LeBron, Wade both dominant in Heat’s win over Lakers

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There were stretches during Sunday afternoon’s contest between the Heat and the Lakers where L.A. appeared to be coming together, and seemed capable of challenging Miami on its home floor. The Lakers found themselves tied at halftime, and were getting solid performances from multiple players, while taking good shots and limiting their turnovers.

Even if L.A. had been able to sustain that effort through four quarters with a flawless second half, it wouldn’t have been enough to beat the Heat in this one. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each were able to take over the game at times, and combined for 62 points in Miami’s convincing 107-97 win over the Lakers.

James and Wade finished with 32 and 30 points respectively, while each shooting an efficient 12-18 from the field in the process.

Wade was particularly effective in the second and fourth quarter stretches where James was on the bench. In the second, James played just three minutes due to picking up his third foul, while Wade played all 12 minutes and led his team with 10 points in the period. To start the fourth, Wade rattled off nine points while James was getting some rest, helping the Heat build their lead to seven by the time LeBron checked back in.

James has been on a shooting tear lately, and tied an NBA record for most games scoring at least 30 points while shooting better than 60 percent from the field — it was his fifth consecutive game doing so.

The Lakers were able to take advantage of the Heat’s size deficiency up front to a certain extent, with Kobe Bryant doing plenty of his damage inside, and Dwight Howard getting some shots to fall after receiving passes in the post. Bryant finished with 28 points on 10-19 shooting, while Howard ended up with 15 points on a 6-9 shooting effort.

The rebounding advantage that the Lakers should have been able to have against a Miami team which ranks near the bottom of the league in that category wasn’t there, however, due to the habit the Lakers’ bigs have of tracking the ball rather than finding a man to box out when the shot attempt goes up. The Heat were plus-nine on the boards for the game, and the 10 offensive rebounds they secured were double the amount grabbed by L.A.

In addition to Bryant and Howard, Earl Clark continued his strong play with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Metta World Peace continued to struggle offensively with a 3-11 shooting effort, and with the shot selection being questionable at best on close to half of those attempts.

The Lakers were able to stay close by taking care of the ball through three quarters, turning it over just seven times heading into the final period. But running the offense through Bryant in the post for the majority of the fourth quarter, L.A. turned it over eight times in the period, leading to a couple of highlight-reel plays from James as the Heat were able to turn those miscues into easy transition opportunities.

By contrast, Miami had zero turnovers in the fourth, after turning it over 11 times through three quarters.

The Lakers showed improvement on their Grammy road trip, but finished the seven-game stretch with a record of just 4-3. The Heat, meanwhile, improved to 22-3 at home, where there will be plenty more wins piled up before the season is over with Wade and James putting in simultaneously dominant performances like this one.

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.

Report: Cavaliers not planning to trade Kevin Love, no matter what LeBron James does

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The Cavaliers spent considerable time bemoaning a Kevin Love trade last summer falling through.

Will they deal him this offseason?

The No. 8 pick and Love are Cleveland’s best assets for upgrading their roster around LeBron James. If LeBron leaves, moving Love could jumpstart a rebuild.

But apparently the Cavs are now projecting attachment to Love, either way.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Cavaliers are not actively shopping All-Star forward Kevin Love heading into Thursday’s NBA draft, multiple sources told ESPN on Wednesday. Furthermore, regardless of what decision LeBron James makes about his future in Cleveland, the Cavs have interest in keeping Love next season, sources said.

File this under what else are they supposed to say? Even if the Cavaliers want to trade Love, insisting they won’t maximizes his trade value, forcing other teams to offer enough to pry him away.

But I also believe this accurately reflects the Cavs’ plans.

They just seem so determined to compete if LeBron leaves, and Love is their only other star. Love proved himself worthy of being the best player on a good team with the Timberwolves. (They were playoff quality when he played. They just completely fell apart whenever he sat.) In Cleveland, Love has fluctuated in his ability to bend his game around LeBron. If LeBron leaves, that’d no longer be a problem.

But Love will turn 30 before the season. He has declined out of his athletic peak, and I’d bet against him ever nearing his Minnesota levels again. And the other Cavs stink. It’s hard to see a LeBron-less Cavaliers team, even with Love, competing for the playoffs.

If LeBron stays, keeping Love makes some sense. With his $24,119,025 salary for next season and $25,595,700 player option for the following year, he probably doesn’t hold elite trade value. He doesn’t match up well with the Warriors, but good players who do come at a major cost.

Report: Lakers call meeting to warn employees about tampering

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Magic Johnson got the Lakers fined for tampering while still holding a ceremonial title. Once he actually took over the front office, he really got to work tampering. He got warned for blinking at Paul George on national television. Then – due to general manager Rob Pelinka’s communication with George’s agent and Johnson’s previous warning – the Lakers received one of the largest fines in NBA history. Johnson himself got the Lakers fined for praising Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The league investigated and cleared assistant coach Brian Shaw for tampering with George.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the Lakers’ previous transgressions have put them under tighter scrutiny.

The Lakers just want this to end.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Lakers co-owner and governor Jeanie Buss called the meeting, which was led by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.

Sources said Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka spoke to a large group of team employees, warning them about tampering.

Other employees received written notices on the matter that referenced possible termination as punishment for anyone who does not adhere to NBA rules.

Tampering often takes much more benign forms than a president or general manager recruiting a star player before free agency. It could be an offhand comment by a coach, an overzealous ticket pitch or a speculative article on the team website.

If Johnson’s and Pelinka’s tampering increases the Lakers’ odds of landing a star, that’s just the cost of doing business. If a lower-level staffer tampers, that’s an avoidable mistake.

Really, it’s comical this meeting is even newsworthy, and that’s a product of the Lakers’ previous violations.

But, as they pursue stars, they don’t want to chance the league imposing any additional restrictions.

So, the Lakers, in some ways are right back where they started.