What the Heat should do when the lockout ends

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This is the latest installment of PBT’s series of “What your team should do when the lockout ends.” Up next is the Miami Heat. You can also check out our thoughts on other NBA teams here as we work our way through all 30 squads.

Last season: A complete failure. A total embarrassment. An absolute disgrace.

These are phrases that do not describe the Heat’s run to the NBA Finals, of course. Although for all of the hate directed at LeBron James and his new teammates, you would think that Miami’s first season with its big three of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh was a complete disaster. It wasn’t, especially when measured against the hopes that 28 of the league’s 30 teams had to start the season. But when you throw yourself a parade pep rally essentially for doing nothing more than winning in free agency — and declare during said rally that your newly assembled club will win “not two, not three, not four, not five …” but eight or more NBA championships — well, the backlash is at least somewhat to be expected.

Since we last saw the Heat: Dwyane Wade is hocking a product that is supposed to increase traction on the court. LeBron James has been seen mocking his own hairline and playing in pickup basketball games with other superstars around the country. Chris Bosh is giving acting a shot. And head coach Erik Spoelstra has been hanging in the Phillipines. So in other words, a pretty average summer by NBA standards.

When the lockout ends, the Heat need to: Get some size, get some depth, and get some more consistent outside shooters. The problem is, once the new collective bargaining agreement is in place, they may not be able to do any of those things.

While it’s true that every team will be at the mercy of whatever new system is put into place by the players and owners once a new agreement is reached and the lockout ends, the Heat will be one of the most affected by, to use a term made popular by David Stern recently, its enormous consequences.

The salary cap for the 2010-11 season was in the neighborhood of $58 million. Already for 2011-12, the Heat are on the books for over $65 million. The new system may continue to allow teams to spend past the cap amount and into luxury tax territory, but there have been talks about that luxury tax tripling or even quadrupling in the new agreement to help improve the issue the league has with competitive balance. If that happens, it’s unclear just how much ownership would be willing to pay — if anything at all — to improve the team’s talent enough to push it from one of the favorites to win the title, to the favorite to win it. But there may be another way for the Heat to gain talent, and it may come courtesy of the new collective bargaining agreement after all.

One of the rumored aspects of a new CBA is the inclusion of an amnesty clause, whereby teams could rid themselves of their worst contract by waiving the player and having that big number come off the books. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com explained, this could be just the loophole the Heat need to sign the talent necessary to reach that championship level. Players would still receive all of the money guaranteed to them by that amnestied contract, so they could sign in Miami to chase a championship with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, and do so at a very minimal cost to the Heat.

All of this is speculative, sure. And really, Miami (like everyone else) will need to wait and see just how much latitude it will have once the new collective bargaining agreement is in place. But for a team that made it to the Finals a season ago, it’s not going to take a lot for them to get back, and it might take only a little but of a push to get the Heat the first of those eight championships that were promised.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.