It’s not the Pacers. It’s not the Bulls. It’s not the Bucks.
At this point, it’s Dwyane Wade.
Wade is struggling to score in these playoffs, and his knee seems like a logical explanation. He’s not moving particularly well, and that hasn’t changed regardless of opponent.
Three of Wade’s four lowest-scoring playoff series have occurred in 2013.
Wade is scoring fewer points per game and per minute and attempting fewer free throws per game and per minute than any other postseason in his career. He’s struggling to create for himself, though LeBron James is keeping the Heat afloat.
LeBron has become an absolute offensive terror inside. He’s shooting 69-for-
Part of the reason LeBron has been so successful near the rim is Miami’s outside shooting spaces the floor for him. The Heat have attempted 3-pointers on a higher percentage of their playoff shots than any other conference finalist.
But Wade doesn’t help there. He’s taken only one 3-pointer in the entire post season.
That partially explains why the Heat have a better offensive rating when LeBron plays with Shane Battier (111.3), Mario Chalmers (111.3) or Ray Allen (115.9) than with Wade (110.0).
There’s no doubt Wade is more talented than Battier, Chalmers and Allen, but if Wade can’t show it, he’s not the best fit with LeBron.
This puts even more pressure on Chris Bosh. When Wade shoots 5-for-15 in Game 4, Bosh scoring a playoff-low seven points on 1-of-6 shooting won’t cut it.
Bosh and LeBron are good enough to carry an ailing Wade into the NBA Finals if they’re firing on all cylinders, and that might be what they need to do.
Wall: “I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court.”
Beal: “It’s tough because we’re both alphas. … Sometimes I think we both lose sight of the fact that we need each other.”
It’s hard to spin those direct quotes. These aren’t anonymous sources or players venting after a tough loss. In the calm of the offseason, Wall and Beal spoke bluntly about their partnership in the Wizards backcourt.
But no matter how difficult now, Beal and Wall are trying to cast their relationship in a different light.
“This is my brother at the end of the day,” Beal told The Vertical. “Nothing is going to change. If I didn’t want to be here, if we did beef, I wouldn’t have signed my contract. That’s what it ultimately comes down to.”
“And I wouldn’t have begged him to come back,” Wall interjected. “I would’ve been, ‘Don’t come back because in two years, I ain’t coming back.’ We would’ve figured something out. … I think everybody blew it out of proportion for no reason. I mean, if you look at any two great teammates, and two young, great guys, that’s talented and want to be great, you’re going to have ups and downs. Everything is not going to be perfect.”
The flaws in that logic:
Beal was a restricted free agent. The Wizards weren’t letting him go.
Wall is locked up for three more years. It’s in his best interest to have the best teammates possible in that time, whether or not he stays in Washington past 2019. The Wizards had no way to replace Beal with a similar-caliber player.
So, maybe Wall and Beal are completely cohesive. But even if they aren’t, circumstances dictated they continue their basketball partnership.
I believe last summer’s interviews exposed a rift that was forming somewhat beneath the surface. Their honest assessments in the open, Wall and Beal can now go about repairing any cracks in the foundation.
There’s an mostly unavoidable tension between a team’s two leading scorers. That they’re both guards who want to handle the ball makes it only more difficult.
But if Wall and Beal acknowledge their problems, they can try to work past them and win together.
Once you finish wincing, let’s share a good laugh.
Casey Keirnan of News 4 San Antonio asked Ginobili whether he’s familiar with the phrase “I’d give my left…”
I gave my right one. I gave it all. I gave it all. I gave my right one for the Spurs. I can say it. I can really say it. True.
Why again did we anoint Tim Duncan THE franchise icon in San Antonio? I don’t think he ever made that level of sacrifice to the Spurs.
A few players – Mitch McGary, Jordan Adams and R.J. Hunter – had their rookie-scale-contract team options declined as their teams waived them this offseason. Another player, P.J. Hairston, had his third-year option declined last fall.
But only one player that we know of so far from the 2013 and 2014 draft classes remains on a team but won’t finish his rookie-scale deal:
Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne, the No. 15 pick in 2014.
Minnesota will decline his $3,100,094 team option for 2017-18, a decision that will become official Tuesday.
Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:
Payne will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Timberwolves can re-sign him, but only at a starting salary up to $3,100,094. Any other team can offer up to the max.
Payne probably won’t be worth $3,100,094 next summer. He’s a stretch four without 3-point range and a long 2-point jumper that is expectedly inefficient. He doesn’t move well enough in any direction, including vertically, to defend well. The concern on him coming out of Michigan State – that he relied too heavily on beating up on younger players – looks valid. Payne will be a 26-year-old free agent.
But $3,100,094 is a small amount against a large salary cap. Is it really worth letting Payne hit the open market without seeing what he does this season first?
This is the problem the Pacers ran into with Solomon Hill. They declined his $2,306,019 2016-17 team option, and he had a breakout year. He signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Pelicans this summer as Indiana could do nothing but watch.
I don’t expect Payne to duplicate Hill’s emergence, but the Pacers obviously didn’t see it coming with Hill, either. As long as Payne remains on the team, it’s probably worth Minnesota buying itself an extra year of potentially cheap labor.
If Payne develops, he could be an irreplaceable bargain. If he doesn’t, it won’t cost much to waive him – especially because the Timberwolves can stretch him.
Even if the odds are against that plan bearing fruit, the upside is high enough to justify exercising the option.
But Minnesota apparently feels differently. Barring a sudden change of plans in the next few days, Payne will be on an expiring contract.
Already eliminated from the playoff chase, the Jazz weren’t focused for Kobe Bryant’s final game. They ceded 60 points to the over-the-hill superstar.
How locked in was Kobe?
“I was actually at the office until 4 or 4:15 editing a bunch of short stories, and lost track of time,” Bryant told the Wall Street Journal’s Dennis K. Berman. “And I looked at my watch, ‘Oh…I better go home. I got my last game to play.’”
Kobe clearly summoned a will to compete by the time he reached the arena. That was a sendoff for the ages.
But this is another sign he was ready for the next chapter in his life.