It was one of the cloud of questions hanging over the Miami Heat last year: Does Pat Riley really trust Erik Spoelstra to coach the team, or does he have someone else in mind? (Maybe someone in a sharp suit with slicked-back hair.)
You can check that off the list.
Pat Riley said the Heat have given Spoelstra a contract extension, according to a tweet from Tom Haberstroh of ESPN. The deal adds two seasons beyond this one for a total of $6 million. Riley added the Heat have one of the great young coaches in the league, a guy on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Conspiracy theorists will argue this doesn’t make a difference — you can sack Spoelstra just as easy now, the buyout is just a little larger. And this much is true — there is pressure on whoever coaches the Heat right now because they are contenders and should be winning rings in the next few years.
But Spoelstra is Riley’s guy. His protégée, not someone filling space until a real coach comes along. The players respect Spoelstra, they trust him. LeBron James trusts Spoelstra. Dwyane Wade trusts Spoelstra. He took them to the NBA finals. That bond is formed. A new coach would mean time needed to learn a new system and it would mean changes to how Riley likes things done. Spoelstra is more of an extension of Riley who does not threaten his power in the organization.
This is real. Spoelstra is not going anywhere, not for a while. But the pressure is on everyone in Miami to win.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.