Luke Babbitt

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Hawks: DeAndre’ Bembry out 4-6 weeks

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DeAndre’ Bembry somehow did this without straining anything.

But his luck apparently caught up with him.

Hawks release:

Atlanta Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry has sustained a strained right tricep. An MRI performed at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Friday, Sept. 8 confirmed the injury. He is expected to be out of basketball activity for four-to-six weeks, and his status will be updated as appropriate.

This timeline has Bembry returning around the start of regular season. Even if he’s cleared before Atlanta’s Oct. 18 opener against the Mavericks, he might be too far behind to warrant immediate playing time.

Bembry is competing with Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, Marco Belinelli, Luke Babbitt, Tyler Dorsey and Nicolas Brussino for wing minutes. As Bembry catches up, the Hawks might be pivoting toward tanking. So, maybe the second-year wing and team will meet in the middle, where Bembry is more ready to play and Atlanta is more willing to forgive his deficiencies.

Pat Riley says Heat growth will be up to the players

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MIAMI (AP) — Pat Riley has a trip to his California home awaiting, followed by a vacation with his wife.

He can now relax a little.

The 2017-18 Miami Heat are going to look a lot like the 2016-17 Miami Heat, and the team president is just fine with that arrangement. Riley said Monday he thinks bringing back now-former free agents Dion Waiters and James Johnson and signing them to four-year deals, combined with the surprise addition of Kelly Olynyk, gives Miami a real shot at picking up where it left off last season.

The way he sees it, now it’s up to those signees to deliver on promises.

“I think in training camp, they have to look at it with great foresight for the future – but also they have to back up their words somewhat with their play,” Riley said Monday. “So it’ll be very interesting this year when we go to training camp to see where their heads are, and I’m convinced they’ll come ready. They think they’re a good team and they’ll get it together. I’m excited about it.”

Even in a summer where Miami swung and missed at landing Gordon Hayward, Riley thinks the Heat got better in the last few days. Miami went through one of the most unique seasons in NBA history last year – it lost franchise cornerstone Dwyane Wade in the summer, started 11-30 to fall super-close to the NBA basement, then went 30-11 in the second half and still missed the playoffs.

It was a painful ending.

Riley wants that pain to permeate for a while.

“As good as we were in the second half of the year, we didn’t finish the job and get that one shot at the first round,” Riley said.

There are more details for Miami to handle before the offseason business truly slows to a trickle. The Heat are still talking with forward Luke Babbitt about a return, plus have been in discussions with captain Udonis Haslem – who has been approached by other clubs, including Cleveland, to gauge his interest in lending his veteran expertise elsewhere.

“We hopefully will get Udonis back,” Riley said.

Anything Miami does now would almost certainly have to be a minimum deal. Riley said the Heat spent every dollar available under its salary cap, lauding Heat senior vice president of basketball operations and general manager Andy Elisburg – considered one of the NBA’s top cap gurus – for his expertise there in not only helping Miami land Olynyk but keep Waiters, Johnson and Wayne Ellington.

“His number-crunching … he’s the star of this whole thing,” Riley said, adding that the Heat intend to hang onto their $4.3 million exception – for now.

Miami had Plan A and Plan B going into free agency. Plan A was to land Hayward and figure everything else out on the fly. Plan B was, if Hayward decided to play elsewhere (and he did, picking Boston), to go all-in on retaining Heat free agents.

At 35,000 feet, Plan C presented itself.

Riley was flying back to Miami from meetings in California when he and the Heat brass learned Olynyk was going to be a free agent. That deal came together quickly, and Riley is already convinced the former Celtics backup forward was the right move to pair with center Hassan Whiteside.

“He’s a perfect fit with Hassan,” Riley said. “He can play with him and we can play him with other guys.”

Whiteside and Waiters have both said they expect the Heat to be in the Eastern Conference mix next season, and Riley doesn’t disagree. Cleveland – even with its front-office dysfunction being a big story this offseason – still has LeBron James and therefore still has the talent to be considered the best in the East. Boston will be there again. Washington, Toronto and Milwaukee also think they’ll vie for top-four spots.

Miami figures to be there as well.

“There are other teams in the conference but we feel good,” Riley said. “If you go into the season healthy, in shape and feeling good, and there’s a commitment to one another, the sky’s the limit. You have to go for it.”

More AP NBA: http://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

DeMar DeRozan has 38 points, Raptors beat Heat 96-94

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TORONTO (AP) – DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 96-94 on Friday night in their final home game of the regular season.

DeRozan broke Vince Carter‘s franchise record with his 31st 30-point game of the season, shooting 14 of 32 from the floor. Carter set the mark in 2000-01.

Cory Joseph added 14 points, and Kyle Lowry had 12 in his second game back form an injury.

James Johnson had 22 points for Miami against his former team. Goran Dragic added 18 for the Heat. They remained ninth in the Eastern Conference with three games to play.

Behind since the 9:24 mark of the first quarter, the Heat finally tied it with 4:43 remaining on Hassan Whiteside‘s alley-oop dunk. But the Raptors’ Serge Ibaka countered with a 3-pointer to put Toronto up 85-82.

Whiteside closed the gap to a point with a hook shot seconds later, but the Raptors scored the next five points through Lowry and DeRozan, who finished a driving spinaround layup to increase Toronto’s lead to 90-84 with 1:52 to go.

A foul on DeRozan sent him to the line to add another two points, and though another two free throws and a layup from Johnson cut it to 92-88. DeRozan’s layup with 25.4 seconds put the Raptors back in control. A 3-pointer from Miami’s Tyler Johnson with 1.2 seconds left capped the scoring.

TIP-INS

Heat: F Luke Babbitt (hip) missed the game. Miami players have missed 312 games due to injury or illness, the most in the NBA.

Raptors: Toronto won the season series against the Heat for the third straight season. Before the final regular-season home game, DeRozan addressed the fans from center court to thank them for their support this season. For the sixth and final time this season, the Raptors wore their blue-and-white Toronto Huskies jerseys, commemorating the 1946-47 Basketball Association of America franchise. Toronto is 6-0 while wearing the throwback uniforms.

JOLTIN’ JOE

The Toronto Blue Jays’ home opener isn’t until Tuesday, but Blue Jays legend Joe Carter, whose walk-off home run ended the 1993 World Series, was in attendance on Friday. After being presented with a personalized Toronto Huskies shirt, Carter threw signed mini basketballs into the crowd.

 

Three Things We Learned Sunday: Damian Lillard trying to will Blazers into the playoffs

Associated Press
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Villanova is out. Duke is out. So how bad does your bracket look now? Time to focus on the NBA again for a few days, here’s what you missed on Sunday while you watched Lonzo Ball go off.

1) Damian Lillard flat-out goes off, drops 49 and gets Blazers key win over Heat. Miami is trying to make a playoff push without Dion Waiters, who has been key to the Heat’s second-half run. It means Goran Dragic is going to have to be at his peak nightly and help carry his team’s offense (especially is Erik Spoelstra continues to start Josh Richardson, Luke Babbitt, and Rodney McGruder). Dragic wasn’t that on Sunday (neither was Hassan Whiteside, who also has to step up).

Damian Lillard was ready to carry his team.

In a matchup of two teams fighting to make the playoffs in their respective conferences, the Blazers had the best player on the floor as Lillard went off for 49, drained nine three-pointers, and as a result the Blazers got the win.

With the win, Portland moves within one game of Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.

With the loss, Miami remains in a virtual tie with Detroit for the eighth seed in the East, half a game back of Milwaukee and a full game up on 10 seed and stumbling Chicago. Mark your calendars now, Miami travels to Detroit a week from Tuesday in what will be a critical game in that playoff chase.

2) Tony Parker returns, Spurs getting healthy, win again. The Spurs throttled the Kings on Sunday night, picking up an easy win. Which really isn’t news. Nor is the fact that Gregg Popovich decided to spark his team by starting Davis Bertans at the four, sliding LaMarcus Aldridge to center, and sending Dewayne Dedmon back to the bench.

What was interesting is that Tony Parker was back and had 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

The Spurs are going to need this Parker come the playoffs. He has had postseason struggles the past couple of seasons, but Popovich is going to need him after the first round this season is San Antonio is going to be a real threat to come out of the West.


3) Did Lakers start to find something with Jordan Clarkson/D’Angelo Russell backcourt? Maybe. If they start to defend.
Nick Young was out with the flu, so Lakers’ Luke Walton experimented with youth as his starting backcourt against Cleveland Sunday — Jordan Clarkson at the one, D’Angelo Russell at the two.

It worked. Sort of. Russell had a career-high 40 points and had one of this best games of the season.

Russell was knocking down shots, but also working as a playmaker, and playing off of Clarkson (who finished with 19 points).

“We were looking for each other,” Clarkson said. “I was trying to get in the paint, he was being aggressive knocking down shots. We compliment each other’s game when we’re doing that.”

“Jordan, he’s great, he’s very complimentary toward me on the court,” Russell said. “Whatever the coaching staff does I trust it. I run with it.”

This is not the first time Clarkson and Russell have been paired, but the matchup has been a disaster most of the season — outscored by 22 points per 100 possessions in 464 minutes. And that pairing was -14 on Sunday because they struggled defensively at times, particularly down the stretch against Kyrie Irving (to be fair, he makes a lot of defenders look bad).

The Lakers are experimenting for the rest of this season, and this experiment is not over.

“Individually, they’ve both make great growth throughout the season but for whatever reason the two of them on the court together, when we’ve tried it, it hasn’t statistically been very goo for us,” Luke Walton said. “But it was good to see that it worked well tonight. We’ll continue to try that lineup going forward and see if we can make that chemistry between the two of them a normal thing.”

Cavaliers sit LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and Heat roll to 120-92 win

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James and Kyrie Irving rested, and the Miami Heat took advantage.

Until the final seconds, that was the entire story.

Goran Dragic scored 23 points, Hassan Whiteside had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Heat beat the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 120-92 on Saturday night.

Tyler Johnson added 17 points for the Heat, who won for the 18th time in their last 22 games and made 18 3-pointers.

But tempers flared in the final seconds after the Cavaliers – the injured J.R. Smith, it seemed, in particular – took exception to Rodney McGruder‘s exuberant tip dunk where he made contact with Cleveland’s Channing Frye with about a minute left. Benches emptied as time expired, Dion Waiters and Udonis Haslem did some pointing and shouting toward the Cavaliers, and some from both sides were playing peacemaker.

“Ado about nothing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Added Frye: “It’s not really a story. Tempers flared. It is what it is. It’s over now. They won. Congrats.”

The teams play again in Cleveland on Monday night.

The Cavaliers fell to 0-5 this season when James isn’t in the lineup, and continue to be without two other would-be starters in Kevin Love and Smith – both still recovering from surgeries. Newly signed center Andrew Bogut also wasn’t with the Cavaliers.

Frye scored 21 points and Kyle Korver added 15 for the Cavaliers, who have lost their last 12 games in Miami.

“We forced them to shoot long contested shots,” said Dragic, who had 10 points in the third as Miami built a 101-75 lead. “And we played together on offense.”

The Heat remained 1 1/2 games behind Detroit for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference race. Cleveland’s lead over idle Boston for the No. 1 spot in the East was trimmed to 2 1/2 games.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said this wouldn’t be the last time James sits before the end of the regular season. James is averaging nearly 38 minutes per game, and has played more minutes – by far – than anyone else in the NBA over the last seven seasons, in large part because he keeps leading his teams to the NBA Finals.

He’s been to the last six of those, and the Cavs want to make sure he’s fresh enough come playoff time to have the best possible chance at No. 7.

“He understands the big picture and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Lue said.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: A night after setting an NBA regular-season record with 25 3-pointers, the Cavs went 11 for 27 from beyond the arc. … James, who tackled a Heat fan in celebration after one made a halfcourt shot for $75,000 in 2013, cheered when another made a shot Saturday for 100,000 frequent-flier miles. … Derrick Williams, as expected, was signed for the rest of the season earlier Saturday.

Heat: The 12 straight home wins against Cleveland is Miami’s second-longest active such streak. The Heat have won 15 straight at home over Sacramento. … Luke Babbitt went 3 for 4 from 3-point range, making him 20 for 30 from long range in his last 10 games.

BANTER

Cavs forward Richard Jefferson took some heckling from a fan in stride. Jefferson got asked by a courtside ticketholder why he doesn’t retire, and had a quick response. “You aren’t tired of watching me,” Jefferson said.

INJURIES

Heat forward James Johnson needed four stitches in his right elbow, and Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert chipped two teeth.