Shane Battier returns to Heat, to lead analytics department

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Shane Battier has returned to the Miami Heat.

Battier is now a member of the Heat front office, assuming the newly created role of director of basketball development and analytics. The Heat announced the move Thursday, describing Battier’s new job as one where he will develop analytics to evaluate talent – including college players, free agents and members of the existing roster.

“My goal, as is the entire organization’s, is to bring another championship back to Miami,” Battier said.

Battier played 13 seasons in the NBA, the last three of those in Miami and helped the Heat win championships in 2012 and 2013. He and his family have continued to call South Florida home since, and has maintained ties with the organization.

He has been close with Heat managing general partner Micky Arison and CEO Nick Arison since his playing days at Duke, when Nick Arison was the Blue Devils’ manager.

“I am thrilled to be joining the front office of the Miami Heat,” Battier said. “I look forward to working with the Arison family, learning from a Hall of Fame executive in Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg and of course my old coach, Erik Spoelstra.”

Battier was enormously popular among fans and teammates in his tenure with the Heat. He was a key part in the second and third championships won by the Heat, and now he’ll be asked to help them win a fourth.

“We believe Shane is an incredible example of our Heat program, not only for the present, but also for the future,” said Riley, the Heat president. “He embodies everything that we are looking for in our players and staff. We feel he will help us tremendously with his experience and knowledge of the game. Shane is an out-of-the-box thinker and will bring a fresh expertise that can help us evolve as a franchise.”

The Heat went to the NBA Finals in all three seasons that Battier played in Miami. He won the Twyman-Stokes NBA Teammate of the Year award in 2014 and the Magic Johnson Award for excellence on the court with cooperation with media and fans in 2013, both of those coming during his Heat tenure.

He retired with career averages of 8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 44 percent shooting.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.