What the Heat should do when the lockout ends

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This is the latest installment of PBT’s series of “What your team should do when the lockout ends.” Up next is the Miami Heat. You can also check out our thoughts on other NBA teams here as we work our way through all 30 squads.

Last season: A complete failure. A total embarrassment. An absolute disgrace.

These are phrases that do not describe the Heat’s run to the NBA Finals, of course. Although for all of the hate directed at LeBron James and his new teammates, you would think that Miami’s first season with its big three of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh was a complete disaster. It wasn’t, especially when measured against the hopes that 28 of the league’s 30 teams had to start the season. But when you throw yourself a parade pep rally essentially for doing nothing more than winning in free agency — and declare during said rally that your newly assembled club will win “not two, not three, not four, not five …” but eight or more NBA championships — well, the backlash is at least somewhat to be expected.

Since we last saw the Heat: Dwyane Wade is hocking a product that is supposed to increase traction on the court. LeBron James has been seen mocking his own hairline and playing in pickup basketball games with other superstars around the country. Chris Bosh is giving acting a shot. And head coach Erik Spoelstra has been hanging in the Phillipines. So in other words, a pretty average summer by NBA standards.

When the lockout ends, the Heat need to: Get some size, get some depth, and get some more consistent outside shooters. The problem is, once the new collective bargaining agreement is in place, they may not be able to do any of those things.

While it’s true that every team will be at the mercy of whatever new system is put into place by the players and owners once a new agreement is reached and the lockout ends, the Heat will be one of the most affected by, to use a term made popular by David Stern recently, its enormous consequences.

The salary cap for the 2010-11 season was in the neighborhood of $58 million. Already for 2011-12, the Heat are on the books for over $65 million. The new system may continue to allow teams to spend past the cap amount and into luxury tax territory, but there have been talks about that luxury tax tripling or even quadrupling in the new agreement to help improve the issue the league has with competitive balance. If that happens, it’s unclear just how much ownership would be willing to pay — if anything at all — to improve the team’s talent enough to push it from one of the favorites to win the title, to the favorite to win it. But there may be another way for the Heat to gain talent, and it may come courtesy of the new collective bargaining agreement after all.

One of the rumored aspects of a new CBA is the inclusion of an amnesty clause, whereby teams could rid themselves of their worst contract by waiving the player and having that big number come off the books. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com explained, this could be just the loophole the Heat need to sign the talent necessary to reach that championship level. Players would still receive all of the money guaranteed to them by that amnestied contract, so they could sign in Miami to chase a championship with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, and do so at a very minimal cost to the Heat.

All of this is speculative, sure. And really, Miami (like everyone else) will need to wait and see just how much latitude it will have once the new collective bargaining agreement is in place. But for a team that made it to the Finals a season ago, it’s not going to take a lot for them to get back, and it might take only a little but of a push to get the Heat the first of those eight championships that were promised.

Jimmy Butler: “So much more fun to play with these guys”

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Jimmy Butler is in Philadelphia now, but he is not done throwing shade at his former teammates in Minnesota.

Butler had 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting, including the game-clinching layup, as the 76ers beat the Jazz 113-107 Friday night. After the game, he got the walk-off interview with Serena Winters and took a dig at his former Minnesota teammates.

“It’s so fun to win. So much more fun to play with these guys… Everybody wants to win, and when somebody messes up, you talk to them and they do their job.”

Part of Butler’s issues with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins was he felt they didn’t want to win badly enough, that they didn’t measure up to his level of passion. Butler is still in the honeymoon phase with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Sixers, but so far he likes the intensity so far and is happy to make a note of the difference.

By the way, they’re happy in Minnesota without him — the Timberwolves are 3-0 since the trade, Karl-Anthony Towns is back to playing like his All-NBA self, and he says the communication is better now and guys are taking responsibility.

 

Pelicans Elfrid Payton returns, starts, injured again

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) —The New Orleans Pelicans say point guard Elfrid Payton has a fractured finger on his left hand.

Payton injured his finger in the first quarter of his first game back on Friday night after he’d missed New Orleans’ nine previous games with a right ankle sprain.

Soon after, Payton was ruled out for the remainder of the game against the New York Knicks.

Acquired as a free agent this past offseason, Payton has played in six games for New Orleans. He entered Friday night’s games with averages 11.6 points and 6.4 assists through his first five games, but did not have a point or assist in eight minutes against New York before his latest injury.

 

Kyrie Irving scores 43, Celtics beat Raptors 123-116 in OT

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BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving had 11 straight Boston points down the stretch and scored 17 in all in the last 8:06 of the fourth quarter.

Then in overtime, he really turned it on.

The Celtics guard made or assisted on every basket in the extra period, finishing with 11 assists and a season-high 43 points on Friday night to lead Boston to a 123-116 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

“Man, he made some shots tonight where you’re just like, `Wow,”‘ forward Gordon Hayward said. “You catch yourself being a fan. When he gets into that mode, the whole arena knew where we were going, and so did the Raptors. They just couldn’t stop him.”

It was the first time Irving has scored at least 40 points with 10 or more assists in a game. He was the first player do it in the NBA this year, and the first Celtics player since Antoine Walker in 2001.

“Kyrie did a great job in the fourth quarter knocking down shots,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored 31 points and had a season-high 15 rebounds for Toronto. “We fought hard tonight, they played a better game and we’ve just got to keep playing better.”

Jayson Tatum had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics, who evened the season series at one game apiece against the only team to finish above them in the Eastern Conference last season. The home team has won nine straight matchups.

Serge Ibaka scored 21 and Pascal Siakam had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost three straight since opening the season with 12 victories in their first 13 games. Toronto never led in overtime.

“It was just a veteran game out there, just great competition for a Friday night in the NBA,” Irving said. “You’ve got to appreciate that, two great teams going at it. And I’m pretty sure we’ll see them down the road.”

 

Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid lead Sixers past Jazz 113-107

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Butler had the sellout crowd chanting his name and singing his favorite theme song.

Butler scored 28 points in his home debut, Joel Embiid had 23 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz 113-107 on Friday night.

Butler, the four-time All-Star acquired Monday from Minnesota in a five-player trade, got a loud ovation during introductions and quickly made an impression as the Sixers built a 16-point lead in the first quarter.

Fans serenaded him throughout the game and he got to hear the team’s “1-2-3 Sixers” theme song after the win.

“I already knew this crowd would be excited,” Butler said. “Now that I have them on my side it’s better for me. Y’all, we, have some great fans. Y’all have the catchiest song. I used to sing it in my head when I came in here.”

The Jazz rallied after a rough first quarter and the teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder‘s put-back after Ricky Rubio‘s stole the ball and missed a lay-up gave Utah a 107-105 lead with 1:37 left. JJ Redick tied it on a pair of free throws. Ben Simmons‘ driving lay-up gave the 76ers a 109-107 lead.

Butler then hit a jumper to extend the lead and drew an offensive foul, sending the crowd into a frenzy as Hall of Famer Allen Iverson jumped up to celebrate from his courtside seat.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Embiid said.

The 76ers are 29-1 in last 30 regular-season home games.

Redick had 16 points and Simmons had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Embiid scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter after he played less than a minute in the third because he had four fouls.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 31 points.

“We competed but we have to be smarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We had some mistakes where we have to think more. They add up against a team like this.”

After the Jazz made the first basket, Butler scored on a reverse layup to begin a 12-0 run. He also nailed a 3-pointer during that stretch as Philadelphia dominated early.

But Utah closed to 54-52 at halftime following Derrick Favors‘ alley-oop dunk.

Redick and Mike Muscala hit consecutive 3s early in the third quarter. However, the Jazz came back and went up 81-80 on Mitchell’s jumper late in the quarter.

“Up until the end, we made a few mistakes, but we played passionate,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, they’re a great team, but we had the game in the bag except for a few mistakes. I think the game just got away.”