Tag: Miami Heat


NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

1 Comment

Under David Stern and now Adam Silver, the NBA has tried to grow its brand across the globe and establish itself as the world’s premier basketball league. That has meant games and outreach to Europe, China, South America, India and the Philippines.

Now the NBA has landed in Africa for the first-ever NBA game on that continent — a Team Africa vs. Team World exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in the league Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chris Paul, Luol Deng, and Marc Gasol will be there, as will be native Nigerians and NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Twenty NBA players in all are taking part, along with coaches Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s incredible to see all these guys here,” said Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on a conference call Thursday.

“It’s an honor to be part of this,” said Bismack Biyombo, the new Raptors center and native of the Congo, on the same call. “Growing up here in Africa you watch an NBA game every now and then, or when someone had one recorded.”

Much of the talk about growing the sport in Africa has seemed to focus on the NBA brand — bringing an NBA preseason or maybe even regular season game to the continent. That’s a long ways away — Saturday’s exhibition will be in a 4,000-seat arena — but it’s a possibility.

“We’ve definitely had discussions, but they are elementary in some ways…” Ujiri said. “(The Raptors) would definitely be a team that would be very, very interested.”

The real test, however, is not bringing another NBA game to Africa, but finding ways to grow the sport at a grassroots level in Africa.

“The reason you see African nations (doing well internationally) in soccer — or football — now is that we played at a young age,” Ujiri noted. “You just had a ball and two rocks to be the goals, as I used to play growing up.”

Growing youth basketball will mean building infrastructure — in the USA we just expect to see even pocket parks in cities with a basketball hoop. They are ubiquitous, as are youth hoops programs. All of that is lacking in Africa, where soccer but not basketball is part of the culture.

“One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts,” Ujiri said, adding that what the NBA needs to help do is “coach the coaches” who will help teach the game.

“We’ve worked with kids the past few years here, and I worked with kids in the Congo the last few weeks, and the potential is here,” Biyombo said. “The problem we all have is we started playing basketball late. That’s why we’ve been trying to build courts around the country.”

The game Saturday is just one step in that direction, but exposing the youth of Africa to the highest levels of the game is a start. Now comes the hard part of building that youth infrastructure.

The words that kept coming up in everyone’s press conferences was the potential of the market and the youth in Africa.

“There is talent there,” Ujiri said of Africa. “It’s how this motivates them and the opportunities it creates for them.”

“I want (African youth) to use basketball as a way to gain an education because all of them are not going to make it to the NBA,” Biyombo said. “I want to show them they can reach their dream with a lot of hard work.”

“Africa is a continent with huge potential and many different levels,” said Pau Gasol, who also will take part in the game and spoke with the media Thursday. “It has a lot of struggles, but it’s worth investing the time and the effort and the energy to give this country and this continent a chance, and I think a lot of players are coming out and obviously have come out already, but there’s potential that a lot more younger players can come out and be ready and become great basketball players and have an opportunity to have a great life for themselves and their families.”

Heat sign Josh Richardson

Josh Richardson, Spencer Dinwiddle

Miami traded Shabazz Napier to the Magic and Zoran Dragic to the Celtics not only because the Heat wanted to reduce their luxury-tax bill, but because they wanted to clear roster spots.

One had clearly been reserved for Miami’s second-round pick, Josh Richardson.

Shams Charania of RealGM:

Josh Richardson — the 40th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft — has agreed to terms on a three-year, $2.5 million contract with the Miami Heat, league sources told RealGM.

Richardson’s deal is fully guaranteed for the first season and partially guaranteed the second year, sources said.

Richardson’s minimum salary over a three-year contract would be $2,414,475. Perhaps, he’s getting a little more than that. More likely, this report just contains generous rounding.

Even if Richardson is on a minimum contract, capped-out Miami had to use the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign him. The minimum-salary exception can be used on contracts just up to two years. This deal will give the Heat Richardson’s full Bird Rights if he completes it. Plus, Miami can make Richardson’s a restricted free agent in three years.

If Richardson got the minimum, the Heat would have $2,850,907 of the MLE remaining. The Heat could use that to add another veteran. They already have the regular-season limit of 15 players and are surely reluctant to increase their tax bill, but Tyler Johnson (partially guaranteed) and James Ennis (unguaranteed) could be waived. Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen are also on the block.

Richardson’s defense is ahead of his offense. The shooting guard out of Tennessee passes well for his position and has improved his shooting stroke. His plus athleticism makes it easier to bet on his development.

The Heat clearly found it important to keep him around.

Report: Michael Jordan shot down Boston draft-day effort to get Charlotte No. 9 pick

Michael Jordan

It’s a common practice in the NFL draft: Teams trade down to get multiple picks. The move is almost always seen as smart. For the NFL’s annual war of attrition, having the extra bodies makes a lot of sense.

You don’t see it much in the NBA for a reason — you only have a 15-man roster and only nine of them likely play on a given night. Talent wins out, and the talent drop off going down even five or six picks can be steep. If you can get a potential star with your draft pick, you take it, he will matter far more than two guys who may be guys nine and 12 on the bench. However, there are times trading down makes sense in the NBA, if you don’t think you’re getting that star.

That was the situation facing the Hornets in this past draft. They had the No. 9 pick, and Boston wanted it (for Justise Winslow, reportedly, who fell to Miami at No. 10). Boston came knocking on Charlotte’s door with a bevy of picks, and there was a split in Charlotte about whether this was a good idea, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland. For the first time, we know what was offered, and it’s pretty impressive.

Michael Jordan was the ultimate decision maker.

The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks.

Some members of Charlotte’s front office liked the Boston deal, but Michael Jordan, the team’s owner and ultimate decision-maker, preferred Kaminsky to a pile of first-rounders outside the lottery, per several sources.

source: Getty ImagesThe bet Jordan made was that Kaminsky is a star. Except nobody projects him that way. He’s a quality big who can pick-and-pop and be part of the rotations, sure. He’s a solid pick. But is he better than four first round picks for a Charlotte team that needs way more talent on the roster?

This feels like something that has happened in Charlotte before: Jordan watches a lot of the NCAA tournament, falls in love with a player who performs well (Kaminsky) and hijacks the draft process. The Hornets will deny this, but it’s how it looks from the outside.

At the No. 15 and 16 picks in this draft, Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier were taken, although guys such as Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, and Sam Dekker were still on the board. Kaminsky is more valuable than one of them, but will he ultimately produce more than two of those guys? Plus two future picks? Not likely. Charlotte is stuck in the rut of mediocrity in the East, picking Kaminsky doesn’t move them out of this lane. Do those four picks? Maybe not, but it’s a path, a chance.

Charlotte’s decision makers defended their choice.

“You have two minutes to decide: ‘Do I want to do this trade?’” says (Curtis) Polk, one of five men atop Charlotte’s decision tree. “You don’t have a day. You don’t have hours. After all the intelligence we’d done, we were comfortable with Frank. But now you have two minutes to decide if you make this trade, who you’re gonna take at no. 16, or maybe no. 20, and we haven’t been focusing on that range. In fantasy basketball, it sounds great: ‘Oh my god, they could have gotten all those picks.’ But in the real world, I’m not sure it makes us better.”

Adds Rich Cho, the team’s GM: “If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it?”

Because Boston saw Winslow as a star, and at a position they need help.

On draft night when this came up and the rumors flew around that four picks were being offered, I said it’s tough to say what to do because we didn’t know what the picks were, how far out and how protected. Now that we do… if I were in the Charlotte decision tree I would have pushed to make the deal.

Now we all wait three years and then can look back to see who might have been right. It would have been a difficult decision in the moment, but I’m not sure Charlotte made the right call.

James Ennis allows Heat to push back decision on him until opening night

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

The Miami Heat had until Saturday to make a decision on James Ennis: Guarantee his $845,000 contract for next season or buy him out for half.

The Heat wanted more time. Ennis gave it to them.

Ennis and the Heat are modifying his contract to allow Miami to put off that decision until opening night. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel breaks it down.

“…two sources involved in the process told the Sun Sentinel that the contract will be modified with no decision required until the eve of the season, when the Heat will have to decide to guarantee his salary for all of 2015-16…..

“The move with Ennis effectively eliminates Saturday as a contract deadline for the Heat. Forward Henry Walker, who had such a partial-guarantee deadline, was waived Monday. The partial guarantees for center Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson for Aug. 1 will be paid as scheduled on Saturday.”

Why would Ennis do that? Because he wants to make the team and he might not like the decision made Saturday.

Ennis showed an ability to finish at the rim and play a little defense as a rookie, but his play through the season was uneven, and he shot just 32 percent from three. Not ideal for a “3&D” guy. Then in Summer League he tried to play through an injury, but he shot just 30 percent overall and 11 percent from three.

I’m biased. I’m a Long Beach State guy, I’ve had season tickets for years, I watched Ennis through college. I want him to stick, prove he can play at this level.

But the Heat have Luol Deng and drafted Justise Winslow as the future at the three. Ennis is going to have to flat out ball in training camp to prove to the Heat he can be part of their future. He’s going to have to show growth in his game that was not evident in Summer League.

Report: Heat will pick up contract of Tyler Johnson, as expected

Tyler Johnson

Goran Dragic is the starting point guard in Miami. The question is who plays when he sits?

With Shabazz Napier now gone and Mario Chalmers still being shopped around, it was a forgone conclusion that the Heat would pick up the contract of point guard Tyler Johnson. They will do that soon, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

Johnson was all about energy. He came in as a spark plug off the bench and played hard — sometimes crossing the line into out of control. He shot just 41.9 percent overall (although 37 percent from three) and had too many turnovers. But you could see the potential in the former Fresno State player who spent much of last season in the D-League.

This is an easy call for the Heat, he’s the kind of player they should be developing.

To my mind so is James Ennis, who showed not only can he finish at the rim but he is a threat from three (32.6 percent). If he can develop better handles and refine his shot he’s got a place in the league. The question is do the Heat think he has that in him (and can they bring it out of him). With Justise Winslow now in the mix at the three, how big a priority is Ennis?