Jimmy Butler returns to Philadelphia, gets booed, leads his new Miami team to win

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PHILADELPHIA — Perfect home record at stake, a game down to the wire, and the Philadelphia 76ers sure could have used Jimmy Butler in the clutch, just like he was for them so many times last season.

The Heat were glad to have the All-Star on their side — and Butler did enough to help spoil the Sixers’ perfect home record.

Kendrick Nunn scored 26 points and Bam Adebayo had 23 to help the Miami Heat hand the 76ers their first home loss of the season, 108-104 on Wednesday night.

Butler and the Heat won their 20th game, and perhaps proved they’re more than a one-man show.

“This is a team of one star?” Butler asked incredulously. “Who’s our star, Bam? I’ll take it. I’ll take Bam as our star any day. I ain’t worried about what anybody says. We’re content with who we are.”

The 76ers had been 14-0 at home, including a 113-86 victory over the Heat last month.

They came within a late bucket or two of staying flawless in Philly.

Tobias Harris buried a 3-pointer for the Sixers with 25.5 seconds left that made it 106-104 and they had sudden life when Nunn missed twice at the free throw line. Al Horford, though, missed an open 3-point attempt from the wing and the Heat escaped in a thriller.

Duncan Robinson had 15 for the Heat and hit a pair of 3s in the fourth that stretched the lead to 14 points. Nunn buried a 30-footer for a 99-83 lead that should have been enough of a cushion for Miami.

Joel Embiid, who missed Sunday’s rout by the Nets with an upper respiratory illness, had 22 points and 19 rebounds. Harris scored 20 points and the Sixers struggled to get going until late against Miami’s 2-3 zone that put them on their heels.

“We weren’t making shots and when you’re not making shots, especially when a team is playing zone, they’re going to keep on doing it,” Embiid said. “They did it all game and that’s how they won the game.”

Butler scored 14 points for the Heat and was pretty much a non-factor until late in his second game back in Philadelphia.

Butler was soundly booed the first few times he touched the ball and continued to get jeers throughout the game. He played 55 regular-season games for the Sixers last season, averaging 18.2 points after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota last November. He helped Philadelphia beat Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs before the 76ers were eliminated in the second round by Toronto.

Butler left Philadelphia in the offseason, signing a $142 million, four-year deal with the Heat in a sign-and-trade that brought Josh Richardson to Philadelphia.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Butler has been a perfect fit for a team trying to return to the playoffs after missing them last season.

“I feel like I’ve coached a lot of guys like Jimmy that are adults, that are very serious about winning, about the process of winning,” he said. “Ultra competitive. He’s a max player. We wanted a max player, someone that would fit our culture and our system.”

Richardson did his part late, hitting a 3 that made it an eight-point game and one more that made it 101-97 and sent another packed house into a frenzy. With a perfect home start still within reach, the 76ers coughed up the ball to Miami — and Butler crushed them with an assist on a 3 from Derrick Jones Jr. that gave the Heat needed breathing room.

Butler sank two free throws with 33.9 seconds left, toying with the 76ers to the end.

“I don’t think we had a sting to our defense,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “What did they have, four 3s with a second left? Sometimes it’s just not your night. There were times they were hurling up shots at the end of the clock, one of which was a bank shot, you feel like maybe it’s going to be a long night.”

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.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

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As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).