Chicago landed name in Dwyane Wade; Miami still better team now, poised for future

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Forget what Dwyane Wade wanted and felt he deserved, Pat Riley did not approach contract discussions with Wade this offseason the way one should approach “family.” Or the greatest player in franchise history. The Heat lifer. Riley’s first reported offer of $10 million was flat out insulting — that’s the kind of money Matthew Dellavedova just got. Eventually, Miami upped its offer to $20 million a year, but that was less money and one less year than Wade wanted. Wade wanted to be made whole for past sacrifices, he wanted to see the respect of the organization that way, and he had lost faith the Heat would be good for it. Through it all, Riley reportedly never even picked up the phone to talk to Wade directly.

Wade found the respect — and money — he was looking for in Chicago. He signed there.

Pat Riley and Heat management were clearly okay with that outcome.

In the cold, harsh world of the NBA on the court they were right — Miami is both the better team next season, and they are better positioned for the future. With or without Wade.

With no Wade — or Luol Deng, or Joe Johnson — Miami probably takes a step back, but not a huge one (unless Chris Bosh is out). Next season the Heat still will have newly re-signed Hassan Whiteside in the paint. They will have Goran Dragic running the point — and he will have the ball in his hands more, a good thing (particularly in the fourth quarter, when Wade would often start to dominate the rock). They hope to have an All-Star in Chris Bosh back (although that remains up in the air). They have good young players like Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Tyler Johnson (if they match the Nets offer). They have a roster that fits the up-tempo style Erik Spoelstra wants to play. While they will miss Wade’s scoring at times, if Bosh is healthy they are certainly a playoff team and potentially a top-four seed in the East.

More importantly, they have is the kind of base of talent — and lifestyle, and no state tax — that will have free agents considering them as an option next summer (how much money they will have depends on Johnson, Bosh, who else they sign). There is a style of play, a system. What Pat Riley has given Miami is a blueprint and flexibility. One that didn’t necessarily fit Wade as he aged.

What is the Bulls’ plan?

Here is GM Gar Forman’s quote after the Derrick Rose trade: “We need to get younger and more athletic.” Are Rajon Rondo and a 35-year-old Wade who has had chronic knee issues younger and more athletic? Robin Lopez isn’t part of that answer.

The bigger question is how all these players fit together. Wade, Rondo, and Jimmy Butler all work best with the ball in their hands — and all three are ball stoppers. They like isolation sets (or a pick-and-roll) where they are in control of the shot and the tempo of the offense. Butler is okay working off the ball, but Wade and Rondo are not. Plus there is no shooting — Jimmy Butler is the best shooter of the three and he hit just 31.2 percent from three last season. Robin Lopez isn’t spacing the floor. Chicago’s best outside shooter is Fred Hoiberg, and he’ll be wearing a suit. The Bulls may have to start Nikola Mirotic just to have someone who can keep defenses from completely packing the paint (Doug McDermott may get extra run for the same reason).

Then there are the defensive issues — Rondo and Wade struggle on that end, and while Lopez can defend the rim some he’s not the NBA’s most mobile big out there. The Bulls can be forced into bad defensive matchups every time down, and their transition defense will be horrific.

Chicago does have something it can sell. Wade is a star, people will pay to see him. He will bring some excitement to the United Center. If he can stay healthy and play 74 games as he did last season — and that is far from a sure thing — he can help Chicago win a few games. He will make the Bulls more entertaining.

But how is this team getting younger and transitioning to the future? Is this really Butler’s team now? Miami will have a lot of cap space next summer, but players (and their agents) and have questions about why they should come to this roster. What is the long-term plan they are signing up for? Nothing is evident.

The Bulls will make the playoffs in the East, but as a lower seed that gets bounced in the first round. They have the cap space to chase free agents next summer, but will the talent come?

If a top free agent is choosing a destination and the money is equal, they will see plan and a brighter future in Miami. The Heat are better positioned to get a star, even if Wade stays and recruits.

The bottom line is the Bulls may be a little more dramatic and entertaining after this move, but this Heat team is simply better. And will be for years to come.

Rumor: Mike Budenholzer was close to taking Knicks job in 2018

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It’s the lure of the New York market, that a coach would consider passing on coaching Giannis Antetokounmpo and a team on the rise in Milwaukee to take the job.

In the summer of 2018, Mike Budenholzer was out in Atlanta and the best established name on the coaching market. At the time, it was known Coach Bud was the top choice of the Knicks, but he was reportedly close to taking the job, according to Ian Begley at SNY.TV.

Discussions between the Knicks and Budenholzer in the 2018 offseason advanced to a point where some people who would have come with Budenholzer to New York were talking about places to live in the city because they felt Budenholzer was close to taking the job, per SNY sources…

One official from an opposing team involved in searches at the time confirmed that coaching the Knicks intrigued Budenholzer. “Bud was definitely interested,” the team official said recently.

Budenholzer, however, chose Milwaukee, which had Antetokounmpo and a roster that was talented but needed a more modern offensive style and more focus. Budenholzer brought that and the team won 60 games last season, and is a title contender this season (if and when the NBA season restarts).

The Knicks hired David Fizdale, who lasted less than a season and a half before being let go. New team president Leon Rose now has to hire a new coach, and that will say a lot about the direction he wants to take the team.

He’d be lucky to find someone as good as Budenholzer.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to ‘take a suck of that’ after he holes fairway shot

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It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

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Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

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I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

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Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.