Off Day wrap up from San Antonio: Erik Spoelstra frustrated with Mario Chalmers

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SAN ANTONIO — Emptying out the notebook from an off day near the Alamo….

• Erik Spoelstra is generally positive about players to the press and in public. He’s never really Popovich harsh on guys.

But in his Friday press conference Spoeltra was clearly frustrated with Mario Chalmers, who played just 17 minutes in Game 1 due to foul trouble. “Rio” has had more and more fouls through the playoffs, but due to the heat and humidity in the AT&T Center during Game 1 his foul trouble presented a much bigger problem.

“That hurt last night, 17 minutes,” Spoelstra said, talking about the minutes Chalmers played in Game 1. “We were managing the minutes the best that we could and getting guys in and out, played nine guys and nobody played deep minutes, but those extra 15 or 16 minutes from Rio probably would have helped. And he needs to be more attentive to technique and earlier in his thought process. Things are happening very quickly obviously at this level of competition and your preparation before the play happens is paramount.

“Now, Rio is very important to our success, he understands that, and I believe he will be better with the next game.”

If not, that could be the first line-up change Eric Spoelstra makes.

• Chalmers admitted he has to be smarter on defense.

“Just gotta be careful with my touch fouls,” Chalmers said. “I get a lot of touch fouls and I got to figure out a way to adjust.”

• At one point during Game 1 Chris Bosh kind of grabbed Chalmers by the head to get his attention and, according to Bosh, told Chalmers to get his head in the game and make the simple pass. Chalmers pretty much backed that up.

“I was frustrated with it being the first game, Game 1 of the Finals and being in foul trouble and not be able to help my team,” Chalmers said. “I was getting a little frustrated. He was just trying to keep me in the game.”

At least they weren’t yelling at Chalmers.

Yet.

• Dwyane Wade wisely would not take the bait and talk about Gatorade. That is one of Wade’s sponsors (and the league’s) but their official twitter account criticized LeBron James for cramping up (the company later apologized). Wade said he has not spoken to anyone at Gatorade and he is too smart a pitchman to get in the middle of that one.

• Wade summing up what the heat did to the Heat: “I think part of our problem was mental and physical fatigue.”

• How did Manu Ginobili cool down after that game? “I got home, turned the AC to 64 and lay down on my couch there for a few minutes.”

• San Antonio switched up how they defended the Heat in Game 1 compared to last year’s Finals, they were more aggressive taking away space for LeBron and Wade to work, they were going over picks not under. We’ll get more into that as we get closer to Sunday, but we’re not going to break it down as well as Couper Moorhead for Heat.com, if you love the chess game of the Finals go read that.

• Gregg Popovich on “toughness”: “It depends what you mean by ‘toughness.’
Mental toughness is often confused with a blatant, physical sort of aggression, which isn’t really true. I think you have to be careful when you talk about whether this person is tough or that person it tough.”

• Popovich also had the best line of the day, talking about the air conditioning being out for Game 1: “ll I know is that I saw all the air conditioning people in the hallways on my way out last night and I sent them home.”

(He was joking, it’s fixed.)

Report: NBA opened investigation into free agency tampering

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Summer in the NBA is always the most interesting time in the league. Free agency lets us see where players have not only decided to land, but which have schemed together in order to play with each other.

The term “preagency” has been coined to mark the period in which teams and players work out deals before free agency officially opens, and well before the moratorium ends.

It’s been thought that these rules have been circumvented as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between all teams with equal ability to navigate around the written rules. But according to a new report, several team owners are upset about the way things are going in the player empowerment era.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst reported on the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting this week, saying that the league has even opened an investigation into what went on this summer in terms of potential tampering.

Via ESPN:

Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.

The league has the power to punish teams it finds to be guilty of tampering ahead of June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute that teams are allowed to speak with representatives of free agents. It also might seek information on the timing of negotiations so that any revised free-agency calendar might better align with what is actually happening.

The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, speaking as the head of the labor committee, discussed the possible need to revisit free-agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement, sources said.

I have two thoughts about this.

First, even if something does come of this, the fine has to be puny. Adam Silver has not strayed on the disciplinarian side the way David Stern did — much to his credit — and any reprimand is unlikely to satisfy upset parties.

Second, there will definitely be sweeping changes in the next CBA. So much has changed since the last lockout, and the money has gotten so big it’s inevitable that people want to make things better for their side. The players got themselves in a hole since 2011. They mishandled the cap jump in 2016, and the max contract rules didn’t create a rising tide that floated all boats. Star players benefited, but low-level guys are even more disproportionately compensated.

This stuff seems like the most boring part of the league, but in reality it’s what makes everything tick.

I won’t be surprised if the NBA levies tampering charges against one or even several teams. I’d be surprised if the league did much about it, though.

Wizards owner says John Wall ‘probably won’t play’ in 2019-20

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It was always likely that Washington Wizards star John Wall would be out for much of next year’s regular NBA season. The team has even filed for a disabled player exception for the 2019-20 season.

Now we have confirmation that the team is expecting Wall to miss significant time.

According to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said that they are going to take things slow with Wall, and that he will miss serious time.

Via Twitter:

Washington is still trying to figure out what to do with Bradley Beal, and with Wall’s contract on the books, they don’t really have much of anywhere to go. The Wizards used their No. 9 overall pick on Rui Hachimura, which raised a few eyebrows.

But the team at least does have a GM in Tommy Sheppard, and they’ve made several hirings in the front office to try and out-think their competition. Washington has made a few moves, including trading for Davis Bertans and signing Isaiah Thomas.

Expect to see the Wizards at the bottom of the East next year. Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t be entertaining.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.