It is one key to winning in the NBA — exploit your mismatches.
Against Kevin Durant, pretty much the other 449 guys in the league are a mismatch. Including Dwyane Wade. At one point in the second half Wade got switched on Durant defensively. That’s a size mismatch. Durant recognized it and scored over him.
Then the cameras caught Durant talking some smack as they went down court.
“He told me I was too small,” Wade said after the game in an interview broadcast on NBA TV. “I had to run down the court and say ‘what’d you say again’ and he said ‘you’re too small.’
“He’s got seven inches on me, so, I played good defense but he’s a scorer and he made a good shot.”
Wade is too small in that matchup. But the fact is the Heat have been undersized throughout the playoffs and even regular season. They can make up for it because they have the athletes who can still block shots and make it hard to score in the paint — Wade and LeBron James are good shot blockers — and they have done that in this series.
Oklahoma City is feeling that pressure — it was 13-of-27 at the rim (48.2 percent) in Game 2, according to Hoopdata.com.
“We’re not the biggest team at all, we’re used to it,” Wade said. “We’ve been playing, at times, small basketball all season. Chris (Bosh) is the biggest guy in our rotation. It’s fine.”
So go ahead and call Wade small. He doesn’t care. He and the Heat have defended the paint well… except against Durant. But Durant can talk all he wants, two moer wins and Wade will laugh all the way to the ring ceremony next fall.
Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade, reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations – Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. But those teams aren’t all equal to Irving.
Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:
One league source told ZAGSBLOG that the Knicks were not Irving’s preferred destination, and that San Antonio was atop his list.
Irving is locked up for two more years and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Where he’d re-sign in 2019 and his agent’s agitating could play small parts in which teams offer the most for him, but he has minimal control of where he goes.
Still, San Antonio is an interesting first choice.
Irving reportedly wants to escape LeBron James‘ shadow and lead his own team. But Kawhi Leonard is far better than Irving and already has Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich’s trust. Leonard has even turned himself into a 25-point-per-game scorer and MVP runner-up. So, even though the biggest difference between Leonard and Irving is defense (an oft-overlooked area), Leonard still shines in ways that get noticed.
So, why does Irving want to join San Antonio?
Maybe he underestimates Leonard. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so. See Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Maybe Irving has a sliding scale of priorities. Sure, he’d like preeminence on a team, but maybe he’d relinquish that to join Leonard and Popovich. At least the reserved Leonard would cede the spotlight to Irving as much as possible (which LeBron would never do), and Popovich is more respected than Tyronn Lue.
But back to reality: The Spurs lack assets beyond Leonard to trade for Irving – Aldridge would be a horrid fit with LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and San Antonio’s first-round picks are always in the low 20s – and the Cavs control where Irving goes. It’s very hard to see Irving landing in San Antonio.
The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.
Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.
Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.
But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.
Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.
*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.
Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.
Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.
Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.
Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.
It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.
Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.
Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).
Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.
Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.