Miami Heat's James celebrates near the end of Game 5 of the NBA basketball finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Miami

NBA finals: Television ratings, clearing out my reporter’s notebook

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I had a ton of notes I took at points in Miami during the NBA finals and all of it didn’t get into posts. So I’m closing out my notebook with bullet points to put a little bow on the NBA finals.

• People like to watch stars. LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the Heat vs. the Thunder — these finals drew the highest television ratings since 2004, the last year of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. Game 5 drew a 12.8 rating, tied with last year’s series. For the entire series it was an 10.1 rating, which beats last year through five games and ties it overall (Game 6 was the highest rated last year, the longer a series goes the higher the ratings get for games).

• The Oklahoma City Thunder were very impressive in how they handled defeat — they were mature and said they needed to work this summer and come back better. You know they will. If they can bring this team back healthy and be able to sub in Eric Maynor (the injured backup point guard, who is a massive improvement over Derek Fisher) they are the biggest threat to a Heat repeat.

• That attitude comes from the top and coach Scott Brooks, watch the video of him telling his team right before the end “they beat us fair and square” and to go out and shake the Heat’s hands. That’s class. (via Ball Don’t Lie)

• Any more questions about how important Chris Bosh is the Heat?

• LeBron James became the 10th player to win the league MVP and the finals MVP in the same season. Michael Jordan did it four times.

• President Barak Obama did call the Heat to congratulate them.

• I thought Bosh pretty much summed up what the Heat players said whenever you asked them about the general perceptions of this team:

“We don’t care. We don’t care because we know how everything changes so fast,” Bosh said. “Any time, if indeed it does change and everybody says, I knew you guys were going to do it and this is it, we’re going to be like, no, we’re going to remember the times when it was tough when we were down and everybody was kicking us.”

• I was especially happy to see a personal favorite guy in the league — Ronny Turaif — get a ring.

• Miami becomes the first team ever to trail in three playoff series (2-1 to the Pacers, 3-2 to the Celtics and 1-0 to the Thunder) and come back to win the title.

• The Heat’s post-party in South Beach racked up a $200,000 bar bill, sounds pretty wild and included LeBron rapping with LMAFO (follow this link to see the video, but be warned there is some adult language).

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.