4 p.m. Wed. Finals update; Barkley, analysts weigh in on NBA Finals; Ex-Bulls standout puts down Heat; Spurs dumbfounded; Dolphins, Marlins
Some 4 p.m. Wednesday quick hits from NBA Finals media day:
### Tony Parker expects to play in Game 1, despite an ankle injury, but said he is a "little bit" concerned about how it will feel during the duration of this series. "I did everything I can treatment wise and I hope I can be 100 percent," he said.
### Tim Duncan couldn't believe that the Heat made an issue of his comment that he intends to win the Finals this year. Nor could he believe that LeBron James concluded that the Spurs don't like the Heat.
"I don't know what I said that was so bad," he said. "Everybody keeps talking about it. I said I wanted to win the Finals. We're back here now and I wanted to win. If they need to find fuel in that, so be it."
And of LeBron's comments, Duncan said: "I don't know what he was talking about. But if he needs to find fuel in that, so be it. I don't have a problem with them individually or as a team. I respect what they've done. Unfortunately for them, we're here trying to win."
### James says he feels slighted when people say the Spurs gave away the Finals last year instead of the Heat winning it.
"Absolutely," James said. "We feel slighted in the fact it went seven. It went seven! It wasn't like it was 3-0, and you know, they had us in game 4 and we took it and won four straight. If you look at the numbers [from the series], it's almost even. We just happened to make one or two more plays to win it."
### James said even though the Spurs "are motivated" from last year, "their motivation can only go so far. How much motivation can carry you to a championship, I'm not sure."
Sampling analysts' views on the NBA Finals:
### TNT’s Charles Barkley picks the Heat (which is uncharacteristic for him), partly because he’s “concerned about Tony Parker” (Parker said Tuesday his ankle is improved and he expects to play Thursday) and partly because of his admiration for LeBron James.
But during a conference call today to promote the American Century Championship, Barkley also endorsed the sentiments of former Bulls forward Horace Grant, who said on a Chicago radio station Tuesday that "the Heat wouldn’t have had a chance” against Michael Jordan's 1990s Bulls teams.
“Especially with the rules today, Michael would have had a field day,” Grant added.
Barkley concurs with Grant: “I agree with him. You really think they could beat Magic Johnson's Lakers, Larry Bird's Celtics, the [Jordan-led] Bulls? Not even a chance. They made David West and Roy Hibbert looks like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain every game. They’ve got a little team. You can punish them down low. I would love to see some of those little guys try to guard me down low. I would get to the game at 2 in the afternoon.”
Despite picking the Heat, Barkley said: “They won’t have matchup advantages against the Spurs. Chris Bosh won’t be shooting wide-open threes against the Spurs. Danny Green is going to have Dwyane Wade chasing him around those picks. Miami can’t handle big guys down low. Tim Duncan will play well. …. Dwyane has played well [but] Chris has been inconsistent – five or six bad games, then a couple good games.”
But Barkley picks the Heat nevertheless, because James "is amazing to watch" and because he has serious doubts about Parker's ankle. He said the series could be shorter than six or seven games if Parker is limited.
### ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy told ESPN Radio's Dan Le Batard last week that the Heat isn’t “as good talent wise” as the Spurs or Thunder and “it would be a big upset if the Heat wins again this year. The Heat has a lot of guys on the back nine of their careers. I don’t think they are as deep as in the past…. San Antonio plays beautiful basketball. They’re just so good.”
Van Gundy said on ESPN that he’s not sure Miami would have made it out of the first round if the Heat played in the Western Conference.
### ABC’s Doug Collins, by phone, said he leans toward the Heat.
“San Antonio is better this year than last year and Miami is not quite as good as last year” and the Spurs “have an incredibly potent bench. But you will have to cut both of LeBron’s hands off to get the trophy out of his hands. LeBron is the best player and I will not go against him. And Miami has gotten better and better as the playoffs have gone on. They’ve got another gear.”
Collins expects “you will see a lot of small ball,” noting that Spurs center Tiago Splitter “became a non-factor” in last year’s Finals, and he believes Erik Spoelstra should stick with Rashard Lewis as a starter.
Miami “has got to have a guy that knocks down shots, whether it be Ray Allen or Shane Battier,” Collins said. “You will see the Spurs trying to build a wall and not let LeBron get in the paint. You will see Kawhi Leonard on LeBron and Boris Diaw a lot on LeBron. Diaw is a real key. And Miami is going to try to keep Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili out of the paint. The key is driving and kicking for threes.”
### ESPN’s P.J. Carlesimo said by phone that he leans slightly toward San Antonio because of home court advantage and also because “the Spurs might be slightly better than last year because of Ginobili’s health and their bench. And Miami is probably a hair below what they were last year.”
He said the Spurs have the better bench and are superior to Miami “inside and in defensive rebounding and they can overwhelm you with their size. They have more good bigs than Indiana.”
The Heat’s defense and three-point shooting “were not as good during the regular season as past years [but] they’ve been better in the playoffs,” Carlesimo said. He believes Diaw could give the Heat problems because “he opens the floor and he’s a post-up guy.”
### The Spurs are dumbfounded that the Heat is drawing motivation from Tim Duncan saying “We’ll do it this time” about winning a championship.
“It’s a comment you do when you are excited after a Game 6,” Ginobili told San Antonio media today. “It’s not a big deal.”
Parker said: "Knowing Timmy, that's not trash talking. I don't think he meant it like that."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had no use for the topic: “Come on, this is silly.”…
### On James’ remark the Spurs “don’t like us,” Ginobili remarked: “I dislike everyone we play in the playoffs.”
Asked about James’ comment by San Antonio media, Popovich said: “Do you have a better question?” then said: “I like everybody.”
### Barkley said the back-and-forth between Duncan and James “was funny. LeBron is such a nice guy. That was him being as mad as he could possibly get.”
### Heat point guards must play better than last year’s Finals, when Mario Chalmers had more turnovers (18) than assists (15), and Norris Cole shot 6 for 22. “If [Chalmers] plays well, we’re going to win,” Bosh said. In Chalmers' defense, he had 20 points in Game 6 and 14 in Game 7.
### The Dolphins haven’t been happy with Rishard Matthews for tardiness, lack of attention to detail and other issues --- one reason why they used a second-round pick on Jarvis Landry instead of being content with Matthews as their fourth receiver. Matthews admits it surprised him that Miami drafted two receivers (Landry and Matt Hazel).
But Matthews tells us he hopes a recent meeting with Joe Philbin cleared things up. “I had some [missteps] my first couple years being young,” he said. “They want me to be more professional off the field, as well as on the field. That’s part of maturing. Little stuff, maybe being late to a couple of meetings. Coach Philbin sat down with me and gave me the ropes. We’re definitely on the same page.”
Even though Matthews has been productive, those ancillary issues have left him battling Armon Binns (who has looked very good), Damian Williams and former running back Marcus Thigpen for the fifth receiver job, barring injuries. Matthews has one less ally here with Jeff Ireland’s departure.
### Something that should deeply concern the Marlins about bullpen pickups Bryan Morris and Kevin Gregg: They both allow a lot of base-runners: Morris 37 in 23 innings this season and 85 in 65 last season for the Pirates, and Gregg 85 in 62 for the Cubs in 2013.
The Pirates were down on Morris, who has relinquished 12 homers in 88 innings since the start of last season (one every 7 1/3) and a .294 batting average against this season. But the Marlins were desperate for experienced relievers.