Miami Heat: By The Numbers

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With their season having ended this past Sunday night, the Miami Heat cannot relax just yet. Between the NBA draft happening June 26 and free agent negotiations starting on July 1, the Heat have a lot to consider moving into this next year.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding what the team will look like a few months from now, based on everything from mere logic to reading between the lines of what players themselves have stated. However, right now, all that we can be sure of are the numbers. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh all currently have early termination clauses on their contracts. With this said, if James and Bosh were to opt in, they will make $20.16 million next year and $22.1 million during the follow one. Similarly, Wade would rake in $20.16 million this upcoming season and $21.7 million during the next.

As for Udonis Haslem, he is projected to make $4.62 million next year but also has an opt-out clause. Chris Andersen has a player option set for $1.45 million, but is expected to bypass this in order to become a free agent. Assuming this is the case, joining him in free agency are Mario Chalmers, Toney Douglas, James Jones, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. Rashard Lewis is currently also on the market however, along with Ray Allen, he is not sure he will take his NBA career any further. And of course, there is Shane Battier, who has already announced his retirement.

On the other hand though, Norris Cole is sticking around for slightly over $2 million and Justin Hamilton has a non-guaranteed deal of roughly $816, 482. As it is hopefully becoming clearer now, there are a lot of things up in the air currently concerning the state of this organization. The NBA’s salary cap for the 2014-2015 season is said to be set at $63.2 million, with a tax level of $77 million. The Heat have paid tax for three out of the last four seasons. Let us pretend that each of the members of the Big Three opt in. This will once again bring Miami above the cap, to an approximate value of $3.3 million in terms of a taxpayer mid-level exception; therefore limiting their veteran minimum to $1.4 million.

In this case, they can probably forget about bringing in coveted free agents such as Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, or  Kyle Lowry. However, if the Big Three opt out of their current contracts, Wade would be earning about $87.2 million over four years and James and Bosh are likely to gain $115.1 million over five years; all of which are obviously outrageous figures, especially regarding Wade and Bosh. Therefore, the team’s best bet would be for Wade, James and Bosh to opt out and return for less money, the same going for Haslem. Of course, there is also the possibility that one of the Big Three will decide to leave, in which case the Heat would probably extend their cap to the minimum. Although personally I see the three of them continuing to work towards at least another championship together, there is no denying that something about this season felt different, if not off.

“I don’t think anybody really enjoyed this season like in years past,” Bosh told The Associated Press. “There was no, like, genuine joy all the time. It seemed like work. It was a job the whole year.”

Heat president Pat Riley and the rest of the front office have a lot to figure out over the next couple of months, starting with making sure their star players are happy. It seems as though not just free agents but also certain Miami players will have to be wooed all over again, to make sure next season’s team is up to par.

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Should the Heat have had to play in such Heat?

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For anyone living under a rock, the air conditioner in the San Antonio Spurs’ arena did not work during Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals. This led to extreme temperatures of 90 degrees on the court, and resulted in a horrible atmosphere for the fans and exhaustion for the players. LeBron James, suffering from excruciating leg cramps, was forced to leave the game during the fourth quarter, and ultimately the Miami Heat lost, 110-95. While many are calling James a quitter, seemingly doubting the level of pain he was in, some are wondering if the game should have even been played at all.

As I was just starting to live-tweet the game Tuesday night, I noticed that many members of the media were commenting on how stuffy it was inside the AT&T Center. I wondered if this was to make note of how many people came to enjoy the first game but soon enough, I realized something was wrong. As more tweets about removing blazers and chugging bottled beverages started to appear, it was announced that the air conditioning was broken. I will admit that my first thoughts were along the lines of “those sneaky Texans.” Perhaps the initial act was done unintentionally, but did no one notice how hot it was during shoot around? Pre-game news conference? Anything? But I regress.

The game went on, and screenshots of iPhones reading 85 degrees flooded the Twitter-sphere, quickly turning into 90 degrees shortly after halftime. I could not help but ask myself “should they postpone this game?” But the better question is, should they have played to begin with?

Clearly I was not the only one who pondered such a thing as some said of course and others said they are not so sure.

Here are the facts:

  • It reached 90 degrees on the court that evening.
  • Because of the heat, athletes burned more calories at a higher speed.
  • They also could not keep themselves as hydrated as necessary.
  • While some people seemed fine, others became lethargic or worse; certain people tolerate different temperatures differently.
  • The court and ball were more slippery than usual, given the excess sweat being produced.

Now, with this said, was there danger in allowing Game 1 to proceed business as usual? Yes and no. On the one hand, one could argue that there was no imminent threat to anyone there that night. On top of that, it was hot of course, but both teams are from warm climate cities. There was water and Gatorade handy. On the other hand, there have been people who have died of a heat stroke. Anyone who suffers from the likes of high or low blood pressure and/or a heart condition can tell you that life becomes increasingly more difficult, the hotter it gets. Mix that with a high performance athletic activity and there is definitely potential trouble. Plus, as James proved, there are certainly other health risks associated with becoming overheated. I would also like to bring up the last point above, regarding the court being wet. Obviously it was wiped down every available chance, but even so, why take the chance of players getting injured from slipping? Seems pretty silly to me.

Fortunately, the worst it got Thursday night was James’ leg cramps, but personally I feel as though there could have been an argument to be made for rescheduling Game 1. Soccer and baseball games get rained out. Football games get delayed due to snow. Should the show always go on when it comes to basketball?

King James: Part 2

In my previous post, I gave you all a little insight into how I felt about LeBron James circa 2011, having just blown a chance at winning the championship. James has been worthy of his nickname “King James” for most, if not all, of his life; however, the way in which he wears the crown has definitely changed throughout the years.

Four years ago, James was labeled a villain. Having just signed with the Miami Heat via an hour-long interview now known as “The Decision,” people were outraged; and it was not just Cleveland Cavaliers fans. Every NBA fanatic around the league had something to say; at the time, I may just have been the only one who approved of this arrangement. Although I would miss seeing the obvious brotherhood between Mo Williams and James, would have to stop wearing my maroon James t-shirt, and would have to accept that fact that head coach Erik Spoelstra resembled my (now) ex-boyfriend, I saw James going to Miami as a great thing. First, the Heat previously won a title in 2006. They were also already full of solid talent beyond just Dwyane Wade. On top of that, president Pat Riley, besides being a legend in the world of professional basketball, had a remarkable eye for running an organization. All of this, combined with the fact that Cleveland simply did not have what it took to win a championship, and I was sold. I hate to say it, but I even liked James’ new villainous role. I knew it would feel that much better watching him succeed, knowing how many people wanted him to fail.

But James did not seem to share my sentiment, after his first season in Miami was not exactly going as planned.

He backtracked on the way he announced his relocation, stating he should have done it via a regular press conference. Instead of being confident that soon his promise of “not one, not two, not three…” rings would come true, he felt ashamed that he ever muttered those words. He was careful around the media; explaining his intentions behind yesterday’s quotes, just in case they were misconstrued. He even came forward with a sort of call-for-sympathy via a Nike commercial. James did everything he could to shake his new image, letting it get the best of him rather than embracing it.

And unfortunately, his 2010-2011 season with the Heat only prompted his naysayers to feel victorious.

Fast forward to present day. James, with two championships to his name, is well on his way towards a third. And that is what first comes to mind when you think of him. It is not the sentence “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” It is not Dan Gilbert’s angry letter.  It is not even failing to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011 playoffs. Obviously, the team has had time to become accustomed to one another. And yes, they have only added more talent since then. James is also only getting better with age. But all of those reasons are not necessarily why James (and the Heat) turned himself around. The real difference between now and then is attitude.

It could be that James stopped being deemed a villain, simply with time. Or perhaps it was because the following year, he took the Heat all the way. But I am willing to bet that most of it was in James’ control; once he stopped paying attention to what was being said, and focused on what he had come to do, the rest fell to the wayside. James no longer cares what the public thinks of him. He is no longer careful in his interviews. He does not apologize for his words or actions. He is who he is, and that is good enough for him. Good thing too, seeing as he is one of the best athletes in the world.

To me, King James has always been a hero of sorts. It just seems that now, finally, everyone else sees him in the same light too.

 

King James: Part 1

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After the 2011 NBA Finals, I wrote a piece about LeBron James, on an old blog. Today, I wish to share it with you here, and then dissect it in my next entry. Note: changes have been made to the original.

I could sit here and give my opinion why the winners won, and the losers lost; instead, I am only going to talk about one topic: LeBron James.

James has never been one without haters. From his high school days, to the night he was drafted, to his years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and finally his great “decision”, critics have always had something to say. From attacking his loyalty, to his interview style, to his tweets, his personality flaws have been highly scrutinized, granting him nicknames like “queen James” and “quitness”. His hairline has been thrown under the bus, rumors of his ex-teammate Delonte West and his mother Gloria having an affair have been floating around, even his habit of excessively chewing on his mouthpiece has been under speculation. And yet, something that rarely turns up in anti-James discussions are his actual basketball abilities.

After game six of the finals, the Miami Heat having just lost to the Dallas Mavericks, James stated,

“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

Within seconds of being released, it was dissected apart. Once again everyone called James selfish and cold. They said he was delusional, that he had no concept of the real world. He was named a traitor to his fans, disrespectful, and yet, was he not spot on?

He may have once again failed to lead his team to victory, ending another season without a ring, but so what? Despite the Heat’s on-stage celebratory declaration of landing “not one, not two, not three, not four…” championships, did anyone really think that after only one year together, they would be able to snag it? And does anyone really believe that James will one day retire from the league without a single stone on his finger and a gold trophy on his mantel? At the end of the day, James has a decade left to accomplish his goals, is still one of the best ballers to ever play the game, and oh yeah, a millionaire only getting richer by the day. So when he basically calls himself a superstar, and his haters Joe Shmoes, does he not have a point? Is he not still winning, even after a loss?

In my opinion, James only has one flaw; not truly accepting his role as a villain. He obviously sees himself as some type of god-figure, supernatural and high above the rest. And even in his darkest hour, supports his decisions 100%. However, despite the number of years in the league, or how much he grows as a player, you will never hear him admit any of this. And that is where his problem lies.

He should bask in his ways. He should celebrate his drive. Openly feed his ego. Take pride in always putting himself first. Instead of always having a more “g-rated” followup statement to any so-labeled outlandish quote that escapes his mouth, he should stand up for his beliefs, back up what has already been said.

“It wasn’t saying I’m better or superior than anyone else. I would never look at myself as bigger…”

There is no need for excuses following his actions. Commercials calling for sympathy, “what should I do? Maybe I should just disappear?” are unnecessary. He is and will always be one of the greatest, and deny it all he wants, he knows it too.

No matter what James does or does not do, says or does not say, stands by or apologizes for, there will always be those who disapprove of his actions, hate what he says, and target his personality. But what will never be denied is the raw talent he possesses, the skills he is continuously developing, and his role as a leader in the game. So why defend himself? Why try to appeal to the masses? To me, it seems the time and energy wasted towards handling “misinterpreted” quotes, “misunderstood” decisions and “misconstrued” ideas, would be much better spent mastering shots, making money and managing a legacy.

Maybe my personality is too close to his, and maybe I love going against the grain, but personally, I bow down to the king. Because on Sunday night, a night that should have been all about the Mavericks and their win, I was ordering pink Lebrons v8/v2s and he was giving reporters interviews that once again made sure the media’s focus stayed on him.

The Grades Are In

With the Eastern Conference Finals well on their way, I thought it might be fun to switch things up a bit.  There have been standouts, letdowns and the in-betweens so far this series, so let us see how each Miami Heat player ranks.

LeBron James: James has not been perfect thus far, mainly due to slow starts, but I would still give him an A-. He has been putting up consistent numbers, being aggressive and motivating his teammates. Besides starting off on a stronger foot, what I personally would like to see from him is more urgency. Yes, he is currently the best in the league. And yes, the Heat stand a pretty good chance at a three-peat. But in this league you really never know, so being complacent is not an option. Plus, with James being James, I expect the world from him and more. He is doing great without a doubt, but being as gifted as he is, there is always room for improvement.

Dwyane Wade: Although I will admit that James is my favorite player, Wade has impressed me tremendously as of late. He was the lead scorer in Game 1 and Game 2, has been moving the ball well and gives no sign of being plagued with knee injuries. At this point, I give him an and hope he keeps up the good work.

Chris Bosh: I have probably said this ad nauseam already but Bosh has been a major disappointment thus far against the Indiana Pacers. He has scored nine points in each matchup, and was only really effective defensively in Game 2; because of this, I have to hit him with a C+. Whether Bosh is tired, overwhelmed or frightened, I cannot say, but at this point I am sick of complaining about him.

Udonis Haslem: Truthfully, Haslem has not gotten enough of a chance during the Eastern Conference Finals for me to fairly judge him. He has only played an average of 15.4 minutes but based off of what he has brought to the table defensively, and the energy he has displayed, I think he deserves a B-. As a starter for the last two games, I did expect a little more out of him, but he more or less held his own.

Mario Chalmers: Strangely enough, Chalmers (like Bosh) also scored the same number of points (six to be exact) each game. Although scoring has not been his strong suit in this series, he has been creating opportunities for other players. It is also clear to me how bad he wants to advance, which for the most part is a positive thing; however, at times he has let his emotions get the best of him. I think right now, a C+ would be appropriate.

Norris Cole: I have been riding with Cole since before he even got signed by the Heat so I may be a little bias, but I am giving Cole an A. Cole has pretty much done it all so far for Miami, and I only expect his stellar performance to continue. He is great under pressure. He both shoots lights out and creates open looks for his teammates; he is even effective defensively. What more could you want?

Chris Andersen: Andersen is another fellow I have been fond of for a while, but is now competing at an entirely different level. Whether it is the number of years under his belt, the fact that he has been given a second chance, or simply being around superstar talent, Andersen has been quite a pleasure to watch recently. He was a huge help offensively in Game 1, and then conversely defensively in Game 2, when he played more minutes than everyone except James and Wade. All in all, Andersen receives an A from me.

Ray Allen: Allen is playing better at his age than a lot of young athletes currently in the league are. Some nights he is stronger offensively, and others his talent comes out through defense, but regardless he is a solid second-string choice for the Heat. His late Game 3 performance was incredible, and I am amazed at the level of intensity he possesses. The veteran certainly gets an A in my book.

Shane Battier: Just like Bosh and Chalmers, Battier had identical statistics in terms of points in all three games. Battier only scored three points each time and was not strong on the other end of the court either. I could not imagine him not wanting to retire with another ring but as of now, I just do not see the necessary effort: B-.

James Jones: Jones has been a non-factor during this series but I blame that on head coach Erik Spoelstra. Obviously Jones is not a starting lineup type of player, nor does he deserve to play more than someone like Cole, but I do think he is underestimated. When he gets going, Jones has the ability to drain some quick shots, so on his potential performance, I will award him a B.

Rashard Lewis: I know that most people laugh at the fact that Lewis is on the Heat, but not me. I was a fan of his during his time with the Orlando Magic, and for good reason. He has defensive chops, and used to put up big numbers between 2000-2011. He has a beautiful stroke and in terms of this series, helped close out Game 3. Like Jones, I think given the opportunity, he could bring a little something extra to the squad, so I leave him with a B.

Greg Oden: NA.

Toney Douglas: As long as I am laying all my cards out on the table, I did not even know that Douglas was in for even a second, let alone almost a minute in Game 1 and Game 3. Therefore, I would say grading him would be unfair. He too will be placed in the NA category.

Michael Beasley: NA.

Justin Hamilton: NA.

And there you have it. How do you feel about my grades? And what do you think they will look like when all is said and done in the Eastern Conference Finals?

The Rebirth of Ray Allen

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At 38 years old, Ray Allen is the second oldest player in the NBA. He is the oldest player on the Miami Heat, closer in age to head coach Erik Spoelstra than to his teammates. And yet, the fire within him is nowhere near being put out.

Along with LeBron James, Allen helped Miami rally past the Indiana Pacers and take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals Monday night. During the fourth quarter, a time that Allen himself calls “his playground,” he drained four quick three-pointers, after sitting scoreless for the first 36 minutes.

“This is my favorite time of year,” Allen said after Game 3’s victory. “This is when it’s the most fun.”

Allen has been in the league since 1996 when he was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the fifth overall pick. Since then, he has played for four teams, made the All-Star team 10 times and won two championships. Many know him as “Jesus Shuttlesworth” from the film “He Got Game.”

When he decided to end his time in Boston with the Boston Celtics, many were up in arms. This only progressed when he announced he was signing with the Heat in 2012, rejecting a two-year, $12 million offer for a mid-level exception. Celtics fans felt betrayed, called him a sellout and vowed to never watch him play again.

For the most part, Miami fans were grateful to have such a legendary talent join an already stacked squad. However, some questioned whether or not the veteran still had any fuel left in his tank, wondering if it was not instead a better idea to retire. I am guessing that right now, those people no longer have any doubts regarding Allen.

Having played among athletes with nicknames like “The Truth,” “Big Ticket,” and “Big Baby,” Allen finally has one of his own: “The Committee.”

Being the oldest player on a team comes with jokes like “so, you played with Moses Malone?” but there is also something to be said for becoming a role model. At the end of the day, his teammates respect him; they respect his experience, his approach and his skill set.

“…they all respect me and ask me questions…if there is anything that needs to be resolved they say, ‘Committee, what’s your take on this?'”

The Heat are lucky to have Allen, and Allen is lucky to have them. To be playing professional basketball at the age of 38 is impressive, but to do so in such an effective manner is astounding. Allen truly appears to be ageless.

There is no question in my mind that Allen will continue to be a factor in Miami’s quest to three-peat, but the debate now begins: what is next for him?

“I love how my body feels,” Allen stated this past February.

And he is not the only one conscious of his physique.

“Ray takes impeccable care of his body,” commented Shane Battier, who is retiring after this postseason. “I don’t.”

If Allen keeps being as meticulous with his conditioning and training as he has been up until this point, and still loves the game as much as he did the day he got drafted, it seems as though he could easily have a few more years left in him.

Besides just raw ability, Allen is the type of player who even to this day, continuously learns about the game. He observes what his team needs out of his minutes, vocalizes it, and practices what he preaches. He shoots lights out from beyond the arc, runs his defender into the ground, spaces the floor accordingly and has unwavering faith in his teammates.

I hope to see Allen on the court next year, particularly the hardwood in the AmericanAirlines Arena. His time in Boston was one to remember, but it appears as though a rebirth is about to take place.

 

 

 

Chris “Birdman” Andersen: Noticeable Or Noticed?

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Chris Andersen, more commonly known as “Birdman,” has an unconventional look. He also gives unconventional interviews.  In fact, his entire NBA career could be deemed unconventional. Most NBA fans know of him, know what he looks like, even know his story. But rarely do they know just how much of an impact he makes in the league.

It is only human nature to judge, and our society has certainly become masters of doing so. A lanky Californian with “Honky Tonk” written across his stomach and a blonde mohawk turned shaved faux-hawk, does not typically scream “hard worker” to most. Judgment beckons and names like “white trash” and “bad news” get tossed around. But as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving, and in this case, reality is far from what first may meet the eye.

Let us travel back in time for a second, when Allen Iverson first arrived on the scene. Immediately he was labeled a “thug.” People unhappy with the fact that he showed up to games wearing baggy clothes and fitted caps, chains around his neck. They did not like his cornrows or tattoos, and thought he belonged on the street with drug dealers (or at the very least rapping, in a music video), not on the court as a professional athlete.

Iverson was a part of the league from 1996 until 2010, and never once changed his appearance or his attitude. But he did prove himself on the court, averaging  26.7 points and 6.2 assists per game over his career, revolutionizing the game of basketball.  Although some may still see him as nothing more than a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, most remember him for the gifted baller that he was (and if you ask me, still is).

Andersen entered the world of professional basketball in 1999, playing for a Chinese team, the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons. It was not until 2001 that he made his way to the NBA, but even so, only as a part of the D-League for the Fayetteville Patriots. Fortunately, after only two games as a D-Leaguer, Andersen was soon called up to the Denver Nuggets. beginning his 12-year journey.

At 35 years old, the veteran is averaging 12.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes of play with the Miami Heat, who he signed with in 2013, taking a veteran’s minimum salary.

“We liked him for years,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra recently stated. “We always thought he’d be a great fit.”

And apparently he was right. Andersen, who currently has the best field-goal percentage in team history, was a huge part of Miami’s Game 2 Eastern Conference Final win. Only LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh played more minutes.

“He plays until he has zero in the tank,” explained Spoelstra.

Holding Indiana Pacers Center Roy Hibbert to only four points and two rebounds in the fourth quarter, Andersen finished the game with 12 rebounds, three points and one block. But the big man brought more to the table than defensive and offensive numbers. He brought energy, and motivation, never showing even the slightest signs of fatigue. Beyond the impressive ball grabs and swats, Andersen consistently delivers something even more important: momentum.

“A lot of stuff doesn’t show up on the stats sheet,” Andersen claimed of his own contributions to the team.

While most might only see Andersen as a tattooed hooligan, his background riddled with problems, exhibiting a ridiculous celebratory flap of his arms on the court, his teammates know better.

“Whenever he comes into the game, the game picks up,” explained Shane Battier.

Wade, when asked to describe him in one word simply said “energy.”

A tattoo of the words “free bird” across his neck, check. Interview quotes like “I can’t give you no keys. Steel trap. Steel trap. Ain’t no keys from a steel trap, homeboy,” check. But so what? 

For Heat fans, these are just bonuses, added depth to an already multidimensional player. To us, Andersen is not just noticeable, but noticed.