(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Erik Spoelstra talks Heat’s affinity for University of Kentucky players

Leave a comment

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was a recent guest on Sirius/XM NBA Radio. In that appearance, Spoelstra detailed why the Heat have become enamored with draft prospects from the University of Kentucky. Spoelstra said Miami is particularly impressed with Wildcats coach John Calipari.

“We love what Cal does,” Spoelstra said. “I’ve been up there a few times, just to see how he does his program. We like talking shop and everything. But he’s going to coach you hard. They’re going to spend a lot of time with player development. They’re not going to treat you with kid gloves because of whatever you were ranked in high school.”

In the last two NBA Drafts, the Heat have drafted Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro out of Kentucky in the first round. Adebayo has become Miami’s starting center in his third season and was a first-time All-Star in 2020. Adebayo is one of the NBA’s most-versatile centers with averages of 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals.

Herro has been a rotation player for the Heat in his rookie season. He’s averaged 12.9 points per game on 39.1% shooting from behind the arc.

Spoelstra said what attracted Miami to Adebayo was his willingness to play a role while with the Wildcats.

“I loved the fact that he played a role at Kentucky,” Spoelstra said. “I mentioned that when I first met with him. He said he was capable of more, but he loved being in that program, loved being developed by that coaching staff. He had no problem playing that role. I liked that he was just willing to play defense, rebound, set screens and do that kind of thing and be okay with that.”

NBA Finals Schedule 2020: Dates, times, where to watch

Leave a comment

It’s happening in October, not June, but the 2020 NBA Finals are finally here — and we have the schedule.

These Finals feature a team in the Lakers and a player in LeBron James who expects to be in the Finals — this is LeBron’s 10th trip to the Finals, only three other players had done that before him. The Lakers are making their 32nd trip to the Finals as a franchise and are going for their 17th title.

It also features a gritty Miami Heat team that nobody expected to be here, except themselves. Led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Goran Dragic, the Heat have thrived in the bubble in a way no other team in the East could match, plus Miami makes it rain threes.

As has nearly all the playoffs in the NBA’s restart bubble, the Finals will run every other day.

Here is the 2020 NBA Finals schedule (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Sept. 30, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary

Bam Adebayo sparks Miami fourth quarter run past Boston and into NBA Finals

Leave a comment

In the fourth quarter of a win-or-go-home game for them, the Boston Celtics cranked up their defensive ball pressure. Grant Williams was getting run and gave them more athleticism inside, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown were being aggressive on the ball, and Boston rose that pressure to a 96-90 lead. The Celtics looked like they would live to play another day.

Then Bam Adebayo took over.

He relentlessly went to the glass and seemed to own every rebound. Then he just started attacking downhill when he had the ball.

Combine that with rookie Tyler Herro not knowing he is supposed to wilt in big moments, and Andre Iguodala stepping up in big games as he is known to do, and the Heat went on a 24-6 run. Boston completely melted down on offense and started to try to make up their 7-10 point gap with one shot.

Miami was better in the clutch and with that earned a trip to the NBA Finals. The Heat won Game 6 125-113 to take the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2.

The NBA Finals, a high-powered matchup where LeBron James gets to face the team with whom he won his first title, begins Wednesday night.

Adebayo was the most frustrated of the Heat players after their Game 5 loss on Friday.

“I played like s***. Bottom line: I can’t. I’ll put that game on me. It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made… I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been.”

Adebayo’s teammates said that wasn’t true, but what mattered most on Sunday was Adebayo believed it and stepped up — 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting plus 14 rebounds.

“Bam’s one of the great competitors already in this association,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game. “He’s going to become one of the great winners in history just because he’s so competitive. He moves the needle in every single way.”

Most of this game between two of the better defensive teams in the bubble was all about the offense.

After missing a handful to open the game, the Celtics couldn’t seem to miss from three, at one point hitting 11-of-22 from deep. Marcus Smart was 4-of-8 from deep at that point, and when his shot is falling the Celtics are a threat. Jayson Tatum hit some too, but more importantly he was setting the table as a playmaker and that had Boston’s offense clicking. That and they had solved the Miami zone defense.

On the other side of the ball, Miami shot 56.1% as a team in the first half and Iguodala started 4-of-4 from three.

After three quarters it was 88-86 Miami, and it seemed like the side that found any defense first was going to win.

What Miami found was Bam Adebayo.

“They were just more aggressive,” Boston’s Marcus Smart said of the difference in the fourth. “They were getting whatever they wanted. Got to the free throw line, down the lane, open shots. That’s part of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t combat it. We didn’t respond the way we should have.”

For Boston, they took a step forward this season but showed they need more athleticism and depth inside, and they need to have Gordon Hayward healthy. While he returned from his sprained ankle and was on the court plenty, he wasn’t moving and scoring the same way by Game 6. Against Miami, Boston needed vintage Hayward.

“This is just our first year together,” Kemba Walker said postgame. “This is going to be a fun group the next couple of years…

“I learned a lot just about the intensity of the playoffs. Every possession matters so much, things switch from game to game.”

The Celtics learned from those experiences.

The Heat are about to learn what the NBA Finals are like.

LeBron James looks back with regret on meal he never shared with Kobe

John McCoy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LeBron James has led the Lakers back to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade.

The last guy to do that? Kobe Bryant, back in 2010, when the Lakers had to go seven games to beat Boston and collect Kobe’s fifth ring.

When LeBron first signed with the Lakers, he got a “welcome to the team” text from Kobe and they talked about setting up a dinner where Kobe could give LeBron the lay of the Los Angeles land, LeBron told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. LeBron also said not having that meal is one of his regrets.

Due to the conflicting and chaotic schedules of each superstar, the two could never establish a firm date. Each time they came across one another, the meeting was brought up, but it kept getting put on the backburner.

It’s something that still bothers James to this day.

“Of course, you think there’s going to be time for us to get together and I understand that there are regrets in life, but I definitely wish I had that moment with him,” James told Yahoo Sports. “I do remember when I decided to come here, he sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.’ That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn’t [fully in on me]. A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,’ and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back [to the Finals]?’ So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don’t ever question myself, but when it’s coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot.”

We’ve all been there, the friend you keep meaning to get together with but you’re busy, they’re busy, and it just never comes together. LeBron’s story, however, had a more tragic twist with Bryant’s death.

The Lakers talk about Kobe and his presence still being felt around the franchise and the city. Winning a title for him this year would seem fitting, and LeBron has the Lakers on the doorstep of doing just that.

After impressive playoff run, Jerami Grant expected to opt for free agency

Jerami Grant
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jerami Grant has a $9.3 million decision to make: opt-in and take that cash in hand, or become a free agent and try to get more on the open market.

After an impressive playoff run where he averaged 11.6 points a game and played strong wing defense for the Nuggets  — guarding Kawhi Leonard and then LeBron James — Grant is expected to choose the open market, reports Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

A league source suggested Grant could command anywhere from $14 million to $16 million annually over several years.

That sounds about right, above-average starter money, in the three years, $50 million range. He’s a quality perimeter defender who shot 39% from three the past two seasons, players like that are in demand around the league.

Denver has some roster decisions to make next season. They have $91.5 million in salary locked up in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton alone. Assuming the team keeps Monte Morris ($1.7 million non-guaranteed, and they should extend him), the Nuggets will have about $30 million in cap space to play with, but they need to re-sign or replace Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig, and now Grant.

That’s not going to be easy but Denver wants to keep its core together, including Grant.

“I think we have something special brewing,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said after his team was eliminated from the playoffs. “And I think most importantly, I think people around this country, around the world, who were watching the playoffs, this group of guys, you would be hard pressed to find a better story coming out of this bubble. A bunch of young kids faced elimination, looked it in the face and just kept on surviving and advancing.”

Denver is counting on some internal improvement from their young core, Michael Porter Jr. in particular could make a leap to become the third offensive option for the team (even if he keeps coming off the bench). Beyond that, GM Tim Conley has some decisions to make.

Bringing back Grant shouldn’t be a hard one.