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NBA Sunday: Dwyane Wade Deserves Better

By offering a 50 percent pay cut, the HEAT have sent Dwyane Wade an unmistakable message: It’s just business.

Moke Hamilton

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Without question, in life, there are certain things that money can buy, and a great many things that all the “Benjamins” in the world couldn’t get you.

Dwyane Wade is the latter, and the Miami HEAT owe him better.

* * * * * *

As he cradled the Larry O’Brien trophy in his left arm, Dwyane Wade did his best to console Kevin Durant. As the two crossed paths in the aftermath of the HEAT’s Game 5 victory over Durant’s Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, Wade told Durant that, one day, he too would get to the top of mountain.

The moment wasn’t caught on video, but I stood about 10 feet away from the encounter. I saw Durant’s face as the two embraced and I saw the hurt in his eyes. A mere 15 minutes earlier, Durant sat in his locker stall as Wade and his HEAT teammates were celebrating in their locker room. For more than a few minutes, Durant sat with his shoulders slouched, responding to what seemed like hundreds of text messages on his iPhone.

The dichotomy was stark, and in those minutes—minutes after Wade had made good on the promise he made to LeBron James—it was a great illustration of the highs and lows that NBA superstars face.

But for the fortunate few, that high will remain unobtainable. A great many NBA players and franchises attempt to reach the pinnacle and the gross majority try in vain.

Since 1991, unless your team had Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, you would have been lucky to even sniff an NBA Finals appearance, much less win a championship. And the list of NBA superstars that have failed to win a championship is longer than the drive from Tallahassee to South Beach. Mitch Richmond, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Carmelo Anthony are but a few.

So as Wade enters the twilight of his career and looks back at what he has done for the Miami HEAT franchise—the championships, the glory, the immortality—he not only should be treated with respect. He deserves to be treated with respect. And the best way to honor the greatest player in franchise history is to keep an honest and open dialogue with him and help him understand that you haven’t forgotten about him and his contributions on the basketball court.

No, Wade doesn’t deserve to be given some sort of golden parachute from the Miami HEAT. He shouldn’t be paid merely because of what he has accomplished in the past. Wade deserves to be paid because he has proven that, at the end of the day, he is still capable of being a lynchpin on a championship contender.

In his sleep, Wade is more of a catalyst for winning than Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and even Chris Bosh, yet, despite the relative 13 years of success that the franchise has had with him as the mainstay, somewhere along the line, the HEAT decided to not pay him like it. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that the aforementioned three all deserved to be paid handsomely, while Wade would be asked to take what he could get.

Although the numbers may tell you otherwise, Wade is coming off of one of his better seasons in recent memory. Despite having Bosh at his side for only 53 games, Wade played in 74, helped the HEAT to 48 wins, the East’s third seed and to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals.

For 13 years, Wade has been the consummate professional and the epitome of a franchise player. In large part, the Big Three that he helped orchestrate helped get the ratings, eyeballs and attention that the league itself benefited from to the tune of a $24 billion payday. And for all of that, despite accepting deals that were far below his market value the last three times he became eligible for a new contract, the HEAT rewarded Wade for all of that by offering him a 50 percent pay cut.

Isn’t loyalty a two-way street?

* * * * * *

Over the course of his 13-year career, Dwyane Wade’s on-court career earnings are $156 million.

This past week, the Memphis Grizzlies agreed to pay Mike Conley $153 million over the next five.

While the HEAT decided that Goran Dragic were each worth maximum salary investments, by offering Wade $10 million, they were asking him to accept less money than the likes of Kent Bazemore, Eric Gordon, Courtney Lee and even Arron Afflalo.

How would that make you feel if you were Wade?

WadeInside1As a class, it is difficult for the public to relate to an NBA superstar who has earned over $100 million in his career, but the double-standard by which the gross majority of the public operates needs some enlightening. Dollar figures and amounts paid to players often become part of public record and, because of the salary cap, there is a direct correlation to what a player is paid and the kind of support that can be afforded after said payday. But while we spend minutes and hours discussing the merits and amounts that players are paid, we never once stop to consider what owners are pocketing. We never think about the ugly sides of sports ownership—broken handshakes agreements, cutting injured players and locking out a workforce that does nothing but generate revenue.

Yes, the players are raking in billions of dollars, but, by virtue of the collective bargaining agreement, as a class—all 450 of them—they take home no less than 51 percent of the proceeds. There are 30 owners, and they share equally in their 50 percent. Still, it is a rare occurrence for owners and franchises to be criticized for cost-cutting maneuvers designed to maximum profit margins. By hook or by crook, the bottom line will be met, even if it means locking the players out, as the owners proved just a few short years ago.

So let’s get into the habit of defending a player’s right to get paid, at least when he is an all-time great, a franchise cornerstone and still capable of performing at a high level.

Without the NBA superstar, there is no league, there is no profit and there is no $24 billion television deal. In the same way, without Dwyane Wade, there is no Miami HEAT.

* * * * * *

It’s just business.

Those three words are uttered by team executives all the time and second-guessing is not a common. Why then, do we complain and have issue with a player who wants to maximize his earning potential, particularly when he has played a primary role in the windfall that scores of others have cashed in on?

Why did we have a problem with the Los Angeles Lakers decided that they wanted to give Kobe Bryant the basketball equivalent of a golden parachute in the final two years of his career?

Why did the Miami HEAT pretend like the phantom chase of Kevin Durant and re-signing Hassan Whiteside was more important than ensuring that Wade—the best player in franchise history—felt that he had been adequately provided for?

Betcha he is asking himself those same questions.

And for one of the greatest shooting guards to play the game and the best player in franchise history—one who has delivered three championships—it’s a sad tale that wreaks of being unappreciated and undervalued.

Odds are, Wade re-signs in Miami. In today’s NBA, you don’t spend 13 years with one franchise and win three championships only to move elsewhere. But after covering Paul Pierce as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, watching him hit a valiant buzzer-beating in a playoff game as a Washington Wizard and spoke with him in January as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, I’ve learned to not be so sure anymore.

For the second summer in a row, we find ourselves having this type of discussion as it relates to Dwyane Wade.

After all these years, the Miami HEAT owe him better than that.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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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

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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

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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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