Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Five

It wasn’t just LeBron. Dwyane Wade had to grow up, too.


MIAMI — This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first time posing with the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Six years ago, a young, brash, fearless and athletic player was an unstoppable force for four games, the Dallas Mavericks had no answer for his attacks to the rim, and it was he that pushed and pulled the Miami Heat to the franchise’s title.

It was a very different Wade that cradled the trophy this year. One that has a much deeper understanding of what it takes to reach this mountaintop.

“(I appreciate it) so much more,” Wade said. “You know, I’ve been through a lot. That 15-win season professionally hurt. Laughingstock of the league coming off a championship. But what I dealt with personally (a nasty divorce and custody battle with his ex-wife) was indescribable in a sense…

“I’m lucky to be put in the position I am. I’m going to enjoy this one way more than I enjoyed 2006. When you get there early, you say ‘oh man, we’re going to do this again next year.’ This is not a guarantee right here, man. You have to enjoy this. And we will do that.”

It was an honest, open, comfortable Wade who spoke still soaked in champagne. A mature Wade. He spoke about how important his family is to him now and how getting to experience this with his children makes it mean all he more. He talked about how even when this super team was put together they had lessons to learn.

“Man, this process is unbelievably hard, and I don’t care who you put on a team,” Wade said. “You know, two years ago, putting this team together, obviously, we expected it to be a little easier than it was. But we had to go through what we had to go through last year. We needed to…

“I went back last night and I watched Game 6 of the (2011) finals, and it was their time. They shots they was hitting was unbelievable. I just seen and I looked at it and said it wasn’t our time. And tonight it was our time.”

It was their time because Wade was mature enough to put his ego aside and not be a co-star — he let this be LeBron James’ team.

“This year I know I’m playing with the best player in the world, and that doesn’t take anything away from me at all,” Wade said.

The 24-year-old Wade would not have said that. Could not have done that. He had some growing up to do, but when he did he became a champion again.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

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.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

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.