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Tag:Heat
Posted on: June 1, 2011 5:19 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 5:22 pm
 

Shaq: The Last Big Interview

MIAMI – With Shaquille O’Neal announcing his Big Sayonara on Wednesday, it was the perfect time to reminisce about the Big Fella’s impact. Nobody ever did it like Shaq, or will ever do it like Shaq again.

He was one of a kind, an original. He was the last of the dominant centers, the first to market himself across platforms – from sports, to hip-hop, to movies, to pop culture.

I thought back to my last great interview with O’Neal, last October when he was embarking on what would become a frustrating, unfulfilling, and ultimately failed one-year experiment in Boston. After failing to get a “ring for the King” in Cleveland, O’Neal had hoped to capture his fifth championship and the 18th for the Celtics by teaming with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo. In the end, father time came calling for Shaq and sent him exiting, stage left.

Before he goes, a detailed look at that last interview in New York – a particularly candid moment that harkened back to a time when Shaq’s game was as loud and penetrating as his voice and ideas:

On the era of the dominant center: “I think I killed off all the centers, and now all the centers want to play the European-style basketball. There’s only one-and-a-half or two real centers left -- Dwight Howard and Yao Ming. Every now and then, Yao Ming steps outside and wants to shoot jumpers. But it’s gone more toward the European style. The days of the Patrick Ewings and Rik Smits and Kevin Duckworth and Robert Parish, those days are over, thanks to me.”

On whether it will ever come back: “No. Never.”

On his hip-hop career: “I was the one that did everything right and made it to the top and did it respectfully and kept it going. A lot of guys tried to come in, but I actually came in from the bottom, worked my way up with the crew and did this and did that. I was just a young kid coming from the projects of Newark, N.J., fulfilling one of his dreams.”

About the opportunities basketball has given him: “The good thing about being a humble athlete and a humble guy is, you get to meet people and you get to shake people’s hands. We all know that we all come from the same place. For me growing up, on the way to the court I was mimicking LL Cool J, and once I got to the court I was Dr. J. So it was pretty much even. And I always stated that the thing that made me a great athlete is because I’m a great dancer. I have rhythm.”

On any individual goals he had left: “If I did have an individual goal, it probably would be to pass Wilt Chamberlain in scoring. … Then I could feel complete with myself saying that I was the most dominant player if I had more championships and more points than him. But I don’t have any other individual goals that I’m going for. I’m just trying to get No. 5 this year.”

On whether centers can still be difference-makers: “No, not shooting jumpers. … I’ve never lost a series to a guy shooting jumpers – besides Pau (Gasol), but Pau has a couple of extra weapons with him. There hasn’t been a center that has won shooting jumpers. Pau is 60-40 – 60 inside and 40 shooting jumpers. So I think the centers are getting a little more Pau Gasolish.”

On whether that could change: “Dwight Howard plays like a true big man like we all played. … He’s actually in my eyes a true center. The game has changed, but to me he’s 95-5 – 95 inside and every now and then he’ll try to face up and shoot it off the glass. That’s how I like to see dominant big men play.”

On his love of sports cars: “I’ve always loved sports cars. I had a couple of Ferraris and had a Lamborghini. But I was coming off the 395 one night trying to get to the beach – chillin, looking good, smelling good. I don’t know why, but I hit something and spun around and the only thing I was thinking about was hitting that ___ wall and going into the water. I closed my eyes and when I stopped a ___ truck was coming this way, so I had to get in my mode and put that ___ in reverse and do like some Bruce Willis ___ and I traded it in the next day. No, as a matter of fact, when I came to Phoenix, I sold it to Amar’e (Stoudemire). I was speeding and I was trying to get to a party and I don’t even know what happened. I was just thinking about hitting a wall and thinking about all the courses I took, like if the car hit the water, what the ___ you gotta do.”

On being so critical of Howard in the past: “I wasn’t critical. It’s just that I know how to add fuel to the fire. But he does play like a true big man. I can’t say that he doesn’t play like a true big man. I was just saying last year that when I was his age, I didn’t have the luxury of calling a double to help me on Patrick Ewing. I would’ve loved to have help on ___ Pat Ewing and Rick Smits and all those guys, but I played them straight up. So if you want my respect, play straight up. That’s all I said.”
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 10:15 pm
 

Stern: Will be 'challenge' to avoid lockout

MIAMI – NBA owners and players will meet Wednesday for a “full-blown bargaining session” in the hopes of gaining momentum toward a new collective bargaining agreement before a lockout is imposed July 1, commissioner David Stern said Tuesday night.

In his annual pre-Finals media address, Stern said it will be a “challenge” for both sides to move off their current positions in time to avert a work stoppage, the threat of which already has begun damaging the business.

“The question is whether the owners and the players will be bold enough to do what has to be done here to keep this sport on the tack that it is on now, which is straight up,” Stern said.

Two bargaining sessions already had been scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas during the Finals, but Wednesday’s session in Miami was added after the National Basketball Players Association introduced what Stern described after his media address as a new “concept” last week. Stern described the status of negotiations as a “give and take,” and said the players haven’t submitted a formal counterproposal to the owners’ revised proposal, which was handed over in April.

"We told the players and the owners to bring their negotiating talents to South Beach," Stern said.

Stern said the players’ new proposed concept addressed one of the key issues the owners are trying to resolve in their efforts to vastly change the financial landscape of the sport in favor of the owners. Asked after his media address if the players’ new concept moved the negotiating needle, Stern said, “We have a deal that nothing moves the needle until the moved the needle is moved. We have no agreement on anything until there’s agreement on everything.”

During a Q&A with assembled media before Game 1 between the Heat and Mavericks, Stern declined to offer a percentage chance of a lengthy lockout. He also was asked to compare his feelings on that topic to how he felt during All-Star weekend in February.

“I can’t answer that,” Stern said. “I don’t even want to make guesses, because I know that both sides will make their best offers before the lockout – because if they don’t, then there’s going to be a lockout that would be destructive to our business from the owners’ perspective and the players’ perspective.”

Progress made last week in a small negotiation session in New York was “encouraging enough that we think tomorrow is time well spent and we think the two days next week will be well spent," Stern said.

Asked after his media address why he’s so confident a worse deal would be struck after July 1, Stern said, “Because the damage gets to be intense from our perspective. We know the deal can get worse.”

Asked for whom it would become worse, Stern said, “For the players. And to us, the deal will get worse for the owners. So we’ve got to decide to focus fully on how bad it will be after July 1. So June 30 is a really important date.”

Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were asked several times about whether a new CBA would require a team like Miami – with three stars on the books for $46 million next season – to be broken up. The owners have proposed a $45 million hard cap to replace the current soft-cap/luxury tax system. Their revised proposal offered to phase in those changes over a two-year period, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com. But the union viewed that offer as not much of an offer, since such drastic changes would have to be phased in by definition without across-the-board salary cuts, which the players will never accept.

Pressed on the issue of what happens to the Heat in a new CBA, Stern said after his address, “That hasn’t really been addressed. But I would expect (the team) to be together. I hope so.”

But at one point, Silver made a comment that is expected to rankle the Heat stars and other top-tier players in an attempt to explain the economics of why owners believe the current system is broken.

“Costs have risen much faster than revenues over the course of this deal,” Silver said. “… At the same time, non-player costs are growing at a much higher percentage, and the built-in increases of our contracts are much higher than inflation and the growth of our business. For example, the three key players on the Heat all have 10.5 percent per year increases built into their deals for next year, at a point when revenues in our business are growing somewhere around 3 percent. It’s a broken system.”

When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh get wind of that comment, they could become as emboldened about fighting the owners as they were at All-Star weekend in Dallas in 2010. At that time, 10 All-Stars – including James and Wade – attended a bargaining session and were incensed that an NBA team executive had made derisive comments about them in telling CBSSports.com that owners had the upper hand in the negotiations.

“If they don’t like the new max contracts, LeBron can play football, where he will make less than the new max,” the team executive said at the time.“Wade can be a fashion model or whatever. They won’t make squat and no one will remember who they are in a few years.”

In decrying the collectively bargained contracts Miami’s Big Three signed, Silver was taking aim at the team – and the three players – who were most responsible for the NBA’s astronomical increases in TV ratings and worldwide fan interest that is culminating with the Finals that tipped off Tuesday night.

The countdown to a real and important deadline to keep that momentum going is very much under way.
Posted on: May 31, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 9:48 pm
 

Source: No tampering complaint from Cavs yet


MIAMI -- In addressing the media 45 minutes before tipoff of LeBron James' first NBA Finals game with the Heat Tuesday night, commissioner David Stern is prepared for an abundance of labor questions and also, an inquiry that has particular relevance to this series: What happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers' plans to investigate possible tampering charges related to James' decision to sign with Miami?

There isn't much to address yet, according to a person with detailed knowledge of league operations who told CBSSports.com that no formal complaint has been filed.

"The answer is no," the person said.

In his annual pre-Finals media address Tuesday night, Stern said he has not received any correspondence from the Cavs or their legal representatives. Asked after his Q&A with reporters before Game 1 if he considers the matter closed, Stern said, "It was never open."

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert declined to comment Tuesday night on his team's ongoing legal probe.

In December, Yahoo! Sports reported that Gilbert had hired a law firm to build a possible tampering case against Miami, which signed James and Chris Bosh as free agents to pair with Dwyane Wade last July. The fruits of LeBron's decision are on full display, with the Heat advancing to the Finals against the Mavericks after running through the Eastern Conference playoffs by beating the 76ers, Celtics and Bulls.

At the time, Gilbert was incensed by meetings that involved high-level representatives of James and Wade in Chicago last June, when they were still under contract with their teams. Also, published reports indicated that James was involved in a meeting with Heat president Pat Riley and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan last November during a Cavs trip to Miami. That report came from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which also reported in July that Wade and Bosh flew to Akron to meet with James at his home a month earlier -- before the beginning of free agency July 1.

Stern has previously defended players' rights to discuss future plans among themselves, but stated during a playoff appearance in Philadelphia last month, "If there was tampering that someone could prove, that would make my blood boil.”  
 
The NBA does not investigate possible instances of tampering without a formal complaint from a team.
Posted on: May 30, 2011 7:01 pm
Edited on: May 30, 2011 7:04 pm
 

30 days to the lockout: momentum, but no progress

MIAMI – Driven by record TV ratings in the conference finals and worldwide interest in the Miami Heat’s quest for a championship, the NBA will embark Tuesday on a heavily anticipated NBA Finals. It should be good, and it better be. This could be the last competitive NBA event for a long time.

The Heat vs. the Mavericks promises the kind of drama that can cement a sport in the nation’s consciousness for years. And yet the league continues to face the very real possibility of a work stoppage, with the negotiating clock at T-minus 30 days and counting.

Publicly, the signals have been decidedly mixed since All-Star weekend in Los Angeles about whether a lockout – presumed inevitable for at least a year – can be averted. The rhetoric was significantly softened at All-Star weekend in February, and deputy commissioner Adam Silver made the most optimistic comments to date at the draft lottery in Secaucus, N.J., earlier this month, saying the “throttle is down” on efforts to hammer out a deal before the current one expires June 30.

But those olive branches subsequently were snapped in two by National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, who has described the owners’ revised proposal – in which they offered the non-offer of phasing in their draconian changes over several years – as worse than the original one. Last week, the NBPA filed an unfair labor practices charge against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging, among other things, that owners have not negotiated in good faith or provided suitable financial proof of their claims that the league is losing hundreds of millions a year under the current system.

So where are we? Thirty days out from what would be a debilitating and foolish display of stubbornness by both sides, sources familiar with the negotiating climate say it isn’t time to panic – but that time is coming soon.

“If there’s going to be a deal, I would say there are tipping points," one person familiar with the negotiations told CBSSports.com. "One tipping point is June 30. Once you get past June 30, people are inclined to sit around until the next tipping point, which is September.”

While the two sides remain far apart on the issues of a hard cap, reduced player salaries and an eventual elimination of guaranteed contracts, they at least are in agreement that they are farther along in negotiations than they were prior to the 1998-99 lockout, which resulted in a 50-game season. But one of the people familiar with the talks said there has been less progress at this point than there was in 2005, when noxious lockout fumes were in the air and catastrophe was averted with a surprise agreement during the NBA Finals. The owners, clearly, are no longer celebrating that victory, since they are trying to detonate most aspects of the deal that was ratified at that time.

Representatives for the owners and players met for a small bargaining session last week in New York, and a larger session is scheduled when the Finals shift to Dallas for the middle three games next week. Despite immense differences, the dialogue has been consistent for weeks – proof that neither side likes its chances if the dispute follows the NFL path to the courts.

“I think everybody is taking every opportunity right now to see if something can be done without a whole lot of distractions and rhetoric,” a person familiar with the negotiations said.

Developments in the NFL lockout have affected the NBA talks in significant ways. The NFL players’ initial victory in having their decertification validated in court, followed by the owners’ victory in temporarily preventing the lockout from being lifted, has only underscored the notion that commissioner David Stern and Hunter do not want this negotiation taken out of their hands and into the hands of politically appointed judges they don’t know. In some ways, both understand they’ll get a better deal through negotiation between now and July 1 than they’ll get in a courtroom after months of negative publicity and venom.

A ruling on the NBPA’s unfair labor practices charge isn’t expected for 6-8 weeks, sources say, which means the owners may have to decide to impose a lockout without knowing the outcome of the ruling. But the NLRB charge, sources say, has more to do with leverage than outcome. By putting their complaints in writing, the players have put the onus on both sides to hold good-faith negotiations and exchange legitimate proposals until the current deal expires.

“It puts the onus on both sides not to stall,” said another person familiar with the bargaining talks.

Of more importance is a ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on the validity of the NFL lockout. Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard June 3, with a ruling possible before the NBA lockout begins. If the appeals court upholds the portion of U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling that proclaimed the NFL lockout of a decertified union illegal, leverage in the NBA negotiations would swing significantly toward the players. At that point, the proverbial throttle would be pushed even harder toward a negotiated deal; why would NBA owners want to follow the same futile path through the courts that foiled their NFL counterparts?

A ruling in favor of the owners in the Eighth Circuit would shift the leverage to the NBA owners, and raise the chances of a lockout to a near certainty.

But while there is no disputing the communication and momentum, there are a few problems with comparing the NBA’s current situation to the NFL’s – or even the NBA’s in 1998 and 2005. As for the NFL comparison, legal experts believe the NBA owners would have a better case in the courts because they are claiming to be losing millions under the current system – and have provided audited financial statements and tax returns to prove it. NFL owners don’t claim to be losing money; they just want to make more.

As for comparing this to the NBA’s ’98 or ’05 negotiations, the NBA is in a different place than it was then. In ’98, salaries were out of control and the game was about to embark on the uncertain journey of life without Michael Jordan. In ’05, owners were looking for tweaks to the ’99 agreement. Now, they are looking to permanently and dramatically alter the landscape of the sport.

Which they most certainly will do with a prolonged lockout. They will forfeit the lofty place in the sports world that the NBA finally has attained after the golden era of Magic and Bird and the golden goose that was Jordan. The Finals begin in about 24 hours, but it’s T-minus 30 days and counting to the showdown that matters a lot more.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 2:55 pm
 

ESPN stands behind Rose interview on PEDs

MIAMI – ESPN the Magazine stands “firmly” behind its representation of Derrick Rose’s response to a question about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the NBA, editor in chief Gary Belsky said in a statement provided Monday to CBSSports.com.

Belsky also revealed that the interview with Rose, published May 16, was conducted by a “contributing reporter” six months ago. In the piece, Rose purportedly was asked, on a scale of 1-10, how big of a problem illegal enhancing was in his sport. Rose responded, “Seven. It’s huge,” but issued a statement Sunday saying he didn’t recall answering or being asked that question. If that was his response, Rose said, he clearly “misunderstood what was asked of me.”

“‘Scale of 1-10’ is an ongoing project in The Magazine, for which a group of contributing reporters routinely ask athletes in various sports a series of questions about all manner of topics,” Belsky said in the statement provided to CBSSports.com. “On Nov. 26, 2010, one of these contributors interviewed Derrick Rose before a Bulls-Nuggets game in Denver, and while we firmly stand by our representation of Derrick’s response to our question about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in his sport, only he can speak to his understanding of the question and the intent of his answer.”

For a feature in the May 16 issue of the magazine, Rose was one of several professional athletes asked, on a scale of 1-10 with one being, “What are PEDs?’” and 10 being, “Everybody’s juicing!” how big of a problem is illegal enhancing in your sport? Rose’s response:

"Seven. It's huge and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person."

After the comment began circulating online Sunday, hours before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Bulls and Heat, Rose issued a statement disavowing his response and what he was asked.

"Regarding the quote attributed to me in ESPN The Magazine, I do not recall making the statement nor do I recall the question being asked," Rose said in a statement released by the Bulls. "If that was my response to any question, I clearly misunderstood what was asked of me. But, let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance enhancing drug problem in the NBA.”"

Bulls spokesman Tim Hallam told CBSSports.com that Rose told him he would “never say anything like that.” Sources said Rose may have thought he was being asked how important it was for sports to be PED-free. A person close to Rose told the Chicago Tribune Sunday that Rose believed he was being asked, "How big of a problem would it be if steroid use were rampant in the NBA?"

League officials were made aware of the matter and decided to take no disciplinary action against Rose, an NBA spokesman told CBSSports.com Monday.

Though the comment was printed more than a week ago – and, as it turns out, generated from an interview conducted almost six months ago -- it did not begin widely circulating online until Sunday morning. Other athletes were polled for the magazine piece, including baseball player Andruw Jones (who gave his sport a five), and NFL player James Laurinaitis (who ranked his sport as a seven on the 1-10 scale.)

ESPN the Magazine did not reveal the identity of the contributor in its statement. The piece did not carry a byline.

Asked about Rose’s comments, Heat star Dwyane Wade said Sunday, “Haven’t seen nothing, haven’t heard nothing.” Asked if there’s a steroid problem in the NBA, Wade said, “No. I just don’t think there is. It’s nothing I’ve ever experienced in basketball. Never seen it. It’s nothing that I think takes place.”

NBA players are subject to four random drug tests between Oct. 1 and June 30, and can be tested more frequently if an independent expert rules that reasonable cause exists.
Posted on: May 22, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2011 6:17 pm
 

Rose denies saying PEDs 'huge' problem

MIAMI – Derrick Rose may not have been clear what he was being asked when he told a reporter from ESPN The Magazine that performance-enhancing drugs are a “huge” problem in the NBA.

"Regarding the quote attributed to me in ESPN The Magazine, I do not recall making the statement nor do I recall the question being asked," Rose said Sunday in a statement released by the Bulls. "If that was my response to any question, I clearly misunderstood what was asked of me. But, let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance enhancing drug problem in the NBA.”"

For a feature in the May 16 issue of the magazine, Rose was one of several professional athletes asked, on a scale of 1-10 with one being, “What are PEDs?’” and 10 being, “Everybody’s juicing!” how big of a problem is illegal enhancing in your sport? Rose’s response:

"Seven. It's huge and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person."

Bulls spokesman Tim Hallam told CBSSports.com that Rose told him he would “never say anything like that.” Sources said Rose may have thought he was being asked how important it was for sports to be PED-free. A person close to Rose told the Chicago Tribune Sunday that Rose believed he was being asked, "How big of a problem would it be if steroid use were rampant in the NBA?"

League officials were made aware of the matter Sunday and were looking into it. 

Though the comment was more than a week old, it did not begin widely circulating online until Sunday morning – hours before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Bulls and Heat, and after Rose and the rest of the Bulls had completed the media availability prior to shootaround at American Airlines Arena. As reporters were gathered in the interview room for sessions with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade, a post by IamaGM.com began making the rounds on various smartphones in the room.

Other athletes were polled for the magazine piece, including baseball player Andruw Jones (who gave his sport a five), and NFL player James Laurinaitis (who ranked his sport as a seven on the 1-10 scale.) It is not clear which ESPN the Magazine reporter conducted the interview with Rose; the piece did not carry a byline.

Asked about Rose’s comments, Wade said Sunday, “Haven’t seen nothing, haven’t heard nothing.” Asked if there’s a steroid problem in the NBA, Wade said, “No. I just don’t think there is. It’s nothing I’ve ever experienced in basketball. Never seen it. It’s nothing that I think takes place.”

We may not hear from Rose on his comments until the media access period prior to Game 3 Sunday night, so stay tuned.

NBA players are subject to four random drug tests between Oct. 1 and June 30, and can be tested more frequently if an independent expert rules that reasonable cause exists.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 9:44 pm
 

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point



CHICAGO – The Heat convened for practice Monday on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus with a big problem on their hands. That problem was named Derrick Rose, who was hunkered down with coach and film junky Tom Thibodeau at the Bulls’ practice facility 45 miles away.

By the time I arrived at the Berto Center in Deerfield, Ill., Rose was seated in the corner of the practice floor next to Thibodeau, deeply entrenched in another video session. They watched, they gestured, they scratched their chins as they dissected everything the Bulls did wrong in Game 1.

To the outside observer, that wasn’t much. Chicago has a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals because Rose played a nearly perfect second half, and because the defensive attention he commanded allowed the Bulls to dominate the offensive boards in a 103-82 victory Sunday night. The team with the problems, and with the adjustments to make in Game 2, is Miami.

“They’ll do different things, put different players on him, adjust coverages,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to be ready to handle that.”

Although Rose had only two shot attempts within five feet of the basket in Game 1, the defensive attention he attracted left the Heat vulnerable on the boards. The Bulls used this advantage to corral 19 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 31 points. That was the difference in the game, delivered mostly by Rose and the way he forced the Heat to play him.

“Any way you can get an offensive rebound, they got them,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, downplaying Rose’s impact on the Bulls’ huge night on the glass. “It wasn’t necessarily about Rose’s penetration.”



But the Heat’s disadvantage is more pronounced when they play with a true point guard on the floor: starter Mike Bibby or backup Mario Chalmers. This has been Spoelstra’s overwhelming preference, as nine of his 10 most-used lineups during the regular season featured a point guard, according to 82games.com. (If you count Eddie House as a point guard, it’s 19 of Miami’s 20 most-used lineups.)

With Rose being the single most important player for the Heat to contain, Spoelstra is in a quandary as he considers making what would be the most significant tactical adjustment of the series: going for longer stretches without Bibby or Chalmers on the floor. This bigger lineup would feature LeBron James initiating the offense and guarding Rose on the defensive end, which would limit the amount of traps and double teams the Heat have to deploy. Dwyane Wade would be at the other wing, with floor-spacer James Jones at small forward and Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh up front.

Spoelstra only used this configuration for 40 minutes this season, counting regular season and playoffs – and 30 of those minutes have come during the postseason, according to adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston. It’s impractical for Spoelstra to play the majority of the game that way, but in proper doses and in the right situations, this bigger lineup with James at the point (or Wade, for that matter) would solve three of the biggest problems that imperiled Miami in Game 1.

First, a bigger, stronger defender would be able to limit Rose’s penetration and bother his jump shot without overloading the floor with help. Staying at home defensively would give Miami a better chance to keep the Bulls from dominating the offensive boards, and a better defensive rebounding performance would ignite the Heat’s transition game – or, at the very least, get them into their offensive sets faster, before Chicago’s disciplined defense has a chance to get set.

Aside from how long Spoelstra is willing to play with Jones instead of James guarding Luol Deng, the key factor in deploying this strategy is James’ willingness to give up scoring opportunities while being more of a facilitator on the offensive end and also embracing the challenge of guarding Rose.

“It doesn’t matter,” James said Monday. “I’ve guarded all five positions throughout this regular season and postseason. Whatever it takes for us to win. If it means guarding Rose from the start and playing more point guard, I’m up to the task.”

One Eastern Conference coach familiar with both teams agreed that playing James at the point with Jones at small forward is “feasible,” but added, “Not full time.” One problem is Jones’ defensive matchup against Deng, who scored 21 points including 4-for-6 shooting beyond the 3-point arc Sunday night with James guarding him. The other issue is whether James has enough quickness to check Rose, and how he would handle defending pick-and-roll situations.

To that extent, Wade could defend Rose some of the time, with James on Keith Bogans or Ronnie Brewer. And whatever problems this presented defensively, the Heat would more than make up for it by putting tremendous perimeter pressure on the Bulls’ defense. With James and Wade penetrating from either wing, they’d have options: kicking out to each other, to Bosh on a pick-and-pop, or to Jones for an open 3-pointer. This way, Miami would steal Chicago’s offensive momentum and force the Bulls to come up with something to counter it.

In 30 minutes of floor time during the playoffs, the lineup of James, Wade, Jones, Bosh and Anthony has performed 20 points better than average, when adjusted for the strength of the opponent, according to Winston. That’s only slightly better than the plus-19 rating for 73 minutes with Bibby instead of Jones. When Chalmers plays with those players instead of Bibby or Jones, the Heat have played 30 points better than average during a 75-minute stretch.

The first step in Spoelstra’s tactical adjustment will be to play Chalmers more than Bibby when he goes with a true point guard on the floor. With Chalmers on the floor during the playoffs, the Heat have played 12 points better than average and only three points better than average with Bibby.

If that doesn’t work, look for Spoelstra to step up his experimenting with a bigger lineup featuring James and Wade as co-facilitators on offense and co-Rose-stoppers on D. As I've said before, the Heat should’ve played without a true point guard more often during the regular season – a look that would’ve made better use of their transition and off-the-dribble skills – so it wouldn’t be such a significant adjustment now.

But like LeBron said: Whatever it takes. And it might just take an unorthodox approach to beat a team like the Bulls, and to stop a disruptive force like Rose.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Rivers' return keeps Celtics whole

How the Celtics bounce back from getting toppled by the Heat, that is a question for another day. Priority No. 1 was taken care of Friday when coach Doc Rivers agreed to a five-year extension to remain a Celtic.

This is what Rivers said he was at his core the other night, gracious and optimistic in defeat after the Heat beat the Celtics 97-87 to evict the defending Eastern Conference champs from the postseason in five games. At a time when his players and assistant coaches were hurting -- and worse, uncertain about the future -- Rivers threw them a lifeline when he calmly revealed in the postgame news conference that he was "leaning heavily" toward coming back.

The finer points of a five-year, $35 million extension were still being discussed, but there will be no hang-ups here. Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge work together like left hand and right, and Rivers revealed in a quiet moment after that Game 5 loss Wednesday night that he was serious about returning. Several weeks ago, he basically informed Celtics management that whatever they worked out with his agent, Lonnie Cooper, he'd agree to.

The five-year deal at $7 million annually has been on the table for three months -- perhaps longer, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Friday. Rivers alluded to the offer Wednesday night on his way out of American Airlines Arena.

"There’s been a contract basically for three months there and Danny and Wyc (Grousbeck) and them have been on the other side of patience," Rivers said. "And it gave us a long time to talk about it as a family. So I haven't signed anything or done anything. But it’s there and I probably will sign it."

The only job that would've remotely tempted Rivers, the person with knowledge of Rivers' situation said, was replacing Phil Jackson with the Lakers. But that wasn't happening, not with Rivers -- not with a Celtic.  

"Leaving the Celtics to go to the Lakers would be akin to selling out," the person said. "He's old fashioned in a good way that way. That's the only job that would've been of any interest."

As for the Knicks, a team Rivers played for, New York executives are not believed to have explored whether Rivers would be available or interested. Mike D'Antoni has a year left on his contract, and team president Donnie Walsh is committed to giving D'Antoni a full season with a stable roster before making any rash decisions. But make no mistake: It wouldn't have mattered. Rivers has grown as close with his players in Boston as any coach in the league, and simply couldn't walk away -- even though some retooling at minimum and rebuilding at worst will be part of the job.

Does Ainge give in to the temptation to trade one of the Big Three at draft time -- the same way he acquired Ray Allen in the first place? Does Paul Pierce accept a secondary role, or even go to the bench? Does Jeff Green stay? How do the Celtics upgrade the size and toughness that was lost in the Kendrick Perkins trade?

All these decisions will be made with Rivers completely in the mix, working as effectively with Ainge as any coach and GM tandem in basketball. And don't forget this: Whatever challenges confront the Celtics, Rivers was adamant about showing the organization the same kind of loyalty it showed him. Before the Big Three were formed, Ainge stuck with Rivers and ignored the groundswell of opinions and speculation that he should be fired. It's no surprise they're finding a way to stick together now.

So close are Rivers and Ainge that one person familiar with their relationship suggested that Ainge may have been inclined to leave if Rivers did. That would've brought about a swift and painful end to the Celtics of the Big Three era, who progress now into a transition period with the most important piece of the puzzle firmly in place.

 
 
 
 
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