Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade disappears in Game 4 of Finals


After the thorough thrashing the Spurs delivered in a Game 4 victory over the Heat that placed them one win away from the NBA title, it’s perhaps unfair to single out one player’s performance as the reason for the loss.

But watching Dwyane Wade struggle through this one, it’s hard not to believe that his disappearance at the most critical of junctures was something more than simply an off night.

Wade started 1-of-10 from the field through the first three quarters, and chipped in two more buckets in the fourth quarter’s garbage time to finish with 10 points. Eight of those attempts came right at the rim, and he converted just one — partially due to San Antonio’s defensive presence, but more because of a clear lack of elevation or explosiveness when taking those shots.

In addition to the shooting woes, Wade looked a step slow all night long, and lacked any type of energy that would show he was playing at 100 percent. Look at the way Kawhi Leonard badgered him into a turnover late in the fourth — you can say the game was over by then, and surely, it was. But Wade wasn’t able to elude the defender, and ended up falling down as the ball was stolen.

There was another example on the defensive end here, where Wade looked gassed and didn’t even bother to hustle into the paint or jump for a rebound that he might have had a chance at if he had exerted the effort.

For those looking to chalk it up to fatigue or simply being washed up, this has not been the way Wade’s performed this postseason.

In the six Conference Finals games against the Pacers, Wade averaged 19.8 points on 54.5 percent shooting, and posted 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting as recently as Game 3 of the Finals. No, this was definitely different — even if he or his head coach weren’t willing to admit it afterward.

“No,” said Erik Spoelstra, when asked if there was something different about Wade in this one. “You have to credit their defense as well. It looked like he had a couple of opportunities. A couple he just missed, and that happens through competition, and Leonard got a piece of another one. Made a heck of a play on that. He was able to at least get into the paint a few times, but once they got up by 15, then we started to lose a little bit more rhythm from there, and that was everybody, not just exclusive to Dwyane.”

“Yeah, I just missed them,” Wade said, when it was pointed out he seemed to lack his usual explosiveness on his shots. “You know, I’m a very accurate shooter, so I don’t like missing. I’m not used to missing around the basket. But law of averages, man. The ball just didn’t go in. But I’ll take those same opportunities next game for sure.”

We don’t know exactly what was ailing Wade in Game 4, and even if he had put up one of his more traditional statistical lines, it’s likely the Heat still would have been crushed due to the way the Spurs flawlessly whipped the ball around to the open shooter in executing their offense.

But we do know that if Wade can’t bring anything more to a potential elimination game on Sunday, the Spurs will be crowned champions before the night is finished.

“You have to look at yourself and see what you can bring better to the game to be able to help this team,” Wade said. “Then as a team we’ve got to continue to trust and believe in each other, like we’ve done for four years here, like we’ve done all season. I’m confident that we will do that.”

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton
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If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports NBCBayArea.com.

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.

Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards

Paul George, Marcus Morris
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.

Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

Hassan Whiteside

Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.

LeBron James: Spend less time comparing, more appreciating the greats

Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Monday night, LeBron James joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to be in the top 25 all-time in assists and scoring. Somewhere this summer (maybe late last season), Stephen Curry passed LeBron James and the best player walking the face of the earth. Don’t even get started on trying to compare LeBron or Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.

No, seriously, don’t. LeBron thinks we spend to much time comparing and not enough time appreciating the great players of sport, such as comparing him to Robertson (or Magic). Here is what LeBron said to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“I think what we get caught up in, in our league too much is trying to compare greats to greats instead of just accepting and acknowledging and saying, ‘Wow, these are just great players,'” James said. “I think in the NFL when you talk about great quarterbacks, they don’t really compare great quarterbacks. They say, ‘Oh, Joe Montana is great.’ You know, ‘Tom Brady is great. Aaron Rodgers is great. Steve Young is great.’ (Terry) Bradshaw, all those great quarterbacks they never compare them as much, but when it comes to our sport we’re so eager to say, ‘Who is better, Oscar or (Michael) Jordan?’ or, ‘Jordan or LeBron or Kobe (Bryant) or these guys?’ instead of just accepting greatness.”

He’s right.

I admit I can get as sucked into this as the next person, it’s a fun barstool argument to have, but in the end it can suck the joy out of watching great players. This is not a new position for me, I was a Laker blogger back in the Kobe/Gasol era and tried to tell those fans to enjoy it while they could. Be a fan of the game has been my mantra.

No player has had to deal with this level of scrutiny like LeBron, the first NBA superstar of the social media age. LeBron is a lock Hall of Famer, he will go down as one of the greats to ever play the game, maybe the most physically gifted ever (him or Wilt), yet while he is still just 30 years old we try to rank him against MJ, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and a host of others. It’s been going on since he was 24. Probably earlier.

Can you imagine the online heat Jordan would have faced online when the Pistons rolled him and the Bulls in the playoffs three straight years, up to his age 26? But now in the mythology of Jordan those times are almost forgotten. They were dissected at the time, but not with the venom found on twitter. Not with the level of scrutiny LeBron faces.

Does Kobe suck this season? Maybe. But there are flashes of the great player and as fans we should try to savor those moments (even if we question now Byron Scott uses him). Same with Tim Duncan (who doesn’t suck). Or Kevin  Garnett. Plus there are all these great players on the rise like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns and on and on, yet the NBA world is critical first.

We all need to savor these players, these moments more.

Even if we know LeBron is not MJ, it doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t special.