Heat's James drives past Bulls' Joakim Noah during the fourth quarter in Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final basketball playoff in Miam

Feisty Bulls refuse to go quietly, but Heat comeback closes out series

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You knew the Bulls were not just going concede the series to the Heat.

Well, maybe you didn’t think that when Miami raced out to a 22-4 lead to open Game 5 Wednesday, but these Bulls quit as often as a T-1000 Terminator. All playoffs they have had reasons to give up because of injuries, but they didn’t. They could have rolled over Wednesday down 18 early, but they wouldn’t. Chicago went on a 49-25 run, took the lead back in the middle of the second quarter and didn’t surrendered it until the middle of the fourth.

However talent and the athletic Heat defense won out. Miami held Chicago to 14 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, got some big plays from the hobbled Dwyane Wade and reserve guard Norris Cole, then held on for a dramatic 94-91 win.

The Heat take the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Pacers/Knicks series. The Pacers are up 3-1 and if they close it out Thursday night they will tip off against Miami Monday night. If the Knicks push the series to six (or seven) games the Eastern Conference finals tip off next Wednesday (Miami has home court against both teams).

LeBron James led the Heat with 23 points, but he shot just 5-of-14 on the night as Jimmy Butler played him tough. Which is a good nod to Butler, LeBron will probably be happy to see him go. Of course, that is Paul George waiting in the wings to guard LeBron next series and he is playing even better than Butler lately.

Miami came out with a real energy to open the game and their offense just flowed — they were moving the ball, spacing the floor, the tempo was up and guys were knocking down looks. Udonis Haslem was at the heart of that of that going 4-of-4 shooting for 8 points.

But that is when the Bulls turned on an energy they lacked in Game 4 in front of their own fans, while the Heat seemed to relax. Carlos Boozer was literally in the middle the turnaround, scoring inside rather than settling and he had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Nate Robinson had 14 and hit a couple deep threes, and Butler had 10 and gave the Bulls the lead with a three in the second.

Meanwhile the Heat were just average because their role players did not step up — Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Shane Battier combined for 6 points on 13 shots and were 0-7 from three. Actually, it wasn’t just the role players, LeBron was scoreless in the second as well.

LeBron asserted himself in the third with nine points, but the Bulls kept making shots and it was 77-69 Chicago after three. The Heat were going to need better defense.

And they got it.

Chicago missed contested shots (and some open ones) while Miami’s cold shooters warmed up. Shane Battier hit a big three.

Then Norris Cole happened — he has played well enough this series to make Erik Spoelstra rethink starting Mario Chalmers. Cole hit a jumper to give the Heat the lead.

Then Cole drove the lane for a dunk that brought the AmericanAirlines Arena to life.

Dwyane Wade then started making plays — a couple of runners in the lane and an impressive putback dunk. It must have been the shoes: Wade was 4-of-10 in the first three quarters and looked off but changed shoes before the start of the fourth and went 3-for-3 shooting.

Still the Bulls had their chances — down three with time for one last shot both Robinson and Butler had looks at three to tie but their shots missed.

Eventually, talent won out. In this game and in this series.

But the Bulls pushed he Heat and their effort and style may have laid out a blueprint for the Pacers to follow in the Eastern Conference finals (the Knicks, if they make it, play a very different style).

Former NBA player Von Wafer takes to Twitter to beg for one more NBA chance

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 7
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Von Wafer was the quintessential gunner without a conscious during his six NBA seasons. He never saw a shot he didn’t like.His propensity to shoot rather than make the right basketball play is why he bounced around the league for six seasons. Well, that and his locker room fights and throwing of chairs and the like.

Wafer looks back on that and winces.

And he went to Twitter to beg for another chance, despite not having been in the league since 2012. The message came after a tweet showing part of his last workout.

Wafer is now 31 and last set foot on an NBA court in 2012, having played in China, Russia, Puerto Rico, and the D-League since them. We’ll politely call his comeback attempt a longshot.

But a guy who can shoot the rock asking for one more chance? We know there will be worse and stranger camp invites.

(Hat tip Ball Don’t Lie).

 

Report: If Durant/Curry relationship goes south, teams will try to poach Stephen Curry. Well, duh.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07: Kevin Durant speaks to the media during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are a handful of true game-changing players in the NBA. Not max players, there are a chunk of those, we’re talking “you can build a contender around him” guys. Kevin Durant is one, and he is headed to Golden State.

Stephen Curry is another. And he is a free agent next summer. So many teams — including one contender — are ready if the Durant/Curry relationship goes south, reports Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report.

B/R EXCLUSIVE: A contender is planning to poach Steph Curry from Dubs if chemistry with Durant turns 'poisonous'

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Well, duh.

Again, there are not many Curry level players; teams should have a “what if” plan. Including contenders.

That is very different than saying Curry is going to leave the Warriors — nobody around the league sees that as likely. Nobody expects a “poisonous” Durant/Curry relationship. Everyone expects Curry to re-sign for the max with the Warriors. The man just recruited Durant, now he’s going to bolt?

But like a Boy Scout, a team is always prepared. So they should have that plan, just don’t count on it for a primary option.

Kings GM Vlade Divac on Rudy Gay’s communication complaints: ‘He has my number’

Vlade Divac
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Rudy Gay complained about how the Kings are handling the trade rumors swirling around him.

Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac, via James Ham of CSN California:

“He has my number,” Divac told CSN California. “If I do something, I will call him. Obviously, if I didn’t call him, we didn’t do anything.”

“Look, I was a player, 16-17 years in the league, nobody called me everyday and tell me what management is doing,” Divac said. “Management was doing their job. If something big happened, they called and told me. Obviously, nothing big happened (so) I’m not going to call anybody.”

I suppose Divac can take that tack. He’s obviously not obligated to provide Gay regular updates.

But the Kings already have a reputation for putting their players in bleak positions. This doesn’t help.

Even if Divac feels calling Gay is going out of his way, so what? The alternative — Gay either coming to training camp unhappy or spreading word of Sacramento’s mistreatment of players to his new teammates after a trade — is far worse.

It’s not enough for Divac to just wait for Gay to call him — especially because Divac might not be as reliable with the phone as he thinks.

Union to fund health insurance for retired NBA players

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Professional basketball player Chris Paul commentates during the CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational Charity Bowling Tournament presented by GoBowling.com at Lucky Strike Lanes at L.A. Live on February 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Professional Bowlers Association)
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The National Basketball Players Association has talked for more than a year about covering medical expenses for retired players.

Today, the union announced a formal plan.

NBPA release:

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that its player representatives have voted unanimously to fund health insurance for all retired NBA players with at least three years of service in the league. This program is the first of its kind among North American professional sports. It also exemplifies the NBPA’s focus on the health and welfare of its current, retired and future members.

“The game has never before been more popular, and all the players in our league today recognize that we’re only in this position because of the hard work and dedication of the men who came before us,” said Chris Paul, NBPA President and nine-time All-Star. “It’s important that we take care of our entire extended NBA family, and I’m proud of my fellow players for taking this unprecedented step to ensure the health and well-being of our predecessors.”

The unanimous vote – which took place during the NBPA Summer Meeting in New York on June 26 – established a multi-faceted health insurance program through UnitedHealthcare, the country’s leading health benefits provider. The current proposal includes:

  • Retired players with between three and six years of NBA service time but who are not yet eligible for Medicare would be offered a plan that includes medical, hospital and prescription drug coverage with modest out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays;

  • Those with between seven and nine years of service would be offered the same coverage with even lower out-of-pocket costs;

  • Retired players with at least 10 years of service would be offered the same coverage as the seven-to-nine year players, and would include coverage for their entire family;

  • Retired players with three-nine years of service who are eligible for Medicare would be offered a $0 deductible and $0 co-pay plan along with a low-cost prescription drug plan; those with 10+ years of service to receive this coverage for themselves and their spouse.

  • The open enrollment period for retired players would begin this fall, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2017.

This is a good thing.

It also could become a bargaining point in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Should current players face the entire burden of insuring retired players, or should owners split the cost? (The fact that the question is even being posed paints players in a positive light.)

But back to the bigger point: This is a good thing. It’ll help retired players who need it, retired players who helped position the current generation to afford this. Kudos to the union for stepping up.