Dan Feldman

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Pat Riley’s new approach to building Heat: ‘You don’t have have to go whale hunting’

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Last summer, Heat president Pat Riley stated his desire to land a “whale,” seemingly meaning Kevin Durant.

This year, Riley is taking a more modest approach to Miami’s offseason.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

On pursuing whales, Riley said: “I regret ever making that statement. The collective bargaining agreement is going to dictate a lot of things about free agency…. Today it’s a lot different than [2010]. Any great player will have to give great pause to walk away from $65 million to $70 million to walk away.”

“We are going to focus on our guys, really focus on this group of guys. We have found something about three of these guys, I felt they had something but never really had the platform. We will always observe what’s going on in free agency. We have that flexibility. When you have a draft pick and a lot of players on your team you like, you are in good position to move forward.”

“If you are looking at Golden State and Cleveland, those teams and Houston and San Anontio, the top four teams in the league, what happens to the other teams in the Eastern Conference, yes, you have to say to yourself, I want to get there as quickly as I can and contend,” he said.

“Even if you brought all of these guys back with the 14th pick and some kind of room exception, can you beat those teams? You will never know until you get there. I think the fans here appreciate what we do. They also appreciate we want to bring more quicker to the table. I want to play for that [championship]. That’s what we want to compete for. That’s what it has always been about. You don’t have have to go whale hunting. You can acquire key players via trade, instead of laying out $38 million for a guy. Some of these max numbers are ridicluous. That’s the nature of the collective bagraining agreement.”

The Heat emerged as a feel-good story with their incredible second-half turnaround. Role players like Dion Waiters and James Johnson clearly bought into Miami’s culture, and Waiters has already said he wants to re-sign.

And,  yes, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s designated-veteran-player rule will make it more difficult for the Heat to land star free agents.

But if the Heat win their eventual case that Chris Bosh can no longer safely play basketball, they’ll be guaranteed to have his salary removed from the cap only this offseason. This is their opportunity to upgrade the roster.

I’d caution against assuming this group of overachievers will overachieve again. Hassan Whiteside is a foundational piece, and Goran Dragic found his groove later in the season. Justise Winslow will return, too. But that’s not close to a championship core, and locking up Waiters and Johnson isn’t the ticket, either.

If the Heat are content being merely good right now, sure, keep this core together. They compete hard, and chemistry matters. This could be a fine team next year if it returns mostly intact.

But Miami is a market – with championship pedigree, no state income tax, warm weather and quality nightlife – that can dream bigger. This is a place that attracted LeBron James, Dwyane and Chris Bosh and, before that, Shaquille O’Neal (who approved his trade from the Lakers). Will Riley really shift his strategy so significantly?

Rudy Gobert out for Jazz-Clippers Game 3

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The Clippers successfully attacked the rim with Rudy Gobert sidelined to even their series with the Jazz, 1-1.

Utah’s All-NBA-caliber center won’t alter the dynamic in Game 3 tomorrow.

Andy Larsen of KSL:

The Jazz have gone with Derrick Favors, Jeff Withey and Boris Diaw at center to varying success.

But Withey’s status is unclear with his ex-fiancée reportedly accusing him of domestic violence.

Larsen:

Former NBA commissioner David Stern ‘in awe’ of NBA’s product, potential

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NEW YORK (AP) — David Stern hasn’t left the NBA far behind. Just a few blocks, actually.

His office these days is located in a building near the one he had as commissioner, the job he left in 2014 after 30 years in which he helped turn a struggling league into a $5 billion annual behemoth.

For the most part, he likes the direction of the league the last three years.

“In addition to the talent, I’m in awe of the shooting skills of Steph Curry, of Klay Thompson, of a (Russell) Westbrook and a (James) Harden, et cetera,” Stern told The Associated Press by phone. “But I’m also in awe of the potential the league has both digitally and globally. So the game is strong, the attendance is at a record, the future is extraordinary internationally and the league is a leader under Adam (Silver) in the digital sphere.

“So it’s really a wonderful opportunity for the owners, for the players, and for my former colleagues at the team and league level.”

Stern, as would be expected, is keenly aware that it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Silver and the league. The NBA is still searching for solutions to some problems that were vexing under Stern, such as tanking and healthy players sitting out games.

He talks with Silver, but won’t comment on their discussions about those issues or anything else.

“That would involve the commissioner slash commissioner emeritus privilege,” he said.

Stern, 74, is more businessman than sportsman now, advising venture capital firms from his position atop DJS Global Advisors and investing in a number of startups, some of them in sports technology. He still watches plenty of games, and the viewing process helps guide his investment strategies.

The league that once begged for a television presence – the NBA Finals that were sometimes shown on tape delay into the early 1980s – now has national TV deals that are worth more than $2.6 billion annually. But fans aren’t just watching games on TV anymore, and Stern believes their viewing habits will change even more in the coming years.

“The fans are going to want to see be able to see what they want to see, when they want to see it and on any device they want to see it on,” he said.

Stern believes viewers will favor streaming services and virtual reality, with output from wearable technology to provide statistical data to augment what they’re watching. So this week he and a group of partners that includes Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim announced the launch of SportsCastr.Live , a streaming platform that allows users to be color commentators and to select which sportscaster they wish to have call, recap or make predictions on a game.

That adds to previous investments that include ShotTracker, in which sensors send real-time data to coaches’ smart devices, and LiveLike, a virtual reality platform to watch sports.

“The key catchword is personalization,” Stern said. “So I’m going to want to watch the visiting feed in virtual reality, which the NBA has one game a week now, with real-time stats that are going to be on my smart device because ShotTracker is going to bring it to me.”

That sounds like it would be a good fit for his new lifestyle.

The businessman doesn’t miss being basketball’s biggest decision maker, a job he held from Feb. 1, 1984 – a few months before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird first met in the NBA Finals and Michael Jordan was drafted – until Silver, his former assistant – took over. But when he stepped down as commissioner, he refused to let staffers call his departure a “retirement” as he prepared to move out of his former home just off Fifth Avenue.

Stern still takes some trips overseas on the NBA’s behalf.

“I’m as busy as ever, but not at night,” Stern said. “Nobody calls, nobody goes into the stands, nobody goes after their coach, nobody bumps an official. My life has been purified.”

“I haven’t cut down on vacation,” he added. “I think I’ve increased them and I love being busy and I love that my work brings me in contact with the sport that I’m such a huge fan of and that I have devoted so much of my life.”

LeBron James makes TIME’s ‘100 most influential people’ list

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Donald Trump, then president-elect, was of course TIME’s Person of the Year. Nobody else neared his influence in 2016.

TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people also has an obvious inclusion from the NBA: LeBron James.

Rita Dove, a former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote on the Cavaliers superstar:

When LeBron James, my hometown of Akron’s most famous son, takes flight to dunk, even I, a poet usually averse to battered clichés, am tempted to call it poetry in motion—if we agree that poetry can be stormy as well as smooth, thrillingly true yet downright mean as it lures you one way, pivots and drives its point home.

Who could have imagined that a basketball boy wonder, a prodigy from the projects, would bridge class and racial divides to evolve into King James of the International Courts?

By making good on his pledge to bring a championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers and by investing in the promise of future generations through his foundation, LeBron James has not only bolstered the self-esteem of his native Ohio but also become an inspiration for all Americans—proof that talent combined with passion, tenacity and decency can reinvent the possible. Poetry in motion, indeed.

LeBron is the only athlete regularly asked his opinion on all events, basketball or otherwise. His platform is huge.

And it has only gotten larger since returning to Cleveland and leading the Cavs to a championship.

He is a, as TIME labeled him, titan.

Joel Embiid: I should be Rookie of the Year

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Joel Embiid endorsed 76ers teammate for Dario Saric for Rookie of the Year.

But apparently Embiid has backed another candidate – himself.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Embiid believes he should be crowned NBA Rookie of the Year.

“I think so,” Embiid said. “I mean, no disrespect to other guys. Dario [Saric] is my teammate and my friend, and I love him. And I know Malcolm [Brogdon] from when I was visiting schools. When I made my visit to Virginia, he took me around. They both had great seasons.

“I know people are saying about me, ‘Oh, he only played 31 games.’ But look at what I did in those 31 games — averaging the amount of points I did in just 25 minutes.

“I’m not sure why people want to punish me for that. Even going back to the All-Star Game. I didn’t get chosen for that, and people were killing me because I didn’t play 30 minutes a game. But here’s what I don’t understand: If I put up those numbers in less time than another guy, what’s the difference? Doesn’t it mean I did more in less time? Wait until I play as many minutes as those guys, then you will see what I do.

“But people have their own ideas about how they vote for things.”

Embiid was, by far, the best rookie when he was on the court. That’s why he’s in the Rookie of the Year race.

But, as the cliché goes, availability is the most ability. Embiid was often unavailable.

Did Embiid provide more value to the 76ers in his 786 minutes than Malcolm Brogdon did to the Bucks in his 1,982 minutes?

I gave Brogdon the narrowest of nods. (Dario Saric, inefficient and weak defensively, made a strong late push but never seriously entered my race.)