Posted on: December 25, 2009 4:27 pm
NEW YORK – If you were expecting to see a memorable performance from Dwyane Wade on Christmas Day, you came to the wrong place. What you got instead was something that Wade, coach Erik Spoelstra, and lord knows Pat Riley prefer.
It was a pick-your-spots effort from Wade on the offensive end and another stellar defensive game for Miami. Was it a tedious, boring way for the NBA to kick off its slate of five nationally televised games on Friday? Yawn. But if Wade and the Heat look back after the season and wonder when they found their rhythm, their identity, the 10-day stretch culminating with Friday’s 93-87 victory over the Knicks will stand out.
It wasn’t exactly Riley’s Heat vs. Jeff Van Gundy’s Knicks in this, the Knicks’ first Christmas Day since appearance since 2001 after 38 straight from 1950-87. But it was the type of grind-fest that the Heat are going to have to become adept at winning if they’re going anywhere in what could be Wade’s last season in Miami.
“The alternative just was not working for us,” Spoelstra said.
After enjoying eight of their first 10 games at home with a 7-3 record, the Heat fell into some bad habits with a road trip that began Nov. 18 against last season’s playoff opponent, the Hawks. They went 4-8 over the next 12 games, allowing the opponent to score at least 100 points in nine of them. They’ve allowed 100 points only once in the last five games, and it happened to come in their only loss – 102-95 against Portland.
“Going into training camp, that’s what Coach wanted us to be,” Wade said. “Have the ability to score the ball, but don’t rely on it, because scoring the ball is inconsistent.”
This, Wade knows. He entered Friday’s game shooting a career-low 43 percent, prompting Riley to publicly question his conditioning. This season, he’s averaging 1.26 points per field goal attempt, a significant decline from the 1.37 points per field goal attempt he averaged last season while winning the scoring title.
An NBA front office executive who has watched Wade closely this season said he seems to be trying to raise his production lately by deferring to his teammates for long stretches instead of shouldering the majority of the scoring load from start to finish. That approach was on full display Friday, with only eight of Wade’s 21 field goal attempts coming in the first half.
“I was picking my spots early in the game,” Wade said. “At the end, I just had that ‘take us home’ mentality.”
After the Knicks cut the deficit to single digits midway through the fourth, Wade pushed it back to 10 points three times – with two 21-foot jumpers and then a ferocious dunk that made it 81-71 with 3:29 left.
“What changed?” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s name’s Dwyane Wade.”
Wade was 11-for-21 from the field for 30 points, a far cry from some of his inefficient performances that coincided with Miami’s attempt to win 100-point slugfests. In the past five games, Wade is 54-for-116 from the field (.466).
The burst that he showed on that dunk with 3:29 remaining was something that had been missing. After his legs felt unusually heavy early in the season, Wade said personal trainer Tim Grover joined him in Miami for a crash course in core strength to get him jump-started again. At the same time, he’s tried to slow down his offense and speed up his patience.
“I pride myself on playing an overall game,” Wade said, “not just scoring.”
That formula is working for him now, and for his team, too.
Posted on: November 11, 2009 7:28 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The King has spoken: No more 2010 talk for the rest of the season.
Our long national nightmare is over.
In a strange turn of events that could have -- some would say, should have -- taken place weeks, or even months ago, LeBron James announced Wednesday night that he will not answer any more questions about his impending free agency until after the season.
"Honestly, you know, this fee agency talk is getting old," LeBron said at the end of a seven-minute interview session with reporters before the Cavaliers played the Magic in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals. "You know, it’s getting old. I'm gonna stop; I think tonight will probably be the last time I answer any more free agent questions until the offseason. I think I owe it to my teammates, I owe it to myself. It’s just getting old."
For a player who carefully calculates every word he speaks publicly, this seemed like a spontaneous decision. It was only five days ago when James went to New York and soaked up the atmosphere provided by one of the teams unabashedly clearing salary cap space for him. As he always does when visiting the Big Apple, LeBron seemed to relish all the attention being on him. He entertained every question, carefully constructing every phrase in a way that only further stoked the speculation.
On Wednesday night, prior to Cleveland's first meeting with the Magic since losing to them in the conference finals, James entertained several questions about free agency. At one point, he even admitted that he and pal Dwyane Wade -- whose Heat host the Cavs Thursday night -- have talked privately about playing together. (In case you've been hiding under a rock, both LeBron and Wade can opt out of their contracts next summer and become unrestricted free agents.)
Then, when someone exceeded the "last question" limit that had been set by one of the Cavs' media relations people and asked James again about playing with Wade, he fidgeted nervously and made his no-2010-talk proclamation.
"I'm focusing on this season and this is going to be a really good season for us," James said. "I don’t want to have any more distractions to my teammates, to my organization, to my family. This will be the last time I answer a free agent question for the rest of the year."
Posted on: October 30, 2009 9:22 am
The looming deadline for extending the contracts of 2006 draft picks presents an intriguing dilemma for the Celtics -- and for Rajon Rondo.
Posted on: August 7, 2009 3:17 pm
LeBron James is often criticized for sitting on the fence when it comes to his intentions for 2010, when he currently has the ability to opt out of his contract and test the unrestricted free agent market. But there was no mistaking LBJ's position on Friday, when he said unequivocally that he will not sign an extension with Cleveland this summer in order to preserve that flexibility.
"I signed a contract in 2006 with an option," James said at an event in his native Akron, Ohio. "It would make no sense for me to sign that contract if I didn't keep my options open. I'll let you fill in the blanks."
So there you go. No filling in necessary.
No extension. The drama lives for another year. The LeBron-o-thon continues.
I can't blame LeBron, nor can I say I'm surprised. He will still have the ability to sign an extension with the Cavs after the 2009-10 season -- and before July 1, 2010 -- that would lock him in under the current salary scale and rules before the CBA takes an expected turn in favor of the owners in 2011. His best option financially, under the current collective bargaining agreement, is to re-sign with Cleveland or participate in a sign and trade because either scenario would get him a sixth year and bigger annual raises after the first year.
But given that we've already crunched the numbers and determined that LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh -- who have identical contracts -- would be leaving between $2.7 million and $5.2 million on the table over the next four years by foregoing an extension, LeBron's own words tell you everything you need to know about his intentions.
His words don't reveal whether he's staying or going. But they do tell you without a sliver of doubt that waiting to see how close he is to a championship in Cleveland is far more important to him than a few million dollars.
Cavs fans, I'm sorry to inform you that your King is going to hold court with your collective hearts for another year. That means another year of rampant speculation, attempted mind-reading, and hype.
Oh, and guess who visits Madison Square Garden in the first week of the 2009-10 regular season? His Highness faces the Knicks on Nov. 6.
Posted on: July 27, 2009 10:51 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2009 9:08 am
The Miami Heat's pursuit of free agent Lamar Odom has escalated in recent days. Now, reigning scoring champion Dwyane Wade reportedly will have a chance to close the deal in person.
Although Wade is dealing with forces beyond his control, he usually closes the deal.
Reporter Jim Hill of the CBS-TV affiliate in Los Angeles reports that Odom was scheduled to meet with Wade and Pat Riley on Monday in hopes of finalizing the talented sixth man's departure from the defending champion Lakers. This comes after Wade escalated his recruitment of Odom on his Twitter account over the weekend, urging Odom to "come back to where it started for both of us."
Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who personally closed the deal with free agent Ron Artest earlier this month, pulled his initial offer of three years and approximately $30 million off the table -- apparently in frustration over Odom's insistence on shopping the offer to other teams. Neither the Lakers nor Odom has closed the door on reigniting the talks, and some close to Odom still believe he prefers to re-sign with the Lakers. A face-to-face meeting with Riley and Wade will go a long way toward determining whether Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, are posturing for a better offer or serious about leaving Hollywood for South Beach, where Odom played the 2003-04 season when Wade was a rookie.
A resolution is expected by the end of the week, but there's no foolproof way to handicap Odom's destination. Clearly, there will be no home-team discount for the Lakers. But if Odom was so intent on leaving, wouldn't he have made a decision already? Riley and Wade are extremely persuasive, but will they be able to sell Odom on the idea that Miami is a better championship contender with Odom than the Lakers are?
I'm on record saying Odom would be better off staying in L.A., but it's not my money or my career. If Odom finally decides to return to the Lakers, all of this posturing and negotiating will be forgotten. In my opinion, he fits better on that team than he would anywhere else.
Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:34 am
A few weeks ago when Ron Artest decided to sign with the Lakers, one of the first things out of his mouth was this: "I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."
Artest and Odom have known each other since they were kids growing up in Queens, playing in the playgrounds and on AAU teams. As much as Artest wanted to sign with the Lakers -- even saying he'd "play there for nothing" -- it is unfathomable that he would've made such a bold career move without knowing L.O. would be on board.
This is why the posturing, the rejected offers, and the offers taken off the table over the past few weeks have been so puzzling. Well, puzzling isn't the right word. I never -- ever -- begrudge athletes, entertainers, finance people, or anybody else when they try to get paid. That is their right and that is how the game is played. An athlete's career is a nanosecond, and they should make as much money as humanly possible. You would do the same thing. So would I.
But the time has come for Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, to recognize that the market is what it is for a player who might just be the best sixth man in the NBA -- but one who, nonetheless, has never made so much as an All-Star team or led the league in any major statistical category. Odom wears his heart on his sleeve and the address of the South Jamaica home where he grew up on the tongues of his sneakers. The dirty secret that Lakers management has known throughout this process is that Odom's heart is in L.A. That's where he and his sneakers belong, too.
Miami? Nice place. No state income tax. Great teammate to play with in Dwyane Wade. But adding Odom wouldn't put the Heat any closer to a title than the Lakers would be if they re-signed him. Portland? The Blazers certainly have the cap space after losing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, but Portland doesn't feel like the right fit for Odom.
In my mind, the only place besides L.A. that would've made sense for Odom was Boston. But the Celtics struck early in the free-agent period and signed Rasheed Wallace for a fraction of what Odom is seeking.
There will be no hard feelings on either side when, I predict, Odom relents and accepts a three-year deal from the Lakers for somewhere north of $30 million. Derek Fisher is on record saying, "We want him back badly and I hope we can accomplish that in the next couple days." Kobe Bryant is on record saying he's "optimistic" that Odom will return to the Lakers. It is time for those recruiting efforts and optimism to become reality.
Some people whose names end in two G's don't like Lamar Odom. They're stuck in their wistful thinking about how good he could've been if he'd applied himself or if he wanted to be one of the top five players of his era. Odom certainly has that kind of talent. But he was born to be a wingman, and life's challenges have only solidified that niche for him. The Lakers are the perfect team for him, and he for them. It's time to stop posturing and put pen to paper with the Lakers. I refuse to believe that Fisher, Bryant, and Artest will let him do anything different. If Odom knows what's good for him -- if he knows where he's wanted and where he belongs -- then he'll listen.
Posted on: July 13, 2009 10:52 pm
LAS VEGAS -- Loyal readers will notice that I've made some mathematical changes in the two pieces on the 2010 decisions for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
I am here to explain why, because that's the kind of guy I am.
The premise remains the same: All three would be better off financially in the short term by signing extensions this summer. The part that I missed -- as did some cap experts I consulted in working on the stories -- is the fact that the Big Three can only sign three-year extensions this summer. That's because only Bird free agents and players on rookie-scale contracts can get the maximum extension of six years.
The other factor that changed some of the numbers was the fact that by opting out next summer and staying with their teams -- or participating in a sign-and-trade -- LeBron & Co. would be eligible for bigger raises after the first year of the deal than if they signed with another team. Of course, they'd also get a six-year deal by re-signing with their current teams or participating in a sign-and-trade.
Here's the revised column reflecting the changes, and here are the updated scenarios. The numbers have changed, but looking at the next four years and the total values of the potential extensions and new contracts really illustrates how much the shrinking cap has changed the game as players decide whether to re-up or go for one more long-term deal before the salary structure is drastically changed by a new collective bargaining agreement.
One more thing on this topic: Writing about this is not meant to evoke sympathy for athletes who obviously make an incredible living most of us can only dream of. The point is not that we should feel bad for highly paid performers losing out on a few million dollars. The point is that all the decisions that determine how good the teams that you root for will become are made based on complicated financial factors like these. Pointing them out and trying to explain them should give you a little insight into why players and franchises do what they do when faced with such decisions.
Posted on: July 12, 2009 7:23 pm
LAS VEGAS -- The Miami Heat have wasted no time offering Dwyane Wade a contract extension.
Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, confirmed to CBSSports.com that he received an offer from Miami on Sunday, the day Wade's one-year window for signing an extension opened. Thomas declined to discuss specifics, but the maximum Miami can offer under the collective bargaining agreement is a four-year extension worth $86.6 million.
Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh signed their current three-year extensions three years ago this week. They become eligible to sign extensions on the three-year anniversary of signing their current deals. Wade was the first to sign, and his window -- which lasts until June 30, 2010 -- was the first to open.
Wade has said that he wants to wait and see what moves Miami makes to bring the team closer to championship contention before he decides on signing the extension.