Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Could Luol Deng give the Heat a discount this summer? Maybe

He's sort of become the forgotten man.

Luol DengLuol Deng, once tabbed by Pat Riley as one of the most important free agent signings in Heat history, has sort of fallen to third in the pecking order behind Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside when it comes to free agents Heat fans would like to see the team keep. 

But his value in the second half of Miami's season can't be denied. With Chris Bosh out, Deng slid over from small forward to power forward and became a big part of the Heat's 19-10 second half surge.

In Miami's fast-paced offense, which finished fifth in scoring after the All-Star break, Deng was as valuable a sparkplug as any. He averaged 15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and led Miami in plus/minus (+144). Then, in the first round against the Hornets, he and Wade led the Heat in scoring at 19.0 points per game before struggling some against the Raptors.

With only $40 million in salary cap space, the Heat probably won't have enough money to keep Deng around and give Wade and Whiteside sizeable contracts.

The truth is, Deng turned out be a pretty good bargain at $10 million this season.

So do the Heat have any realistic shot at getting a discount from Deng to stay here? Well, maybe after hearing him talk on Tuesday. 

 "It was great. I always say I enjoyed it," Deng said of his two-year stint with the Heat. "You learn so much. You go through different paths in your life obviously. I'm really appreciative of this. Not only did I enjoy playing basketball on the court, but off the court it's an amazing city. So much to do. People have been great. People are very supportive. The fans are just unbelievable. Everywhere you go people really love the Heat and appreciate everything you do.

"Here people notice how hard you play and how hard you work. For me, it's always been who I am. Just go out there and it never really mattered to me what my numbers looked like. What always mattered to me was to be able to do what I could do out there and play as hard as I can. I felt like people kind of noticed that here. So, I really enjoyed it."

Could that influence his future? 

"Definitely," Deng said. "Like I said I enjoyed it here. I enjoyed every bit of it. So going forward obviously I would love to be here. It's something that we will sit down and discuss. I can't really say one bad thing about being here. I enjoyed my time. The one thing that I know about here is that it's an organization that wants to win and an organization that will support the players and what they do whether its on the court or off the court. My foundation got a lot of support, things I want to do in life. It's a lot more than just basketball here."

Is Deng at a point in his career philosophically where winning and staying with an organization are at least equal with financial considerations?

"Definitely," he said. "At the end of the day, I try to play the best that I can play, be the best player I can be and hear what everyone has to say and listen to teams. But for me, it's always about being comfortable, being in an organization and around people that really appreciate the things that I do. I think the financial part is what you discuss when you go into that room. There's a lot of teams out there that can offer you a lot of money, but the feel might not be the same and vice-versa. There could be teams that can't give you what the other team can, but they have a lot of other things they can support you with.

"I've been in this situation before when I came here. I remember choosing here and it wasn't really the financial [part that drew me]. It was really the fact I wanted to be comfortable and be somewhere where what I do is appreciated."

Of course, Deng says that now. But there are teams out there that would probably pay the 31-year-old veteran good coin to do what he does and to play in a system that might be better suited for him.

Remember, Deng wasn't involved in the Heat's offense when it was running through Chris Bosh and Wade in the first half of the season. All Deng pretty much did was stand in the corner and wait for the ball to find him.

If Bosh returns and plays again and Deng resigns with Miami, Deng would probably have to go back to that corner and play the small forward spot again.

In the end, Bosh's future with the Heat could ultimately be what makes Deng a real possibility of returning or not. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

What happened on Kyle Lowry's heave, the Heat's late inbounds woes and why the Dragon is on fire

TORONTO -- When the NBA releases its Last Two Minute Report Wednesday afternoon there's a chance it's going to say Kyle Lowry's 39-foot, buzzer-beating heave at the end of regulation probably should not have counted.

Well, we think they will.

There's plenty of evidence surfing the internet (screen shots) to suggest that Lowry's left foot stepped out of bounds -- directly in front of a referee no less -- moments before he dribbled up court and unleashed the prayer that sent the game to overtime tied at 90.

That said, the Heat could have avoided all that drama had it not gone into meltdown mode in the fourth quarter. There were a series of late turnovers including a pair by Luol Deng on inbounds passes that crushed the Heat.

But before we get to those, we'll start with Lowry's halfcourt heave.

Why did Justise Winslow, who was guarding Lowry, give him so much space before he took the shot knowing Lowry was only going to have time to fling up a prayer? Basically, because the Heat were willing to live with it instead of giving him any sort of chance to tie the game at the free throw line.

"He hit a crazy shot. That's it," Winslow. "Even on that shot he jumped six feet forward and landed on me. I didn't want to get too close to him because he's crafty and I didn't want a four-point play. I don't think he's going to make that shot 3 out of 10 times."


Although Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took the blame in the Heat's post-game press conference for Miami's woes trying to inbounds the ball late (he said he has to diagram better plays), Deng wouldn't allow the blame to fall on his coach. 

"The first one I traveled on [with 22 seconds left] I saw he missed the shot, but when we stopped [for a substitution] and we were talking I thought they scored," Deng explained of what happened moments after Lowry airballed a long three-pointer. "Whenever they score, that's when I take it in. I didn't even hear the ref say you can't move. That one was my mistake."

Deng's second turnover on an inbounds pass happened with the Heat up 89-86 with four seconds to play. Deng threw the ball in the direction of Dwyane Wade who was running towards midcourt. But Deng's pass was off target and Wade slipped on the play along with Toronto's Cory Joseph, who was guarding him.

"I really try to time his run," Deng said. "I don't know if he tripped or what. I should have held the ball and called time out. But I thought he was going to keep running through and that's why I threw it. But I definitely don't think it was Coach Spo's fault.

"If we would have lost -- that would have been a bad one. I'm just glad we stuck together, guys had my back and we won."

> Wade afterward said he "hit the inside" of his knee on the floor when he slipped and fell forward on that Deng inbounds pass toward the end of regulation.

"I hit the bone, and I'm sure it's bruised," Wade said. "I will be fine. I've played with it before so I will do it again." 


Goran Dragic's emergence over the Heat's last two victories has been a welcome sight for Heat fans.

But if you ask the players, there's really nothing different about the way Dragic has been playing. It's really just about the defensive coverages being different.

Or, it could just be Luol Deng's new sandwiches.

All sandwich jokes aside, Dragic said it really is just the fact the paint isn't crowded anymore.

And Deng, Wade and others all supported that idea.

"He's always the same guy," Deng said. "Sometimes he really understands he might not have it going and w've got to look for D-Wade or look for Joe [Johnson]. There's different guys. The first six games [against] Charlotte, they were so focused on taking away the paint from him that we had all these shots and looks from three.

"Tonight, I felt Toronto was really worried about my shot. And they were showing on my screen. Any time you show [on the screen], it really gives Goran a chance to go downhill. A lot of times [defenders] keep him or the big drops. It's hard to penetrate, so he kicks it back out. We just realized that early. Soon as they went to that small lineup I knew my screens would be showing."

Said Wade: "He's very aggressive man. He's getting to his game. Whenever he can get downhill, get to the basket and put pressure on the defense, that's the Goran Dragic everyone, basketball fans came to know. In the end, he's getting his opportunities to make some shots based on how the defense is playing. He's been very aggressive and we need that. I'm not saying we need him to score 25 every night, but we need him on the attack. It makes everyone's job easier."


Lowry finished 3 for 13 shooting in Game 1 and is now 34 for 111 (30.6 percent) from the field in the playoffs and 8 for 50 from three-point range (16.0%).

But he's not giving up on his shot. As reporters were leaving Air Canada Center early Wednesday morning, Lowry was in the arena putting up shots by himself.

"It's tough, but at the end of the day I'm not going to beat myself up too much," Lowry said of his struggles. "I have enough going on with my teammates and they are being positive. At the end of the day, I still have to try and help my team win. Even if I'm not shooting the ball well I have to figure out a way to help my team."

Told Wade was 8-for-50 from three-point range in this series, Wade joked: "Sounds like me in the regular season. Those are about my numbers. So he's already on track to make some big ones."

Then, Wade got serious. "Kyle Lowry, he can get going," Wade said. "So, we always have to be aware of him. He's an All-Star player in this league."



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