Quotes, reactions from Heat, Bulls as streak comes to end

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It was a dramatic and — thanks to the fans at the United Center — loud end in Chicago to the Heat’s 27-game winning streak on Wednesday night.

Here are the reactions from the players in the game as well as around the league.

LeBron James

“We had a moment. Just very fortunate, very humbled, blessed to be part of a team like this and a streak like that. It was one of the best this league has ever seen.”

“Teams make it tough on us, we make it tough on them. When you have two well coached teams that wanna win, it’s going to be a competitive game.”

“We were playing every game to win, we just happened to win 27 in a row. Our motto was to try and go out and win every game, but there’s nothing really to talk about.”

Tom Thibodeau

“The challenge is not to get caught up in the hoopla. To understand what goes into winning — stay focused, you’ve got to be prepared, you need an edge. If you get lost in all the other stuff you’re not going to be prepared to play well.”

“The way they play, you have to play with great intensity. You can’t win a world championship without playing like that. I think they understand that. That’s why when you look at what they’ve done — to be the defending world champions, to have a winning streak like that knowing that everyone is chasing you — is a credit to them.

(On how they defended LeBron James) “LeBron has great decision making ability and great vision. His size, he sees over things, I don’t think you can give him a steady diet of anything.”

(On Kirk Hinrich’s play ripping the ball from Bosh) “We’ve played them 15 times and more often than not comes down to that, exactly that — it’s a loose ball, it’s a hustle play, that’s usually the difference.”

Erik Spoelstra

“We understand, probably more so later on in our careers, the significance of that. And then that was it. We took that moment to acknowledge it, to acknowledge each other, that experience, but it was never about the streak. We have a bigger goal, but also right now, it’s about ‘Are we getting better?”

“We were much more competitive in the second half. It became make or miss in the fourth quarter, and we couldn’t get the necessary stops we needed to. In the last handful of games, those shots were going down and maybe that masked a few things going down the stretch.”

Jimmy Butler

“Just our toughness. We came out ready to play from the jump, guarded, played together. It was a big win, it was a team win.

Jerry West (member of the 1972 Lakers team that won 33, speaking with Marc Stein of ESPN)

“I really thought they were going to do it,” West said by phone after the Heat lost to the Chicago Bulls 101-97. “I really did.

“It’s a remarkable streak. I wasn’t rooting against them at all. At halftime (of the Chicago game), I thought they were going to win the game. But all you need sometimes is a few things to go wrong.

“I think they’re looking for bigger fish to fry. You know they’re trying to win another championship, so I think this is just a blip in the road for them. But this (streak) was great for basketball. It was a great accomplishment. It creates incredible fan interest.

“People will talk about this forever.”

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.

Sixers hire Elton Brand as new General Manager

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Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:

They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.

Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.

There were other title changes within the organization as well.

What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.

And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.

Pat Riley: Dion Waiters not recovered for start of training camp, “unlikely” for start of season

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This is a setback.

When Dion Waiters had ankle surgery 30 games into last season, the hope was that he would be healthy for the start of this season and return to the post All-Star form of 2017, when his hot play (15.6 points per game, 41 percent from three and carrying a heavy offensive load) led the Heat to offer him a four-year contract.

Turns out, that’s not going to happen.

It was Pat Riley who made the announcement, speaking to the media.

Waiters was not healthy last season, and while he averaged 14.3 points a game he was not nearly as efficient — 30.6 percent from three, shooting 39.8 percent overall, a PER of 10.5.

This could move Dwyane Wade into the starting lineup to open the season. Beyond that, the Heat have the guard depth to survive this with Wade and Wayne Ellington at the two, plus Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Malik Newman, and Briante Weber heading into camp.

Waiters being out also is bad news for the player but could save the franchise money on another front: Waiters receives a $1.1 million bonus if he plays in 70 games this season. If he misses the start of the season, he becomes far less likely to make that threshold.