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Pat Riley’s new approach to building Heat: ‘You don’t have have to go whale hunting’

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Last summer, Heat president Pat Riley stated his desire to land a “whale,” seemingly meaning Kevin Durant.

This year, Riley is taking a more modest approach to Miami’s offseason.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

On pursuing whales, Riley said: “I regret ever making that statement. The collective bargaining agreement is going to dictate a lot of things about free agency…. Today it’s a lot different than [2010]. Any great player will have to give great pause to walk away from $65 million to $70 million to walk away.”

“We are going to focus on our guys, really focus on this group of guys. We have found something about three of these guys, I felt they had something but never really had the platform. We will always observe what’s going on in free agency. We have that flexibility. When you have a draft pick and a lot of players on your team you like, you are in good position to move forward.”

“If you are looking at Golden State and Cleveland, those teams and Houston and San Anontio, the top four teams in the league, what happens to the other teams in the Eastern Conference, yes, you have to say to yourself, I want to get there as quickly as I can and contend,” he said.

“Even if you brought all of these guys back with the 14th pick and some kind of room exception, can you beat those teams? You will never know until you get there. I think the fans here appreciate what we do. They also appreciate we want to bring more quicker to the table. I want to play for that [championship]. That’s what we want to compete for. That’s what it has always been about. You don’t have have to go whale hunting. You can acquire key players via trade, instead of laying out $38 million for a guy. Some of these max numbers are ridicluous. That’s the nature of the collective bagraining agreement.”

The Heat emerged as a feel-good story with their incredible second-half turnaround. Role players like Dion Waiters and James Johnson clearly bought into Miami’s culture, and Waiters has already said he wants to re-sign.

And,  yes, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s designated-veteran-player rule will make it more difficult for the Heat to land star free agents.

But if the Heat win their eventual case that Chris Bosh can no longer safely play basketball, they’ll be guaranteed to have his salary removed from the cap only this offseason. This is their opportunity to upgrade the roster.

I’d caution against assuming this group of overachievers will overachieve again. Hassan Whiteside is a foundational piece, and Goran Dragic found his groove later in the season. Justise Winslow will return, too. But that’s not close to a championship core, and locking up Waiters and Johnson isn’t the ticket, either.

If the Heat are content being merely good right now, sure, keep this core together. They compete hard, and chemistry matters. This could be a fine team next year if it returns mostly intact.

But Miami is a market – with championship pedigree, no state income tax, warm weather and quality nightlife – that can dream bigger. This is a place that attracted LeBron James, Dwyane and Chris Bosh and, before that, Shaquille O’Neal (who approved his trade from the Lakers). Will Riley really shift his strategy so significantly?

Derrick Favors, Mason Plumlee ejected after scuffle during Jazz, Nuggets game (VIDEO)

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The most pressing question out of this is not even the fight itself.

In the first quarter of Utah’s eventual win over Denver, Jazz big man Derrick Favors got tangled up with Denver’s center Mason Plumlee. Favors pulled Plumlee’s arm, at which point Plumlee came back and got in his face, then Favors shoves Plumlee and a little scuffle breaks out.

Both Favors and Plumlee were ejected for the incident. Utah’s Royce O’Neale and Denver’s Will Barton picked up technicals.

None of that is what people are talking about.

Watch the video again: Denver’s Nikola Jokic leaves the bench during the fight and heads down the baseline — by the rule that should lead to a suspension. Jokic never steps on to the court (he stays along the baseline) and never engages with the combatants. Still, guys have been suspended for less.

Jokic went on to score 28 points, grab 21 rebounds, and he dished out 6 assists. It wasn’t enough as Rudy Gobert had 15 points and three blocks, and Donovan Mitchell had 35 points in a 114-108 Jazz win, one of their best in the season in what was a highly entertaining game.

James Harden scores 61, ties Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden visitor’s record (VIDEO)

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James Harden has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-level streak the past few weeks, it’s unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA.

Wednesday night he topped himself.

James Harden scored 61 points against the Knicks. That would be:

• Harden’s career high.
• Tied with Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• A Rockets’ franchise record.
• His 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history.

Oh, and Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.

Harden also had 15 rebounds in the game. The last player to have 60+ points and 15+ rebounds in a game? Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal back on March 6, 2000, with the Lakers.

Harden is playing like an MVP — and the banged-up Rockets need him to if they are to have a chance to win every night.

Report: Wizards not trading Bradley Beal, but if team slips Otto Porter could be available

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The Washington Wizards have won 7-of-10 and have climbed up to the nine seed, just a couple of games out of the playoffs in the East. Without John Wall, the Wizards are making a push to get into the postseason.

Which impacts whether they are willing to trade players at the deadline.

The Wizards are not trading Bradley Beal — the most coveted of their stars — but might be open to Otto Porter trades if the team slides back, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Wizards star guard Bradley Beal is not going anywhere, which Washington has made adamantly clear, league sources told The Athletic. Depending on how the next week to two weeks shape up, the Wizards could look more aggressively toward moving Otto Porter. The Utah Jazz have been an interested suitor for Porter, league sources said.

History suggests the Wizards will not be sellers. The pattern for owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld has always been to think short term and make the playoff push, even when it was not the smart thing to do. We should expect that again. Maybe Washington crawls into one of the final playoff slots in the East, but is that the smart play?

Don’t expect the Wizards to move Porter, even if they wanted to finding a team to take on his $26 million for 13 points a game this season would be difficult (although Utah would be a good fit), plus Porter is owed $27.3 million next season and has a player option he very likely will pick up for $28.5 million two seasons from now.

Pacers’ Victor Oladipo stretchered off court after scary knee injury (VIDEO)

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Let’s hope this is not as scary as it looks.

Pacers’ All-NBA, All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was trying to defend a length-of-the-court pass to Pascal Siakam when Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury were his kneecap was clearly not in the right place. Oladipo had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The video is below, but be warned this is not pretty.

The team’s official announcement called the injry “serious.”

Oladipo is the Pacers’ best player and was a lock to be an All-Star reserve averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a game this season in Indiana. His efficiency had dropped his season as teams game planned more for him. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more genuine person around the NBA than Oladipo.

Quickly the NBA community rallied on social media to Oladipo.