Tag: Scott Brooks

Heat players Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller joke around during a team practice at the NBA basketball finals in Miami

Juwan Howard might “shed a tear” for LeBron if Heat win


LeBron James has always been a popular teammate. The guys in the locker room in Cleveland and Miami genuinely like him, see him as one of the guys and not aloof like some superstars.

That includes the Heat’s senior statesmen Juwan Howard.

He spoke with the Palm Beach Post about it after shootaround Wednesday before Game 5.

“Whenever that day happens, I will be so happy for him personally, because he truly deserves it,” Howard said. “He works extremely hard, he’s a team guy, he gets a lot of unfair criticism. And until you have walked in his shoes, you don’t know what it feels like to deal with all that. And my heart goes out to him, for how he handles it. And I respect him so much for how he handles it. A player of his caliber could be a total a——, but he’s the total opposite.”

“I might shed a tear, for him, if that ever happens.”

We’ll see if the Thunder can delay Howard’s tears on Thursday night.

NBA finals Game 5, Thunder—Heat: Five things to watch

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James

By the fifth game of an NBA series, there are not a lot of surprises left. There is no magical adjustment or lineup that hasn’t already been tried. The coaches have played their cards, made their tweaks, figured out the matchups they want and don’t want.

It’s about execution.

That’s where we stand heading into Game 5 Thursday night, with the Heat up 3-1. Miami stands on the doorstep of its first championship of the Big 3 era, LeBron James stands on the doorstep of winning a ring that has been nine seasons in coming. But crossing that threshold is another matter — closeout games are hard (right Andrew Bynum?) and the Thunder have been in every game late. This has been an entertaining series and Game 5 will be no different.

Here are five things to watch Thursday night.

1) LeBron James in the post. Miami has essentially played LeBron at the four this series and the Thunder do not have an answer. He will back down smaller players and score, he will pull bigger players away from the rim then drive by them, and if you bring the double team he is a fantastic passer (a dozen assists in Game 4). Poor James Harden has gotten this impossible task most of the time and the Thunder need to look for other answers because James is destroying them by getting to his spots right now. One answer might be to front him and deny him the ball, as the Heat have done to Kevin Durant.

2) How does Miami do while LeBron rests? In the wake of LeBron cramping at the end of Game 4, expect coach Erik Spoelstra to try and get him some rest in this game. That is when the Thunder need to pounce (or if you are the Heat, they need to hang on). Miami struggles to create as good of looks when LeBron sits, the Thunder need to get some stops and turn them into easy buckets in transition.

3) James Harden needs to be aggressive. He is he Thunder’s matchup nightmare and he has been hesitant, missed shots (4-20 shooting the last two games combined) and been turnover prone at times. Friend of this blog Sebastian Pruiti has a great breakdown over at Grantland you should read, but the bottom line is Harden used to attack, look for his shot and create for others off that. He needs to get back to that Thursday night.

4) Oklahoma City needs some easy buckets in transition. Miami is a very good halfcourt defensive team and even with guys like Durant and Westbrook the Thunder will struggle to score a lot against it. The Thunder need to pick up the tempo and run. That starts with their defense — they need some stops, but then they need to turn those stops into some easy points on the break. Like they did in Game 1.

5) Who wins the rebounding battle? Basketball is a simple game we can sometimes make complicated. Steve Perin pointed out a simple but revealing correlation at SBN — the team that has won the rebounding battle has won each game. Chris Bosh has been great on the boards for the Heat the past few games, Durant’s rebounding numbers have been down. It’

Spoelstra on LeBron, Heat: “You can’t win unless you win”

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven

No matter what decision LeBron James made after “the decision” he could not win. Every move, every choice following his entrance to Miami was going to be scrutinized and criticized.

That’s not going to stop if the Miami Heat win the NBA title with a Game 5 win Thursday night.

But it might slow down. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra channeled his mentor Pat Riley when talking about LeBron and his reputation Thursday.

“You can’t win unless you win,” he said, adding that he didn’t think it fair that “somebody who has the qualities that he has would be critiqued as negatively as he is.”

LeBron will play in Game 5, Spoelstra said, adding he was moving better today. LeBron missed the end of Game 4 with cramps in his legs. A couple days of hydration and treatment should have him back to being himself, and the team will have IVs and fluids at the ready. Also, don’t be shocked if Spoelstra tries to get him a little more rest.

Spoelstra joked he was going to get Riley to crank up the air conditioning in AmericanAirlines Arena to help LeBron out.

Miami will have three chances to close out this series, and no team has ever come back from a 3-1, but the Heat have said they do not want to return to Oklahoma City for a Game 6.

The Thunder are frustrated because they’ve been close — all three losses were by single digits — but unable to close out the wins. James Harden will play despite a bruised hand suffered in Game 4. How well he plays will go a long way to determining if there is a Game 6 on Sunday.

How LeBron James found his focus these playoffs

Miami Heat player LeBron James attends a

LeBron James plays his best when he is comfortable.

He’s not wired like a Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, who turn insults real and perceived into fuel that motivates them and gets them into their zone. LeBron needs to tune out the outside world to get in his zone, and in playoff runs past he has struggled to do that.

This time he has found his place — he has his family with him in Miami, he is reading books in the locker room before every game — and it has him closer than he has ever been to an NBA championship. LeBron and the Heat are up 3-1 over the Thunder and can close it out at home in Game 5 Thursday night.

Finding his comfort zone started with having his fiancé and two sons join him in Miami. They were still in Akron last year but moved down to Miami during the lockout. But that family is giving him space.

“Since the postseason everyone has been shut down,” LeBron said about the distractions that family can bring. “They understand what I’ve been going through over the years. My family has just been allowing me to just play the game and not worry about everything else that’s going on. They wouldn’t dare get in my way at this point.”

To release that pressure on game night, James has turned to reading in the locker room before games. The LeBron James book club has read Jerry West’s autobiography “West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life” (which I recommend highly), “Decoded” by Jay-Z and a series of other books including the Hunger Games trilogy.

“It just slows my mind down,” LeBron said. “It just gives me another outlet. Throughout the playoffs all you think about is basketball. All you want to do is play basketball. But at the same time it can become a lot. It can come to a point where it’s overloading the mind and you think about it too much…

“The reading gave me an opportunity to — just for those couple hours of the day, or those 20, 25 minutes before the game — just gives me an opportunity to read and think about something else, and get a sense of what else is going on besides the game of basketball. It’s made me comfortable.”

And that comfort has led to a finals MVP kind of playoff run. It has led James to be within one more win of his ultimate goal. It has brought him closer to living up to his potential than at any time in his past.

We’ll see if it can help him take that last, big step to NBA champion.

James Harden has bruised hand, will play in Game 5

Oklahoma City Thunder player James Harde

Thunder sixth man James Harden is going to play in Game 5.

The Thunder need him to start playing well, but that’s another issue.

Thunder officials confirm Harden has a bruised hand but that it is not severe and he will go on Thursday night in Miami. The injury took place during Game 4 Tuesday night but Harden did practice with the team on Wednesday. He also got treatment and iced it.

Harden, who was the X-factor for the Thunder in this series, has not played well. He is 4-for-20 shooting the last two games with some key turnovers thrown in as well. He is a key reason the Thunder trail the Heat 3-1 and have their backs against the wall.

He’s been hesitant, and against an athletic defense like the Heat that ends poorly because they can recover so quickly. He used to look for his shot then create for others off that, but now he seems to be looking to pass first and it has thrown off his game. He also draws the defensive assignment of stopping LeBron James, which is going to wear any player out.

If the Thunder are going to get this series back to Oklahoma City the guy who was a force during the season needs to show up.