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2 posts from June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014

Noon update: Birdman opting out? Monday Heat notes; Examining the Wade money quandary

We're placing a Monday Heat update on this post, atop a post from last night which includes postgame reaction and an in-depth look at the quandary involving Dwyane Wade. Please scroll down to THOUGHTS ON WADE'S FUTURE for that portion of this post. Before we get to that, here are some Monday Heat notes: (And check back tonight for a new post with a lot more.)

SAN ANTONIO - Decisions made by LeBron James, and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, will largely make or break this Heat offseason, with all holding the right to become free agents.

But decisions also must be made on most of the eight Heat players whose contracts are expiring. And a ninth, Chris Andersen, apparently will also hit the market, with Yahoo! reporting today that he will opt out of his contract which would have paid him the minimum $1.4 million next season.

Of those eight, one (Shane Battier) is retiring, two (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis) said Sunday they aren’t sure if they will continue their NBA careers and four (Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Toney Douglas) expressed a desire to return, though it remains to be seen if the feeling is mutual. Greg Oden has declined to say if he wants to return.

Several, but not all, might be invited back on low money deals.

If Allen, 38, chooses to return, he might need to take a pay cut from $3.2 million to the $1.4 million minimum. He said he will decide in the coming days whether to retire.

“I’ve had a great career,” Allen said. “I’m content with what I’ve done. In the next couple of days, I will think about it and see where my true heart lies. To make [a decision] on my terms is the most important thing. Whether that is me retiring or staying here or going somewhere else, it will be on my terms.”

Lewis, 34, said simply “I don’t know” when asked if he wants to continue playing. Despite his lack of playing time, Beasley said: “Why wouldn’t I want to come back?”

Though a return by Chalmers isn’t out of the question, the Heat likely will explore an upgrade at point guard.

“If it’s an option, definitely I would love to come back with this team,” Chalmers said after Game 5, when he was replaced by Allen in the starting lineup.

There’s no decision for Battier, who is becoming a college basketball analyst for ESPN.

“When I’m old, fat and gray, and my grandkids say, ‘You never played in the NBA,’ I can tell them I did it at a high level,” said Battier, who kept a diary of sorts this season to use in a book. “I gave everything I had to this game and I don’t have any more to give.”

### Privately with his team and publicly with the media, coach Erik Spoelstra took the glass-half-full perspective afterward.

Haslem said he told the players: “Keep your heads up. You’re champions. Four straight Finals. We have a lot to be proud about. We just ran into a better team.”

Spoelstra told reporters: “Even as painful as it feels, you have to have perspective. Even the team we’re playing against has never been to the Finals four straight years. You can’t be jaded enough not to appreciate that.”

MORE REFLECTIONS

### Battier:  “It was a trying year from the standpoint there were very few pure moments. We were always trying to conjure something and for a while there in the second half, it worked. But you can’t win a championship trying to conjure something. It has to be who you are and it has to be pure, and that wasn’t the case for us this year.

“Unfortunately, I made the mistake of looking up our defensive rank before the Finals and no team outside the top 10 had ever won the title. We just didn’t have the fundamentals to stop an offensive juggernaut like the Spurs and we were exposed.”

### Bosh: “I thought we’d get over the hump and we never did. They dominated us. They picked us apart. They made us question what we were doing. They played faster, stronger, tougher, like they wanted it more. They played the best basketball I’ve ever seen.”

### Haslem: “It’s demoralizing when you’re playing your heart out and they’re still making shots. If someone had told me we would lose three straight, I would find that hard to believe.”

### Spoelstra: “They are the better team. We felt confident coming into the series that we were going to be able to score…. We felt we could rely on that, but they shut us out of the paint pretty consistently. And they were exploiting a lot of things we’re typically strong at [defensively].”

NOTABLE NUMBERS

### The 70-point total scoring differential between the teams was the largest for an NBA Finals series of any length.

### The Spurs produced the highest shooting percentage ever in an NBA Finals (52.76). The old record: The Bulls shot 52.72 percent against the Lakers in 1991.

### James has scored 30 or more points in each of the last six games he has played with his team facing elimination. His teams are now 5-1 in those games. James is eighth and Wade 17th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.

### Allen’s 55 career three-pointers in the Finals are one short of Robert Horry’s Finals record. 

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Thoughts and reaction after the Heat’s season-ending Game 5 NBA Finals loss to San Antonio:

### LeBron James said he loves Miami but declined to discuss his future, including whether he will opt out of his contract. “I haven't even really thought about that yet. I love Miami. My family loves it. You guys are trying to find answers. I'm not going to give you one...

"Obviously, we need to get better, every position.... We lost one, we won two, and we lost another one. Take 50 percent in four years in championships any day... I know me and D-Wade and Chris Bosh not proud of the way we played. All three of us, the last thing we're thinking about is what's going on this summer."

### More LeBron, who had 31 points and 10 rebounds: "Mixed emotions. Started off very well as a team. We had a great first quarter. From that point on, they were the better team, and that's why they're the champions in 2014. We came up against a better team this year. They were the much better team. That's how team basketball should be played. It's selfless. Guys cut, move, pass. It's all for the team. It's never about the individual. That's how team basketball should be played. They dominated us in every facet of the game."

He said the loss in 2011 to Dallas was "more hurtful than this one."

### Chris Bosh said he hasn’t decided whether he will opt out of his contract. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if I’m having frosted flakes or honey nut cheerios for breakfast.”

In a more serious moment, Bosh said: “They exposed us. They picked us apart, made us question what we were doing. They played stronger, faster, tougher. They played the best basketball I’ve ever seen. Anti-climatic ending to the season.”

### Wade followed a 3 for 13 shooting performance in Game 4 by delivering an 11-point dud in Game 5, missing eight of his 12 shots from the field. That’s something of an anomaly, considering Wade led all shooting guards in field-goal percentage five of the past six seasons.

The greater long-term concern was his defense, which was so atrocious at times during this series that it was ridiculed in a YouTube video. And his ball-handling was sloppy; he had three turnovers Sunday and 18 in the series, compared with 13 assists.

"Just struggled a little bit," he said. "I felt fine. I just struggled a little bit offensively. I wish I could have done more, but it's the nature of the game."

Wade said of the Big Three: "It's been a hell of a ride in these four years.... We've been succcessful in the sense of what we tried to accomplish, and that is going to the Finals, and we did it. We'd love to be four for four. It was just wasn't in the cards for us to be that. We have no reason not to be proud of each other for what we've accomplished on and off the court for these four years together."

### Udonis Haslem: “I never thought we could lose three straight. We played as hard as we could. We ran into a better team.”

### Ray Allen said he hasn’t decided whether he wants to play next season.

SOME THOUGHTS ON WADE'S FUTURE

### Wade assured reporters over the weekend that this is the best he has felt in a long time.

 Regrettably, his game was the worst it has looked in a long time.

We witnessed an old Wade instead of the Wade of old during the past week, and it’s awfully worrisome if you’re trying to figure out how to augment this roster within the constraints of the salary cap and the punitive luxury tax.

Wade, 32, is too accomplished a player to be discounted from here. But his immensely disappointing Finals leaves the Heat in a difficult and delicate predicament heading into a pivotal offseason.

To lessen its luxury tax burden, it would not be surprising if the Heat asks Wade to opt out of the last two years of his contract, which would pay him a combined $42 million, and instead accept a longer deal with a lower annual salary. But while Wade has said during the playoffs that he has not decided whether to opt out, he also has indicated he does not believe it’s necessary to take another cut to keep the Big Three together.

And keep this in mind: Unless Chris Bosh also takes a big pay cut, then Wade accepting a large cut would not give the Heat enough cap space to sign a pricey free agent. Instead, it would merely reduce the Heat’s tax burden and make it more palatable for ownership to authorize using its $3.2 million midlevel exception.

From a personal standpoint, Wade’s only incentive to opt out of a combined $42 million guaranteed over the next two seasons would be for long-term security that would assure him a sizable salary at age 35 and 36.

Perhaps Wade considers opting out this month if the Heat makes him a respectable offer, potentially in the four-year, $60 million range that would lessen the Heat’s immediate tax burden but also clog its cap with an even further diminished Wade in 2016-17 and 2017-18. (Four years is the longest contract Wade can be given.) 

But it’s almost impossible to envision Wade taking a cut to the $12 million range when he’s due more than $20 million next season. Asking him to take a cut that significant assuredly would insult him and perhaps make him less likely to opt out.

If Bosh and Wade were to each take cuts from $20 million to $12 million next season, the Heat would have about $8 million in cap space even while paying LeBron James $20 million. But it’s unrealistic to expect either to do that.

NOTEWORTHY

### Erik Spoelstra’s lineup changes ultimately made no difference. The decision to replace Mario Chalmers with Allen made sense, and the Heat stormed to a 22-6 lead. But Allen shot 1 for 8. Chalmers said he was told Sunday morning he wouldn’t start and it was “tough” to hear.

 The decision to use Udonis Haslem could be justified, considering Tim Duncan shot 32 percent (8 for 25) when Haslem was on the court during last year’s Finals. But Duncan hit three of four shots against Haslem in the first half Sunday, when the Spurs took the lead for good.

### Bosh announced Sunday morning: “We’re going to win this game.” He didn’t make enough of an impact, scoring four points in the first half (2 for 6) and finishing with 13.

### In his final NBA game, Shane Battier had no points or rebounds in 11 scoreless minutes. He was emotional afterward, something he had said he didn’t expect.

### Biggest challenge of the offseason? Finding a quality point guard with its exception money. The position clearly needs upgrading. It’s probably time to move on from Chalmers.

And Norris Cole is too unreliable a shooter to be projected as anything more than a backup at this point. Cole shot a combined 10 for 41 in the past two Finals.

### The Heat missed 20 of 24 shots during the last nine minutes of the second quarter and the first four of the third and overall shot 37.5 percent (21 for 56) after the first quarter, closing at 40 percent for the game. Hardly something you would expect from a team that led the league in field-goal percentage this season at 50.5 percent.

Sunday 5 p.m.: UM adds QB; NBA players reach out to Chalmers; Dolphins studying Eagles; Heat, Marlins chatter

Notes from San Antonio on various topics on a Sunday afternoon, as we await Game 5 of the Finals in a few hours:

SAN ANTONIO --- Mario Chalmers entered Game 5 of The Finals on Sunday calling the past few weeks the most difficult of his career and unsure what the future will hold.

An impending free agent, Chalmers prefers to return next season. That’s certainly not out of the question, but it would be surprising if the Heat doesn’t explore trying to upgrade at the position.

Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving, veteran NBA guard Brandon Rush and former NBA guard Damon Jones all reached out to Chalmers in recent days, offering both encouragement but also a pointed message: “Stop playing passively.”

Chalmers said he agrees he has been playing passively but he said he also is cognizant of getting the ball to teammates.

He entered Game 5 having shot 5 for 18 in the Finals, with 14 assists and 10 turnovers.

The past few weeks have “been very tough, but it comes with the job,” he said. “My teammates have all been supportive. At times like this, you’ve got to perform. I’ve dealt with adversity before.”

Over the past few days, Chalmers has watched tape of some of his best moments as an NBA player, a reminder of what he is capable of.

“I’ve watched a couple of games – last year’s Finals, games earlier this year, playoff games over my six years,” he said. “It shows that you can do it. I’ve been in this situation before and I know what I can do at this level. Just got to keep believing in myself.”

### Chris Bosh had this to say this morning, via ESPN's Mike Wallace: "It's not ending tonight." And of the Big Three, he said: "We'll be here forever."

### While nobody with the Heat has publicly criticized Erik Spoelstra's strategy, it was notable that Bosh said early Friday morning: "We're going to need a better gameplan and mindset."

### Shane Battier, at peace with his decision to retire, said Saturday he does not expect to become emotional when he walked off the court for the final time.

“I wasn’t emotional when I graduated from Duke or high school,” said Battier, who will become a college basketball analyst for ESPN. “I’ve enjoyed my career but there are other things I feel more strongly about.”

### The fact Wade missed so many regular season games (28) –-- including some on short notice –-- frustrated LeBron James at times, who said Saturday (without mentioning Wade) that “in the regular season I got frustrated a lot,… because we have guys in and out of the lineup. I'm all about chemistry and habits, and it affected our team.  There were guys that didn't know if they were playing, did know they were playing, and it affected our team a little bit."

### Despite having absolutely no inside information, that didn’t stop Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons from telling ESPN this weekend that he expects LeBron James will leave the Heat.

"I think if they would've won the championship it would've been a different story and they would've came back to do it again," Parsons said. "But he's got so much responsibility. I think them losing will make him make a move and opt out, and you'll see him in a different jersey next year. He's done all he can do there and it's time for him to move on. I could see him maybe going back to Cleveland.”

### Spurs players say one compliment they hear a lot is how aesthetically-pleasing their style of play is.

“You hear it all over the place,” guard Danny Green said. “Everyone is talking about well we move the ball. I’ve heard from [Pacers and former Spurs guard] George Hill. He thinks we’re playing pretty well.”

### James entered Game 5 as one of only two players who has averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds when facing playoff elimination. Wilt Chamberlain was the other.

### One interesting point raised by Charles Barkley: "The biggest problem with the Heat is the way their offense is built. To stand Chris Bosh out [on the perimeter] is a detriment to him. He’s got to be able to
punish Boris Diaw down low. When the Spurs switch the pick-and-roll, Bosh is turned one-dimensional. Every time Oklahoma City switched the pick and roll, the Spurs got the ball to Tim Duncan and he was either fouled or got a layup. Duncan is not going to let a point guard guard him. Chris Bosh does not do that."

### In last year’s Finals, the Heat was outscored by 57 when James and Wade played together. In these Finals, they’re minus 21 together…. The Heat’s best lineup in these Finals? The Big Three, Ray Allen and
Chalmers (plus 14, shooting 59 percent).

### Not only do Dolphins players say their new offense reminds them of Chip Kelly’s offense with the Eagles --- where new coordinator Bill Lazor worked last season --- but Lazor has been using video of the
Eagles offense as a teaching tool, according to receiver Rishard Matthews. There are some differences between the offenses.


"Last year, it was one-dimensional a little bit,” Matthews said of Mike Sherman’s approach. “This year, everybody loves the offense.”

### Quarterback Jake Heaps --- the highest-rated quarterback in the 2010 class --- is transferring from Kansas (where he's graduating this month) to Miami.

Heaps, who is be eligible immediately as a senior, has had a disappointing career. He played well for BYU as a freshman but left the next year after losing his starting job. He played for Kansas last season, throwing eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions and completing 49 percent of his passes for a 3-9 team.

Internally, UM is concerned about its quarterback situation. But Heaps, based on his spotty track record, hardly seems the answer. Ryan Williams hopes to return from a knee injury by mid-to-late September. Kevin Olsen remains the front-runner to start the opener, with newcomers Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier also expecting to get some first-team reps early in camp, barring a change of heart by the coaching staff.

### One factor that has improved the Marlins’ internal clubhouse dynamics: The jettisoning of several me-first players who rubbed some teammates the wrong way.

“There’s a different atmosphere where you have everyone trying to help each other – that’s something we hadn’t seen before,” reliever Mike Dunn said. “In past years, we had guys pulling for themselves
over the team.”

Dunn didn’t disclose names, but another team source said that list included Hanley Ramirez, Justin Ruggiano and Jose Reyes, among others.