SAN ANTONIO — If there was a single play that showed just how much Dwyane Wade looked like the version we called Flash back in 2006 when he led the Heat to a championship and was named Finals MVP for his efforts, it was this spectacular steal and dunk in transition early in the fourth quarter of Miami’s Game 4 win over the Spurs.
Wade has been limited physically due to a knee issue that has bothered him for much of the season, and he’s still feeling the effects. LeBron James confirmed as much during his postgame comments.
“Of course he’s hurting,” James said. “He’s been playing with a bum knee all year.”
There was nothing bum about Wade in this one, especially on this play which helped reclaim momentum for his team as the Spurs were making their final push.
San Antonio had pulled to within five with just under nine minutes to play, before Wade took control on consecutive possessions. After driving from the top of the three-point arc into the lane and converting a spinning, left-handed floater from eight feet out, he did what Miami as a team has done so often over the course of the season — he used his defense to spark a lightning-quick score in transition.
Wade stepped into the passing lane and picked off a pass from Danny Green, and headed the other way. Gary Neal was back, but Wade brought the ball over his head, before elevating past him for the explosive slam dunk. The Miami lead was nine, and aside from the next possession where the Spurs got back to within seven, San Antonio was unable to get any closer the rest of the way.
The version of Wade we saw in Game 4 was incredible, and this play more than any other showed just how active and aggressive he was able to be during a completely disruptive performance.
“I knew I was on when I took it over the guy’s head and dunked it on the break,” Wade said. “That was a little vintage right there.”
Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”
Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?
The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too. Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…
And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”
Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.
Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.
Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.
Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer
Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?
Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?
Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.
“Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”
Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.
Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”
All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.
PBT Podcast: Future of Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, also award talk with Dan Feldman
A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.
The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.
League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.
Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.
But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.
Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?
He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.
Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.
Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.
But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.