Portland Trail Blazers v Chicago Bulls

Greg Oden chose Heat because they won’t need him early, dinner at Chili’s


Former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden chose the Miami Heat on Friday night in a move that was widely-anticipated for awhile, but never quite confirmed until the numerous reports erupted across the internet. Most speculated he would choose the Heat because they’re the back-to-back NBA champions, but the oft-injured center gave a few other reasons that made him decide to take his talents to South Beach.

Oden and his agent spoke to Grantland, ESPN and Fox Sports Florida after the decision became public, saying that the ability to work himself back slowly was one of the reasons he decided on the two-year deal with the Heat.

Oden said it was a “big deciding factor” that Heat officials made it clear to him that he “wouldn’t be needed as much early in the season” as he works his way back from more than three years out of the league.

The place that he learned he wouldn’t be needed early was the more interesting story, though, as Oden’s agent — Mike Conley, Sr. — told Fox Sports Florida that his meeting with head coach Erik Spoelstra had a profound effect on his decision.

“He really liked talking with Erik at Chili’s,” Conley said. “I think that played a major role. He just felt very comfortable with him.”

Dinner at Chili’s isn’t usually a precursor to closing the deal, but it apparently worked the Heat. That and the fact that Oden felt wanted in South Beach, anyway.

“Obviously the chance to play with the best player in the world and compete for a championship was a big selling point,” Oden told me. “But more than that, what I really liked was how they thought I could really add something to their team. They’ve won back-to-back championships without me, so for them to pursue me as hard as they did meant a lot, especially given all that I’ve gone through.”

It’s going to be interesting watch what sort of scrutiny is put on Oden as he gets ready to play in his first NBA game since December of 2009, especially since he’s fully aware that he isn’t ready to contribute quite yet.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m 100 percent,” Oden added. “I am moving (well) and I am feeling good, but I have a lot of work to do.”

If Oden’s ever back to 100 percent, however, it seems the Heat got a steal of a deal. And, if not, spending the veteran’s minimum to find out was a pretty good gamble regardless.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.