The party is still going on in Miami — they will be parading through downtown with the Larry O’Brien trophy on Monday and a whole lot of people are going to be “sick” from work to get down and be part of the festivities.
But in the Miami front office, there is no break. They likely will have five or six roster spots to fill for next season with guys like Ronny Turiaf, Dexter Pittman and others becoming free agents (I do not think Mike Miller is going to retire and leave $13 million on the table). Tweaking the roster starts with the draft on Thursday (No. 27 pick) and then their real work beings when free agency opens on Sunday.
Who are the Heat expected to target in free agency? Just about everyone, especially centers and knockdown shooters.
You know they will approach Ray Allen and Jason Terry. The Heat want a more traditional point guard so Steve Nash and Andre Miller will get a call. They need a big and Chris Kaman and Jermaine O’Neal are out there. They’ll probably even call Grant Hill.
But it comes with a catch — Miami has the mini mid-level of $3 million for one of those guys and after that it’s veteran minimum deals.
So, who wants to take a big pay cut to chase a ring? Shane Battier did that last year and after a lackluster season he stepped up big in the finals.
Nash has talked about wanting a ring, would he go to Miami… where they already have a couple serious ball handlers in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? Would Allen become Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston and jump to the Heat? Not sure I see either of those, and the buzz is Andre Miller wants to get paid. You can question everyone on that list.
But know that Pat Riley is going to use his “come win a ring” sales pitch on everyone he thinks could help. And someone key is going to say yes.
Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.
If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.
For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.
What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.
West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.
When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.
Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.
He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.
Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.
Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.
However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.
When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.
Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.
Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.
Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.
While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.
So, any game he misses is notable.
Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.
Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.
Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.
Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.