade.
  • Lin was undrafted and relatively unknown before breaking out.
  • Lin played at Harvard, which is universally known for academics and barely known for basketball.
  • Lin is Asian-American, a rarity in high-level basketball.

Yes, that last factor mattered.

Lin, via Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:

“In some ways, Linsanity wouldn’t have been Linsanity if I was a different skin color, most likely, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, and that went to my advantage, too, but if you look prior to that, a lot of the obstacles to even get to that point where I could get to a position of getting on the floor, those were definitely obstacles that were very much stereotypes that I had to fight along the way. So I’ve always understood that there’s good and there’s bad and you have to take them together and just be thankful for it all.”

Linsanity was a culmination of all the elements listed above. Maybe it would’ve happened without one or two, but THE essential factor was Lin’s on-court production. Without that, he never would’ve become a national phenomenon.

Lin’s heritage – he was born in California to Taiwanese-born parents – accentuated his basketball skills, but the basketball skills were the base for his popularity.

And as Lin said, his race was a double-edged sword. It made him less likely to get the benefit of the doubt when rising through the basketball ranks. I believe that coaches, scouts and other players were less inclined to believe in his basketball ability because of his race.

But Lin overcame that and eventually reaped the awards of being an outlier.

Lin has long seemed to possess a keen understanding of himself and a willingness to discuss it. I think he’s spot-on here, and it leads to a better understanding of one of the biggest NBA stories in recent years.