Victorious as usual, after giving the Brooklyn Nets a 30-point beating, Dwyane Wade checked his phone as he got dressed.
Wade then turned to Jimmy Butler, who had just finished addressing the media, and asked a question.
“Yo J.B., you got space for this, big dog?”
Butler looked at his bag and, with a smile, nodded.
Moments later, Rajon Rondo walked over to Butler and playfully chastised him for turning down the volume on his iPhone. Butler’s phone was connected to a bluetooth speaker blasting music in the Bulls’ spirited locker room. When one Drake song in particular came on, Rondo asked Butler for his phone so he could play the song again.
With a light chuckle, Butler obliged.
I’ve spent my fair share of time in NBA locker rooms over the years and have come to learn that what transpires in there, in front of the media, is a usually indicative of what transpires behind closed doors. NBA locker rooms are places where egos often clash. Some of your favorite NBA stars are more concerned with continuing to assert themselves as their team’s alpha-male than they are with winning basketball games, while others are more concerned with their playing time and their next contract than their next game.
If and when there is disharmony in an NBA locker room, the best thing to do is observe. Vibrations and energy don’t lie. Fortunately, in Chicago, none of those problems exist. Dwyane Wade made sure of it.
Many moons ago, with Wade still a rising star in Miami, Shaquille O’Neal hand-picked Wade as his desired running mate because O’Neal saw Wade’s immense potential after Wade’s impressive performance in the 2003-04 playoffs. Despite his three championship rings, upon arriving in Miami, O’Neal made it clear to everyone around him that in order for the HEAT to win, Wade would need to become the dominant force that his potential suggested he could. Privately, O’Neal shared those sentiments with the young guard and assured Wade that he sincerely wanted him to be the team’s alpha. For Wade, it made a tremendous difference.
That’s why, seven years later—after the HEAT had fallen short against the Dallas Mavericks—it was easy for Wade to step aside in a similar manner for LeBron James. And that’s why, after returning home to Chicago, it was easy for Wade to declare the team to be Jimmy Butler’s. No stranger to sacrifice, Wade understands what it takes to build a winner and a harmonious locker room in the NBA.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time around Wade. We have had conversations about his health, his progression as a superstar and the growth of Erik Spoelstra among other subjects. Incredibly humble and insightful, Wade has long dedicated himself to being a player who chased the collective accolades over the individual.
That’s why, of all players in the league, he could offer a unique perspective on what Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors are going through. Wade has been there and done that.
* * * * * *
“I think it was surprising for everyone,” Wade told Basketball Insiders of his reaction when he learned that Durant had chosen to go to the Warriors. “I don’t think nobody seen that; I mean, they had rumors about it but I think it was a little surprising for everyone.”
What made Durant’s decision to defect to Oakland “surprising,” as Wade put it, was probably the fact that, unlike LeBron’s Cavaliers, Durant’s Thunder had the defending champions on the ropes in the Conference Finals. They seemed so close.
Still, Wade understands.
“At the end of the day, from a player’s standpoint, I’m happy that we have the ability to make our own decisions,” Wade said. “I know other people have their opinions on it, but at the end of the day, he made a decision for him and you can’t be mad at that at all.”
Now, though, with the assembling of the NBA’s newest “super team,” the expectation is not only for the Warriors to win, but for them to win right now.
Rarely does it happen like that, though. Wade knows that well.
“It takes time,” he said with a chuckle. Recalling his experience with the HEAT, Wade knows that winning was about more than names on paper. “We had great players, but we had a lot of guys who already was used to something a certain way and it just took a little time.”
The HEAT would begin their first season together by putting together a win-loss record of just 9-8 over their first 17 games. Many wondered whether Wade and James joining forces was a mistake. Others said that Coach Spoelstra was in over his head. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the HEAT responded by winning 21 of their next 22 games.
“Everybody wanted to beat us, so everybody was playing their tail off against us,” Wade recalled. “It took time for us to get to the game that we wanted to get to.”
Having begun their season with two early humbling losses to the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors are getting a first-hand feeling of what it’s like to be a walking target. Sure, as the defending champions last season, they had their fair share of challengers, but the level of hate and scrutiny they are under this season, for them, is new.
Wade experienced that first hand.
“I think them guys understand what it takes,” Wade said of the sacrifices needed to win under such circumstances. “I think the biggest thing is, what I say is just enjoy it. One thing we did wrong our first year was we played into the villain role because people was not liking that we was together and we tried to play into that role. That’s not why we started playing basketball – we started playing basketball because we enjoyed it and we loved it.”
Over the years, LeBron James admitted the same. The HEAT were a lightning rod for criticism. People actively rooted for them to fail because the masses were sold the idea that what they had created in Miami was bad for basketball. There are some facts that would indicate precisely the opposite. But, Wade cautions, if you feed into the negativity, it could make an already challenging endeavor all the more emotionally taxing.
“When you play that way, you win that way,” Wade said of playing with joy. “That’s the one thing, don’t play into the role of what people expect of you.
“You have the ability to do whatever you want in life and you made a decision, so live with your decision,” he said of Durant, specifically. “Enjoy your decision and just enjoy playing basketball.”
* * * * * *
Coming off of a record-breaking 73-win season, the Warriors effectively replaced Harrison Barnes with Kevin Durant. If the “trade” of the two were one-on-one, that would be one thing. But the Warriors had to separate with other key members of their rotation in order to free the necessary cap space to sign Durant.
Of course, the HEAT weren’t able to win in their first season together. Other “super teams,” including the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers, weren’t able to win period.
Whether the Warriors can live up to the mighty expectations will be determined by how they respond to the challenges they face and how Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green respond to the new pecking order that the team will inevitably have to determine.
Their success will also be determined by how well Curry can play the part of Wade, making Durant’s transition to the team harmonious and seamless.
Inevitably, in the NBA, history repeats itself. Now, an older sage, Wade has the perspective to provide valuable insight.
“It makes it more challenging,” Wade said of Durant’s decision to join the Warriors. “It makes it more interesting around the league, but as a player, I respect his decision to do what he wanted to do.”
Indeed, in a world where athletes are expected to conform, independent thought often comes with a cost.
Durant has already lost a lot, and his gains can only be evened out by winning big.
Unlike the Warriors of the past, the San Antonio Spurs or the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors find themselves mimicking the model of Dwyane Wade’s HEAT. Whether they have the same success will be determined by how well they sacrifice.
Like the rest of us, Dwyane Wade will be watching closely.
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .
NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future
Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.
On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.
Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.
Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.
Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.
“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”
Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.
“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”
Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.
“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.
While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.
“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.
Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.
There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.
“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”
Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.
“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”
Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.
“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.
Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.
“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.
When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.