Dwyane Wade practices, Miami Triad returned to full power

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Yes, Mike Miller is on the shelf. And yes, they are bringing in Jerry Stackhouse to fill a role on the team. But in South Beach, as Dwyane Wade said this morning, the “band is back together.”

“We’re excited about having the band back together,” Wade said after the two-hour, non-contact session. “It felt great. It was like I was dreaming about it.”

Wade practiced this morning with the Heat, the first time since a hamstring injury and subsequent custody trial. He will be available Tuesday night in Boston against the Celtics and reports no ill effects of the hamstring. I’d love to give you some sort of indication of what the Heat will look like as the team opens play with Wade, but we have no clue. We do know that it will be something to watch, even if it’s watching Boston’s incredible defense figure out how to stifle the attack.

If Paul Pierce is helping Rajon Rondo defend LeBron James at point guard, as he’s expected to do, Rondo may be called in to defend Wade. From how it sounds, the Celtics’ plan is to step back and not let the Heat get in the paint. This follows the Celtics’ traditional model of defense, with a wrinkle.

On the pick and roll, the low post strong-side defender almost always steps up to force off the ball handler, while the screen man’s defender switches back after flashing to recover off the role. Against 95% of the NBA, this is a successful approach, but with the Heat, there’s a problem. Bosh.

Even if you stick the a defender with him and tell him not to leave Bosh, then the weak-side defender is going to have to cross the line to help out if Wade and/or James manages to get past his man at the rim. So that means either Jermaine O’Neal or Shaquille O’Neal are going to have to be limber. Good luck with that. In the mean time, laying off James, Wade and Paul may be the safest option, but these are also much better shooters than the traditional second-to-third options. The Celtics should be aware of this, due to Kevin Garnett’s ability to torch defenses on the 18-foot pick-and-pop. The same principles will be in effect for the Heat Tuesday night, and Chris Bosh will torch the Celtics if they don’t close out.

What a way to start the season.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.