Heat get their own D-League team

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The Miami Heat surely have designs of contending for championships for the next several years, even though LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can each become free agents in any of the next three offseasons after this one. Of course, the Heat plan to keep all three, and at this point, losing them would be so devastating, Miami should plan as if all three will stick around.

But the Heat will face more challenges.

One, they’re old. Ray Allen (37), Shane Battier (34), Chris Andersen (34), Mike Miller (33) and Udonis Haslem (33) have reached the age where their usefulness could end at any moment. Even Wade (31) has looked past his prime lately.

They also won’t have much cap flexibility as long as the Big Three remain together. With significant financial commitments in future seasons, the Heat can’t pay free agents top dollar. Though Miami can probably find veterans willing to take cheap deals in exchange for a chance at a ring, the Heat probably don’t want a team completely lacking youth and the energy and athleticism that come with young players.

That proves problematic considering the Heat owe the Cavaliers their first-round pick this year and in 2015. Though Miami gets a future pick from the 76ers, that’s lottery protected, so it might not get sent for a while.

So, where does an old team without cap room and limited draft picks find young players? The D-League, and that’s why the Heat are investing in the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Official release:

The Miami Heat, the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the NBA Development League today announced that the Heat and the Skyforce have entered into a single affiliation partnership beginning with the 2013-14 NBA D-League season. Miami becomes the record 13th NBA team to have a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA D-League team.
The Heat, which joins the Philadelphia 76ers as the second NBA team to become singly affiliated with an NBA D-League team this offseason, will be Sioux Falls’ sole NBA affiliate and will have full control over the team’s basketball operations. To further solidify the relationship, the Skyforce has adopted Miami’s red, yellow and black color scheme and signature font beginning with next season.
This partnership, also referred to as a “hybrid affiliation,” is the sixth of its kind in the NBA D-League and allows an NBA team to pay for and control the NBA D-League team’s basketball operations, while existing local ownership maintains primary responsibility for the team’s off-the-court business operations and community initiatives.

“This partnership between the Heat and Skyforce further demonstrates the growing importance of an exclusive NBA D-League affiliate for NBA team player, coach, and staff development,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “We’re excited about the positive impact this record 13th ‘one-to-one’ affiliation will have for both teams and the league as a whole.”

The Nets, Celtics, Rockets, Knicks, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Warriors, Lakers, Thunder, 76ers, Spurs and Mavericks also have their own D-League affiliates.

That leaves four D-League teams for the NBA’s other 17 teams to share.

Having its own D-League affiliate can be costly for an NBA team, but we’re clearly headed toward a 30-team D-League with every NBA team having its own affiliate. With strategically placed affiliations (not exactly Miami and Sioux Falls), NBA teams could reach fans in the periphery of their regions by offering a cheaper alternative to NBA games. Eventually, we might even see the draft expand by a few rounds so NBA teams can stock their D-League affiliates.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.