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NBA PM: Will Miami HEAT Remain a Contender?

How good can the Miami HEAT be after losing LeBron James? … Steve Ballmer introduced at Staples Center as new owner of the L.A. Clippers

Jesse Blancarte



Looking At The HEAT Post-LeBron James:

When LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to South Beach in 2010, the Miami HEAT were placed under the microscope. With James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade teaming up, the HEAT were the most intriguing team in the league.

Earlier this offseason, James announced that he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years in Miami. In an instant, the fortunes of Miami changed and team president Pat Riley was tasked with putting the team back together after losing the best player in the league. So how did Riley do in reassembling the HEAT this offseason?

Outgoing players:

LeBron James, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, James Jones, Toney Douglas, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden.

Incoming players:

Shabazz Napier (24th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft – five-year, $6.2 million rookie-scale contract), Danny Granger (two years, $4.2 million), Josh McRoberts (four years, $22.7 million), Luol Deng (two years, $19.9 million), James Ennis (partially guaranteed three-year minimum contract), Shawne Williams (partially-guaranteed minimum contract).

Re-signed players:

Chris Bosh (five years, $118.7 million), Dwyane Wade (two years, $31.1 million), Mario Chalmers (two years, $8.3 million), Udonis Haslem (two years, $5.6 million), Chris Andersen (two years, $10.4 million)

The HEAT are bringing back a big part of their main rotation from last year, as Chalmers, Wade and Bosh will hold three of the five starting positions as they did last year. However, one of the significant changes from last season will be at power forward.

Last season Battier—now retired—started 56 games at forward for the HEAT. Despite the fact that Battier was a small forward, he played interchangeably with James at both forward positions to provide defense and floor-spacing. But, in 20.1 minutes per game, Battier only provided 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds, shooting 34.8 percent from beyond-the-arc. Not exactly top-level production, though he did bring intangibles that don’t show up in a box-score.

Presumably taking his place this upcoming season is McRoberts, who played last season with the Charlotte Bobcats (now called the Hornets).

Last season, McRoberts averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and shot 36.1 percent from three-point range. While McRoberts did not put up huge numbers last season, he brings to Miami an interesting mix of floor-spacing and play-making ability at power forward, and at 6’10 has good size to match up with opposing big men. At age 26, McRoberts still has room to improve his game, which he has done throughout his career, such as adding a consistent three-point shot to his arsenal.

While replacing Battier with McRoberts should be viewed as an upgrade for the HEAT, there was simply no way Miami could fill the giant void left by James’ departure. However, the HEAT managed to land Deng on a reasonable two-year, $19.9 million contract.

Last season, in 63 games played between the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, Deng averaged 16 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and one steal per game, and shot 46.8 percent from the field and 30.2 percent on three-pointers. Deng is a good perimeter defender and solid scorer, but a somewhat inconsistent three-point shooter (32.9 percent career average). While Deng is not James, he is a solid addition and makes for an interesting fit next to McRoberts, and forward/center Bosh.

The HEAT also added Granger to hopefully bring some offensive-punch off the bench. Granger, a one-time All-Star, has struggled the last two seasons with injuries. In 41 games played last season with the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers, Granger averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and one assist per game, and shot 33.6 percent from beyond-the-arc. If Granger can recapture some of his old-form, it would be a huge boost to Miami and would help further solidify the void left by LeBron at the forward position.

Also returning are big men Andersen and Haslem. Andersen and Haslem bring stability and veteran experience in the front court. Haslem, a long-time member of the HEAT, has played for Erik Spoelstra since his first season as head coach (2008-09), while Andersen has been with the HEAT for the last two seasons.

Along with these veteran players, the HEAT are bringing in some young talent in Napier and Ennis. Napier, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Charlotte Hornets, was targeted by Miami in an attempt to cater to James, who is an outspoken fan of Napier. Napier had an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament and led the UConn Huskies to their second national title in four years. Napier improved in each of his four seasons at UConn, but will slot in next season as the third-string point guard behind Chalmers and Norris Cole.

Ennis, acquired by the HEAT last year from the Atlanta Hawks, spent time in Puerto Rico and Australia last season. This offseason, Ennis played in the Orlando Summer League and had some big performances. For example, against the Brooklyn Nets he scored 29 points and showed great range on his jumper as well as solid athleticism. However, as promising as Ennis is, he may be asked to help fill the void left by sharpshooter Ray Allen, who is reportedly considering signing with the Cavaliers or retiring. Not an easy task for such a young and relatively inexperienced player.

The HEAT lost some major pieces this offseason, but have filled in the gaps with an interesting mix of veterans and youth. However, the HEAT’s success this upcoming season will be determined more so than anything by Bosh and Wade. Bosh will need to embrace his heightened role and go back to the sort of franchise player he was with the Toronto Raptors. And Wade, who reportedly has slimmed down this offseason, will have to stay healthy and recapture some of his old form after sharing the ball with LeBron for four years, which may be difficult after struggling through injuries these last few seasons.

After losing James, Riley had the option of blowing the team up and starting a youth movement in Miami. Instead, he banked on Bosh, Wade, the incoming veterans and returning players to push on and compete in the East. With the additions of players like Deng and McRoberts, and the expanded opportunities for Bosh and Wade, the HEAT have a great chance at making the playoffs next season – maybe even slotting in as a top-four team in the East. The NBA microscope may not be on Miami anymore, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the playoff mix this upcoming season.

Clippers Introduce New Owner Steve Ballmer

For the last 33 years, Donald Sterling has been the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. However, earlier this year on April 25, TMZ released an audio tape of Sterling making racist comments during an conversation with V. Stiviano. In response, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the NBA for life, imposed a $2.5 million fine and said he would ask the NBA owners to vote Sterling out of his ownership interest in the Clippers.

Eventually, Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, executed a sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion. What followed was a legal battle between Donald and Shelly to determine whether Shelly’s sale to Ballmer was proper under the terms of the Sterling Family Trust.

On August 12, Judge Levanas of the Los Angeles Superior Court entered his statement of decision in favor of Shelly Sterling, confirming that the sale to Ballmer was valid. Shortly after this, the NBA officially approved Ballmer as the new owner of the Clippers.

Earlier today, Ballmer was introduced to fans for the first time as the official owner of the team at Staples Center. At the rally, Ballmer came out with his normal energy and enthusiasm.

“Everything is about looking forward from this day on,” Ballmer said, adding that the Clippers “will win many, many, many, many more Larry’s (referring to the Larry O’Brien championship trophy) in the next 26 [years], than the last 26.”

Ballmer ensured that the Clippers would not be moved to Seattle, something that had been suggested by some since Ballmer is from Seattle and was part of an investment group that tried to buy and move the Sacramento Kings to the city.

Several other people spoke at the rally, including Blake Griffin, long-time broadcaster Ralph Lawler and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go through a little adversity to become better and to come out on the other side, to be stronger,” Griffin said. “We want to thank Ballmer, we want to thank all of you (the fans) for sticking with us.”

“We’re here to stay, we’re here to play, we’re here to win championships,” Lawler said.

“Welcome to the future,” added Garcetti.

Ballmer is the latest significant change for the Clippers over the last five years. Starting with the drafting of Griffin in 2009, the Clippers have added a significant piece to what they hope is their championship puzzle almost each season. In 2011, the Clippers traded for star point guard Chris Paul. Then in 2013, the Clippers hired Doc Rivers to take over as head coach and re-signed Griffin and Paul to five-year deals.

Now, the Clippers have a new owner with deep pockets and enthusiasm. Perhaps most importantly, they have a fresh start to begin a new era for the Clippers and their fans.

Last season, the Clippers won 57 games, but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers added point guard Jordan Farmar and center Spencer Hawes this offseason.


Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers



When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders



Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte



“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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