Tuesday, February 09, 2016

What Dwyane Wade learned while playing with LeBron James

They'll be teammates again Sunday, if ever-so-briefly.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James played together for four seasons with the Heat, and were supposed to reunite for the East in the 2015 All-Star game in New York -- but Wade missed the game to rest his sore hamstring. 

Wade's healthy now, and was the second-leading vote-getter to James, so both will start.

Plenty has made of what James learned from Wade, about becoming a champion.

But what about the other way?

What did Wade learn most from James, when they played together?

"The biggest thing is, he's one of the smartest basketball players I've ever been around. I mean, I look at myself as a pretty intelligent basketball player. But I'm not as smart as him, from the standpoint as far as his ability to put guys in certain situations. To be able to read every guy's position. It was pretty impressive, how he was able to -- no pun intended -- be a coach on the floor." 

Wade laughed as he said that, because he'd been asked the question on the day that the Cavaliers fired David Blatt. 

"Like (Rajon) Rondo," Wade continued. "That kind of talent. You know what I mean? You see that play the other night where Rondo put DeMarcus Cousins over there (in a spot). Not too many guys can do that. And LeBron was one of those kind of guys. I was always more impressed with that than I was with anything else." 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Tyler Johnson said there's no guarantee he'll back for the playoffs

Tyler Johnson said he's looking forward to being able to play pain free.

Whether that happens this season or next remains to be seen.

The Heat's second-year combo guard, who had surgery Wednesday in Miami to a repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, told The Miami Herald Sunday he's going to try and come back for the playoffs in mid April, but there's no guarantee he'll be healthy enough or ready to contribute.

"The doctors said it's going to be two to three months before I can resume contact," Johnson said. "It's a possibility [I could be back for the playoffs]. But we've just got to see.

"Again, we're not trying to rush it back. If it feels healthy by then, and I'm actually able to contribute and not just be out there trying to figure it out during the playoffs, [then I'll play]. [The playoffs are] not the time to try and figure out if you can go. If there's a couple practices before it, I'll try and practice and figure out what I can do."

The Heat's regular season ends April 13 and the NBA playoffs begin the weekend of April 16. Johnson, who had surgery on Feb. 3, would be 10 weeks into his recovery by then. 

If he's not able to return, that's obviously not good news for the Heat. 

While Johnson struggled earlier this season when pressed into starting point guard duty with Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih out, his overall numbers -- 8.7 points and 2.2 assists, while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three-point range -- were good enough to make him a valuable asset off the bench.

The Heat could opt to find a guard out on the market, but would likely need to drop D-League All-Star forward Jarnell Stokes to make room on the roster. 

WHITESIDE STILL ON THE BENCH

Hassan Whiteside returned from a hip injury this week, but he has yet to take his job back in the starting lineup.

Amar'e Stoudemire, who replaced the injured Whiteside in Toronto on Jan. 22, was in the starting lineup Sunday for the ninth straight game. The Heat is 6-2 with Stoudemire in the starting lineup.

Whiteside came off the bench on Wednesday in Dallas and played just over 17 minutes. Friday against the Hornets, Whiteside posted his fourth career triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in 27 minutes of action.

The 26-year-old center has averaged 10 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games off the bench. 

Clippers coach Doc Rivers spoke ahead of Sunday’s game to the challenges of managing a player who moves from a starting role to the bench.

“You just have to,” Rivers said. “I also came from Boston, where [former Celtics] Kevin McHale and John Havlicek played. And so it’s not that hard for me to see that you can be a guy that comes off the bench and you can make a lot of money. I’ve seen Kevin McHale’s house, you know? I know he’s done well.

“It’s a sell, though. It really is, and especially for a young kid. But at the end of the day, if you’re winning, it’s hard to say anything.”

Miami Herald writer Aric DiLalla contributed to this report

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Miami Heat continues to be at its best in the clutch

Erik Spoelstra has had a credo all season:

Do enough early to make it a possession game, at which point Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will make the necessary plays.

Sometimes, the Heat hasn't been able to follow the formula, allowing games to slip in the third quarter, and falling too far behind to recover. 

Yet, of late, and even in adverse circumstances, Miami has stuck around, and then stuck the landing. It happened against Chicago, Dallas and again against Charlotte on Friday night, in a 98-95 win. 

Miami has now played 27 games in which there was "clutch" time -- characterized by the NBA as a game that has a margin of five points or fewer, inside the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. 

The Heat is now 18-9 in those games, compared to 11-13 in all others.

It is plus-53 in 107 minutes. 

Miami's defensive rating is an exceptional 89.4 in those situations, second-best in the league to Golden State's 79.7 -- with lower being better. Houston is third at 94.1, Memphis is fourth at 94.5 and Detroit is fifth at 95.1. 

More surprising?

A solid offensive rating of 111.2, which ranks 10th in the NBA -- Dallas is first at 123.2 -- and is much better than Miami's overall offensive rating of 101.5. 

The Heat's net rating is positive 21.8, behind just Golden State (39.0), Dallas (26.1) and Memphis (21.8). It is just ahead of Cleveland (18.6).

One concern? Miami has missed 30 of 99 free throws, for the fourth-worst percentage. Still, the Heat has kept the turnovers down, and made enough of the right plays to usually prevail. 

Who's most responsible for the success?

The two guys you'd expect.

Bosh in the clutch: 113.1 offensive rating, 86.1 defensive rating.

Wade in the clutch: 111.8 offensive rating, 87.2 defensive rating.

But toss Justise Winslow in there too. His net positive rating of 25.2 is right between Bosh and Wade.

And here's something that might surprise you -- since it surprised me.

Of all the players in the NBA who have played at least 15 games that included "clutch time," Gerald Green has the highest net rating. He's at plus-51.1. That comes in just 45 total minutes, but maybe that's why Spoelstra keeps giving him a shot.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Heat's Chris Bosh to face a loaded field in the three-point contest

At 6-11, 235 pounds, Chris Bosh may not fit the old school discription of a lethal three-point shooter.

But he's become one in today's NBA and on Thursday he was selected among a field of eight to compete in the Three-Point Contest All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

Bosh, who ranks 47th in three-point percentage at 36.6 percent (that's seventh among the contestants), is at least three inches taller than the rest of the field which includes defending three-point champion Steph Curry (45.8 percent) of the Warriors and teammate Klay Thompson (43.4%), NBA three-point leader J.J. Redick of the Clippers (48.2 percent), Devin Booker of the Suns (41.%), Khris Middleton of the Bucks (41.2%), Kyle Lowry of the Raptors (38.8%) and James Harden of the Rockets (34.9%).

Bosh will become the seventh Heat player to take part in the event and will look to become the fifth Miami player to win it after James Jones (2011), Daequan Cook (2009), Jason Kapono (2007) and Glen Rice (1995). Miami, Boston (Larry Bird and Paul Pierce) and Chicago (Craig Hodges and Steve Kerr) have each had players combine to win the event four times, tied for the most among all NBA teams.

Bosh has connected on a team-high 78 three-pointers this season, marking the most for a single-season in his career. He shot 44.6 percent from three-point range in December, but cooled down in January (31.9%).

The Three-Point Shootout is a two-round, timed competition with five shooting locations positioned around the three-point arc. Four racks will contain four orange balls (each worth one point) and one multi-colored “money” ball (worth two points). The fifth rack is a special “all money ball” rack, which each participant can place at any of the five shooting locations. Every ball on this rack is worth two points. The players will have one minute to shoot as many of the 25 balls as they can. The three competitors with the highest scores in the first round advance to the championship round. 

The words of Hassan Whiteside after Miami's 93-90 win

The locker room opened after my deadline for this column about the Heat's win in Dallas, so here's are the highlights from Hassan Whiteside's post-game interview. 

-- On his health. "Once I got up and down a couple of times, I felt good.... I felt pain, but it wasn't pain. The only way I can describe it, it felt like somebody was holding your side. I felt fine."

-- On appearing emotional: "I got a lot to prove. I got a lot to prove. I really missed playing basketball. I know I was only out for a week and a half, but I couldn't imagine being out any longer.... I was really excited to be out there with my teammates. I miss that, I feel like I'm a part of that. I know y'all like my suit. But I'd rather be in a uniform."

-- His passing to Luol Deng: "Coach Spo, he did a really good job of just changing the offense around, so it's a little easier to find guys and use them to their strengths. I saw Lu put his hand up, and he's a good finisher down there."

-- On his performance: "It felt good. I felt the fans deserved that."

-- The spin move against JaVale McGee for dunk: "Yeah, I work on post moves all day. Me and (Juwan Howard) work on post moves for hours. So it was a good move." 

-- On when he entered the game: "(Spoelstra) told me I was going to get in, in the second quarter."

-- On an adjustment to the new offense and Amare Stoudemire's role: "I don't know. Whatever amount of minutes I play, I'm going to try to contribute the most I can." 

-- On what he was telling officials at halftime: "It was weird out there tonight. Sometimes you got them nights... I was trying to get an understanding, of ' know Valentine's Day is coming up, why is Zaza (Pachulia) hugging me so much?'" 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Mark Cuban still not over 2006 Finals, and officiating of Dwyane Wade

Mark Cuban's grievances do come with a statute of limitations, apparently.

Even when it comes to losing the 2006 NBA Finals to Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, a series in which Wade shot 97 free throws in six games, and averaged 34.7 points. 

"Look, I wasn't the only one who thought that something was up," said Cuban, who said he thought about selling the team afterward. "But that's long gone. And so are all the people who were involved in that. "It will go down in history as the worst officiated Finals in the history of the game. And I don't even think the league will disagree with that. But I think at the 10-year anniversary, I'll stop talking about it."

Cuban, who conducted the interview with reporters -- as he often does -- while sweating on a Stairmaster, with CNN on the television above him, joked that he only talks about it now when the Mavericks play the Heat. 

"It's not like it's, ah, (bleep), those (bleep), it's been nine years, six months and 42 days and (former official) Jack Nies is still smiling!" Cuban said, smiling himself.

Has Cuban interacted with Wade much?

"Never," Cuban said. "The one time I had a chance was right after those Finals, during an ESPN commercial shoot. Walked right past me. Wouldn't even say hi. But like I said, it was a long time ago. Just never had the opportunity." 

Cuban and the Mavericks got the better of the Heat in the 2011 Finals, though Wade played well enough to win the Finals MVP had the Heat won -- which might have happened if LeBron James hadn't faltered. 

"He'll go down as one of the all-time great players," Cuban said of Wade. "I don't think there's any question about that. He evolved his game, from when we played him the first time, to being a more complete player. On the court and off. So he deserves a ton of credit. It doesn't mean it's any more legit what happened in 2006, but they don't look at fouls and put a 'PF' for phantom, for 'F' versus 'L' for legit. They wear the rings, so that's legit. But like I told these (reporters), I'm not typically one to hold a grudge for more than 9 1/2 years."

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Whiteside vows to hold fire on social media (plus Wade advice)

Hassan Whiteside won't be active for the Heat on Tuesday night, though his pain has subsided and he looked fluid shooting 15-foot turnarounds against defenders in 3-on-3 drills at shootaround.

He has, as always, been active on social media, however -- with another flashpoint on Monday when he responded to a re-post of a Miami New Times story on Instagram. 

Tuesday, Whiteside said that he gets upset when "people tell half of the story. I know y'all have been big on my defensive rating when I'm on the court. You know, it was a lot better in January. You know, and just when people tell half the story. Tell the truth. If you're gonna tell the story, tell it right." 

The Heat's defensive rating, which had been better with Whiteside in November and December, did flip in January, as noted in this ESPN.com piece, which Whiteside quickly retweeted when he spotted it Monday night.

Does Whiteside ever regret engaging, especially when his reaction blows up into controversy?

"I just got to do a better job of just leaving that alone," he said. "I'm always going to be criticized. Nobody's not criticized. Jesus was criticized. You know, and nobody's above that. There's always going to be people saying negative things towards you." 

People still say negative things about Dwyane Wade, even after 13 seasons, 12 All-Star selections and three championships. On Monday night, he made light of this on Twitter, quoting a tweet that told him to "produce on the court" and "stop playing subpar," just hours after he'd been named the NBA's Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the 18th time. 

Wade attached his own comment to the tweet: "Thanks for the advice. I'll get right on it." 

"Obviously, there's a lot of messages on Twitter, all not negative, all not positive," Wade said. "So you decide which ones you want to kind of talk about. So it's depending on how you're feeling, really. So when somebody uses something that maybe triggers something in me, I try to use a witty approach. And sometimes it's witty like 'ha ha,' and sometimes it's witty to get a little poke in. But whatever it is, just like last year, when they said something about LeBron carrying us, I said, 'I haven't been carried since my Mama gave birth.'"

Wade said sometimes he wants to bring to light "stupid comments, like yesterday, coming off playing well, and saying that I need to do some more. What, are you not watching, or you're not a fan? But sometimes I leave it alone as well, because it really doesn't matter. I just learned trial and error, I guess." 

Why is there so much negativity?

"I really don't know," Wade said. "It's the world that we live in, man. You've got to understand that no matter how good you are, no matter what, everyone's not a fan. And even some guys might not dislike you, but it might be the cool thing for them to say something negative, just because they think it gets them attention... And I've responded to a couple, and I've seen them right back, 'Like, oh, I didn't mean that.' They want to get noticed. They may not even mean what they write." 

Wade said on Instagram, sometimes he'll battle back and forth to people, just to gauge their mindset. 

"But it's not that big of a deal," Wade said. "At the end of the day, you've got to understand that, everybody doesn't like you. I always knew that. I don't care how great you think you are, you're not everybody's favorite player. People don't like you. You're not good-looking to everybody. It's just a lot of things, you've got to understand that. Now we live in a day where people can express those things, and they express it, and it's fine, it's fine to have an expression. You just can't be too sensitive about it. You've got to be able to laugh about it. Like, I don't take myself too serious. I think people who get kind of riled up, they take themselves a little too serious. You've got to be in on the joke."

Can Whiteside try to be in on the joke? 

"You know, I do it sometimes," Whiteside said. "But it's frustrating sometimes. Because I take pride in defense. And for somebody to say that I'm making the team worse with my defense, it don't make sense to me. That's kind of why I had to say something. A lot of people don't tell the whole story." 

And finally, why does he think he's become such a lightning rod?

"I guess it's the shotblocking," Whiteside said. "When you block a lot of shots, I guess, you draw a lot of attention. People try to nitpick at your game. I feel like it's a lot more this year than it was last year. People try to find the negative." 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Tyler Johnson set for surgery, and Heat scrambling for depth

In the end, it couldn't wait.

Tyler Johnson tried to play through an acute flare-up of a college shoulder injury, in part due to injuries to Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih. Then he regretted he did so. And with both Slovenian southpaws back in the rotation, Johnson chose to undergo surgery now, rather than wait until season's end. 

Yahoo! first reported the surgery, which the Herald then confirmed, and the Heat officially announced.

While Johnson had struggled when pressed into too much point guard duty, his overall numbers were solid -- 8.7 points and 2.2 assists, while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three-point range. 

So, what does this mean?

Johnson previously said the timetable from such a surgery would be about two months, which would give him a week or two of the regular season, prior to the playoffs, if the Heat make it that far. His absence doesn't do too much harm to those chances, but it's not ideal, since Miami wasn't all that deep in the backcourt before he was sidelined.

Yes, there's Dragic and Dwyane Wade -- who been miraculously healthy -- and Udrih, but then it's Gerald Green and Josh Richardson. Green seems to have snapped out of a two-week superfunk, shooting 10-of-22 from the field in the past three games while playing passable defense. 

But with Johnson available, Erik Spoelstra would have had the option of playing Udrih and Johnson together as a backcourt tandem, with Green more of a 10th-man wild card. Johnson probably would have been a safer play at the two-guard spot than Green, with Udrih professionally organizing the offense for Chris Bosh and the second unit.

Udrih has shot 43.5 percent from the field, and 37.0 percent from deep since Miami acquired him along with Jarnell Stokes for Mario Chalmers and James Ennis. He's been solid, but he was a bit of a luxury. Now he'll be leaned upon every night, not only to avoid turnovers (just 1.1 in 16.5 minutes per game with Miami) but to create some plays too, while working with Wade, Dragic, Green or whatever other option Spoelstra finds. 

Actually, it might be Pat Riley who needs to find the option -- Tony Wroten? -- and he might need to cut Stokes loose to do it, which would put the aforementioned deal even more in the spotlight. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Rising Stars game? Won't get a rise out of Justise Winslow

It seems like Justise Winslow, at age 19, takes an analytical approach to everything he does. 

That's what he did when it came to getting snubbed by the NBA's assistant coaches for the Rising Stars Challenge, on Friday night of All-Star weekend in Toronto.

Only three rookies were selected for the 10 spots on the U.S. team, the same number that were selected for the World team. 

So was he upset?

"No, not when I looked at the way it's set up," Winslow said, referencing the U.S. vs. World dynamic, which crowded the U.S. field. "Look at the three U.S. guys that made it."

That's Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Those were the top three picks in the 2015 draft, whereas Winslow went 10th.

"It just speaks for itself," Winslow said. "Those guys have been playing well, they have the best numbers. But they also are on some of the bottom teams in the league."

The Timberwolves, Lakers and 76ers entered Sunday's play with a 30-115 record.

Miami ended Sunday's play with a 27-21 record.

"So it's kind of, not pick your poison, but it's a tradeoff," Winslow said. "You know, I'll be in the playoffs and, most likely, those guys won't be. It's just the system. Those guys deserve it, the way they've been playing this year. But those teams, the makeup of those teams are different. Not as good as some other teams. But I'm not disappointed. Once I saw that guys like myself, Stanley (Johnson of Detroit), Devin Booker (of Phoenix), us three in particular, I saw that those three didn't make it, I was like, oh, it's just the system." 

Winslow also said that he would "take the rest."

Oh, and that "I'll make up the money at playoff time." 

Tyler Johnson out again, and surgery is still on the table

This is from Herald writer Aric Dilalla:

Heat guard Tyler Johnson was ruled out for Sunday’s game against Atlanta as he continues to battle a sore left shoulder, but he said there are currently no plans to undergo surgery.

“If I have the possibility of making it worse by playing,” Johnson said, “that would be a time when I just shut it down. Other than that, I think we just got to take it game by game.”

Johnson said expects to have conversations about surgery with doctors as the season progresses. For now, he said he plans to continue to play when he feels healthy. He said his current goal is to make it to the All-Star break, when he’ll get some extra rest.

As he fights the injury, Johnson said the pain isn’t the main thing keeping him out of the Heat’s rotation. Rather, the nature of the injury restricts his shoulder movement, which in turn affects his play.

“Without those movements, I can’t be the player they expect me to be when I’m out there,” Johnson said. “If you go out there and play, it’s not like, ‘oh, his shoulder’s hurting, so we’ll give him a pass.’”

Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen, who was also ruled out of Sunday’s game, will continue to rehab his sore left knee with cardio work on a bicycle, Erik Spoelstra said. Andersen has yet to resume impact work and Spoelstra does not expect Andersen to travel with the Heat on its upcoming three-game road trip.

Center Hassan Whiteside was out again with an injured hip.

“We’ll just keep re-evaluating him,” Spoelstra said. “He was able to do a little bit more today.”


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