Dan Feldman

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14:  U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with National Basketball Association 2012-2013 champion Miami Heat player LeBron James after welcoming the team -- including President Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade and others -- during an event at the White House January 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. This is the second year in a row the team won the championship and made a trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Pat Riley: Shaq, not LeBron or Wade, was Heat’s biggest acquisition


Pat Riley throwing shade at LeBron James after LeBron left the Heat? Why I never.

Oh, right.

Now, Dwyane Wade, who left for the Bulls, is getting similar treatment. The Heat president who’s totally not bitter called trading for Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 – not drafting Wade in 2003 or signing LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010 – the biggest move in franchise history.

Riley, via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

“I’ll say this, and I mean this,” Riley says during a relaxed moment this past week, “Shaq’s acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”

“The seminal moment,” Riley says, “to really make us really, really legitimate. He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy.”

O’Neal spent three and a half seasons in Miami, reaching the conference finals, winning a title and getting swept in the first round. Though it wasn’t fully appreciated at the time, the younger Wade – not the more-renowned Shaq – led the Heat to that 2006 title.

Wade, the greatest player in franchise history, also helped Miami win titles in 2012 and 2013 with LeBron – who might wind up the greatest player in NBA history. LeBron led the Heat to those two titles and four Finals appearances in his four years with the franchise.

I guess there’s a case that Shaq gave the Heat credibility, but it’s not as if he signed in Miami. The Heat traded for him.

LeBron and Wade were better in Miami, won more in Miami and stayed longer in Miami.

I suspect the fact that they now play in Cleveland and Chicago drove Riley’s answer.

Does Jeff Hornacek have to run triangle for Knicks? Reportedly depends whom you ask

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 29:  Head Coach Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns looks on during an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on November 29, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Phil Jackson reportedly told new Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek he wouldn’t have to run to the triangle offense. Hornacek said he’d include triangle principles in his scheme.

What’s really going on?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The message I was getting from the people around Hornacek was that he would get to coach whatever style he wanted to coach. The message I was getting from people with the Knicks was that that wasn’t necessarily true, that there would be, as you mentioned, the fingerprints of the triangle on that.

Hornacek said he’d use triangle elements. Maybe that’s more than lip service and he plans to appease Jackson (though that’s problematic because Hornacek isn’t experienced in coaching the triangle).

Or maybe Hornacek was just trying to quell controversy publicly now then run his own offense with Jackson’s approval (though that would become problematic if Jackson’s ego causes him to demand the triangle after the fact).

But if there’s a real misunderstanding how this will work, that’s already a major problem. It barely matters whether the Knicks misled Hornacek or Hornacek misinterpreted. The difference in expectations will be untenable.

Avery Bradley tells story of getting jersey from Kevin Garnett after Jeff Green got rejected

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10:  Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets and Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics battle for the ball during their game at the Barclays Center on December 10, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. 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 Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
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Avery Bradley said he doesn’t fear Kyrie Irving or anyone else.

Where did the Celtics guard find that attitude?

He credited Kevin Garnet for challenging him when they played together in Boston. Apparently, the respect was mutual – or at least more mutual than it was for former Celtic Jeff Green.

Bradley, via Tom Westerholm of MassLive:

“This year, I was telling my teammates when we were playing in Minnesota, I was like, ‘I don’t think KG’s gonna give me a jersey,'” Bradley said. “My teammates were like, ‘Man, what? He doesn’t talk to nobody but you. He’s gonna give you a jersey.’ I asked one of the ball boys and he was like, ‘He just turned down Jeff Green. He’s not giving one to anybody.’ So I asked, and KG wrote me a letter like, ‘I love you. This jersey is for you, keep working hard.’ He wrote me a letter, and now I have his jersey up at my house.”

Green twice played in Minnesota before Bradley did, so that checks out on the surface.

Poor Jeff Green. Rich Jeff Green. But poor Jeff Green.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf supports Colin Kaepernick, still doesn’t stand for nation anthem

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Before Colin Kaepernick sat for the national anthem, Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf waged his own anthem protest in 1996.

Jesse Washington of The Undefeated:

Twenty years later, despite losing prime years of NBA stardom, enduring death threats and having his home burned to the ground, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf still does not stand for the national anthem.

The quicksilver guard who foreshadowed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest is now living in Atlanta, taking care of his five teenage children along with his ex-wife, training NBA players, and giving occasional speeches to groups in black or Muslim communities. At age 47, he has no regrets about choosing the difficult journey that Kaepernick is just starting.

“It’s priceless to know that I can go to sleep knowing that I stood to my principles,” Abdul-Rauf told The Undefeated. “Whether I go broke, whether they take my life, whatever it is, I stood on principles. To me, that is worth more than wealth and fame.”

Abdul-Rauf has never spoken to Kaepernick, and isn’t a football fan. But he supports the quarterback’s protest and message “1,000 percent,” saying that it created a valuable debate.

“It’s good to continue to draw people’s attention to what’s going on whether you’re an athlete, a politician, or a garbage man. These discussions are necessary,” he said. “Sometimes it takes people of that stature, athletes and entertainers, because the youth are drawn to them, [more than] teachers and professors, unfortunately.”

Kaepernick and Abdul-Rauf sat for different reasons, but the underlying ideas behind the acts – America wrongfully oppresses people, America rightfully protects free speech – are similar.

Abdul-Rauf’s motivations were largely lost amid controversy about his method of protest. The same is happening with Kaepernick, though not as severely, because Abdul-Rauf forged this path 20 years ago.

So, I’ll end with the questions I posed previously:

Is sitting during the national anthem an affront to American values? Is racism an affront to American values?

Which is worse? Which are you more angry about?

51Q: Did the Pelicans plug enough holes around Anthony Davis?

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 14:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 14, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off).

After bottoming out to get Anthony Davis, the Pelicans steadily rose in the standings – 27 wins to 34 wins to 45 wins and the playoffs.

Until last season.

They regressed to 30-52, bringing a reality check: New Orleans was asking too much of Davis. He’d lifted the franchise as far as he could, but the weight on his shoulders was too much to bear.

So, the Pelicans set out to get Davis help. They drafted Buddy Hield No. 6 overall and signed Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Terrence Jones. New Orleans is now much deeper and younger, which should help the team avoid and withstand the type of injury problems that devastated it last year.

Will that be enough?

Davis is a special player. At age 23, he just can’t do it alone in a tough Western Conference – though the Pelicans have come close to asking.

Since Davis entered the NBA, only James Harden has accounted for a higher percentage of a team’s wins (as measured by win shares) than Davis:


At least the Rockets tried to pair Harden with Dwight Howard, a former superstar who has declined amid injury issues as he has aged. (Interestingly, Houston’s latest reboot includes Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, two players who didn’t help Davis enough in New Orleans.)

For three of his four seasons, Davis’ supporting cast has underwhelmed for one reason or another. Last year, poor health hammered the Pelicans, but too many of Davis’ teammates struggled when on the court. At least he remained excellent in his 61 games.

This influx of young talent could help, but it’s far from a given.

New Orleans has invested too heavily in Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, centers who don’t really fit Alvin Gentry’s offense. Compounding the problem, those bigs – who shift Davis to more power forward – mean Hill will primarily play small forward. Hill’s ball-handling and outside shooting are much bigger assets at power forward.

So, I don’t know whether the Pelicans got better now. I also don’t know much better they’ll be in the future with Solomon Hill making nearly $13 million per year and Moore making $8.5 million per year over the next four seasons.

New Orleans is onto its latest reshuffling around Davis, and it was time for a new plan. Just like the old one, it might work, but it’s far from a certainty.