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13 posts from March 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NBA confirms what we all already knew: LeBron James is a master of Kung fu

So it turns out the NBA might actually think LeBron James is a master of Kung fu.

James was called for a flagrant foul-one during the fourth quarter of the Heat’s loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday and the league reviewed the play and determined James’ flying elbow to Roy Hibbert’s jaw received the appropriate call from officials. A flagrant-one, according to the NBA rulebook, is “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.”

James’ flagrant foul came after James had been hammered a few times by the Pacers’ defenders near the basket. The atmosphere felt more like the playoffs rather than a regular-season game in late March. One two occasions, officials reviewed personal fouls against James to determine whether or not they deserved an upgrade to flagrant, and James went 14 of 15 from the free-throw line.

Afterwards, James was asked if his elbow on Hibbert was retaliation for earlier fouls.

"If I could jump in the air, elbow somebody in the face and still try to finish the play, I must be a Kung fu master or something," James said. "His face happened to hit my elbow, or my elbow happened to hit his face."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amazingly, tonight will be the 16th different starting lineup this season for the defending back-to-back champion Miami #Heat

LeBron James, eating a McDonald's McFlurry during pregame here in Boston, was a late scratch for the Heat's only game in Boston this season.

The team held James out as a precaution after an apparent bout of back spasms following his 42-minute effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. James had 43 points against his old team, including 25 points in the first quarter. He spoke with reporters before Wednesday's game in Boston with a heat pad around his lower back. The team announced James would not play after the pregame locker room closed.

James has now missed three games this season. The Heat won the previous two games — (at Portland on Dec. 28 and against the Bulls on Feb.23) — with James on the bench.

The Heat's starting lineup against Boston — Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem — was the 16th different starting lineup for the Heat this season.

Let's play NBA Mad Libs, the Dan Gilbert edition...

In crunch time of the Heat's 100-96 victory against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert sent out an unfinished tweet. Let's finish that tweet...

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 9.06.48 AM

Gilbert's flummoxed prose came after LeBron James and Udonis Haslem combined for a block on Cavs guard Dion Waiters. Waiters went down holding his leg and left the game. So, what was Gilbert about to tweet before he realized yet another asset might be out for the season with an injury? Here are three from me. Feel free to add your own...

1. That was beyond incredible. What a complete and total joke and trapezoids should never be confused with rhombuses.

2. That was beyond incredible. What a complete and total joke and trash, don't forget to take out the trash in the morning.

3. That was beyond incredible. What a complete and total joke and tractor beams are carrying me away to outer space.

Monday, March 17, 2014

LeBron and Savannah reportedly expecting

Good news for the LeBron James household. According to reports, wife Savannah Brinson is pregnant with the couple's third child.

The Heat plays the Cavaliers on Tuesday, which will give James time to swing by his house in Akron and build a nursery.

"It's always good to be there and be at my house in Akron," James said. "We are looking forward to the road trip. It's a business trip for all of us, and we want to get this thing back going."


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Time to panic? No, but a rare sense of tedium has crept into AmericanAirlines Arena

LeBron James waited until the fourth quarter to electrify AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday night, and when it finally happened a collective sense of relief poured out of the sold-out crowd.

Finally, these back-to-back champions seemed to care.

But that familiar feeling of purpose was fleeting. Moments of greatness by James late in games have sparked brushfires for the Heat’s offense going on four seasons now, but the passion and energy arrived too late. The Ides of March are here and with it another Heat loss, this time a 111-107 defeat to the woeful Denver Nuggets.

This shrine of basketball on Biscayne Bay hasn’t known tedium for some time, but a little bit of that stuff has crept into the cracks of the hardwood in recent days. The Heat (44-19) has lost five of its last six games and is 3-5 in March. What's more, Miami has lost back-to-back games at home for the first time since 2011.

“A tough loss at home and we just have to figure it out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s not the way this streak started. Sometimes it just happens to you in this league where things turn and moment changes and you find yourself in a hole you feel like you can’t get out of. Obviously we’ll be able to get out of it. When? We don’t know.”

Said James: “We’ve been here before. It has been a while, but we’ve been here before, and this moment will either define our season or end our season…We always have one defining moment, and this is it right here for us.”

Before the game, Spoelstra emphasized to his players the need to substitute more freely in order to conserve energy, and the plan worked well early on. The Heat took a 30-20 lead in the first quarter, but, once again, the team was undone by turnovers.

Miami committed 20 in all, which the Nuggets converted into 22 points. Meanwhile, the Heat shot 29.2 percent from three-point range (7 of 24) despite Ray Allen going 5 of 7 from behind the arc.

“More than anything, more than our shot selection, for two games in a row, was the turnovers,” Spoelstra said. “Every time we had an opportunity to get back in the game, take control of the game, or shift the momentum, it was an uncharacteristic turnover that swayed the tide and we have to clean it up in that department.

“Those empty possessions — you don’t know where those lead if you don’t make those mistakes.”

James and Chris Bosh were both 0 of 4 from three-point range, and Heat forward Shane Battier — the starting lineup’s constant mismatch from the outside — only attempted one shot from distance.

Poor shooting from the outside suggests fatigue, but James said that isn’t a factor. After all, the Heat was reeling off 27 wins in a row this time last year.

“We’re just not playing well,” James said. “We’re just not playing well, and it’s a league where it can turn to quicksand quick…we have to figure it out and we have to get better and it doesn’t get any easier for us with Houston coming into our building on Sunday.”

A pair of free throws by Nuggets firebrand Kenneth Faried — he banked in the first  — gave the visiting team a five-point lead with 65 seconds to play, and the Heat was done. James attempted a pair of three-pointers in the final minute, and missed them both. The second, last-gasp miss came with 12 seconds to play, and Faried pulled down the rebound. He then made two more free throws on the other end to hand the Heat its third loss this season to the dregs of the Western Conference — Denver, Utah and Sacramento.

“Something is off,” said Dwyane Wade, who had 19 points.

Faried led the Nuggets with 24 points, going 9 of 15 from the field to go along with 10 rebounds. Point guard Ty Lawson had 13 points, going 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Three reserves scored in double figures for the Nuggets —Darrell Arthur (18), Evan Fourier (14) and J.J. Hickson (11).

Allen led the Heat with 22 points in 29 minutes of work off the bench. James had 21 points, going 8 of 17 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line. He also had six rebounds and six assists. James had five points in the fourth quarter, going 1 of 4 from the field. In the Heat’s loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday James failed to score in the fourth quarter.

The Heat led by 14 points in the first half, but trailed the entire second half. Wade was 8 of 18 from the field. Mario Chalmers was 7-of-11 shooting for 16 points. He had six assists and four rebounds.

Friday, March 14, 2014

New Chinese design to Dwyane Wade's shoes a nod to the People's Liberation Army

Dwyane Wade's latest Li-Ning shoes dropped in China on March 5 and they're pretty ... well...nationalistic. The release date coincided with Lei Feng Day, which honors a famous solider in the People's Liberation Army.

Lei Feng is kind of like a poster boy for China's Communist party. He was celebrated for his selflessness and stuff, so his nickname translates in English to "screw." You know, because he did the little, important things that held everything together. Kind of like a "glue guy" in basketball.

Anyway, the name of Wade's new shoe in China is "Screw," after Lei Feng, the national hero.


I don't buy basketball shoes, but I might buy a pair of these just because.


Poster of Lei Feng.

Justin Hamilton to take his turn at the end of the Heat's bench

D-League stud DeAndre Liggins earned his yearly salary with a few 10-day contracts from the Heat and now Justin Hamilton is set to be paid handsomely by the defending back-to-back champions.

Both Hamilton and Liggins featured prominently with the Heat's D-League affiliate this season. Hamilton averaged 19.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game with the Sioux Falls Skyforce before being signed by the Charlotte Bobcats to a 10-day contract. Hamilton played for four minutes of one game with the Bobcats before being released. The Heat, which traded for Hamilton during the 2012 draft, quickly scooped up the 7-footer and signed him to a two-year deal.

The Heat was forced to release Liggins to make room for Hamilton, who impressed the Heat's coaching staff this summer, and was strongly considered for the final 15-man roster. Hamilton broke his nose during the preseason and instead signed with the Heat's D-League team. A former center for LSU, Hamilton played for Cibona Zagreb in Croatia after being drafted in 2012.

Fill in the blank: Fans tattooing themselves with images of LeBron are ________ ?

Earlier this week, LeBron James posted this picture to Instagram:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 7.29.46 AM

Yep, that's a full back tattoo of LeBron throwing his chalk in the air (an old Nike advertising gimmick) while surrounded by the Larry O'Brien Trophy (NBA championship trophy) and the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (NBA MVP Trophy). To top off the impressive art, Nike's old advertising hook for James, "Witness," is stenciled above the scene.

Then, naturally, above the tattoo are the words "Only God's Love Is Everlasting." 

James said he ran into the guy at his wife's juice bar in Brickell. Riiiiight...

Anyway, I'm fairly certain that the large majority of people in this country (world?) would look at a full back tat of LeBron and be like, WTF? But I'm not judging. Good for that guy. I hope he gets to be on the double-decker bus with LeBron for this summer's victory parade. (That's assuming the Heat three-peats, of course.)

At least the LeBron back tat guy knows his favorite athlete. This next guy...I just don't know. LeBron posted this picture to Instagram on Thursday night...

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 7.28.39 AM

Someone apparently sent this picture to LeBron. Is it a doctored image? I sure the heck hope not. I mean, what a great tattoo — idols idolizing idols. It just doesn't get any better. Human beings of America, I salute you!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Healthy Dwyane Wade unfazed by losing skid; Just wants team to 'at least get the ball up to the rim' at end of games

So concerned with losing four its last five games, the Heat did not practice on Thursday and also decided to cancel its morning shootaround before Friday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.

In other words, the defending back-to-back champions don’t seem overly concerned about its losing skid at this point.

A reporter posed this question to Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s sloppily played and poorly executed loss to the Nets: The team is flat-lining here in March…are you worried about this stretch?

“Nope,” Wade said without expression or a second’s thought.

Why did Wade respond so curtly to such an innocuous question? Maybe because its premise completely missed the true importance of this stretch of the season.

This time last year, the Heat was running off victory after victory after victory en route to 27 meaningless victories in a row. Yes, it was a special run for players, coaches, executives and fans, but, really, all those wins actually ended up hurting more than they helped.

In the long run, Wade’s body broke down, he limped into the playoffs and the Heat struggled through the final two rounds of the postseason. Wade spent hours daily in the training room to play in games with an injured knee.

This season, Wade and his trainers have done everything possible to prepare Wade for the postseason, and it appears that calculated strategy is beginning to pay off. Here’s what really matters with 20 games left of the regular season, and it’s not a few losses to quality teams in March with no worse than the second seed in the East already all but wrapped up.

Wade is growing stronger every day, and he’s shooting 55.1 percent from the field, which is the best shooting percentage of his career and the best shooting percentage among guards in the entire NBA. Wade is ranked ninth in the NBA in overall field-goal percentage. The next closet guard is Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns at 50.8 percent shooting.

And here’s the bottom line: With Wade at his best in the playoffs, the Heat will be tough to beat.

So, as for these recent losses, Wade isn’t wasting time over analyzing the problem.

“I’m not saying there’s no reason,” Wade said. “I’m just not overly concerned. I think it’s stuff that we can fix. If I thought it was stuff that couldn’t be fixed, then I would be concerned.

“It’s little things that can be fixed, and a little better execution, especially at the end of games. We’re a team that plays close games. We don’t really have many blowouts. We play close games, so we’re used to it. It’s just the last four losses we haven’t been able to execute down the stretch like we wanted to.”

Make no mistake, the Heat hates blowing leads in the fourth quarter more than anything, and winning close games for this team is now a badge of honor. But, at this point in the journey, close losses to the Bulls and Nets might serve the Heat better than close wins. If anything, it gives the team’s players something to fix, something that holds their attention.

Oh, it also gives Wade a chance to throw thinly veiled digs at his good buddy LeBron James. James failed to win games at the buzzer against both Chicago and Brooklyn, and Wade isn’t inclined — in Year Four of the Big 3 — to let James off the hook so easily.

“We do need to execute down the stretch,” Wade said. “We need to be able to at least get the ball up to the rim to get a shot. We’re going to have to work on that a little bit. So, we got something to work on as a team in our fourth year together. That’s not a bad thing.”

As for Wade, he has been putting in work behind the scenes all season, and it’s starting to show.

“I just like the program that he has been on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has been very diligent. Everybody has been on the same page about it. He has been able to increase everything — not only his games, but his workouts.

“He has been very dedicated. His life has changed quite a bit in his 30s than when he was in his 20s. He spends a lot more time in this facility than he used to, and I think that’s a credit to him adapting. That’s the fountain of youth.”

In addition to working with the Heat’s trainers daily, Wade also has been adhering closely to a schedule laid out by his longtime personal trainer, Tim Grover. Wade missed plenty of games during the first half of the season, but recently the Heat’s starting shooting guard participated in his first back-to-back since Jan.4 and 5.

The second night of those games was the Heat’s victory against the Washington Wizards. Wade had 22 points, six assists, five rebounds and one impressive block against Wizards 6-10 big man Drew Gooden.

On Wednesday, Wade came from behind and blocked a tip-in attempt by Nets big man Andray Blatche. It was an amazing piece of athletic skill, and was arguably Wade’s single greatest highlight on a night he went 8 of 11 from the field.

“I came out of it well,” said Wade of the difficult road trip that ended with a back-to-back. “I’m just going into it game-to-game and day-to-day and see how I feel and trying to play and trying to give my team the best opportunity to win.”

So, maybe next time, Wade should take the final shot.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Insightful stuff from Dwyane Wade on Michael Beasley on the eve Mike Miller reminds us what the Heat is missing

A familiar theme for the Heat played out here in Chicago on Friday, but it had nothing to do with the defending back-to-back champions.

Remember that fan favorite and savior off the bench the Heat removed from its books to save money this summer? You know, the indispensible Mike Miller, who suddenly became dispensable a few days after Heat president Pat Riley said the team had no plans to amnesty. That Mike Miller was in Chicago on Friday and playing for the Memphis Grizzlies against the hometown Bulls.

So, as Miller lit up the Bulls' defense — 14 points, 4 of 5 from three-point range — me and good buddy Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report were cracking stone crabs in downtown Chicago and watching the game on TV, but mostly kicking ourselves for not being at United Center to interview Miller after the game. Of course, I'm pretty sure how that interview would have gone:

ME: "Great game, Mike. How's it been going this season?"

MILLER: "Oh, you know, bro. It's all good."

ME: "The Heat's three-point shooters have fallen off a bit this season, got any suggestions?"

MILLER: "Just let it fly, man."

And then, basically, a hilarious conversation off record that would never be printed in any newspaper anywhere ever.

For the record, Miller is shooting 44.6 percent from three-point range for the Grizzlies and averaging 20.7 minutes per game. Among the Heat players averaging at least 20 minutes a game, not a single shooter is anywhere close to that percentage. Mario Chalmers leads the team's regular rotation players with a three-point shooting percentage of .391.

Of course, it's not like Miller would have even qualified for that category last season. At this point last year, Miller was anchored to the bench as the Heat spun off 27 victories in a row. So, while comparing Miller this season to the Heat without Miller isn't exactly fair, it's also kind of exactly the point. Because here's the thing. Miller is shooting 44.6 percent from the field this season as a regular rotation player. Playing just about every role possible during the 2013 playoffs, Miller shot 44.4 percent from three-point range.

And that's remarkable.

Miller stays ready and he's consistent, and those are attributes every team values as the winter begins thawing into spring. (Except for South Florida, of course, where there is neither a winter nor spring, but only the annual migration of Quebec license plates to mark the seasons ... and lots more rain.)

Miller's contract was expensive, yes, but that's the way it goes with the best insurance policies. Numbers and experience tell us Miller would have shot around 44 percent from three-point range this postseason whether he started the games or came off the bench. Beyond the projected numbers, Miller would have given Heat coach Erik Spoelstra confidence to make the necessary lineup adjustments from series to series.


—For most of the first three rounds, Miller came off the bench in spot duty.

—But be started for Dwyane Wade at shooting guard in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

—Miller then returned to the back of the bench...until Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals ... with the Heat trailing the Pacers 3-2 in the series. Miller went 2 of 2 from three-point range in that must-win scenario.

—Miller came off the bench in the first three games of the NBA Finals and went 9 of 10 from three-point range.

—Lastly, in his last games with the Heat, Miller was inserted into the starting lineups of Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals. The strategic move allowed Spoelstra to slide LeBron James to power forward, which created one of the series' key mismatches. James averaged over 31 points in the final four games of the Finals.

Does the Heat have a player in reserve this season as versatile as Mike Miller? Maybe so. Michael Beasley could, in theory, come off the bench to provide instant offense. After all, he's shooting 45 percent from three-point range this season. But could Beasley also start in place of Battier or Wade in a pinch in the playoffs? Miller's greatest skill with the Heat was his ability to stay ready for any role defensively and remain a consistent threat from the outside. He could affect a game without ever touching the ball. Is Beasley ready for that responsibility? Could he affect a game in a positive way without ever touching the ball?

The Heat would like to give Beasley consistent minutes, especially with the playoffs inching ever closer, but the offensively gifted former No.2 overall pick has had difficulty integrating himself into the team’s defensive schemes. Sure, Beasley had 11 points against the Spurs, and that's great, but gaining trust with Spoelstra, James and Dwyane Wade will be more important for Beasley over the next few weeks than any shot he makes.

“It’s up and down for [Beasley],” Wade said. “Of late, he has been playing very well for us as he’s trying to get back into his rhythm. We’re going to need him, and we hope that he continues to get the concepts of what we’re trying to do.

“Because we’re going to need him at some point.”

Trusting Miller's aptitude was never a concern. Trusting Miller's injury-prone body? That's a different conversation all together, but Miller never needed consistent minutes, or any minutes at all to find his rhythm or "get the concepts." He was just always prepared to play any role necessary. 

In other words, the Mike Miller Replacement Project is an ongoing business.



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