Dwyane Wade, Lance Stephenson

Dwyane Wade says bad blood between Heat and Pacers works to Miami’s advantage

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There aren’t many true rivalries in the NBA these days, mainly because in an era where teams can change so dramatically from one season to the next, it’s difficult to maintain any level of disdain for an extended period of time.

But as the Eastern Conference Finals get set to begin between the Heat and the Pacers, there’s no denying that some bad blood between the teams does in fact exist.

Miami has eliminated Indiana from the postseason each of the last two years, most recently requiring seven games to do so on the way to a second straight title. Add in the fact that the teams have battled four times already this year, and that’s enough familiarity to breed some contempt — which is something Dwyane Wade believes will work to his team’s advantage.

From Joe Goodman of the Miami Herald:

“We expect it to be just as competitive,” Heat center Udonis Haslem said. “More competitive than last year, more competitive than anything in the regular season. We’re talking about two teams that have grown to not really like each other over the last couple years.” …

“We’re not a young team where dislike should get in the way of us winning basketball games,” Wade said. “That’s when you’re younger and you’re coming up. That’s how Boston had us, where there was a dislike for them and mentally it got us off our games. We learned from that and we learned from them.

“No matter what goes on in the games, the chippiness, the back and forth, that’s part of the game, but you got to keep your head in it and continue to move forward.”

The Pacers are certainly not as experienced as this Heat team, but they would appear to have gained enough of it to where any in-game highs and lows shouldn’t negatively impact their chances.

Finding some level of consistency will be the biggest challenge for the Pacers more than anything else. We’re talking about a team that was barely .500 over the last two months of the season, and suffered a lapse that saw them trail by as many as 30 at home in Game 5 against the Wizards, on a night when they had a chance to close that series out.

Any moments that raise the intensity between these two teams may actually help Indiana focus on the task at hand. The Pacers are a team that’s shown a significant amount of mental frailty as of late, and may need a spark to help them rise to the occasion. If that is the case, they should have no trouble finding it against the two-time defending champs.

After two years off court, Joel Embiid says he “probably” will have minutes restrictions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a shot from the bench prior to the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Joel Embiid could be the best player on the Philadelphia 76ers in a couple of years — many scouts had him the highest rated of all the first-round draft picks the Sixers have had in recent seasons.

But after two foot surgeries and two seasons sitting on the sidelines, we don’t know how good Embiid can be. We should find out starting in October when Embiid is part of the Sixers training camp. Embiid says he feels 100 percent, but he expects there will be restrictions on him at first, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com during the Sixers Beach Bash community event this weekend.

This is the smart move by the Sixers — they are not competing for a title, the games in November have minimal meaning long term, bring him along slowly and make sure he can make each step along the way. Let’s see what he can do, then worry about how much run he can get in games that matter.

It’s going to be interesting to watch how Embiid, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor all fit together up front — and which one of them gets traded this season.

Celtics’ Avery Bradley on defense: “Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me”

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 09:  Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after scoring against the Memphis Grizzlies  during the first quarter at TD Garden on March 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Avery Bradley was first-team NBA All-Defensive team last season, and his coach Brad Stevens lobbied for him to get the honor. Bradley picks up guys full court, pesters, and plays physical — we can debate if he is as good defensively as his reputation, but guys like Damian Lillard think he’s tough to go up against.

Bradley, for his part, says he has no fear going up against the best. Here is what he said to Tom Westerholm of Masslive.com.

“I love the challenge,” Bradley said on Friday, making an appearance at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I love going up against the best players. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care about getting embarrassed. I don’t care. Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me. I know some players in the NBA probably get butterflies before the game, but not me. I’m licking my lips. I come excited. They need to prepare for me at the end of the day. That’s how I think.”

That’s exactly the attitude you want an elite defender to have.

Bradley injured his hamstring in the first game of the playoffs last April and sat the rest of the Celtics’ one series. Then this summer his name came up in potential Jimmy Butler trade rumors (that deal never actually came close to getting off the ground). Expect Bradley to put that all behind him by the time training camp opens.

Watch highlights of LeBron James’ playoffs, Finals run

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LeBron James was dominant — the clear best player on the planet — when the Cleveland Cavaliers needed him most. That’s the reason Cleveland got its first major sports title in 52 years.

It’s the dead part of the NBA season — training camps don’t even open for a month — so why not enjoy a look back at LeBron’s amazing run to a legacy-defining NBA ring. Like you don’t have 15 minutes for this. What are you going to do, watch more preseason football?

It’s Joel Embiid’s turn to swat a little kid’s shot (VIDEO)

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 03: Joel Embiid #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot at MSG Training Center on August 3, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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It’s a summer tradition — tall NBA players swatting away the shots of young kids at camps/clinics.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has yet to step on an NBA court — this fall, finally? — but he is part of the youth tradition now, destroying this young man at the Sixers Beach Bash event Saturday.

This summer Embiid has arm wrestled Justin Bieber and looked good working out in an empty gym, and to add to that list here is Embiid overpowering an average guy at Beach Bash then throwing it down. The man at least provided a little more resistance than a chair.