Kurt Helin

Report: Heat to round out playoff roster with D-League’s Briante Weber

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We know the Heat are close to signing Dorell Wright to add some wing depth and three-point shooting for the playoffs. We also know Miami had one more roster spot they were looking to fill before the playoffs started, just to have some practice depth.

Enter Briante Weber. The guard who spent his season at Sioux Falls will be with Miami, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Miami Heat plan to sign guard Briante Weber to a three-year contract, league sources told The Vertical. The deal is partially guaranteed after this season.

Weber, 23, helped lead the Heat’s NBA Development League affiliate, Sioux Falls, to a 40-10 record in the regular season and a first-round postseason sweep over Westchester. For the D-League season, Weber averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Webber had a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies, the roster there was so depleted he even started four games, but they did not keep him beyond that deal. Webber shot 34.2 percent for Memphis and missed every three he took.

The Heat will take a longer view, having him work with the team through the playoffs then join their Summer League squad to see if he can develop his game and earn a roster spot for next season.

Report: Daryl Morey’s performance in Houston to go “under the microscope” after season

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There is no bigger disappointment in the NBA this season than the Houston Rockets.

Last season the team won 56 games and made the conference finals. This season’s version is 38-41 and is going to need some help from the Utah Jazz just to make the playoffs. Houston fired its head coach, the team’s defense got more than five points per 100 possessions worse (and is bottom 10 in the NBA), the Rockets have blown a lot of leads, and the team just appeared disinterested far too many nights.

A season like this calls for a top-to-bottom evaluation — and that is going to include the job of respected GM Daryl Morey, reports Marc Stein and Calvin Watkins at ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that the Rockets believe every aspect of the organization — coaching staff, front office and, of course, their roster — must be subject to a thorough review in the wake of Houston’s slide to a 38-41 outfit that’s at serious risk to miss the playoffs after damaging losses this week to Dallas and Phoenix….

Sources say Morey, whose contract runs through the 2017-18 season, ‎also faces some uncertainty in the wake of the Rockets’ struggles. Morey’s ever-bold approach to roster assembly won deserved kudos for bringing Harden (October 2012) and Howard (July 2013) to Houston in quick succession, but team chemistry has been a rising concern this season given the well-chronicled deterioration in the Harden/Howard relationship and the failed offseason gamble on guard Ty Lawson.

Morey’s teams have looked good on paper but not lived up to high expectations on the court — having Howard and Harden as the team leaders has led to what felt like Team Skittles. There was not the kind of focus and accountability seen in San Antonio, Golden State, or other top flight organizations.

There are going to be significant changes to the Rockets this summer. Howard is likely gone, and the roster will get an overhaul. The sense around the league is that Bickerstaff did a solid job but will be let go as well because the Rockets want to go big game hunting in the coaching market.

Expect Morey to get the chance to prove he can assemble a team one more time — starting with hiring a coach he can work with. However, if the next incarnation of the Rockets have chemistry issues and flame out, then change could be coming to the GM office.

The one where the Nets almost changed name to Swamp Dragons


Since 1968, New Yorkers sports fandom has generally split along the lines of Knicks/Yankees/Giants and the rhyming Jets/Mets/Nets. In fact, the ABA Nets in part chose their name when they moved to Long Island to rhyme with those other teams (they had been the Americans).

But they were almost the New Jersey Swamp Dragons; the name change was considered in the mid-1990s. Zach Lowe of ESPN has an oral history of the oddly fascinating story.

JON SPOELSTRA, FORMER NETS PRESIDENT: We had no redeemable history. We had never won anything, and our name — it was like calling the Yankees the “New York Second Bases.” The team never had a chance with that name…

SPOELSTRA: The Dragon came up right away, but we needed something to identify it locally. I was sitting in my office with Jim Lampariello, our vice president, and I just said, “Every time I look out the window here, I see this swamp. And every time I think of swamps, I think of swamp rats. What about that?” He just said, “I don’t think that’s very nice. What about Swamp Dragons?” I loved it. Dragons are mythical, and fun.

Nets management liked the idea. Commissioner David Stern… not so much. To put it kindly.

SPOELSTRA: David told me, “This is the stupidest f—ing idea I’ve ever heard.”

RICK WELTS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF NBA PROPERTIES: There was a moment in that meeting when I really wondered how thick the plate glass was, because David came very close to picking up Jon, and tossing him out the 15th floor of Olympic Tower onto 5th Avenue somewhere. He was enraged to have his brand subjected to such a terrible idea.

Jon was a genius. He transformed our industry — how teams handle ticket sales and broadcast rights. He just had one really bad idea.

The other owners ended up backing the name change — remember, this was the era of the cartoony Toronto Raptors logo and the Mighty Ducks in hockey. News of the change leaked, and there was a backlash from the people of New Jersey, but that didn’t stop the momentum. There were mock-ups of team jerseys and warm-ups, what the court would look like, and the rest. Then at the last minute it was the Nets seven-man ownership group that pulled back on the idea. Read the entire story, it’s fascinating.

Ultimately future Nets owners — Bruce Ratner first, now Mikhail Prokhorov — tried a very different tactic to improve the Nets financial fortunes: They moved the team to Brooklyn. Which is as much a real estate deal as anything (the two are developing lands around the new arena) but it did give them a new image, complete with the black-and-gray Jay-Z designed logos.

What would help the Nets image more is putting together good teams again.

Watch LeBron James work at pizza place, get mistaken for Dwyane Wade


LeBron James is one of the investors in Blaze Pizza, which is trying to stand out in the increasingly crowded fast-casual pizza market. The idea is simple: As with a Chipotle burrito or a Subway sandwich, it’s an assembly line where you tell the worker exactly what you want on your personal-sized pizza, they cook it quickly in an 800-degree oven, and you eat.

To help promote his company, LeBron made this ad where he is working behind the counter at a Blaze Pizza in Los Angeles. The best part is when a woman says he looks like Dwyane Wade. LeBron’s response is “I get that all the time.”

Report: Luke Walton, Mike D’Antoni among Suns’ targets for coaching vacancy

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As we said yesterday, the Phoenix Suns are going to conduct a wide-ranging search for their next head coach. Names are starting to pop up on the rumor mill — Villanova’s Jay Wright was first — but it’s going to be an exhaustive list.

Marc Stein of ESPN named a few names on that list.

NBA coaching sources told ESPN.com that Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni (who currently serves as associate head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers) and former Suns star Dan Majerle (head coach at fledgling Division I program Grand Canyon in the Western Athletic Conference) are among the names likely to feature a broad list of targets.

Some thoughts on these names and the search.

Luke Walton’s name is going to come up in every coaching search between now and him taking a job. He likes being with the Warriors and can afford to be picky about the job he chooses. Which likely means Phoenix is out. The team that concerns Warriors officials is the Lakers, that’s the one that he may be drawn to.

Mike D’Antoni is an interesting name, a little flirtation with the success of the past in Phoenix. I’m a bigger supporter of D’Antoni than many, but bringing him in would come with a caveat — the roster must be modified to fit his style of play. Which means a roster overhaul in Phoenix. Bring him in and you’re committing to a style of play, which isn’t all bad but with D’Antoni you have to go all in.

Majerle is a popular former Suns player who was a Suns’ assistant coach from 2008–2013.

If I were going to bet on this race, I’d put my money on interim coach Earl Watson to get the gig full time. The players want him, and he has a good relationship with the GM.