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.

Matthew Dellavedova steals pass, hits wild scoop shot at buzzer (VIDEO)

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Matthew Dellavedova is a hustler. Everybody knows that. Well, unless you want to argue he’s more about grit. It’s really your call.

But against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dellavedova came through with whatever you want to call it — hustle, grit, moxie, gumption.

As the first quarter wound down and the Celtics tried to inbound the ball, Dellavedova spied his opponents rolling the basketball in order to save time on the clock.

That allowed the Australian native to fly in and do this:

That’s a steal, a scoop, and a score all within 1.2 seconds.

Milwaukee won Game 4 and evened the series with the Celtics, 2-2.

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.