Bam Adebayo on Heat after 6-12 start: ‘We have to figure this out’

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MIAMI — As if losing the NBA Finals isn’t bad enough, there now seems to be a curse that stretches into the following season.

The Miami Heat aren’t believing that quite yet — even after a disastrous start to the 2020-21 campaign.

The reigning Eastern Conference champions are 6-12, matching the franchise’s worst 18-game start since opening 4-14 in 2007-08. The roster has been decimated by injuries and virus-related issues, and the current losing streak reached five games after a 108-104 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in a game where Miami led by 18 points early but wound up trailing by as many as 19.

“Heat Nation, we are going to figure this out,” All-Star center Bam Adebayo said. “Just bear with us. We are going to figure this out. I can promise them that we are going to figure this out. I know that they’re tired of seeing us lose. We’re tired of losing. We have to figure this out.”

The next chance to get things right comes Saturday when Miami hosts Sacramento.

The year after losing the finals has not been kind to the most recent teams who have dropped the title series. Cleveland lost the finals in 2018, LeBron James left to join the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cavaliers haven’t been close to the same since. Golden State lost the finals in 2019, saw most of the roster get hurt, watched Kevin Durant leave for Brooklyn and finished last season with the NBA’s worst record.

It’s not that bad for the Heat. Bad enough, though.

Jimmy Butler has missed 12 of Miami’s 18 games, mostly because of the league’s health and safety protocols established for safe play during the coronavirus pandemic. Avery Bradley, brought in as a free agent, has missed 10 games, and most of that is because of virus-related issues. Tyler Herro missed seven games with neck spasms. Meyers Leonard, a key performer last season, has appeared in only three games this season and is now out with a shoulder injury.

The Heat have used 13 starting lineups, are 0-10 when shooting less than 48%, set an NBA record on Wednesday by missing 15 3-point tries in the first quarter and are shooting 29% from beyond the arc in this five-game losing streak.

“You can’t make an excuse for it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You just have to continue to grind, to learn, to compete for each other, get better. There are certain points where we are and we just need to be more consistent with it. We will be getting guys back soon enough.”

Miami’s seven most experienced players, in terms of years in the NBA, were all unavailable Thursday.

This was the lineup the Heat started the fourth quarter with against the Clippers: Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, who are on two-way contracts; Precious Achiuwa, who is a rookie; KZ Okpala, a second-year pro who played in five games last season; and Herro, a second-year guard who hadn’t played in two weeks.

“A lot of dudes that are playing right now are the young guys, including me,” Adebayo said.

Help is on the way. The Heat hope Butler can play Saturday. Dragic isn’t expected to be out for long. Herro, in his return game Thursday, had a big fourth quarter to lead a comeback attempt.

He insists the turnaround is coming.

“No one’s sorry for us,” Herro said. “There’s no excuses. We’re just going to continue to get better and hopefully one day we can get everybody back and show everybody what we’re made of.”

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.