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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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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal

Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.

Spencer Davies

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.

Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.

So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.

You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.

With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.

He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.

But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.

Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.

Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.

These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.

Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.

The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.

Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.

The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.

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NBA Daily: Zach LaVine Has Solid Debut With Bulls

Zach LaVine put together a solid performance for the Bulls in his first game back from injury.

James Blancarte

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The Chicago Bulls are turning a corner this season. Zach LaVine is healthy after completing a year of rehabilitation from an ACL injury. LaVine’s return comes at a critical moment. The team is 13-7 over the last twenty games. Many of the wins in this stretch are over current competitors for a potential spot in the playoffs. This includes wins against the Charlotte Hornets (in overtime), the Philadelphia 76ers and three wins (one in overtime) against the New York Knicks. The stretch of winning ties into the return of forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Having these key players back and winning this many games recently has changed the dynamics of what had been shaping up to be a losing season.

LaVine played in his first game of the season on Saturday and hit three of four three-point baskets while scoring 14 points in 19 minutes played. LaVine described how he felt physically and about the team’s recent run.

“I thought I did pretty good. I was tired as hell at first. But, we got the win,” LaVine said. “We’re going to keep this thing going.”

The team went into this season having parted ways with their franchise player, Jimmy Butler, in a trade that was derided by many for being lopsided. The trade netted the Bulls LaVine, point guard Kris Dunn and the sixth pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for Butler and the number 16 pick. The trade also allowed Butler to be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. For the Bulls, Dunn has greatly improved from the poor play of his rookie season in Minnesota. In addition, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen, whom has already displayed some serious talent and potential. Now with LaVine in the lineup, the Bulls can see the total value of the trade on the court.

So, where do the Bulls now stand? According to FiveThirtyEight, as of January 14, the Bulls are projected as having a three percent chance of making the playoffs with a projected record of 32-50. This is a jump from less than one percent (essentially zero percent) back on December 11, 2017. Still, three percent is not the most reassuring projection.

In addition, the recent shift to winning basketball also puts Chicago’s 2018 draft pick in a more precarious position. On December 6, 2017, the Bulls were 3-20 and were on pace to have one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst. Now every win moves the pick further away from a likely top three or even a potential number one pick and moves it closer to a top-10 selection or even middle of the first-round pick.

At the moment, the team is 16-27, good enough for 12th place in the Eastern Conference behind the Hornets, Knicks, 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Being 6.5 games back and having seven more losses than the Bucks means the Bulls will need to continue winning at a high rate to make up the difference in the time left in the season.

LaVine didn’t hold back when it came to expressing his optimism regarding the team’s potential.

“I think we can make a push for this thing,” LaVine said. “That’s our job to do. That’s our job to do that,”

LaVine isn’t paying much attention to skeptics who still don’t believe the Bulls have much change to win anything meaningful this season.

“You know, we can’t control outside thoughts or anything,” LaVine said. “We’re ball players, we go out there and try to win every competition. You know, I think we’re good. I think we’re going to be good.”

In LaVine’s absence, Mirotic and Portis (despite their offseason scuffle) have emerged as two of the team’s best players. In addition, center Robin Lopez has done an admirable job keeping up his effort all season long while fulfilling his role as a veteran leader for the team. Lopez described the atmosphere on the team as positive recently in an interview with Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders.

Despite the reason for optimism, it must be noted that the franchise might make another big trade that would diminish the team’s ability to be competitive this season. Despite his recent on-court success, reports are that Mirotic would like to be traded and that the Bulls asking price is a first-round pick.

Until such a move occurs, the Bulls appear poised to maintain their recent rate of success. Every win could cost the Bulls what could be a top overall pick in 2018. Regardless, the Bulls are surely feeling better about the results of the Butler trade, especially after LaVine’s impressive Chicago debut.

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NBA Daily: Lopez’s Enjoys “Old Guy” Role on Young Team

Robin Lopez is the old man on a very young Chicago Bulls team, but he says the camaraderie is a big reason why he’s happy there, and why the team is overachieving so much this year.

Joel Brigham

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When the Chicago Bulls started the season 3-20, nobody was surprised that they stunk. Everything was fine. They were supposed to stink. That was the entire reason they traded away Jimmy Butler for younger players in the first place. They wanted got their rebuild underway in earnest. (more…)

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