Tag: Chauncey Billups

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

Miami has to get bigger, better if they dream of a three-peat


Odds makers already have the Miami Heat as the favorites to win the NBA championship again next year — 2-1 odds at Bovada online.

But if the Heat thought this title run was like climbing Mount Everest, wait until next year. The Bulls get Derrick Rose back. The Pacers are not going to get any shorter over the summer. And if the Heat get out of the East the Thunder will have Russell Westbrook again, or maybe it will be these Spurs or an improved Clippers team waiting for them.

Miami won the title but their flaws were exposed in the process — they need more size (at least off the bench) and they need some depth to do things such as rest Dwyane Wade’s knees more during the season.

The Heat are going to have to adapt and improve this summer if they want to three-peat.

And with the full force of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place now, improving is not going to be easy for Miami to do.

Even with the less-than-max salaries that LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade took, the big three still have a cap number of $56.8 million next season — that gets them almost to the salary cap already. With the other guys that are locked in (Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and others) the Heat are committed over the tax line and over the apron ($76 million even if every option were rejected, and that’s not going to happen). They will be limited in what moves they make.

After back-to-back titles and with limited options, don’t expect Miami to blow this thing up and trade Chris Bosh this summer. That said Pat Riley and the Heat brain trust have to be thinking now about what this team looks like in three years. He needs to be thinking about how to restructure  around LeBron  (he’s not bolting, sorry Cleveland), but don’t expect the drastic changes to come this offseason.

Miami will enter next year with roughly the same overall strategy as the last two seasons — LeBron, Wade and Bosh and try to put enough inexpensive pieces around them to get the job done.

There are clear areas that need to be improved.

First, they need to get bigger and have more toughness inside. The Pacers are only getting better and teams will try to go big against the Heat. Bosh defended Tim Duncan fairly well in the finals (Duncan scored because he is really good and has a plethora of counter moves). But the Pacers and even Bulls showed that size can be an issue for the Heat. Miami has to get bigger.

Chris Andersen helped fill that role somewhat this past season, and he came in on a 10-day contract — the Birdman is going to get a pay raise. The Heat would like to keep him but the most they can offer him is the roughly $3 million taxpayer’s mid-level exception (that’s the most the Heat can offer any free agent). The Birdman is going to want that money, but another team under the tax line can offer more and could snatch him.

To me, the Heat need to go after free agent Samuel Dalembert — a veteran, defense-first center who doesn’t take a lot of shots but is efficient when he does. He’s battled some injuries and he’s not young, but the Heat are not going to do better finding a fit than with him inside.

Other guys such as Jermaine O’Neal and Elton Brand are also out there. Or they could snag Spurs bench rider DeJuan Blair and give him more minutes (but there is a reason he rode the bench in San Antonio).

Next the Heat need to add some depth on the wing, guys that maybe can contribute minutes and will lessen the load on Wade but will play for the minimum. They have Ray Allen on the roster with a player option, it’s his call if he comes back and most likely he will. Certainly his game slipped this year (lowest PER since his rookie season) and he will be 38, but are they really going to find someone better for a minimum salary?

Could they lure Chauncey Billups to join their veteran core? What about a younger player like Xavier Henry?

The Heat also have a Mike Miller decision — they can amnesty him and save his $6.2 million salary, plus the tax. But if they do amnesty him it will not get their salary down to the point they can offer a larger mid-level to someone else, all he does is save them some money. Can they replace his production with a minimum player?

At some point in the next couple years Pat Riley and the Heat are going to make some bold decisions to keep winning. Wade is starting to show his age and Bosh is becoming marginalized in the Heat system.

But don’t expect that to come this summer — the Heat will come back next year with the same strategy that won them back-to-back titles, they just hope with some more depth and size to help out.

We’ll see if that is enough to get the Heat a three-peat.

Danny Green takes NBA Finals 3-point record, NBA Finals MVP award next?

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game 5

Danny Green rose for his 33rd 3-point attempt of the 2013 NBA Finals, and for the 23rd time, the ball splashed through the net.

On cue, the Heat called timeout, creating a scene similar baseball’s game stoppages to honor broken records.

Green – who broke the record for 3-pointers in an NBA Finals and would push the the mark to 25 (on 38 attempts) by the end of the Spurs’ 114-104 Game 5 victory – clapped his hands and screamed, and then he headed to the bench for pats on the back from teammates and coaches.

Ray Allen, who saw his record of 22 3-pointers in the 2008 Finals broken, sat on the Miami bench and made no attempts to hide the disgust pouring over his face.

Green had never made this many 3-pointers in a five-game stretch, though he’d played just 106 games entering the Finals, because he was too busy getting cut by the Cavaliers, Spurs and Spurs again. Yet, this passionate mid-game celebration was all about him.

This is the awesomeness of Danny Green, the hottest player on the biggest stage.

But what happened in the moments preceding his record-breaking trey show the full story of Danny Green, the reason we can witness his awesomeness.

Dwyane Wade pushed the ball upcourt, and Green caught him from behind. With Green hounding Wade, Manu Ginobili poked the ball loose, getting credit for the steal when Green dove to the floor to corral the ball. Green passed from his back to Ginobli, and the Spurs surged the other direction.

Green momentarily stumbled over Wade as he tried to get up, but Green still reached his feet first. Again, Green raced down the floor quicker and was wide open as the trailer, Wade still languishing in the distance, on the record-breaking triple.

That is why Green, whom Gregg Popovich cut for a failure to bring consistent effort, is playing for the Spurs. It’s also why Green is in the driver’s seat to become the most unlikely NBA Finals MVP ever.

Green found a team that embraces his biggest strength, 3-point shooting. Not long ago, progressive teams tolerated 3-point shots. Popovich seeks 3-pointers and their and the 50 percent more points they produce than other makes.

But Popovich also wouldn’t tolerate Green’s effort lapses, and Green didn’t even get even a guaranteed roster spot until he solved those issues. With the help of his former North Carolina coach, Roy Williams, Green did that.

Now, Green leads the Spurs, who hold a 3-2 series advantage, in scoring by nine points. Because the Spurs’ traditionally recognized stars – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – have been up and down, there’s no clear-cut choice for Finals MVP if San Antonio hangs on. But 28 of the last 30 Finals MVPs led the winning team in scoring,* so Green is certainly on track to get consideration from the voters who prefer simple measures.

*Chauncey Billups (2004) and Larry Bird (1986) being the exceptions.

The voters who take a deeper examination will see Green’s hustle plays and helpful defense on LeBron James, which might be enough of a complement to Green’s 3-point shooting and earn him the award if Duncan, Parker or Ginobili doesn’t overtake him the rest of the series.

Of course, the Heat can still win, or perhaps, voters could reward the player who’s had the best series so far – LeBron – even though a player on the losing team hasn’t wont Finals MVP since Jerry West took the inaugural award in 1969.

At minimum, Green is planted firmly in the conversation. If the Finals ended today, he would get my hypothetical vote ahead of any Spur (though I would vote for LeBron).

Only great teams reach the NBA Finals, and greats teams are usually led by great players. Finals MVPs are typically the best of the best, perhaps creating an even better list of the game’s best than regular-season MVPs. All but three* of 45 Finals MVP awards have gone to Hall of Famers (Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Dennis Johnson, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jo Jo White, Rick Barry, John Havlicek, Willis Reed, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West) or sure-fire future Hall of Famers (LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal).

*Chauncey Billups, Cedric Maxwell and Jo Jo White being the exceptions.

Green is not a Hall of Famer or a sure-fire future Hall of Famer, but he’s also not just the novelty who made 5-of-5 3-pointers in Game 2. He airballed a 3-pointer early in Game 5, shook it off and finished 6-for-10 from beyond the arc, still lowering his Finals 3-point percentage.

He’s playing with supreme confidence and forcing the basketball world to take notice.

Undoubtedly, part of Green’s stirring Finals is a run of good fortune, a hot streak coming at the most opportune time. Green could turn into a pumpkin at any moment.

But even if that happens and his 3-point shooting goes cold, you can still count on Green beating the Heat for loose balls and beating them downcourt.

Green’s 3-point shooting is why you’re noticing him, but his hustle is why he’s here.

Both explain why he’s suddenly the front-runner for Finals MVP.

LeBron says he must play better, plays way better

Heat's James rebounds against Spurs' Leonard during Game 4 of their NBA Finals basketball series in San Antonio

LeBron James is the most questioned NBA champion ever.

The snickers and jeering reached critical mass after he struggled through the Heat’s loss to the Spurs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Can he elevate his game on the biggest stage? Is he afraid of the moment? Why does he crumble under pressure?

It was almost as if nobody remembers he won a championship last year, taking Finals MVP in the process.

The title was supposed bring basketball immortality. That’s how the game works. Win a Finals series, and you’re forever a champion. Nobody questions Paul Pierce’s, Kevin Garnett’s, Ray Allen’s, Ben Wallace’s or Chauncey Billups’ legacies as winners. All five won only a single championship, and all five actually returned to the Finals afterward and lost.

Yet, LeBron faces a different standard.

He brought some of it on himself by how he left Cleveland for Miami and began talking dynasty immediately. His physical dominance and advanced skillset also lend themselves to greater expectations.

But at a certain point, we cross a line and demand too much of LeBron.

And then he reminds you why he might retire as the greatest player of all time, how he’s capable of meeting the most absurdly high standards

In Miami’s 109-93 Game 4 win over San Antonio, LeBron had 33 points, 11 rebound, four assists, two steals, two blocks and only one turnover. Nobody has hit those numbers in a game, regular season or postseason, in two years. Nobody has done it in the playoffs since at least 1986, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com’s relevant records go.

LeBron knows how he’s judged, and at this stage of the season, not only must he play well individually, he must win a championship. And he knew it was time address that head on.

This wasn’t like after losing Game 1, when LeBron reinstated his belief in his teammates and then proved it in Game 2. After Game 3, LeBron focused on himself.

“I’ll be better,” he said. “I’ll be much better tomorrow night.”

“I can’t afford to perform like I did last night and expect us to win on the road.  It’s that simple,” LeBron continued. “So, I’m putting all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team.  That’s the way it is.”

Then he dug in deeper.

“I have to do whatever it takes,” he said.

”I will be better tomorrow,” he vowed.

And then he angled his self-demanding talk toward his teammates.

“I am the star, I am the leader,” LeBron said. “And they look at me to do things on the court, to make plays, and if I’m not doing it, I’m not doing my job.

Until LeBron attempted his first shot with 6:31 left in the first quarter of Game 4, the Heat had shot 2-for-6 (33 percent) and trailed by eight points. From then on, LeBron’s teammates shot 52 percent and outscored the Spurs by 24 points.

The Heat have gone 69 straight games without suffering back-to-back losses not because LeBron always plays better after losses – he often doesn’t – but because the Heat play better after losses. His greatness fits within their team concept, and generally, when he excels, they excel.

He’ll face even more pressure in Game 5, as his own great performance in Game 4 will raise the bar even higher.

There’s no guarantee he’ll meet the challenge, but there is absolute certainty he’s capable.

After Game 3, LeBron said he’d play better. In Game 4, he played better. It’s really that simple.

This series rests in his hands. It’s up to him whether continues bringing the focus necessary to play at his highest levels. If he does, LeBron will get his second championship and likely his second Finals MVP.

And then we can raise the bar even higher.

Tuesday And-1 links: Kyrie Irving is on the cover of NBA Live ’14.

Kyrie Irving

Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like I love Top Chef

• Kyrie Irving is on the cover of NBA Live 14. Above you get a little taste of the game.

• Our old friend Rob Mahoney, now of SI, tries to make the point we shouldn’t be comparing LeBron James and Michael Jordan because it is a disservice to LeBron. Not that he’s better, but he’s different. That will lead some in the comments to bash LeBron (and Mahoney).

Who has had a better run: The Tim Duncan Spurs or the Tom Brady Patriots? I think the better question is whether Gregg Popovich or Bill Belichick detest press conferences more?

• Popovich and the Spurs GM R.C. Buford have quite a coaching/GM tree in the league now.

• A lot of people don’t understand why George Karl is out in Denver, here is as good a breakdown as you will find (courtesy Zach Lowe at Grantland).

• The Bulls have broken ground on their new practice facility, which when done will be right across the street from the United Center.

• The Sixers front office is playing their coaching search very close to the vest. (Which never goes over well with reporters.)

• The Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves are going to play a preseason game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, on October 20. It’s the second year in a row the NBA has brought a game to Canada to try and crack that market… oh, yea, forgot about them. Never mind. But they are going to Montreal anyway.

• Speaking of the Celtics, their owner Wyc Grousbeck has teamed up with some other guys to pool about $80 million to invest in sports media.

• The Pacers are doing a lot better financially after that long run in the playoffs.

But was the Pacers season a success?

• Right now a lot of NBA teams are bringing in potential draft picks for workouts. What is that actually like?

• Minnesota’s Alexey Shved will not play in Summer League because he will be playing in Eurobasket for Russia.

• Kevin Saraphin, however, will not play for the French national team this summer.

• The NBA launched its new “Best Teammate Award” (Chauncey Billups was the winner) and named it the Twyman-Stokes Award. Here is the amazing story of where that name came from.

Teammate of the Year Chauncey Billups says teammate Blake Griffin needs more toughness

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers - Game One

Fresh off winning an award for being the NBA’s best teammate, Chauncey Billups said publically Blake Griffin needs more toughness.

Billups, via ESPN:

“I don’t agree that Blake Griffin is soft. But what I will say about Blake is that he’s maybe too nice of a guy,” Billups said. “Because there’s been times in games where people take shots at Blake. And I tell him if that’s me, you’re going to have to take this two- or three-game suspension, and I’m going to punish somebody.

“That’s just how I’m built. Blake is not really built like that. He’s … too soft of a guy inside for him to be like, ‘All right, I’m just going to hurt somebody.’ He just won’t do it. I wish he would, and I think that people would look at him a lot different if he did that. But he’s just not that kind of person.”

I – like everyone else, which is why he won the award – love Billups, but I can’t stand most “back in my day” stories. Let’s review Billups’ discipline issues:

December 2012: Warned for flopping

November 2004: Suspended one game for leaving the bench in the Malice at The Palace

November 2002: Suspended one game for throwing the ball at a referee

November 1996: Suspended three games for making long-distance phone calls

I don’t think a player whose longest suspension is for making long-distance phones can credibly tell Griffin, “If that’s me, you’re going to have to take this two- or three-game suspension, and I’m going to punish somebody.” Billups has just never been that guy, and he shouldn’t put down Griffin to pretend to be now.

And that’s not a knock to Billups, who is very tough. It’s a credit to him for finding ways to prove his toughness without taking dirty shots at opponents. That’s what Griffin should do, as well.