Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

Everything is no big deal to the Miami Heat, including blowout to Boston Celtics

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There is no “maybe this is a good thing” here for the Miami Heat. There should be no “just the wake up call they needed.” This team, with the aspirations it has, should not be looking for wake-up calls. They should be looking for toe tags. Miami’s 91-72 loss to the Celtics on Sunday should not be considered a positive thing in any way. There is no silver lining. There is no reassuring bright side. There is only the boot print left on the Miami’s neck and backside, imprinted with 16-11-14, Rajon Rondo’s triple-double he not-so-casually spit on the reigning East champs on national television.

And there’s nothing surprising about it.

This is who Miami is, capable of whipping reigning NBA champion Dallas three days earlier, then turning around and falling apart against the Celtics, their biggest rival over the past two years, a team that despite last year’s playoffs, likely feels it’s better. This is the same Miami team that torches the Lakers in their first meeting and gets trounced in the second, the same Heat that toppled the Bulls when they had Derrick Rose and lost to them when they didn’t.

It’s the same Heat that looked invincible in the Eastern playoffs and laughable for the final four games of the Finals. They are a good team, a great team when they choose to be. But they seldom choose to be. And it shows in their reactions to things like Sunday.

Consider this, from the Miami Herald:

James is right. They do have to hit shots. But that’s not what you say. That’s not how you lead. You say you have to put guys in better spots. You take the responsibility of being the best player on the planet. But of course, that’s not what was said. From the Sun-Sentinel:

“This was a good, old-fashioned you-know-what,” LeBron James said after going without an assist for only the second time in his career. “We’ve got to own it, and we’ve got to get better.

“We’ve got to figure it out before the playoffs. . . . We understand we have to fix this right now.”

The Heat are now 6-5 in their last 11 games overall and 3-7 in their last 10 road games.

“You’ve got to figure it out,” said guard Dwyane Wade, who was victimized by a humbling blocked shot by Celtics guard Avery Bradley and shot just 6 of 17. “We’ll figure it out. That’s what good teams do.”

via Miami Heat, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade take on Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce. – South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com.

There isn’t a sense this is unacceptable to Miami. This game can’t have surprised them. They knew Boston, desperate to cling to their fading chances at a championship, would circle this game. They knew this was a crucial opportunity to illustrate to everyone that Miami is read for a playoff run.

And they were blown out in the most Heat-way possible, looking totally underwhelming, as if the energy simply could not be spent.

This is kind of a recurring pattern, when you look at the Heat’s comments last year. A loss resulted in Wade’s “the world’s a better place” comment. The Finals disaster gave us LeBron’s “wake up tomorrow” speech. In general, the Heat’s response to every low point since they joined together in 2010 has been “eh.”

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The concept of effort in the NBA is kind of ridiculous. If you’re a superstar, you’re not lazy. There are lazy guys, guys who have either already succeeded or simply have physical advantages that make them think they don’t have to work (being tall). But anyone who is successful works their faces off. That’s the thing. You could dismiss the Heat if they were a bunch of talented underachievers who never showed any potential for excellence. But they’re not. They’re made up of the elite.

James is talented? That’s nice. He built that freakish body of his into a super-human machine and put the abilities to go with it, which aren’t natural fits for a frame like that. Wade is gifted? Sure. He also put in the time and effort to be able to hit those impossible layups. Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, all have done the work to be some of the best basketball players on Earth. So why do they continually have these games where it looks they’re not giving it everything?

It’s easy to just say every team loses. It does. But it’s different with this team. If it was just a cold shooting night, if it was just the Celtics executing better, if it was just the Warriors, the Thunder, the Lakers playing better, you can understand that, it takes nothing away from them. Every team loses. But this team was formed with the intentions of being one of the greatest of all time. It was that boldness that created such a backlash against them. But if you’re going to set that kind of standard? You had least better submit every ounce of sweat you can into reaching them.

But then, can you say the same for yourself? Have you committed to unparalleled effort in each of the biggest moments of your life? This is a regular season game against a likely 4 or 7 seed. That doesn’t even crack the top 50 of the most important games of these players’ careers. And yet it was an opportunity to say something meaningful. And instead, they largely laid down. Again.

This game means nothing in the grand scheme, except for this: If the Heat want the benefit of the doubt, they have to win a title. To win a title, they have to play consistently. And that’s not something that’s granted. It’s developed. The Celtics and Lakers have slept through regular season stretches in the past and won titles. And still this feels different.

The Heat are still a mystery, the most frustrating one you’ll find.

Watch highlights of USA’s 111-74 rout of Argentina in exhibition game

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Argentina isn’t considered a medal contender heading into the Rio Olympics. Their golden generation — led by Manu Ginobili — has picked up a lot of speed on the downhill side of their careers at this point.

They didn’t provide much of a challenge for Team USA in an exhibition game Friday night in Las Vegas, one won by the USA 111-74. Kevin Durant impressed playing with his new teammates in dropping 23 points, Paul George had 18, and the Americans had their way in the game.

Which is what we’re going to see a lot of in Rio — the USA’s talent level is just steps above any other team in the tournament.

Kevin Durant: Nobody has said something negative to my face about joining Warriors

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07:  Kevin Durant speaks to the media during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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When Kevin Durant chose the Warriors, he received criticism from all angles.

Fans burned his jersey. Charles Barkley decried the decision. Markieff Morris said, “That ain’t right.” Durant’s former Thunder teammates leaked their displeasure with the process.

Durant was so reluctant to face the backlash, he stayed in his bed luxurious rental house for two days.

It, uh, worked.

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

Though he has heard some criticism from Barkley and fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, various talking heads and people in social media who believe he has cheated the system and cut corners to a ring, Durant said the reaction to his choice hasn’t been too bad: “All that stuff happens on the Internet. I haven’t had one person come to me and say anything negative. … It’s easy for the critics on the outside to tell you what to do, to tell you how to play. I’m the one that’s going through it, so I can’t really worry about the outside noise. The work don’t stop. Everything stays the same.”

This is a good reminder how insulated NBA players, especially stars, can be.

And it adds to why Durant signing with Golden State makes sense. While we’re debating his legacy and discussing the backlash (and the backlash to the backlash and the backlash to the backlash to the backlash and the…), he’ll be playing high-level basketball with his friends in a desirable city for a max salary.

Sure, it’s not all rosy. Durant altered his relationship with his friend Russell Westbrook, and Durant will have to return to Oklahoma City for a game. There, he’ll face plenty of booing fans.

But, all in all, Durant should have little trouble tuning out the critics.

They’re too far away for him to hear them much.

US romps over Argentina in first Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 22:  Paul George #13 of the United States passes the ball up the court against Argentina during a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at T-Mobile Arena on July 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United States won 111-74.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power – and dominant on the inside – the U.S. men’s basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

“There’s a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “These are very good guys.”

A U.S. team that hasn’t lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

“Nothing is for sure,” Durant said. “We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way.”

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

“Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world,” Argentina’s Luis Scola said. “That’s a big difference in their favor.”

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren’t any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

“The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be,” Krzyzewski said. “But we really have an inside presence on the boards.”

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony – the only two players from the 2012 team – to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green’s 12 minutes the least played by any American.

“We’re going to have fun and we’re going to enjoy ourselves,” Anthony said. “If it’s not fun it’s not worth it. We’re going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we’re going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal.”

Durant finished as the game’s high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Kevin Durant gets first taste of playing with Warriors teammates in USA exhibition

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 22:  Kevin Durant #5 of the United States drives against Facundo Campazzo #7 of Argentina during a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at T-Mobile Arena on July 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United States won 111-74.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LAS VEGAS — It wasn’t the highest of stakes, but after a heavily hyped announcement and all the fallout that resulted from it, Kevin Durant has now played organized basketball with some of his new Golden State Warriors teammates.

In a 111-74 blowout win over Argentina in an exhibition game at Las Vegas’ brand-new T-Mobile Arena, Durant shared the court with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who will make up three-fifths of the most formidable starting lineup in the NBA. Durant looked plenty comfortable, leading all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting and making four three-pointers. Thompson and Green came off the bench, but the three Warriors shared the court in the second quarter.

Not that Durant was really thinking about it.

“I was just lost in the game,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t really notice, I was lost in the game and trying to play the right way. We worry about what Coach K wants us to do. I’m sure they felt the same way. We didn’t talk about it.”

Green concurred.

“It was great,” he said of playing with Durant for the first time. “You don’t really pay attention to the fact that we’re teammates [in the NBA]. We’re all teammates. We’re all going for the same goal.”

To be sure, these exhibition games — and even the real games in Rio next month — are nothing like what the Warriors will experience playing together when the regular season kicks off in the fall. The Olympics feature the top talent from all over the world, but the disparity in talent between the USA’s group and any other country is so staggering that most of the games are likely going to turn out like this one.

Green didn’t want to compare this experience with something like the NBA Finals.

“It’s a little different,” Green said. “Because when you’re in the Finals, No. 1 you play a team seven times, No. 2 you already know the guys. We know [Manu] Ginobili, [Andres] Nocioni, [Luis] Scola. We’ve played against those guys a bunch of times, but not at a level where you know everything they do. When you’re in the Finals, I know everything Kyrie does. It’s just a matter of, can you stop it or not? Just because you know he’s gonna do it doesn’t mean you can stop it. Here, it’s a little different because of these guys we’ve never played before.”

Next week, Durant will play his first game at his new home when the USA faces off with China on Tuesday in Oakland. They’re all looking forward to it, especially Green.

“Definitely looking forward to getting back home,” Green said. “I think it will be something special, especially with the KD announcement. Him coming in there for the first time with a USA jersey. It’ll be pretty unique.”

The last time Durant played at Oracle Arena, the circumstances were very different. Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder took an unexpected 3-1 lead over the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before dropping three straight games, leading to a Warriors trip to the Finals and, ultimately, Durant’s exit from Oklahoma City.

This time around, Durant will have the fans at Oracle on his side. Not that he needs any preparation.

Said Green, with a smile: “He knows all about Oracle.”