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Grade-school phenom Allonzo Trier took winding road to success with Knicks

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Allonzo Trier appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine as a sixth grader. By then, the Seattle native was already spending his weekends jetting around the country for basketball games. In high school, he moved to Oklahoma then Maryland then Nevada to join teams.

“It’s become normal for the top high school, premier athletes,” Trier said.

Should it be normal?

“We’re not normal people,” Trier said. “You know what I mean? Who’s to say for the normal tech person, the normal other people that are at the top of what they do in their lives and their careers? So, I don’t really think there’s a limit you can put on somebody.”

The top-rated player nationally in his class in elementary school, Trier’s potential seemed limitless, and he worked tirelessly to fulfill it. But spending an up-and-down three years at University of Arizona and going undrafted left doubt about his NBA career as of just a few months ago.

Yet, Trier – who signed with the Knicks – is already proving he belongs.

He’s averaging 11.3 points per game. That’s one of the highest scoring averages ever for an undrafted rookie in his first professional season (minimum: 10 games):

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*Don Barksdale finished at UCLA in 1947, but he spent a couple years playing AAU in Oakland while waiting for the NBA to integrate.

Trier just gets buckets. The 6-foot-5 guard is a methodical dribbler, capable of pulling up or slashing. His crafty moves draw plenty of fouls, especially for a rookie, and he’s a solid shooter.

Trier has a good chance to become just the 13th undrafted player to make an All-Rookie team, joining Yogi Ferrell, Langston Galloway, Gary Neal, Jamario Moon, Walter Herrmann, Jorge Garbajosa, Marquis Daniels, Udonis Haslem, J.R. Bremer, Chucky Atkins, Matt Maloney and Larry Stewart. Only Ferrell, Galloway, Daniels, Bremer, Stewart did it in their first professional season.

In some respects, the biggest surprise is how long it took Trier to reach this point. 247 ranked him No. 6 in his high school class, and everyone ahead of him – Ben Simmons (76ers), Skal Labissiere (Kings), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Cheick Diallo (Pelicans) and Jaylen Brown (Celtics) – went one-and-done in college.

“We thought I was going to be out in one year,” Trier said.

But Trier broke his hand during his freshman year, wasn’t quite as sharp upon his return and stayed for his sophomore season. That came with expectations from Arizona coach Sean Miller.

“Coach Miller told me that was going to be my last year,” Trier said.

Then, Trier got into a car crash before the season. He failed a drug test, but won his appeal, the NCAA agreeing he unknowingly took Ostarine while recovering from the crash. Still, the NCAA ruled he couldn’t play until the drug completely left his body. “It was really dumb,” Trier said. “It was really tedious.” He missed most the season and again forewent the draft.

In his junior year, Trier got suspended yet again for trace amounts of Ostarine. “A joke,” Trier said. “C’mon now. You guys know what the deal was.” He appealed, and this time, the NCAA allowed him to return to the court within a week.

Trier finally turned pro this year, but he went undrafted.

That “undrafted” label is harsher than it sounds. The Knicks called him during the draft and offered to sign him if he went undrafted. Trier said “a few” teams would have drafted him contingent on him accepting a certain contract, but he turned them down in order to get to New York.

Still, more teams could have called. Someone could have liked him enough to draft him despite his unwillingness to pledge to contract terms beforehand.

“I’m angry. I was upset,” Trier said. “I thought it was like a joke that I didn’t get picked.”

He signed a two-way contract with the Knicks – importantly, for only one season. He earns $4,737 every day he’s on New York’s active list for a game or works out/practices with a teammate at the team’s discretion. On other days, he gets paid $544.

Between the start of G League training camp and the end of the G League season, Trier can spend 45 days with the NBA club. Today marks 45 days since G League training camps opened. Surely, the Knicks have had enough travel days and days off to extend Trier’s deadline at least another week. But it’s looming.

By then, the Knicks have three options:

  • Convert Trier’s contract to a standard contract. He’d get paid $4,737 daily the rest of the season and be eligible to play all New York’s remaining games. But next summer, he’d become a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer $200,000 above the league minimum – meaning his qualifying offer would project to be about $1.6 million.
  • Leave Trier on a two-way contract. He couldn’t play for New York until the G League season ends, but his qualifying offer next summer would be cheaper – a two-way contract with just $50,000 guaranteed.
  • Negotiate a new, longer contract with Trier. The Knicks have enough of their mid-level exception left to offer Trier a minimum salary on a contract that could last up to four years. New York also has the bi-annual exception, which could give Trier a starting salary up to $3,382,000 – but on a deal lasting only two years.

Whether he hits restricted free agency with a minimum+$200k or a two-way qualifying offer, Trier appears likely to command standard-contract offer sheets. So, the second option is likely off the table unless the Knicks are trying to scare Trier into accepting a more team-friendly multi-year deal.

But how could New York not reward an undrafted player who has shown so much determination, even outplaying teammates No. 9 pick Kevin Knox and No. 36 pick Mitchell Robinson?

“He basically just came into training camp and said, ‘I’m going to make this team.’ And then, once he made the team, he said, ‘I’m going to get in the rotation,'” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s a super competitor.”

Two-way contracts give teams immense control, but Trier’s play has given him unusual leverage. He has scored more than triple the points of any other two-way player this season. His ability to become a free agent this summer presses the Knicks to pay him more now.

But Trier, who turns 23 next month, is older than everyone drafted this year besides George King, Devonte' Graham, Devon Hall, Jevon Carter and Grayson Allen. Maybe Trier should be better than his rookie peers.

Trier’s all-around game is also lacking at this point. And his scoring often comes in isolation after taking his time with his moves. So, when he gets stifled, the shot clock has run down considerably before the Knicks can try another plan of attack. Trier must main very efficient as a scorer to justify continuing to play this way. Even as a two-way rookie, Trier plays with a star’s style.

Probably because he has spent so long as a star.

The New York Times Magazine featured him as an example of the trappings and pressures of high-level grass-roots basketball. The most telling quote in the story came from his mother, Marcie: “They’re doing nice things for my son, things that he needs and I can’t afford. So how can I say no?”

Trier was such a big deal as a kid, it was arranged for him to meet Kevin Durant during a media event Durant’s rookie year in Seattle. Durant and Trier had a mutual friend in Oklahoma, and then Trier transferred to Durant’s former high school in Maryland (Montrose Christian). Through those connections, Durant and Trier developed a friendship.

“I think he just dove into basketball, and it was therapeutic for him,” Durant said. “You can tell.

“He’s one of those kids that really, really, really loves basketball. He’s not doing it for money. He’s not doing it for fame. He’s not doing it for attention. Or to get girls. Or to buy s—. He’s actually a hooper. It’s rare in this league to have guys like that.”

That’s clearly why Trier has persevered through the bright lights , dark days and everything in between. That New York Times Magazine article took Trier to a wider audience, and he just kept plugging away.

“I was young, so I don’t think I understood it fully,” Trier said. “But now that I – I’m still young, so I still don’t understand it. But, one day, I think I’ll get a chance to look back and see the journey I went through and see, man, started at a young age, and it was a hell of a journey.”

Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem get big cheers at Heat end-of-camp scrimmage

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BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Dwyane Wade‘s first touch of the game was a lob to set up a dunk. His first shot was a corner 3-pointer. And his first trip into the lane resulted in getting his shot swatted away.

All three of those plays left him smiling.

Wade’s 16th and final season – his “last dance,” as he calls it – got off to an unofficial start Saturday, when the Miami Heat broke training camp at Florida Atlantic University with their annual scrimmage. His stats, as if they even mattered: eight points on 2 for 7 shooting, with three assists and a steal in 23 minutes.

“It was cool,” Wade said. “We’ve been working hard in practice, obviously. But to be out here today in front of some fans, getting to play in a different energy, you could see it in everybody. Guys were moving quicker. Guys were into it.”

Wade got the big cheer at the start, and his fellow 16-year veteran got the biggest cheer at the end: The final play of the scrimmage was Udonis Haslem hitting a game-winning jumper, one that gave his team a 15-13 win in the final 10-minute period.

“It’s always fun, man,” Haslem said after the final shot, a play drawn up by Justise Winslow in a time-out with about 3 seconds remaining. “It’s always enjoyable to win a game. I still take it seriously. I still play the game at a certain level and compete, so when you have an opportunity you want to make good.”

The “Red, White and Pink Game” is an annual Heat tribute to breast cancer survivors, two of whom were honored at Saturday’s game. Jeanine Werner is a fifth-grade teacher and a two-year survivor, and Michelle Rohloff is a former teacher and a three-year survivor – both having beaten triple negative breast cancer.

“It’s very close to us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We want all the survivors to know we’re right there with them on this fight and we’re going to continue to do more each year.”

There was a serious cause, even if the game wasn’t exactly played with playoff intensity.

There were plenty of moments of real up-and-down play and blowing off steam, with a four-minute span of Winslow’s third quarter perhaps the best illustration of both. He and Bam Adebayo took part in a midcourt dance-off during a time-out, and not long afterward Winslow got called for a technical after throwing the ball at a basket stanchion.

Scores were reset after every quarter, and players bounced between teams. Derrick Jones Jr. led all scorers with 21 points, Adebayo finished with 17 and Duncan Robinson scored 16.

“It’s great to be back,” Wade said.

The game ended five days of work by the Heat at FAU. Wayne Ellington didn’t play because of ankle soreness, Josh Richardson departed mid-game with what was described as a left thigh contusion. Dion Waiters (ankle) and James Johnson (sports hernia) remain sidelined to continue rehabbing injuries from last season.

Miami opens its preseason Sunday at San Antonio.

Without better options, Heat settle for sentimentality

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Dwyane Wade took discounts from the Heat for years, seemingly expecting a larger windfall down the road.

It won’t come.

But Wade and Miami will enjoy one last dance together.

Wade is re-signing with the Heat on a one-year minimum contract he said would be for his final season, concluding a nostalgic summer in Miami. The Heat also re-signed local legend Udonis Haslem to another one-year minimum deal.

I wouldn’t expect much from either player on the court. If anything, Wade might prove destructive if the the 36-year-old uses his cachet to assume a larger role than he should handle. Haslem has barely played the last couple years, and that probably won’t change.

Still, there’s something to be said for proper sendoffs. Considering the high standards Wade and Haslem helped set for the franchise by winning three championships, this was unlikely to be a banner year in Miami, anyway. There’s value in honoring Wade and Haslem one more time.

Mostly, the Heat acted like a solid, stuck team this summer – because that’s what they are. That probably contributed to them not rewarding Wade for his prior sacrifice.

Yet, Miami eclipsed the luxury-tax line to sign Wayne Ellington, a helpful cog, to a one-year, $6.27 million deal. The tax isn’t assessed until the final day of the regular season, so there’s still plenty of time for the Heat to dodge it. In fact, I predict they will. But by at least temporarily exceeding the tax line, Miami gave itself its best chance of maintaining its level of play.

The Heat sure didn’t upgrade, though. They made no draft picks, didn’t touch their mid-level exception and signed no outside players to guaranteed salaries.

The biggest status change was for Derrick Jones Jr., who went from a two-way deal to a minimum contract with a second year unguaranteed. The 21-year-old athlete is a worthwhile flier, but he sure isn’t a difference maker.

Neither are Wade and Haslem anymore – outside of our fond memories of the pair, and that counts for something. Just not enough to change Miami’s trajectory.

Offseason grade: C

NBA players react to Dwyane Wade’s ‘last dance’

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Dwyane Wade is coming back for one more season.

After deliberating on it all summer, Wade will return to the Heat for one final tour, a farewell season where he will try to help push the Heat into the postseason, and at least a few times will jump in the hot tub time machine and remind us why he is one of the greatest two guards the game has ever seen.

Other players around the NBA — from teammates such as Hassan Whiteside to All-Stars such as Jimmy Butler — were excited about the move.

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this is gonna be one helluva dance @dwyanewade

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It should be added that once again Wade is saving Miami money. He’s taken discounts before, most notably to form a super team with LeBron James and Chris Bosh while keeping Udonis Haslem and others around. While he could have pushed hard for the midlevel exception, he took the veteran minimum, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, which means the Heat can get under the tax like this season with a move or two.

 

 

Dwyane Wade on playing next season: ‘I wish I had an answer for you’

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Dwyane Wade sure is working out a lot and playing a lot of hoops — sometimes just in random pickup games — for a guy who says he may just retire.

While the perception around the league is Wade will play for the Heat one more season — a farewell tour where he would see tributes in every city — he has not made a formal announcement. Wade, speaking at an opening of his new restaurant he co-owns with Udonis Haslem, said that’s because he hasn’t yet made up his mind. From Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

“I wish I had an answer for you. I don’t have it today,” Wade, 36, said, as he stood alongside Haslem…

Asked if his deliberations could go until the team’s Sept. 24 media day at AmericanAirlines Arena or even beyond, Wade said, “Whichever day the decision comes, it comes. And that’s the right day, whatever date that is.”

Wade wouldn’t be doing this for the money, the most the Heat can offer is $5.3 million, the taxpayer midlevel exception. More likely, they’d prefer he play for the $2.4 million veteran minimum.

Wade has earned the right to take as much time as he wants with this decision. It’s hard to make the call when you’re torn between a love of the game you have played your entire life, and your family which is growing fast (and that’s time you can’t get back). It’s not an easy call. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Wade gets to have input on his role should he come back. He’s earned that right, too.

Heat training camp opens in 10 days, and Wade technically doesn’t have to but probably should make his call by then. He probably plays, but as Bill Parcells used to say, if you’re thinking about retirement then you’re retired.