Shaq has a plan for the Knicks to have a better chance against Miami which will help them not at all

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ESPN NY got Shaquille O’Neal to talk about the Knicks for the upcoming season, not exactly a difficult thing to do, on any topic at any time. And apparently they decided to ask him what they have to do to get past the Heat, or, what they need to do to beat the Heat if they play them in the playoffs, or regular season, or something, because here’s his answer:

“I think when Carmelo plays against LeBron (James) and (Dwyane Wade), he should take it personally, like he’s always talked about last (among the three). When Amare plays against (Chris) Bosh, he should take it personally,” O’Neal said. “That’s what I always used to do. I played against guys, I used to take it personally that you’re not talking about me.

“They need to do that. In order to beat Miami, they’ve got to.”

via Shaquille O’Neal says New York Knicks, not Brooklyn Nets, are team to beat in New York – ESPN New York.

That’s great quote material, which is what Shaq does, besides laugh really big and give himself nicknames.

But here’s the thing. The Knicks will play 82 games this season (thank God). Four of them will come against the Miami Heat. The other 78 are against other teams. And there’s a substantial set of reasons to believe they won’t face them again in the playoffs. If it’s Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago, having this be a focus is silly. Yes, they like to think of themselves as rivals to the Heat, because, well, let’s face it, New York aims high. But the weird thing is they actually mtach up conceptually with the Heat extremely well.

A slow-it-down, grind-it-out defensive team with a high-scoring forward who likes to work out of the mid-post and Tyson Chandler protecting the rim, along with quality veteran shooters on the outside. Yeah, that’s pretty much Dallas 2011, except that Dirk Nowitzki is considerably better than Carmelo Anthony.

They match up well with them. And yet they got steamrolled in the playoffs because of the talent disparity. There’s not much that New York can do to make up for that other than “be a lot better” and I’m not sure taking it personally is going to work. Also, considering how close Melo and that whole crew in South Beach is, I wouldn’t come along expecting any bad blood.

It’s not O’Neal’s fault, he was asked a question, answered honestly. Just not sure what it is New York’s really supposed to do with that information.

(Side note: Shaq does himself a disservice by saying that he and Kobe, in the years they didn’t win a championship, only played “OK” and then saying Melo and Amar’e played “OK” last year. Bad Shaq and Kobe was still very good, like pizza. So far Melo and Amar’e sharing the floor has been a dumpster fire in a sewage refinery. )

Report: Jimmy Butler-Timberwolves meeting moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles

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Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau are meeting today, not necessarily for Butler to express his desire to leave the Timberwolves – but maybe!

This is a huge meeting with big ramifications for Minnesota and even across the league. Every detail is subject to inspection until we know more.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Butler, like many NBA players, spends his summers near Los Angeles. The meeting being held there could be for numerous potential reasons.

But it feels significant Thibodeau is coming to Butler’s turf rather than the other way around.

Without better options, Heat settle for sentimentality

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Dwyane Wade took discounts from the Heat for years, seemingly expecting a larger windfall down the road.

It won’t come.

But Wade and Miami will enjoy one last dance together.

Wade is re-signing with the Heat on a one-year minimum contract he said would be for his final season, concluding a nostalgic summer in Miami. The Heat also re-signed local legend Udonis Haslem to another one-year minimum deal.

I wouldn’t expect much from either player on the court. If anything, Wade might prove destructive if the the 36-year-old uses his cachet to assume a larger role than he should handle. Haslem has barely played the last couple years, and that probably won’t change.

Still, there’s something to be said for proper sendoffs. Considering the high standards Wade and Haslem helped set for the franchise by winning three championships, this was unlikely to be a banner year in Miami, anyway. There’s value in honoring Wade and Haslem one more time.

Mostly, the Heat acted like a solid, stuck team this summer – because that’s what they are. That probably contributed to them not rewarding Wade for his prior sacrifice.

Yet, Miami eclipsed the luxury-tax line to sign Wayne Ellington, a helpful cog, to a one-year, $6.27 million deal. The tax isn’t assessed until the final day of the regular season, so there’s still plenty of time for the Heat to dodge it. In fact, I predict they will. But by at least temporarily exceeding the tax line, Miami gave itself its best chance of maintaining its level of play.

The Heat sure didn’t upgrade, though. They made no draft picks and didn’t touch their mid-level exception. Their only outside addition to receive a guaranteed salary was Derrick Jones Jr., who signed a minimum contract with a second year unguaranteed. The 21-year-old athlete is a worthwhile flier, but he sure isn’t a difference maker.

Neither are Wade and Haslem anymore – outside of our fond memories of the pair, and that counts for something. Just not enough to change Miami’s trajectory.

Offseason grade: C

Report: Jimmy Butler ‘isn’t dead set’ on demanding trade from Timberwolves

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Jimmy Butler says he’ll meet with the Timberwolves today – not yesterday, as initially reported.

The far bigger issue: What will happen in the meeting?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I’m told, though, that while Butler has serious questions about the direction of the franchise, he’s still willing to hear Minnesota out, and isn’t dead set on demanding a trade elsewhere.

Butler probably wouldn’t demand a trade. That gets players fined. Paul George laid out a far more likely roadmap last offseason: Butler could inform Minnesota he won’t re-sign next offseason. Left to their own devices, the Timberwolves would probably trade him.

But would it get to even that point? That’s the big question looming over the day. If Butler hasn’t yet made up his mind, that would give Tom Thibodeau a chance to convey a plan.

Of course, this isn’t entirely up to Butler, either. If Minnesota must choose between Butler and Karl-Anthony Townswho reportedly won’t sign his rookie-scale extension until the Butler situation is handled – Butler could get dealt regardless of what he wants.

So much could come to a head today, but apparently there isn’t an inevitable outcome. Is Butler leaning a certain way, though? “Isn’t dead set” on demanding a trade isn’t exactly a huge vote of confidence.

Marcus Smart posts heartfelt tribute to mother, who died Sunday

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Marcus Smart delivered one of my favorite quotes after the Celtics beat the Rockets last season:

Smart — when asked if he prides himself in being “a pain in the ass” — chuckled.

“I guess you could say that,” Smart said. “My mom might say that. But nah, I play defense with passion, and defense wins games, and that was proven tonight.”

A deep love is the subtext behind that quip. Smart put it on display again – unfortunately after the death of Camellia Smart, who had been battling cancer.

Smart:

Smart plays with such heart, passion and toughness. If his mother were his role model, he honors her every time he takes the court.