Heat’s reported No. 1 offseason priority: Kevin Durant

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When Heat president Pat Riley called re-signing Hassan Whitesideour No. 1 priority,” that was news to Dan Le Batard of ESPN.

According to Le Batard, Kevin Durant – not Whiteside or Dwyane Wade, who will also be a free agent – tops Miami’s list.

Dan Le Batard of ESPN:

The plan is and always has been: Go after Durant and free everything up – so much so that you insulted your superstar this offseason by telling Dwyane Wade no on multiple years, even though that’s what he wanted. Dwyane, who deserves more of your allegiances as business and a company and management than Chris Bosh does. Because the whole thing is get in a room with Durant after this season.

What I’m telling you, no matter how much you laugh at it, is that the Heat is getting in the room with Durant. Now, what happens from there, who knows? But you can sit here and laugh at it all you want, but the plan, the construct is – the priority, the No. 1 thing this offseason – is get in the room with Durant.

You do what you want with the information. All I’m telling you is priority No. 1 is not get Dwyane locked up, Whiteside locked up. No. 1 on the list is can you get the superstar that is the big get in free agency while also taking care of your people around that?

Of course Miami will pursue Durant. Not every team will. Some will deem their odds too low and not want to miss other opportunities while wasting time on Durant. Others will stick a toe in the water, also fearing the downside of swinging and missing. But the Heat are different. They pulled the biggest free agent coup in NBA history, signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh and re-signing Dwyane Wade in 2010. They go all-in in these situations.

But signing Durant would require some hard choices.

First of all, on Durant’s end, where does he want to sign? Just because Miami wants him doesn’t mean he’ll sign there. He can go wherever he wants, and staying with the Thunder must look more appealing given their playoff run. If he wants to leave for a better team, the Warriors might be the only option. If he wants to go to the Eastern Conference for an easier path, the Celtics‘ assets give them a brighter future on paper than the Heat.

It’s not much easier in Miami. The Heat would surely let supposed No. 1 option Whiteside walk if it meant getting Durant, one of the NBA’s premier players. But what about Wade, a – as they love to say in South Beach – “Heat Lifer”? Even if Miami dumps Josh McRoberts and renounces all its other unrestricted free agents, Wade would have to accept about $53 million less than his max over four years to facilitate room for a Durant max. I’m not sure he goes for that.*

*Even for a Whiteside max rather than a Durant max, Wade would have to accept $34 million less than his max over four years to facilitate enough room in the same scenario. This will be an interesting summer for Wade, whose contract negotiations last summer were far more contentious than expected.

The Heat could clear space to sign Durant and Whiteside or Wade (though almost certainly not both) by trading Goran Dragic, but that makes the team less appealing. Why would Durant choose a 48-win team that lost two good starters to sign him?

And then there’s Bosh, who may or may not play ever again. His health makes him practically untradeable. If Bosh’s illness turns out to be career-ending, only the Heat can get his salary excluded from their books. No team is going to risk being stuck with an unplayable and highly paid Bosh for the next three years. How would the Heat sell Durant in regards to Bosh? Would they tout Bosh’s ability to complement Durant on the court or their ability to have monstrous cap room in 2017 once Bosh medically retires? I mentioned Wade’s potential hurt feelings above. That’s nothing compared to the potential with Bosh.

These are the issues Riley won’t address publicly, mostly because he can’t. Even if Riley views Durant as his top priority, mentioning Durant would’ve been tampering.

But Riley stated his desire to land a “whale.” Does that sound like Whiteside or Durant?

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
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Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

Herro went to Twitter to confirm the deal himself.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

This is a straight four years, no options for either side.

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
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It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

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The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.