Heat’s Hassan Whiteside on benching against stretchy 76ers: ‘I trust coach’

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Hassan Whiteside‘s ability to defend the perimeter has been an issue for years.

It heated up (pun intended) a couple weeks ago when the 7-foot-1 Miami center was benched for the final 15 minutes of a loss to the Nets, who went small. Whiteside publicly complained, and the Heat fined him. Whiteside then said he trusted Miami coach Erick Spoelstra.

The problem reared its head again in a Game 1 loss to the 76ers on Saturday. After starting more-traditional Amir Johnson at center, Philadelphia began the second half with stretch big Ersan Ilyasova at center. Ilyasova and power forward Dario Saric, who turned himself into a quality 3-point shooter, pulled Whiteside to the perimeter – where he was far less effective. The 76ers spread the floor and went on a 13-0 run early in the third quarter. The Heat benched Whiteside for good just four minutes into the second half, and he and Spoelstra exchanged what appeared to be unpleasant words as the center left the court for Kelly Olynyk.

Whiteside, via Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald:

“He just wanted to change it up,” Whiteside said of what was said as he went to the bench. “I trust coach. I trust his decision-making. We didn’t get this one. They shot amazing from the field. We didn’t get this one, but we move to Game 2.”

This echoes what Whiteside eventually said a couple weeks ago. That he didn’t initially publicly criticize the move is progress – especially because he remained benched, even when Philadelphia went back to Johnson.

But this isn’t going away. Teams are increasingly adept at exposing slower big men like Whiteside. Even Ersan Ilyasova ran Whiteside off the floor.

Spoelstra, via Navarro:

“It’s not about him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra explained of why Whiteside played only 12 minutes and 26 seconds and didn’t play again after Kelly Olynyk replaced him with 7 minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. “The whole second half, this series and this game it’s going to go quickly. There’s a lot of subs both ways. There’s not a lot of time based on the flow or the matchups [to make adjustments]. It’s not necessarily an indictment of his first four minutes [of the second half]. But we all have to be collectively better [for Game 2] on Monday.”

The Heat can’t afford to let Whiteside play through what looks like a bad matchup. If he’s neither punishing the 76ers on the glass and inside offensively nor working hard enough to hold his own on the perimeter defensively, Spoelstra will sit him.

Joel Embiid, once he gets healthy, will offer a better matchup for Whiteside. But Embiid can also stretch beyond the arc (though not as well as Ilyasova) and is a huge upgrade defensively. Though he might make it easier on Whiteside, Embiid will make it tougher on the Heat.

That’s ultimately the issue here. There’s too often a divergence between what’s best for Whiteside and what’s best for Miami. Philadelphia can drive a wedge between those sides.

The Heat had many more problems than Whiteside’s defense in their 130-103 loss. But Whiteside’s defense was a problem, and Miami must find a way to address it. So far, the response seems to be benching him.

It may be moot, but Kawhi Leonard now eligible for super-max contract with Spurs

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Early on in the Kawhi Leonard saga with the Spurs, there was a sense in some (even many) quarters of the NBA world that the two sides would work things out. Why? Because the Spurs can offer Leonard way more money than anybody else — $221 million. That’s thanks to the “Kevin Durant rule” added to the most recent CBA that allows the team that drafted a player who meets the criteria (twice All-NBA, MVP, etc.) to get 35 percent of the salary cap at a younger age.

Money did not solve this problem — Leonard and the Spurs are farther apart than ever.

That said, Leonard did just become eligible on Sunday for that massive payday. From Bobby Marks of ESPN.

Kawhi Leonard is now super max eligible (third year anniversary of the contract signed on July 16, 2015) to receive a five-year $221 million extension from the Spurs. If Leonard is traded, the most he could receive in an extension (six months after the trade) would be $108 million over four-years (starting in 2019-20). Leonard would be eligible to sign a five-year $190 million contract as a free agent with the team acquiring him or four-years $141 million with a team that has cap space. Leonard would not be super max eligible as a free agent with the new team acquiring him even if he earned All-NBA honors in 2018-19.

Leonard is still trying to force a trade, and that remains at a standstill.

Where do things stand? Everyone involved is waiting for someone else to blink

San Antonio is waiting for the L.A. Lakers or Philadelphia (or anyone else, such as Toronto) to make what they see as an acceptable offer. Those other teams are holding out their best trade pieces — the Lakers with both Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, the Sixers with Markelle Fultz, etc. — waiting for the Spurs to accept less, closer to what recent big name player trades (DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George) went for. Complicating it all is Leonard’s inexperienced management team, which does not have long-standing relationships with teams, has communicated different things at times, and teams just do not know if they can trust them.

There are conflicting reports and I’ve heard conflicting things from sources, down to the most fundamental issues: Does Leonard want to be a Laker, or does he not want to play with LeBron? Whatever the answer, every day this drags out the Spurs lose leverage.

Even so, this could drag out into training camp. Or longer.

Grizzlies sign second-round pick Jevon Carter to multiyear contract

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have signed second-round pick Jevon Carter to a multiyear deal.

Terms of the contract announced Sunday were not disclosed, but Carter himself confirmed the deal.

Carter has impressed at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and in Utah. His dogged, aggressive defense has slowed players — Trae Young had some of his worst games against Carter — and on offense his game has improved, including him dropping 26 points on the Jazz recently.

Carter was taken with the No. 32 pick after winning the Naismith defensive player of the year last season at West Virginia. The point guard was second in the nation with 3.03 steals per game and is the Mountaineers’ career leader in that category.

“Ray Allen from long distance” with chip shot to save par at American Century Classic

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“Ray Allen from long distance, how many times have we said that?”

Ray Allen had a good weekend at the American Century Championships, the former NBA sharpshooter and future Hall of Famer finished third in the celebrity golf event. One of the reasons he was there, this chip shot on 13 Sunday.

Former Cowboy’s quarterback Tony Romo won the event, with former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder was second.

LeBron James sits courtside for Lakers’ Summer League win

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There are two, maybe three guys playing for the Lakers in Summer League likely to be sharing a locker room with LeBron James next season — Isaac Bonga and Josh Hart, with maybe Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and/or Alex Caruso. Only Hart could see the court much.

LeBron was still courtside on Sunday for a quarterfinal game at Summer League, showing his support and being a good teammate. He gave Hart a hug on the court. Brandon Ingram stopped by and talked with LeBron for a bit.

LeBron watched the Lakers continue their strong run through the Summer League, racking up a 101-78 win. LeBron was into it, when Mykhailiuk took a shot midway through the first quarter LeBron yelled, ‘cash only!”  The shot was nothing but net.

The Lakers are on to the Summer League semifinals. Los Angeles won the Vegas Summer League last year.