LeBron James and Dwyane Wade stick together to lead Heat to championship

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LeBron James stood on the American Airlines Arena stage and clutched the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy. To his left, Dwayne held the the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy and rubbed it in amazement.

Friends, teammates and superstars, LeBron and Wade ended the 2013 season side by side as NBA champions, just as they’d always imagined.

LeBron wrapped his left arm around Wade’s shoulders and leaned in to share a few words with his partner in crime. They tucked their heads so close together, their eyes disappearing from view beneath their hats, it was tough to tell where one ended and the other began.

It was as if they were one.

The Heat have always marketed themselves as a three-superstar team, but only LeBron’s and Wade’s rising tide has elevated Chris Bosh to their status. Bosh has never been capable of leading a team to a championship the way LeBron did last season or Wade did in 2006. As important as Bosh is, this grand experiment in Miami was always more about LeBron and Wade.

And in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was LeBron and Wade out front, leading the Heat to a 95-88 victory and their second straight championship. LeBron (37 points and 12 rebounds) and Wade (23 points and 10 rebounds) posted double-doubles in the same game for the first time since March and for the first time in the playoffs since their very first series together, a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers way back in 2011.

It was a fitting shared honor for two players whose play together had received intense scrutiny lately. Perhaps, you’ve seen some of these numbers:

LeBron in Games 1-6:

  • With Wade: 17.3 points per 36 minutes on 38.9 percent shooting, 100.8 offensive rating
  • Without Wade: 27.3 points per 36 minutes on 54.1 percent shooting, 131.7 offensive rating

Wade in Games 1-6:

  • With LeBron: 17.4 points per 36 minutes on 43.8 percent shooting, 100.8 offensive rating
  • Without LeBron: 32.7 points per 36 minutes on 62.5 percent shooting, 115.2 offensive rating

Many called for Erik Spoelstra to organize his rotation so LeBron and Wade each spent as much time as possible on the court without the other. Instead, Spoelstra went the other direction, playing LeBron and Wade together for 36 minutes in Game 7, more than they’d averaged together in the series’ first six games.

They didn’t necessarily get it done in tandem – Miami’s offensive rating in Game 7 with LeBron and not Wade on the court was 134.6 and with both on the court was 93.1, an even more extreme difference than in Games 1-6 – but they got it done together.

LeBron and Wade both scored at least the 23 points Wade had tonight in just three games after March 6. All three were in the Finals.

“They played Hall of Fame basketball tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in his postgame press conference. “That’s some of the best basketball they both played at the same time throughout the entire playoffs.”

The truth is LeBron and Wade still haven’t completely figured out how to play together.

But they’ll be back next year to go through the process of learning how to complement each other – just as they’ve wanted to navigate this journey with the Heat, just as they’ve conducted nearly every interview in the last three years, just as they sat tonight while posing for celebratory post-game photos:

Side by side.

Friends, teammates and superstars, LeBron and Wade have helped each other top the NBA world once again.

Report: Magic’s search firm inquiring about Larry Bird

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Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.

Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).

Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.

Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob HenniganDoc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.

It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.

Report: Clippers expect Chris Paul to re-sign

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Chris Paul reportedly verbally committed months ago to re-sign with the Clippers. There have been mixed signals about Blake Griffin‘s intention to re-sign.

But they can’t formalize the deals until July, and the Clippers are now one game from another demoralizing first-round exit.

Where do they stand now?

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Sources close to the Clippers say that they expect Paul to re-sign with the Clippers. He’ll be eligible for a five-year contract in excess of $200 million. Griffin’s return is less certain, sources say. This summer is his first foray into unrestricted free agency. Given his snakebitten tenure with the team and the possibility of another early exit, the prospect of exploring what’s out there will be alluring. One premise volunteered in good humor suggests that Paul is more likely to take a slew of meetings in a public process but ultimately re-sign with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to mull the decision privately under the guise of night, but announce he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2017-18.

Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers has made clear his desire to re-sign Paul and Griffin, and the playoffs won’t change that. This is the right call. It’s so difficult to assemble a team this good, the Clippers shouldn’t throw it away for the sake of change. Just because the Clippers haven’t gotten the breaks in previous seasons doesn’t mean they won’t get the breaks in future seasons.

But Paul and Griffin – and J.J. Redick, who’ll also be an unrestricted free agent – will determine the franchise’s fate. If they want to leave, they’ll leave.

Can the Clippers lure them back? They apparently think they’ll keep Paul, but there’s an uncertain dynamic in L.A. that Arnovitz explores in great depth. I highly recommend reading his full piece.

Nike, Adidas, Under Armour pass on potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball

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NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.

Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.

In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”

Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.

But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.

On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.