Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Which Heat team shows up? Will Olynyk make a difference?

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30 teams in 30 days: Which Heat team shows up? Will Olynyk make a difference?

The 2016-2017 campaign was a tale of two seasons for the Miami Heat, with the first half of the season being a nightmarish 11-30 start, followed by a fairy tale run of success in which they did a 180-degree turn and didn’t have their postseason dreams dashed until the very last day of the regular season.

So who are the real Heat?

Miami brass is banking on the latter with the Heat electing to bring back most of the players from last season with the biggest newcomer being former Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk.

The Heat team that you see on the floor this season was not what they were banking on coming away with in the offseason.

When Gordon Hayward elected to sign with the Celtics instead of returning to Utah or joining the Heat, that opened the vault for Miami to bring back Dion Waiters (four years, $52 million) and James Johnson (four years, $60 million) on deals that were significant upgrades on their previous salaries.

Those aren’t the only head-scratching contracts on the Heat payroll.

Miami is still on the books for Tyler Johnson’s four-year, $50 million contract (he signed an offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016 and the Heat matched the offer) which has three years and about $45 million left which means Miami’s core for now is centered around the Tyler and James Johnson (not related), Waiters, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.

A decent group of players, but certainly nothing more than a team that’s fighting for one of the last playoff spots, despite a payroll that’s more indicative of a team with deep playoff run aspirations.

For this thing to work out, someone from among this group will have to emerge and coach Erik Spoelstra will need to do what he tends to do every year which is to get the most out of a roster that remains void of proven All-Star talent.

And this comes at a time when most of the top teams in the East (Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington) were solidifying their core with players with an established track record for success and the benefit of playoff experience.

Miami will look to avoid missing out on the playoffs back-to-back years for the first time since 2002 and 2003.

Look for Miami to once again play a scrappy brand of basketball, with Dragic and Whiteside leading the way.

Dragic, who averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists last season, has put up solid numbers throughout his career but has yet to take his game – or the  Heat as a team for that matter – to a level that would cement his place among the league’s top playmakers.

And while Whiteside has shown steady improvement at center, the 7-footer’s inability to stretch the floor is indeed a concern for Miami, which is why the addition of Olynyk, another 7-footer who is a career 36.8 percent 3-point shooter, was huge for them.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Kelly Olynyk (Boston)

Key losses: Josh McRoberts (Dallas)

Rookies of note: Bam Adebayo.

Expectations: 42-40 (Third in the Southeast Division, eighth in the East)


 

Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

LOS ANGELES – Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close all-star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along wit 10 rebounds and eight assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game which had a different format this year, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry each picking the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making (defensive) plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time all-star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the all-star game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), tat’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game – LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 – but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but … $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”

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