Juwan Howard, Dwyane Wade, Jarvis Varnado

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.

Heat center Willie Reed has bursitis, out for Monday

AP
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MIAMI (AP) Willie Reed will not travel with the Miami Heat for Monday’s game in Dallas because of bursitis in his right ankle.

Reed was injured in the fourth quarter of Miami’s win over Indiana on Saturday. He limped around for several seconds, then went down in obvious pain and eventually was carted off the court.

The Heat originally called Reed’s injury a calf strain, and tests performed Sunday showed the bursitis.

Reed is being listed as day-to-day. He’s averaging 5.3 points on 57 percent shooting this season.

His injury means the Heat will have 11 players available Monday, with four forwards or centers all out. Chris Bosh has not played this season, Justise Winslow (shoulder) is expected to miss the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts (foot) remains sidelined.

Chris Webber eager for new ‘Players Only’ NBA programming

Chris Webber
AP
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MIAMI (AP) Chris Webber’s first night as a television analyst ended with the former Michigan star getting teased about his infamous extra timeout that helped seal the Wolverines’ fate in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina.

He laughed it off.

It was, as Turner Sports colleague Ernie Johnson called it that night, an initiation. And not only did Webber pass, he has flourished – evolving into one of the game’s respected voices, a player-turned-broadcaster who tries to combine the emotion of what’s happening on the floor with a professionalism that he believes is required of those behind the microphone.

Webber will be one of the headliners when TNT unveils its new “Players Only” platform on Monday night, a five-week run of doubleheaders where all the commentators will be former pro men’s and women’s players.

“It’s a crazy opportunity as a player to be able to kind of take over the studio,” said Webber, a finalist for induction in this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame class. “Some of the guys and I have talked about what a crazy opportunity this is, and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Among the other players involved: Chris Bosh, Isiah Thomas, Baron Davis, Grant Hill, Kevin McHale and Lisa Leslie.

“I do think we can change the game with this opportunity,” Webber said.

In a time when television remarks have started feuds between current and former players – like the longstanding back-and-forth between Charles Barkley and stars like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and in the last few days the dustup involving Shaquille O’Neal, JaVale McGee and Kevin Durant – Webber has prided himself on being fair with criticisms.

There are times when people within the game tease one another, like the night Johnson asked him how many timeouts are allowed in college games. Webber thinks that’s fair – but he avoids the banter that turns personal.

“As long as I don’t speak about guys’ character, then it really doesn’t matter,” Webber said. “There’s nothing that I can say about a player that hasn’t already been said about me. There’s no sensitivity there. Players, when certain commentators say something, he can say: `How can he say that? He’s never been in that position.’ Well, the player can’t look at me and say that.”

Webber retired averaging 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, numbers that will likely have him headed to the Hall of Fame – possibly this year. He’s among 14 finalists who will get word on their fate in April at the Final Four.

The induction in Springfield, Massachusetts, is in September.

“About time,” said Barkley, a Hall of Famer. “He should already be in there.”

Webber said hearing his name listed as a finalist was surreal.

“I’m just thankful that I was nominated,” Webber said. “I’m taking in the moment, being very thankful and that I’m here. But as far as thinking about more than that, nah, I don’t do that.”

Webber doesn’t play anymore – nearly losing to his 16-year-old nephew in a 1-on-1 game last summer was the last straw – and has enjoyed being around basketball in other capacities since retiring. He represented the Sacramento Kings at an NBA draft lottery, agreed to teach a class at Wake Forest in sports storytelling and is involved in a production company.

He said he sees broadcasting as a privilege, after working alongside the likes of Kevin Harlan, Dick Stockton and Marv Albert, which is why he’s taking “Players Only” especially seriously.

“If you’re around someone and you’re willing to learn, you can get better,” Webber said. “We’re going to take from their examples. You have to honor the game with professionalism, but I also think we give a unique perspective. And I think we have a validation that can’t be taught.”

Russell Westbrook dunks on DeMarcus Cousins, who fouls out (video)

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In one fell swoop, Russell Westbrook scored two points, eliminated the Pelicans’ second-best player and got the Thunder all the momentum.

This dunk on DeMarcus Cousins, who fouled out trying to contest it, helped Oklahoma City pull away for a 118-110 win.

 

Report: Knicks waiving Brandon Jennings

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01:  Brandon Jennings #3 of the New York Knicks in action against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at the Barclays Center on February 1, 2017 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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The Knicks made no deals prior to the trade deadline, causing Carmelo Anthony to question the team’s direction.

It’s as if Phil Jackson now just woke up and realized he could do something.

With the trade deadline passed, New York is waiving Brandon Jennings to sign Chasson Randle.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is a good move executed in seemingly the most ham-handed way possible.

The Knicks couldn’t have traded Jennings for a second-rounder last week? He’s on a one-year contract worth just $5 million, which should have made it easy to line up salaries. He’s overrated, because his flashy moments and presence in a big market dwarf erratic play overall. Still, for teams ready to win now that needed a backup point guard, Jennings could have added value.

And even if potential Jennings trades wouldn’t have cleared a roster spot, the Knicks could have waived Sasha Vujacic instead. Vujacic is washed up, but he’s a Jackson favorite.

Still, the Knicks are better off now. They open playing time for promising rookie Ron Baker and add the 24-year-old Randle, who shined in limited minutes with the 76ers earlier this season. New York has circled Randle since went undrafted out of Standford in 2015. He played for the Knicks in summer league and the preseason, but they cut him once he got hurt.

For a team headed back to the lottery, better to emphasize youth — though it would have been even better to do so before the trade deadline.

Jennings is also better off, likely to join a better team. I wouldn’t rule out the Nuggets or Jazz claiming him on waivers, but he most likely clears waivers and picks his next destination.