Winderman: Cold dissection of every Miami Heat word may lead to fewer of them

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The media work room at AmericanAirlines Arena is the last thing you would expect in South Florida. It is a frosty experience.

How cold? A certain transplanted journalist brought in to cover the team this season has been known to wear a ski cap while filing his articulate-yet-arctic postgame viewpoints.

Yet the chill doesn’t stop there.

Already this season, after a series of profanity laced Twitter posts regarding LeBron James, Esquire essayist Scott Raab has had his media credential revoked.

He showed up for Wednesday night’s game against the Suns as a spectator in a seat that would make any journalist envious of Esquire’s apparent expense budget, not far from where Heat President Pat Riley sits.

And yet when it comes to picking at the carcass, the sense is the chill only figures to increase.

For their part, the Heat’s Big Three largely have been gracious with their interview access. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each make podium appearances after games, staying until the last question is asked, including several bordering on banal. Wade also speaks after morning shootarounds, as does Bosh. James offers his pregame thoughts about 90 minutes before each tipoff.

Just about every question is answered. Such pregame access has becoming increasingly rare in a league heretofore known for its expansive pregame access.

And yet, you may want to get your fill now, because patience may be running thin.

Take Wednesday’s ESPN postgame walkoff interview with Bosh, the type of innocuous hit-and-run that tends to offer more sweat than substance.

Asked about particularly intense work leading into Wednesday’s game, after the Heat has lost three of their previous five, Bosh responded of coach Erik Spoelstra, “He knows he has to meet us halfway. He wants to work; we want to chill.”

The instant Twitter feedback? Bosh doesn’t want to play for Spoelstra.

The nearly as instant Twitter feedback? Pat Riley won’t be sitting close to Esquire essayists in the stands much longer.

The reaction was similar to the fallout from James quotes a week ago, when he first addressed Spoelstra playing him 44 minutes against the Celtics and Utah coach Jerry Sloan having the ability to get his team to close out last week’s comeback victory against the Heat.

It is not what the Big Three are saying; it is what is being interpreted.

There were a couple of other such moments Wednesday. First, James offered about Bosh, “It was great to see him finally crack the 30 point barrier that D-Wade and I have already accomplished this season.”

There was a brief post-interview debate in the media room about how that would play out, if it would be taken as an it’s-about-time comment.

Later, James offered, “D-Wade is, for the most part, going to always be our leading scorer.  He’s going to be the guy that’s going to get the most shots.”

Because the words came after a win, there was no follow up about James perhaps wanting some of those shots, envious, if you will.

Yes, the Heat certainly will make things interesting this season. They already have with their rollercoaster start.

But it is the wordplay that thus far has been the most fascinating.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Report: Executives expect Thunder to say they are not trading Chris Paul (but they are)

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It’s all about leverage.

Right now the vultures are circling the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to get a free meal. Everyone knows the Thunder are moving into a rebuilding mode and want to trade Chris Paul for picks/young players, so other general managers — the vultures — are throwing out lowball offers hoping to get a steal of a trade. And by steal we mean making the Thunder throw in a first-round pick as a sweetener to get CP3 and the three-years, $124 million left on his contract off their books.

Oklahoma City’s response? Say “we’re not trying to trade him” and be patient. Here is how Brian Windhorst phrased it on ESPN’s The Jump (hat tip Real GM):

“Here’s what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we’re not looking to trade Chris Paul…We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don’t want anybody to think they’re panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul,” said Windhorst.

Royce Young, who covers the Thunder for ESPN, added that he believed the Thunder would hold on to Chris Paul rather than surrender a draft pick.

This is the smart play. CP3 is still a top-flight point guard in the NBA, even if he has taken half a step back, and there are at least eight NBA teams going into this season thinking they have a shot at a title, and a few more looking at deep playoff runs. Some team is either going to realize they are not as good as they thought they were, or are going to suffer an injury, and be looking for an All-Star level player and replacement. Enter the Thunder and Chris Paul.

What this ultimately means is expect this to drag out. Not just through the summer and through training camp, but maybe all the way to the trade deadline.

Not a ‘tattooed guy’: Larry Bird wants mural changed

Associated Press
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Larry Bird likes the mural but not the tatts.

A lawyer for the former NBA star has asked an artist to remove certain tattoos from a large painting of Bird on an Indianapolis multi-family residence. The tattoos include two rabbits mating on his right arm and a spider web on a shoulder.

Artist Jules Muck painted Bird in a blue basketball uniform. It’s a replica of a 1977 Sports Illustrated cover when he played for Indiana State.

Attorney Gary Sallee says Bird “needs to protect” his brand and “doesn’t want to be seen as a tattooed guy.” Muck says she adds things like tattoos to her art to avoid creating a complete copy of a photo.

She says she’s trying to reach an agreement with Bird’s representatives.