NBA Playoffs: Haslem returns to Heat for Game 4

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UPDATE 7:35 PM: Udonis Haslem not only was in uniform but got time starting in the second quarter for the Heat. He picked up two quick fouls, plus a technical foul for arguing the calls (the second was iffy).

So, welcome back.

6:02 pm: The Miami Heat are up 2-1 on the Boston Celtics, but their success has come despite the play of starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Every time Ilgauskas has been on the floor, the Heat have gotten torched: according to basketballvalue.com, Ilgauskas has the worst +/- of any player in the playoffs by a stunning, stunning margin.

How bad have things been for Ilgauskas? When he’s on the court, the Heat have been the worst team in the playoffs. When the infinitely more athletic Joel Anthony, Ilgauskas’ backup, has been on the court, the Heat have been the best team in the playoffs. Clearly, some changes need to be made to the Heat’s front-line rotation, but Erik Spoelstra appears to have few options. Anthony can’t play 48 minutes a game, Erick Dampier hasn’t been in the playoff rotation, and Jamaal Magloire is Jamaal Magloire.

But help might be on the way for the Heat from an unlikely source: Udonis Haslem, who hasn’t played in a game since injuring his foot on November 20th. Haslem is one of two players who played on the Heat team that won a championship in 2006, took a pay-cut to re-sign with the Heat last summer, and was supposed to be one of the Heat’s key supporting players. Haslem will be active and in uniform tonight, and according to Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post, Haslem is ready to go, saying that he’s “in good shape,” but “isn’t sure how many minutes he can play.”

Obviously, the Heat have been able to do well enough without Haslem, but his return would be a huge benefit to them if he’s anywhere near 100% and doesn’t disrupt the chemistry. The Heat can’t do any worse than they’ve done with Ilgauskas on the floor, and while replacing Ilgauskas’ minutes with minutes for Haslem makes the Heat smaller, daring the Celtics to win by posting up Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal isn’t the worst defensive strategy. Erik Spoelstra has some tough decisions to make, and whether or not he makes the right rotation choices could mean the difference between the Heat going back to Miami with a 3-1 series lead or a tie series.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.

Chris Paul refutes report that Michele Roberts is no longer leading union

Michele Roberts, Chris Paul and Luol Deng
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Michele Roberts got a new four-year term as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association in 2018.

Yet, Peter Vecsey tweeted:

The NBPA responded with a statement on behalf of Chris Paul:

NBPA President Chris Paul’s response to the false information tweeted earlier this evening regarding NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts:

“Michele Roberts has been and continues to be our fearless leader. The Twitter post that is circulating suggesting Michele is no longer the NBPA Executive Director is untrue. A Search Firm has been hired to advise on union hiring and succession planning, which has not yet begun. In the meantime, the Executive Committee is proud to report that Michele remains the NBPA Executive Director, is very much “in power,” and continues to enjoy the support of our members!”

Roberts led the union through Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2016. She appears active in running the union now.

Controversially, Roberts rejected cap smoothing when the new national TV deals sent revenue soaring. That adversely affected many union members, though benefited others.

Roberts and Paul have also sometimes prioritized stars, to the dismay of the rank-and-file.

But the overall health of the union appears strong, and Roberts and Paul remain in charge.