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Dwyane Wade’s last game in Miami may have arrived

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MIAMI (AP) — By Thursday, Dwyane Wade may not be employed as a basketball player anymore.

That is the reality, like it or not. After 16 seasons as an NBA player, after three championships, an almost-annual spot in the All-Star Game, a scoring title, three franchises, four children, an Olympic gold medal and 161 teammates, the end may have arrived.

On Tuesday, Wade plays his final home regular season game when the Miami Heat host the Philadelphia 76ers. On Wednesday, it’ll be a game at Brooklyn to end this season. Unless the Heat win both and get a lot of help in the final two days of the season, the career of Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. will be finished.

“I gave this game everything I had,” Wade said. “And I have appreciated every bit of it.”

The Heat still have a faint pulse in the playoff race; out of the 64 possible remaining scenarios involving Brooklyn, Orlando, Detroit, Charlotte and Miami over the next two days – the five teams still vying for various spots on the bracket, with the Nets and Magic being assured of getting into the postseason no matter what – there are only three that will send Wade into the postseason.

Obviously, the odds are not good.

That is why Tuesday is generally viewed as the farewell, even though no one will officially describe it as such. He doesn’t want it to be the end – but is acutely aware that it may be the 576th and final time he plays at AmericanAirlines Arena, all but one of those coming in a Heat uniform.

“It’s been incredible. It’s been amazing,” Wade said. “A lot of people in that arena have watched me grow, have watched me be imperfect, have watched me make a lot of mistakes in life, as well as watched me blossom and watched me do amazing things, great things. I’m thankful for it.”

Tributes will come Tuesday in various forms. There is a pregame series of events inside the arena. There will be videos. Wade will address the crowd. Celebrities are expected. Wade’s children will all be in attendance. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the school where the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre that left 17 dead in an event that touched Wade so deeply – not just because one of those victims was buried in a Wade jersey – will perform the national anthem.

There will be Wade “L3GACY” shirts given to fans, some of whom spent thousands for their seats. There will be Wade commemorative lanyards. There will be Wade apparel. Some arena workers asked if they could be excused from wearing the usual game-night garb and don Wade jerseys instead. Fans flew in from as far as Australia and China. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent his regards in a video.

And then, there will be a game.

The M-V-P chants will come. The ovations will be lengthy. There will be tears. And the Heat will try to make a playoff miracle happen.

“I don’t want this to end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m literally having more fun this year and last year than in any of the other years with Dwyane.”

They are the same in so many ways, Wade and Spoelstra. Both came to the Heat as unsure young men. Both have three championship rings now. Both are likely for the Basketball Hall of Fame. When Spoelstra was promoted to head coach in April 2008, he was unsure if he’d be able to handle the job – until he met with Wade a few months later and got pumped full of confidence.

“That’s what great players do,” Spoelstra said. “You talk about Hall of Fame players, they make the other players around them better. Well, great, Hall of Fame, superstar players also make their coaches better. And that’s what Dwyane did.”

Wade is beloved in Miami, of course, for obvious reasons. Beloved in Chicago, too, his hometown. Beloved in Milwaukee, where he took Marquette to a Final Four in 2003.

And this farewell tour – the “One Last Dance” – is a league-wide victory lap for someone NBA players rave about.

“A legend,” Toronto’s Kyle Lowry said.

“Still amazing,” Dallas’ Luka Doncic said.

“My idol,” Washington’s Bradley Beal said.

“A leader,” Detroit’s Wayne Ellington said.

“True winner,” Phoenix’s Devin Booker said.

Wade isn’t 2008 Wade, or Big 3-era Wade, or NBA Finals MVP Wade anymore. But he’s still superb, and with a flair for the dramatic – such as the buzzer-beater to top Golden State a few weeks ago. He’s been the best Heat player all season. It’s hard to imagine how Miami will replace him next season, because he is going to be clearly missed.

But that’s also part of the reason why this season is his last. Wade didn’t want to go out as a shell of his former self. He wanted to leave the stage with the fans clamoring for more, and that is precisely what has occurred.

“That’s the sweet part of it, seeing him be able to go off on his own terms, saying when he’s done,” said his former teammate and still-close friend LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. “Nobody forced him out or did anything of that nature. He’s able just to hang it up when he was ready to hang it up and be at peace with it all.”

 

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.