Dwyane Wade says health was not a factor in poor Game 4 performance

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SAN ANTONIO — Dwyane Wade disappeared in Miami’s Game 4 loss to the Spurs, and his poor performance that saw him finish just 3-of-13 from the field and lag significantly on the defensive end appeared to be more than just a random off night.

Wade lacked any type of speed or explosiveness, and after a successful season-long maintenance program aimed at keeping his historically ailing knee healthy enough for a run into late June, it appeared to be failing him at the worst possible time.

Everything is just fine from a health standpoint, however, if Wade is to be believed. Speaking to reporters at the Spurs practice facility on Saturday, he said Game 4 was an aberration, and nothing more than a bad game where he simply missed shots.

“I was 3 for 13,” Wade said. “That doesn’t happen to me often. I’m a very high‑percentage shooter. Whenever something is that way, there is always something that’s pointed out. There’s nothing wrong. I got quality shots, I missed them. For whatever reason. They played good defense on some, some I missed. But that’s the nature of the game.”

Wade was pressed further on the issue, and was asked if he felt he was laboring a bit near the end of Game 4 — something that seemed apparent on both ends of the floor.

“No, man,” he said.  “It’s like I said, when you shoot 3 for 13, they can point at anything. I’m fine. Way better than I’ve been in a long time. There is nothing I point out at all. Last year I was on one leg and did all right. I’m totally fine, man. I didn’t play well in Game 4. Has nothing to do with my health at all.”

When Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was asked about Wade’s health, he was a little less convincing.

“You’d have to ask him, but nobody’s going to make any excuses at this time,” Spoelstra said. “He wouldn’t want me to make one for him. I don’t think anybody that’s playing minutes at this time of year is feeling 100% and feeling spry and like they’re 16 years old.

“But that’s part of competition, how you manage everything, your body, your mind, manage frustration, manage elation, manage everything in between, and through all that trying to figure out how to get the job done. And so that’s been our focus. I know that’s Dwayne’s focus, as well.”

Overall the Heat appeared to be a relaxed and loose bunch, especially considering the fact that they’re facing elimination on Sunday, which would mean that a rare run at a title would be ultimately lost. Wade has faced similarly long odds before, and was part of a Miami team that came back from an 0-2 deficit to win it all back in 2006. He said that reflecting on the way that championship was won was certainly on his mind heading into Sunday’s critical Game 5 contest.

“I’ve thought about it,” Wade said. “We were down 2-0 and down 13 in Game 3 and won four in a row. You think about all of those things. You have to pull from your experiences and know where you came from to know where you’re trying to go.”

“We’re going to try to win a ballgame,” he said. “We’re going to try to keep this series alive.”

Fans to vote on “Best Dunk,” “Best Assist,” other categories handed out at NBA Awards show

zach lavine
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Fans are going to get their say at the NBA Awards Show, coming June 26 on TNT. Drake will be the host, and we to come up with an under/over on the number of players Drake gives a bro hug to during the ceremony.

That’s the night the NBA will hand out its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and every other major postseason award — except for All-NBA Team, which has to come earlier. The media have already cast their votes for these awards.

Where the fans get to come in is the fun awards, categories created just for this event:

• Dunk of the Year
• Best Style
• Block of the Year
• Assist of the Year
• Game Winner of the Year
• Top Performance of the Year

The NBA already narrowed down the list of choices for each category to three, and voting opens tonight. Just go to  www.nba.com/nbaawards and cast your ballot, or on Twitter or Facebook just post the #AwardName and First/Last Name of their winner (for example, #DunkOfTheYear  Larry Nance).

These awards should add some energy — and good highlights — to what has the potential to be a stuffy event. It’s a bunch of NBA players in suits in a ballroom in New York, this is going to feel like a branding event at times. The NBA is hoping the fans can liven it up.

Here are the categories, with the hashtags for voting:

#DunkOfTheYear
• Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance, Jr. vs. Brooklyn

• Minnesota’s Zach LaVine vs. Phoenix

• Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo vs. Atlanta

#BestStyle
• Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert
• Chicago’s Dwyane Wade
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook

#BlockOfTheYear
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Houston
• New York’s Kristaps Porzingis vs. Brooklyn
• Miami’s Hassan Whiteside vs. Toronto

#GameWinnerOfTheYear
• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving vs. Golden State
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook vs. Denver
• Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis vs. Boston

#TopPerformanceOfTheYear
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker 70-point game vs. Boston
• Houston’s James Harden nets 53-16-17 triple double vs. New York
• Golden State’s Klay Thompson scores 60 in three quarters vs. Indiana
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with most points in a triple-double, 57-13-11, vs. Orlando

#AssistOfTheYear
• Golden State’s Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
• Denver’s Nikola Jokic with no-look pass
• LA Clippers’ Chris Paul with wraparound pass

Report: USC’s Elijah Stewart intended to declare for NBA draft, forgot

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Declaring for the NBA draft is like declaring bankruptcy: You can’t just bellow it and expect it to take effect. You actually have to fill out the paperwork.

That’s why USC’s Elijah Stewart wasn’t among the 192 early entrants to the 2017 NBA draft.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Stewart:

Givony’s report will do little but embarrass Stewart. It’s unlikely Stewart would’ve been drafted, and he likely would have withdrawn to return to USC for his senior season. Perhaps, he would’ve gotten helpful feedback from the NBA before that point, but that’s minimal.

The real problem, though, isn’t Stewart’s inattentiveness, to whatever extent is exists. It’s that the NCAA won’t allow players to maintain eligibility while having an agent.

If Stewart had proper representation, there’d be no questioning whether he intended to declare for the draft. His agent would’ve handled it, one way or the other.

If the NCAA were truly about educating players, it’d allow them to have guidance from experienced professional agents. Agents don’t have to conflict with amateurism (not that amateurism is a worthy goal, anyway).

But teaching players is not the NCAA’s true goal. The NCAA prioritizes keeping its cartel in tact and money flowing to coaches and administrators.

Agents might steer players from that corrupt system entirely or at least help them leverage their immense power to gain better compensation than a wage-fixed scholarship.

This incident should spark discussion about the unseemly lengths the NCAA goes to to protect its money-makers from its revenue-generators. Instead, it’s much easier to make Stewart a punchline.

Kevin Durant gets a hoot out of meme with Draymond Green

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You’ve seen the Draymond GreenKevin Durant meme, right?

Here’s the video with my favorite caption:

In the latest episode of “Still KD,” Durant watches the meme, reads other captions and calls it “hilarious.”

Russell Westbrook: ‘Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be’

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The Thunder want to sign Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that projects to be worth about $207 million over five years.

But does he want to sign it?

Westbrook, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

Westbrook noted that his wife is expecting their first child in May, and that’s where his focus is right now. Asked whether there’s a timetable on his decision about a potential extension, Westbrook lightheartedly jabbed back.

“No. What did I just say? Like you don’t care about my baby?” he said. “You must not. You didn’t hear that part, huh?”

Though it was painted as Westbrook showing his loyalty to the Thunder in stark contrast to the departed Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s renegotiation-and-extension last summer was also his way of receiving the highest-possible salary.

This is a different case.*

*So, it seems. It’s unclear whether the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Oklahoma City to renegotiate Westbrook’s 2017-18 salary up to the designated-veteran-player rate, but I’m presuming not.

Westbrook will have 10 years of experience when an extension would kick in. A typical advantage of a designated-veteran-player contract is allowing a player with eight or nine years experience, who’s typically limited to a starting salary of 30% of the salary cap, to receive a starting salary of 35% of the salary cap. But Westbrook will be eligible for 35% of the salary by then simply due to his years of service.

In other words, an extension signed this summer would pay Westbrook the exact same amount he could receive as a free agent in 2018.

So, would Westbrook sign that extension? It’d guarantee him a huge salary and protect him in the event of injury or decline. But Westbrook is so good, he’s extremely likely to get the max in 2018-19 no matter what. With only minimal risk, maybe he’d rather maintain flexibility.

Westbrook appeared to embrace leading the team, and he truly seems happy in Oklahoma City in a way I didn’t expect when he signed last summer. His image is so tied to loyalty to the Thunder, it’d be tough to spin an exit.

But Oklahoma City is relatively locked into a roster that will have a hard time winning multiple playoff series. Westbrook wants to win.

I don’t know whether he’ll accept an extension this summer rather than delaying a year, but if he won’t ink a deal this year, that should be a concerning indicator to the Thunder about their chances of re-signing him in 2018.