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40 posts from March 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday's quotes that speak to Hassan Whiteside's growth

There was a quote regarding Hassan Whiteside that will get some attention, and rightly so. 

It came after Dwyane Wade, who has been critical of Whiteside at times during their year-plus together, praised the center's maturity to a media group and added, "He's the Defensive Player of the Year. That's a conversation that needs to start happening."

That's significant. 

That's acceptance. 

But there was a quote from Hassan Whiteside, after this 110-99 win in he scored 27, that will likely get the Heat front office and coaching staff even more excited.

It's the sort of quote that will make Miami more comfortable paying him handsomely this offseason.

It came when I asked Whiteside what it means for his statistics to be contributing to wins. Miami is 14-6 since the All-Star break, and Whiteside is averaging 18.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks since the All-Star break. 

"That's what I'm saying," Whiteside said. "Too many guys are praised that's not even making it to the playoffs, for putting big numbers up. You know what I mean? You're not going anywhere with them numbers. I feel like a lot of guys are praised for being on a losing team. When you're putting up numbers and you're winning, that's when you're actually doing something." 

That's the message the Heat has been hoping he'd heed this season. 

Then there was this, from Wade: "He's getting better. He wants to be. That's the big thing about him, he's being coached. And now he's allowing our coaches to coach him. When he first came here, I don't know if he'd ever been coached the same way before, with responsibilities. And now he's taking it straight on." 

Goran Dragic (fever) out for Heat Monday vs. Nets

The Heat will be without starting point guard Goran Dragic tonight against the visiting Brooklyn Nets.

"He started to get a fever last night," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He feels a little bit better but not much."

Asked who he was going to start in Dragic's place, Spoelstra sarcastically answered: "I'm going to go through my depth chart of point guards and I'm going to go with my next one."

Of course, there's not much selection beyond Dragic. Rookie combo guard Josh Richardson is the only other healthy point guard available.

Spoelstra will obviously have to play Dwyane Wade at the point some and use other players like forward Josh McRoberts in a ball-handling type role.

"We have enough for tonight," Spoelstra said. "We have a lot of guys that can do multiple things and you can't understate that. We feel we have enough to cover the ball handling and it might come from a different way than the point guard position."

Dragic has played in every game since he came back from a strained calf muscle on Jan. 29 and hes really thrived since the All-Star break.

Not much significance for Joe Johnson, facing the Nets

Joe Johnson played 288 games with the Nets, more than he played with the Suns (275) but fewer than with the Hawks (508).

Still, Brooklyn was supposed to be the spot where he'd finally reach a conference finals -- especially after the franchise spent big to assemble a team that also included Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brook Lopez.

That team, however, maxed out in the second round -- losing to the Heat in 2014 -- and then was broken up, leaving the franchise in tatters. At first, Johnson wanted to stick it out, but he ultimately gave up $3 million to take a buyout, and then joined the Heat. 

Monday night, the Nets visit, with a 21-51 record, though a recent win against the Cavaliers.

Any significance for him?

"No," Johnson said. "None at all. Not really. None at all. No significance. I'm not trying to prove nothing to those guys. Man, I'm trying to do what's best for this team. And that's us piling up wins. That's the only thing that matters -- for me, anyway. I have no ulterior motives. Trying to impress by no form or fashion."

Johnson did say he'd be happy to see his coaches and "a lot of my old teammates, definitely." 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hassan Whiteside can't be Sixth Man of the Year, but....

Hassan Whiteside had a response ready Friday when told that his numbers are Sixth Man of the Year quality, in the 23 games that he's come off the bench.

"I'm more like the eighth man," the center said.

Well, he was against the Magic, but only because Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow entered the game just before he did.

But that's not the reason he won't be Sixth Man of the Year. 

Whiteside has already started 40 games and missed nine, so the most games he can play as a reserve this season is 33.

The NBA mandates that all candidates play in more games as a reserve than as a starter.

But what would have happened if Whiteside had been eligible?

Well, it probably wouldn't have been a close vote.

Consider that, of NBA players who have played at least 20 games as a reserve (and accounting only for players' stats in those games), Whiteside...

-- ranks 3rd in scoring (16.4) behind two Pelicans (Jrue Holiday at 17.0 and Ryan Andersen at 16.5)

-- ranks 2nd in minutes (28.9) behind Anderson (29.3).

-- ranks 1st in rebounding (12.7) with the Lakers' Julius Randle (9.6) and the Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson (8.6) next. 

-- ranks 1st in blocks (3.5) with the Bucks' John Henson (2.0) and the Raptors' Bismack Biyombo (1.6) next.

-- ranks 3rd in field goal percentage (61.2 percent) behind the Rockets' Clint Capela (62.4) and the Blazers' Ed Davis (61.3), among players averaging at least 10 minutes. 

So who will be Sixth Man of the Year?

Whiteside predicted the Clippers' Jamal Crawford, who has already won it twice, and is averaging 13.1 points while shooting just 39.2 percent.

This wouldn't be a contest, if Whiteside was eligible for the contest. 

Also, for context:

The aforementioned Thompson is averaging 7.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks, while shooting 57 percent from the field and 63 percent from the line, in the 42 games he's come off the bench. Whiteside trumps him, significantly, in the first three categories, and edges him in the final two as well.

And we all know how much Thompson is getting paid. 

 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Luol Deng counters C.J. Watson, blesses The Mob for Heat bench

C.J. Watson was certain Luol Deng would stand up for Chicago. 

The Orlando point guard, who was a key backup for the Bulls during that franchise's excellent 2010-11 season, a season in which their bench was a key catalyst for success.

That bench included Watson, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer.

They called themselves The Bench Mob, as they supported supporters that included current Heat forward Luol Deng. 

"One of my friends came up with it," Watson said. "Everybody liked it, so we just went it. Plus, we were playing well at the time." 

The Heat bench is playing well now. Extremely well. Since the All-Star break, Miami's reserves -- primarily Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow -- are first in the NBA in field goal percentage, first in rebounding, sixth in scoring and sixth in plus-minus. 

But they're second, or third -- if you include the early 2000s Sacramento Kings -- to call themselves the Mob.

"Most Outstanding Bench," Whiteside said, explaining the acronym. 

When Watson saw this, he tweeted his objection.

"Luol knows," Watson said, laughing. "He won't let them use it." 

That's how Deng seemed to feel earlier this week.

Friday, though, when told of Watson's decree, Deng changed his tune.

"It's a tough one," Deng said. "It's a sensitive one. But as long as they keep playing the way they are, I will call them The Mob because they are living up to it. I can't give you the name if you're not living up to it. So C.J. and them should really appreciate that there are young guys playing so good they want to (name) themselves after our Mob." 

So, the Mob it is. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Heat's Chris Bosh part of the NBA's efforts to empower, support women

Chris Bosh and his wife Adrienne aren't just busy being new parents again to twin boys.

They're also playing a part in the #LeanInTogether public awareness campaign. In partnership with the NBA, WNBA, and the NBA's Players Association, the campaign emphasizes how men can support the women in their lives and the benefits to everyone.

Since its launch in March 2015, the #LeanInTogether campaign has reached an estimated 480 million people on social media, and millions of NBA fans saw the PSA on TV and at games. This year’s campaign, featuring the Heat's Bosh, Golden State's Draymond Green, Utah's Gordon Hayward and and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon focuses on how men can play four influential roles — All-Star Dad, 50/50 Partner, Workplace MVP, and Stand-Up Guy — to help women succeed.

Bosh shares how he and his wife, Adrienne, built an equal partnership grounded in supporting one another’s careers; Green shares how he supports his mom and why getting to equality is important; Hayward shares the importance of being an engaged father for his daughter and a supportive husband to his wife, Robyn; and Hammon celebrates her head coach’s support of her career.

At leanintogether.org, visitors can access research-based tips to help men promote equality at home as an All-Star Dad and 50/50 Partner and at work as a Workplace MVP. The tips are based on social science research on the benefits of gender equality and are augmented by articles and videos. Visitors can register to receive a tip a week via text message or email.  Men can also find articles and resources on how to promote equality everyday as a Stand-Up Guy.

“I want my wife to feel supported in her career, just like I want my daughters to grow up knowing they can be anything they want to be,” Chris Bosh said. “I’m proud to be part of this campaign because it highlights something men know intuitively—we all benefit from a more equal world.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dwyane Wade on latest LeBron quotes: "I'm focused on my teammates"

Dwyane Wade was used to being asked about LeBron James when they played together.

And it hasn't really stopped, not when James' tweets or comments keep causing social media stirs. 

The latest?

James quoted late in an excellent Bleacher Report story, by my former colleague Howard Beck, about James' relationship with Carmelo. But Wade gets brought into it late.

The excerpt: 

"I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together," James said. "At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, Melo, D-Wade, CP—we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that."

Maybe at the end of their careers, James said. Maybe sooner. One more ring chase, this time with everyone on board.

"It would be pretty cool," James said. "I've definitely had thoughts about it."

Before bounding away, he smiles and closes with a coy chirp: "We'll see."

Of course, it's hard to see how that happens, at least not until all are much further from their primes. 

Wade isn't going to Cleveland. He's made that clear.

James doesn't seem destined to return to Miami.

Los Angeles? The Clippers? The Lakers? Maybe, but much would need to happen.

New York? James and Wade have had multiple chances to play there, and chose otherwise. 

So what were Wade's thoughts on the story?

"I don't know, man," Wade said. "I mean, yeah, I heard it, I read it. But I'm not really not jumping into the headlines right now. I'm focused on my teammates right here. As cool as the headlines (are), it has nothing to do with what we're trying to do in here. So I'm not going to jump into the headlines." 

 

Luol Deng sits against Spurs, Josh McRoberts starts

Luol Deng missed six games earlier this season, and the Heat went 3-3. 

But this is a different Heat team now than it was then, one that has become much more reliant on his presence as a power forward.

So it will be interesting to see how the Heat adjusts for his absence against San Antonio; Deng will miss the game with a sore quad. He initially injured it last Thursday against Charlotte, and played through it against Cleveland and New Orleans. But it tightened up on him, and he wasn't moving the way he wanted. He thinks he can return Friday against Orlando, but is taking it day-to-day.

So how will the Heat adjust?

"I don't know," Dwyane Wade acknowledged before Thursday's game. 

Miami will start by plugging Josh McRoberts into Deng's spot. 

Udonis Haslem might have been an option, since he's guarded both Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, but he's worked exclusively as the third-string center at practice this season. And Erik Spoelstra chose to elevate McRoberts rather than mess with his bench trio, and go small with Justise Winslow. 

McRoberts was signed in the summer of 2014 to be a starter, but this is his first start of the 2015-16 season.

Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire tout chemistry after beating Pelicans

Neither Dwyane Wade nor Amare Stoudemire meant this as a contrast to what's currently happening in Cleveland or anywhere else, or might have happened in New York or some other NBA city.

Though, naturally, that's what some did when I posted some of these quotes on Twitter.

Even so, they're worth publishing in their entirety here, because they speak to what the Heat's become: a loose but focused team with players who seem to like each other. 

"Winning does that," Wade said. "But I think the biggest thing is that everyone loves to feel involved. We got a few guys like (Udonis Haslem) and Josh (McRoberts) and Gerald (Green) who don't play on an every night basis, but everybody who gets in the ballgame, they feel involved in the game, involved in the team. And that makes guys happy, that makes guys feel good. At the end of the day, obviously, everybody loves to win, but when you're a part of the winning, that makes it sweeter." 

Wade referenced "a lot of growth right now in this team, where guys can get on each other, and there's no sensitivity back right now. Everybody knows, especially this time of year, everybody's just trying to win. And if somebody makes a mistake, guys have that quick banter back and forth, and we move on from it. And that's healthy. You need that. If you're going to be a good team, if you're going to compete, you got to have guys who respect the other guy's opinion of what he's saying and go out and try to correct it."

The biggest difference lately is you're seeing Luol Deng and Goran Dragic, among others, take a more active leadership role on the court. It's not just Wade. He said that's what he wants. 

"Yeah, it's their team," Wade said. "I think, early on, they kind of looked at it like myself and Chris (Bosh)'s team. And when you look at it that way, you kind of take yourself out of your leadership. And when Chris went out, Lu knew he needed to step up. And Goran has understood, he is the starting point guard of this team. This is his team as well. After playing together for 60-something games now, everyone is starting to feel comfortable with their roles on this team. And understand their importance to the team. Once you start to understand that, it makes it a little easier to speak up and speak out." 

Stoudemire echoed Wade's sentiments. 

"That's the beautiful thing about our team, is we have no egos involved," Stoudemire said. "So if someone screws up, we can honestly speak to them about it and no one takes it to heart. But if someone does great, we also give them compliments. That's what is great about this team." 

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hassan Whiteside, All-NBA? He's got at least an outside shot

Hassan Whiteside, who now goes by the nickname "Agent Block," has made no secret of shooting for Defensive Player of the Year and the the NBA's All-Defensive team.

There's another potential honor, however, of which he wasn't aware until Tuesday morning.

Whiteside could get a serious look for one of the All-NBA center slots.

"I mean, that would be amazing," Whiteside said. "I didn't even think I would be a candidate, just because I didn't make All-Star. That would be a huge accomplishment. Like a dream come true." 

But, remember, All-NBA isn't just first team. It's first, second and third team. And it's also important to note that, unlike fan voting for the All-Star Game, media voting for All-NBA does include a center position. So three centers will be selected. 

Last season, those centers were Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.

Gasol's 2015-16 was cut short, so you can take him out of the mix. 

His brother, Pau, has played a lot more center this season, however. And that's one of the complication -- where players are listed. Even after he's now out for the season, Anthony Davis may get some center votes.

Here's where Whiteside ranks among players whom the NBA's official stats site lists at center, some of whom, like Davis, Derrick Favors, Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, also play forward:

-- 15th in scoring

-- 4th in rebounding

-- 1st in blocks (and that's not especially close: 3.8 compared to 2.5 for Jordan)

-- 6th in field goal percentage

So, it is likely?

Maybe not. There are more veteran players in the conversation, and reputation will play a role. 

But after Cousins and Drummond and maybe Jordan (whose team has a better record), it's hard to find a pure center whose stats pop out like his. 

"I try to be the best two-way center in the NBA," Whiteside said. "I'm not taking a ton of shots. I'm not just a defensive guy. I try to be the best, most balanced. I try to play both ends." 


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