San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat

Is Dwyane Wade just having a slow start or is this something bigger?


The Miami Heat did not lose to the New York Knicks solely because Dwyane Wade had a 3-of-13 off night shooting. They lost because the Knicks are playing well and the Heat’s defense is not.

But Wade certainly didn’t help.

And we’ve seen a lot more of this Dwyane Wade this season. The one that looks a little off, a little slow. If you’ve watched a lot of Heat basketball you don’t need an avalanche of statistics to tell you that Wade is not himself — he is scoring 19.4 points per game, lowest since his rookie year, his shooting percentage of 47.3 is the lowest since 2008 for him, he is shooting 25 percent from three (and he missed some open ones against the Knicks) plus Hoopdata shows he is shooting just 31.1 percent on shots from between 3 and 15 feet out (and taking 4.5 shots a game in that range). His PER of 20.4 is the lowest since his rookie year.

A look through Synergy Sports shows Wade shooting just 30.8 percent in isolation sets and 34.6 percent when he posts somebody up. Those account for 30 percent of his shot attempts.

Isolation and post up spots are where it’s Wade using his superior athleticism to get his shot. Except it hasn’t looked that superior this season. You saw it against the Knicks when he got his good looks with step backs as people feared him on the drive, but when he did drive the lane he couldn’t elevate to get clean looks.

Wade has not been bad this season — he’s had great games, including dropping 34 on the Nets — but he hasn’t been his old self. And the
Heat need that old Wade at both ends of the floor come April and beyond.

Which begs the question — is this a temporary thing or is it something bigger picture?

Wade is coming off knee surgery this summer and that certainly is part of the issue. It takes a while for people to fully recover, which seems to be the case here.

But Charles Barkley said on TNT he thought it something more, the decline of Wade with age. Wade certainly has been a player who threw his body around throughout his career.

“He’s starting to lose his athletic ability,” Barkley said of Wade, who will turn 31 in a month. “He’s not the same guy. I got a better look at him in person. He doesn’t explode anymore and he’s shooting a lot of fade-away jumpers.”

He’s right. After re-watching every Wade shot of the last couple weeks he is living and dying by the step back, but teams are going to catch on at some point and force him to drive. Force him to use the athleticism they all once feared.

We’ll have to see if he can make teams pay for that.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.