LeBron James is in the rare situation of being widely recognized as the game’s best player, and few would argue his position in those rankings. But what makes the Miami Heat a championship level team is the star talent surrounding James, and that starts with a healthy Dwyane Wade.
Wade is still able to impact the game in his 11th NBA season, and when feeling right can flat out take things over. That’s what he did in this one, and his effort early in the fourth quarter helped his team pull away for the 102-97 victory over a Clippers team many expect to contend in the West.
This game was tightly-contested throughout, but with James and Chris Paul on the bench early in the fourth, Wade was dominant enough to stretch Miami’s lead to the point where L.A. was unable to claw its way back. Wade scored 11 of his game-high 29 points in 10 fourth quarter minutes, and looked good doing it with a dunk in the half court set to go along with a long baseline jumper that was well-defended.
LeBron was decent all around as usual, but was largely passive in this one, finishing with 18 points, five rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes of action. Ray Allen was important for the Heat off the bench, not so much in terms of numbers but more in the way that he was able to get to the basket. Allen was deadly off the dribble, which made the Clippers’ defense pay for trying to overplay him without worrying about having the proper rotations in place.
The Clippers are only going to go as far as Chris Paul takes them this season, and in the games where he’s been aggressive and dominant offensively, they’ve cruised to easy victories. The Heat may have given other teams around the league a blueprint for slowing L.A. with the way they shut down Paul, focusing their defensive energy on him to the point where he was limited to just 11 points, 12 assists and five turnovers on 3-of-11 shooting in over 37 minutes of action.
Miami is further along than this Clippers team at this early point in the season, given the stability on the roster along with the team’s tenured head coach. The Clippers are still figuring things out, and they’ll get better as the season progresses. But Doc Rivers is going to need to come up with some counters for when teams key in defensively on slowing Paul, otherwise the Clippers might be in for some underwhelming results as the year rolls along.
Rasheed Wallace isn’t the only NBA player doing the #SoGoneChallenge.
Dwyane Wade is also rapping to the music of 2003 Monica song “So Gone”:
Wade also invites LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul to take the challenge. Will any accept?
Why is new Wizards coach Scott Brooks going so far out of his way to praise Washington’s backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal?
Maybe because the guards need positive reinforcement about their ability to excel together.
Wall, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball,” Wall said in a sitdown interview with CSN’s Chris Miller that airs tonight, Wizards Central: Offseason Grind, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Beal, via Michael:
“It’s tough because we’re both alphas. It’s always tough when you have two guys who firmly believe in themselves, who will bet on themselves against anybody else, who want to be that guy. We both can be that guy,” Beal said.
“Sometimes I think we both lose sight of the fact that we need each other. I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in without John. John wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in without me, without the rest of the team. It goes hand-in-hand so it’s kind of a pride thing. We got to (hash) out our pride, fiigure out what our goals are individually, help each other achieve those goals, figure out what our team goal is, where do we see ourselves five years from now, 10 years from now and go from there.”
Wall and Beal have spent four seasons together. Wall is locked up for three more and Beal five more.
This isn’t a fleeting problem.
In theory, Wall and Beal should play off each other well. Wall is more of a slasher and passer. Beal excels as an outside shooter.
But complementary skills matter only so much if there’s a personality difference.
Michael credited Alan Anderson and Garrett Temple with soothing tension, but both those veterans have left Washington. It’s time for Wall and Beal to handle this better on their own – or, without the right support around them, interpersonal issues could sink the Wizards.
The Jazz expedited their rise this offseason by trading their first-round pick for George Hill, using cap space to acquire Boris Diaw in another deal and signing Joe Johnson.
But Utah still has room for youth.
The Jazz signed two of their three 2016 second-round picks – No. 52 pick Joel Bolomboy and No. 55 pick Marcus Paige.
The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed 2016 second-round pick forward/center Joel Bolomboy (Ball-um-boy).
He will wear jersey #22 for the Jazz.
The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed 2016 second-round pick guard Marcus Paige.
He will wear jersey #16 for the Jazz.
Bolomboy is an energetic and athletic rebounder, and that should translate to the NBA. Will the rest of his game round into form? If not, will rebounding and hustle be enough to carve out a role? The power forward from Weber State was worth betting on late in the second round. He might not get much playing time behind Derrick Favors, Diaw and Trey Lyles, but it’s probably worth keeping Bolomboy on an NBA contract and monitoring his development.
Paige is in a similar situation, though point guard is even more crowded with George Hill, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto. After four years at North Carolina, how much untapped potential remains?
The Jazz have 14 players – one shy of the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries plus Jeff Withey and Chris Johnson. So, barring something unforeseen, there isn’t room for both Bolomboy and Paige (let alone unsigned No. 60 pick Tyrone Wallace) to stick. Utah could waive either rookie and assign his D-League rights to its affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars. But that player would become an NBA free agent.
That’s why I’m a little surprised the Jazz signed both. Perhaps, Paige forced their hand by accepting the required tender (a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain a player’s draft rights).
Essentially, this sets up a training-camp competition between Bolomboy, Paige, Withey and Johnson with one NBA salary on the line. My money is on Bolomboy.
The 2016 Olympics served a therapeutic purpose for Kevin Durant, who won gold with Team USA after facing immense backlash for leaving the Thunder for the Warriors.
What about 2020? What will motivate him to represent the U.S. in the Tokyo Games?
Maybe Carmelo Anthony‘s American Olympic scoring record. Durant is just 25 points behind the Knicks star.
Durant, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:
“I can’t say right now,” Durant told The Vertical. “I’ll be 31, going on 32 …”
Overhearing the conversation, Anthony jumped in and shouted, “He’ll be playing in 2020 and 2024! I’m right. I’m right.”
Durant laughed and shook his head as Anthony darted ahead as the most decorated American Olympic basketball player. For now. “I want to pass him, for sure. Just because it’s ‘Melo, I would love to pass him. But I don’t know if I’ll play or not,” Durant told The Vertical. “Who knows? We’ll see. You never know what’s going to happen in four years. I’m just going to enjoy this one right now.”
Durant has already won gold medals (in 2008 and 2012). Potentially, he’ll rack up heavy mileage with multiple deep playoff runs with Golden State in the coming years. And as he said, he’ll be nearly 32 in four years.
That’s the type of record that usually leads a player to skip the Olympics.
But Durant would still be young enough that it’s plausible, and his game should age well enough that he’ll remain one of the top American players. Breaking Melo’s record could entice him, too.