The Heat clamp down on defense, demolish the Warriors

9 Comments

On a night where Stephen Curry was forced to sit out due to an injured ankle, the Heat came out aggressive on both sides of the ball and blitzed the Warriors 92-75. The score, though, doesn’t really do the domination that occurred in this game justice.

The Heat came out early and decided to set the tone that their defense was going to carry the day. By pressuring the ball up high and then rotating on the perimeter and protecting the rim, the Heat forced 7 turnovers in the first quarter.

Furthermore, by contesting every shot and generally making the Warriors feel uncomfortable on every possession, the Heat were able to turn missed shots into fast break chances and easy baskets.

As the game went on, the the Heat only tightened the screws further.

By halftime they were up by 14, using more pressure defense and shot making by Mario Chalmers (15 points, 4-7 from behind the arc) to create separation. Dwyane Wade would chip in as well, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the first half with baskets that ranged from mid-range jumpers to dunks at the rim. And while  Jarrett Jack (16 points) tried valiantly to keep the Warriors in the game, he wasn’t enough to off-set the defensive pressure the Heat were applying nor the resulting easy baskets that pressure created.

In the third quarter, things only got worse for the Curry-less Warriors. They came out of half even more listless, not scoring a basket for the first 4 minutes of the 3rd period. More misses only fueled more Heat offense and the downward spiral continued. By the end of the quarter the Warriors only scored 12 points and were down by 30 points.

The game was essentially over.

But while the game was over, this recap isn’t. And that’s because I’d be remiss without talking about the brilliance that was LeBron James. It was James that set the tone for the Miami defense. It was James that got out in the open court and score easy baskets. And it was James that dished out assists to his teammates both in the open court and in running Miami’s half court sets when the game slowed down.

All in all, LeBron scored 25 points and handed out 10 assists on the night and made it look easy in the process. Maybe it was revenge for the Warriors beating the Heat in Miami earlier this year. Or maybe he remembered rookie Draymond Green trash talking him en route to that loss. LeBron surely doesn’t like being trash talked.

Or maybe it was the fact that LeBron had milestones to reach and he wanted the night he achieved them to be in a memorable performance.

Yes, if kicking the Warriors’ butts wasn’t enough, LeBron also racked up his 20,000th point and 5,000th assist in this game. Needing 19 points and 2 dimes to do the deed, LeBron tallied those numbers in the first half and made it look easy in the process. LeBron became the youngest player to reach 20K points and the fastest non-guard to hit the 5K assist mark.

Maybe that’s why he’s the best player in the game.

In any event, the Heat, at least for one night looked to escape their recent funk and resemble the team that claimed the championship last June. Their defense was inspired and their offense produced countless easy baskets while running a pretty good Warriors team into the ground.

And while tomorrow night the Lakers wait for them in Los Angeles, tonight was only about the Heat. And, of course, LeBron James and his night of milestones.

Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis: “My prediction is John Wall will sign his extension”

Leave a comment

John Wall is one of the handful of NBA players who qualifies for the new designated veteran “super max” contract extension — and the Wizards want to give it to him. A four-year, $170 million extension of his current deal is on the table (it would kick in after the two years, $37 million on his current contract).

Wall has yet to sign it. He said at the time it was offered he wanted to talk about it with his family and see what the Wizards did this offseason. He’s not unhappy, he just wants to be sure before he locks himself in with Washington through his prime.

Washington owner Ted Leonsis told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post he thinks Wall will sign.

Maybe, but there’s not a lot of motivation for Wall to sign right now. Wall can bet on himself that he will make the All-NBA team again next year — there’s a deep class of guards but if he stays healthy he stands a good chance — at which time he’s still eligible for a designated veteran “super max” contract extension that would be five-years, roughly $200 million (and would kick in after the one year on his current deal).

That delay would also keep pressure on the Wizards to find ways to improve the roster. Washington is largely capped out and didn’t make any major moves this summer other than re-signing Otto Porter to a max extension (they matched a Brooklyn offer sheet). Washington is good, likely the third or fourth best team in the East, but a notch below Cleveland and Boston right now. Wall wants to push them to get another star and help Washington move up into contender status — he pushed for the Wizards to chase Paul George and have him replace Porter (a deal that was never going to happen, but you can see what Wall is thinking about being one star player short).

Ultimately, I think Leonsis is right, Wall will sign. It’s just a matter of when. Does he take this deal now, or wait until next summer and do it?

Chicago billboard calls for Bulls to fire Gar Forman, John Paxson

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
2 Comments

Gar Forman split Executive of the Year with Pat Riley the same year Riley lured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to the Heat.

Forman’s stock has fallen quite a bit since.

The Bulls general manager – who works with executive vice President of basketball operations John Paxson in a duo (once affectionately) called GarPax – is facing increased scrutiny. The latest: A Chicago billboard organized by Bulls fans and paid for by GoFundMe donators.

GarPax’s recent missteps have been troubling. The breakup with Tom Thibodeau was messy and felt personal, especially with Fred Hoiberg succeeding him. First-round picks – Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott and Marquis Teague – have yielded little dividend. The Jimmy Butler trade was almost unbelievably lousy, even after the Three Alphas plan with Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo fell flat.

But it’s also worth taking a step back. The Bulls have won 59% of their games, made the playoffs seven of eight years and never had a losing season under Forman. This somewhat feels like Chicago fans having unrealistic expectations.

The most important question owners should ask when weighing whether to retain management: Who will best guide the team forward? Prior results should matter only to inform that question.

Based on overall body of work GarPax has a case for staying on the job. The tandem built a 62-win conference finalist around Derrick Rose then saw his injuries sabotage the run. But GarPax has also trended the wrong direction, failing too often (and too often predictably) since Rose declined.

Would the Bulls hire someone who will do better than Forman and Paxson if they fired those two? Maybe, and it’s a discussion worth having. But the answer isn’t as simple as I suspect the people behind this billboard would believe.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Otto Porter: ‘He’s a max person in my mind’

AP Photo/Nick Wass
3 Comments

WASHINGTON (AP) — Otto Porter is a quiet, complementary piece to the Wizards’ talented young core. He is also now Washington’s highest-paid player.

At least temporarily.

Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal garner most of the attention as Washington has made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs three of the last four seasons. But for now, Porter makes the most money after the Wizards matched a four-year, $106.5 million max-contract offer sheet the forward signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

There might be questions if the 24-year-old Porter is worth that money. But the Wizards believe he is a good fit alongside Wall, 26, a four-time All-Star, and Beal, 24, one of the league’s top shooting guards.

“You just use that as motivation just like John and Brad did,” Porter said at a news conference Wednesday. “They set the bar high. I’m going to set my bar, high, too.”

Porter entered this offseason as a restricted free agent, and when agent David Falk couldn’t agree to terms with Washington on July 1, he chose to shop his client’s services. The Sacramento Kings showed interest, but the Nets were the most serious and made a run at Porter.

“They felt like they wanted to test the market to see if there was something more out there, and they did,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “But it wasn’t a big decision because all along we said we wanted to keep our young core together.”

It probably won’t be long before Wall surpasses Porter as the Wizards highest-paid player. Wall was named third-team All-NBA this past season, and the point guard is eligible to sign a $160 million, four-year super max contract any time before the 2017-18 season begins. Wall will not become an unrestricted free agent until 2019.

Re-signing Porter was a top priority for Washington this summer. The No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft out of Georgetown, Porter had a breakthrough season. He ranked fourth in field goal percentage among small forwards (51.6 percent) and fifth among all NBA players in 3-point percentage (43.4 percent).

Porter’s ability to fit seamlessly with Wall and Beal without needing the ball in his hands is a huge plus, too, according to Grunfeld. At 6-foot-8, Porter’s length also plays a significant role in the Wizards’ defensive concepts. His skillset was so valuable to Washington the Wizards surpassed the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold by matching the offer sheet.

“I never look at Otto and judge him by the stat sheet,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He does so many little things that the stats don’t show. He dives on the floor for a loose ball, he sets screens. He makes the extra pass to the corner, offensive rebounds.

“You can never have enough high-character guys that are committed to each and that’s what he is,” Brooks said. “He’s a max person in my mind.”

Utah Jazz sign forward Royce O’Neale, first season reportedly guaranteed

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Utah Jazz signed forward Royce O’Neale on Wednesday.

Sportando:

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune:

O’Neale gives Utah 16 players on non-two-way contracts, one more than the regular-season limit. Raul Neto is on unguaranteed contract, but he’s a potential rotation player.

A 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing, O’Neale played for Gran Canaria in Spain last season and averaged 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. O’Neale was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans’ Las Vegas Summer League team last week and averaged 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists.

The 24-year-old was undrafted out of Baylor in 2015. He adds wing depth to a Jazz team adjusting to life without Gordon Hayward after he signed with the Boston Celtics in free agency.

The Jazz won 51 games last season and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012. They were swept by the Golden State Warriors after beating the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.