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Heat president Pat Riley on Hassan Whiteside’s postseason: ‘He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape’

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MIAMI (AP) — In the case of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic Heat center who was a nonfactor in the playoffs and complained about how he was being utilized by coach Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the entirety of the situation.

Whiteside dealt with injuries during the season and didn’t want to wear a knee brace that the Heat insisted upon, and Riley said that if Whiteside and Spoelstra need an intervention to solve their relationship issues – if any – he’ll handle it.

Riley also didn’t mince words, saying Whiteside needs to make changes.

“By the time we got to the playoffs I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He, and we, got our head handed to us. The disconnect between he and Spo, that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.

“How will Hassan transform his thinking, 99 percent of it to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense and minutes or whatever?”

That word – transform – was a theme of sorts for Riley’s meeting with reporters. He started with a 15-minute monologue on how change has been a constant throughout his 23 seasons with the Heat, how the team landed transformative superstars like Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal in trades and Dwyane Wade through the draft and LeBron James and Chris Bosh in summertime deals.

Come July 1, the Heat will be active on those fronts again – noting that the fan base is clamoring for more.

“Well, we’ll give them more,” Riley said. “We’ll try to give them more. That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. That’s what Micky has been doing, trying to give you more if we can. But we’re not going to do anything that isn’t smart. We will never do anything that’s really going to hurt the franchise.”

Here’s what Riley is not going to do this summer: quit.

Everything else is on the table.

The Miami Heat president said Monday in his annual end-of-season assessment that no player on the team’s roster will be considered untouchable this offseason – if the right deal presents itself, that is – but quickly added the caveat that the franchise is not looking for a total revamp after going 44-38 in the regular season and making the playoffs.

“Show me the right name, and I could be all-in on everything,” Riley said. “You know me. But it’s got to be the right name … that doesn’t happen very often. Our core guys, we would like to keep together, there’s no doubt. We would like to keep them together and we’d like to add something to it, but that’s going to be a challenge.”

He also was clear on his own future: The 73-year-old Riley, who has spent a half-century in the NBA as a player, coach and executive, isn’t going anywhere until managing general partner Micky Arison tells him it’s time to vacate the president’s office.

In other words, the Hall of Famer’s competitive fires are still burning.

“There’s always something that brings you back in,” Riley said. “There’s something that sucks you back in. … I’m an active participant, and I’m going to stay that way to the chagrin probably of some of you and probably people in the organization.”

Riley held exit meetings with players Friday, three days after the Heat’s season ended in a five-game first-round ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. He said he hasn’t yet broached the topic of retirement with Wade, for fear of planting that seed. He reiterated that the team wants to try to keep Wayne Ellington, even with the Heat somewhat handcuffed right now by salary-cap and luxury-tax challenges. Miami has $111 million already committed to the as-of-now seven highest-paid players on its books for next season.

NOTES: Before Riley spoke, the Heat said guard Tyler Johnson had surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Johnson was hurt in the opening seconds of Game 3 of the series against Philadelphia but finished the series. He will be in a cast for six weeks. The Heat expect him to be ready to begin camp in September.

 

Chris Paul playing cornhole. Luka Doncic trick shots. Welcome to life in the NBA bubble.

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Teams have emerged from quarantine in the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando, getting some run in on the court, and are starting to explore life in the NBA bubble.

Then they are documenting it on social media.

For example, Chris Paul and Darius Bazley played some cornhole.

Dallas’ Luka Doncic was hitting trick shots on the court.

Then Doncic and Boban Marjanovic were doing Disney Channel ads.

Complaints about the food by players have died down, in part because they are out of quarantine and get a choice of restaurants, in part because they saw the backlash and realized the complaints looked elitist. Or maybe it’s just the Mickey pancakes.

Everyone is out and exploring the campus and having fun…

Well, except for Robin Lopez, who sees no reason to leave his room.

Zion Williamson “just went back to square one” with quarantine workouts

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Zion Williamson looks cut — like he spent the entire quarantine doing workouts — and ready to be a force at the NBA restart in Orlando.

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What workouts did Zion Williamson do during the break to get that look? He took everything back down to step one and built it up again working out with his stepfather Lee Anderson, Williamson told reporters on Friday (hat tip Andrew Lopez of ESPN):

“It just felt like I was 5 years old again,” Williamson said Friday. “Just went back to square one, tried to get my body where it needs to be, get my fundamentals back to square one and start from there. So yeah, it was just like starting over at 5 again. It was a great process to learn it all over.”

Williamson did a little more than that. He also had approval from the league to go to the Pelicans practice facility throughout the quarantine and get treatment on his knee, the one that kept him out the first 45 games of the season. So he stayed healthy.

He also worked on other aspects of this game, such as his jump shot. Williamson took 76.7% of his shot attempts at the rim this season, and while getting to the rim is critical to his game, he’s going to have confidence in his shot and knock down jumpers to reach higher levels in the league.

The Pelicans enter the bubble 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed in the West, and with the softest schedule of any team in Orlando (matching their schedule before the interruption), they have a legitimate chance of forcing a two-game play-in series. It’s not easy, but there is a path to the playoffs for New Orleans (setting up a Zion vs. LeBron James first-round showdown that league broadcast partners are drooling over).

A stronger, improved Zion could help get the Pelicans there.

Paul George: “I feel great again,” says Clippers finally fully healthy

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Paul George symbolized the Clippers’ health all season long. George missed the first 11 games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, then all season long it was still a lingering issue — until the suspension of play gave him time to heal.

“The whole season, all the way up until maybe a month or two ago, I had to always do shoulder rehab stuff, warming the shoulder up,” George said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “Just so much went into stuff I had to do before I actually took a foot on the floor. Now I feel great again.”

It wasn’t just Paul George, the Clippers had Kawhi Leonard managing his knee/thigh issue and an assortment of other injuries that didn’t give Doc Rivers the full arsenal at his disposal. That was until around the All-Star break — after that break Los Angeles went 7-2 with a +11.5 net rating that was best in the league by far.

The season being shut down may have halted that momentum, but it also gave a banged-up Los Angeles roster a chance to get healthy.

“For this team, man, I think our aspirations, again, this time off has given us what we needed,” George said. “We had some guys that was banged up, nagging injuries. The more time gave us more time for us to aid those injuries and to get back to 100.”

Health matters — which is why Montrez Harrell brought his own personal, portable sauna, a secret Reggie Jackson let out of the bag.

Health matters to Rivers, too, but what he wants more is that team chemistry back — and the Clippers have a long way to go on that end in Rivers’ eyes.

“This is not a normal way of starting back,” Rivers said of the mini-training camp all 22 teams at the NBA restart will get in Orlando. “Usually going into training camp, guys have been scrimmaging for three and four weeks, they’ve been playing, shooting on hoops. That’s not happening. This is a group, some of the guys have not touched a basketball or seen a gym until two weeks ago. We got a lot of work to do on both ends.”

The Clippers are not alone, every team is going to take time to find its rhythm again. Pick-and-roll combos need to get used to reading each other (and the defense) again at full speed, defensive rotations will be a step slow, and a few passes are going to head into the bench rather than the player in the corner.

When the Clippers get that rhythm back, with a healthy roster — finally — they again become a legitimate threat to win it all.

First, they just need to navigate the bubble. And maybe borrow Harrell’s sauna.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.