76ers

Wade gets huge ovation on NBA's homecoming night

uspresswire-heat-dwyane-wade.jpg
USA Today Images

Wade gets huge ovation on NBA's homecoming night

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade returned to Miami with a quiet game, but his mere presence got a rise out of Heat fans, and teammates Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson led the way to a 91-85 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday that snapped a five-game losing streak and capped a celebratory night.

Wade came off the bench to score three points on 1-of-6 shooting with two assists, one rebound, a key late block, and four turnovers in 22 minutes in his first game since being acquired in a trade from Cleveland on Thursday. Wade played 13 seasons and won three NBA championships with the Heat before leaving as a free agent for Chicago in 2016.

Johnson scored 19 points and Whiteside scored 12 points and had 16 rebounds. Bam Adebayo added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh Richardson chipped in 16 points for Miami.

All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Bucks, who lost for just the second time in nine games under interim head coach Joe Prunty.

The Heat trailed 9-0 to start the game, with fans growing restless to see the return of the franchise's favorite son. They chanted, "We want Wade!"

Wade entered midway through the first quarter and received a standing ovation from the crowd. He immediately made an impact throwing a lob to Hassan Whiteside for a dunk on his first possession as the fans roared (see full recap).

Clippers get last laugh in 1st game vs. Griffin
DETROIT -- Lou Williams scored 26 points, and the Los Angeles Clippers handed former teammate Blake Griffin his first loss with Detroit, beating the Pistons 108-95 on Friday night.

It was a bit of an off night for Griffin, who scored 19 points but shot 7 of 19 from the field. The whole Detroit team faded down the stretch. The Pistons led 80-77 after three quarters but scored only 15 points in the fourth.

Detroit had won five in a row, with Griffin playing in four of those games.

Tobias Harris scored 12 points and Avery Bradley had 10. They were the key players the Clippers acquired in last week's deal that sent Griffin to Detroit.

Austin Rivers scored 16 points for Los Angeles in his first game back from a right ankle injury.

Bradley and especially Harris received ovations from the Detroit crowd when they were introduced in the starting lineup, but when the teams came out for the opening tip, there wasn't anything too unusual in terms of pregame greetings. In fact, Griffin and Bradley were hit with simultaneous technical fouls in the first quarter after battling for rebounding position.

After the game, Griffin headed straight toward the locker room and did not stick around to commiserate on the court (see full recap).

LaVine, Bulls spoil Butler’s Chicago homecoming
CHICAGO -- Zach LaVine scored 35 points against his former team, and the Bulls spoiled Jimmy Butler's return to Chicago with a 114-113 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Butler scored 38 to finish one shy of a season high. But the Bulls rallied from 17 down to snap a seven-game losing streak.

LaVine came up big down the stretch, scoring eight in the final 1:11. He nailed three free throws after getting fouled by Butler to put Chicago ahead with 18.4 seconds left.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Butler missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds, giving Minnesota another tight loss.

Butler and Taj Gibson got standing ovations prior to their first game against the team that drafted them. There were more loud cheers following a video tribute in the first quarter, with both players standing and waving as the fans rose to their feet.

Butler delivered the sort of all-around performance Bulls fans grew accustomed to during his six seasons, before the draft night trade to Minnesota for LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. The four-time All-Star finished with seven rebounds and five assists.

Andrew Wiggins scored 18, Towns added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Gibson scored 10 for the Timberwolves, who came up short again after losing in overtime to Cleveland on Wednesday.

Robin Lopez scored 19 for Chicago (see full recap).

NBA draft profile: Bosnia F Dzanan Musa

NBA draft profile: Bosnia F Dzanan Musa

Dzanan Musa

Position: Forward

Height: 6-9

Weight: 190

Team: Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia)

You hear stories all the time about what prospects in different sports sacrificed to chase their dreams. Few of them can match Dzanan Musa.

At 11 years old, the Bosnian Musa moved from his hometown of Bihac to capital city Sarajevo (a nearly five-and-a-half-hour drive) to attend a basketball academy. Musa lived in an apartment by himself and trained several times a day until he turned professional at age 16.

“I know how to manage myself,” Musa said after a recent workout with the Denver Nuggets. “Especially when you’re from a small town as I am and you go in the main city, you have people looking at you like you’re nothing. You have to fight through that, so I fight. I fight all the time.” 

That hunger has placed the offensively-gifted wing among first-round talents in the 2018 draft class even if it takes a couple more years for Musa to suit up in the NBA.

Strengths
Musa has been getting buckets since he picked up a basketball. Look no further than his prolific scoring numbers with the Bosnian national team. 

In the 2014 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship, he put up 23.0 points a game and followed that up in the 2015 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship with 23.3 points a contest. Musa took it up a notch in the 2016 FIBA Under-17 World Cup when he racked up 34.0 points a night en route to being named tournament MVP.

Of course, that was against players his own age. But Musa has held his own against grown men in the professional ranks as well. In 71 total games for Cedevita Zagreb this past season across the Croatian Leagues and EuroCup, the 19-year-old averaged 12.3 points on 47.0 percent shooting from the field and 31.3 from three-point range in addition to 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.1 minutes (see highlights).

Overall, Musa is an offensive-minded player that can score in bunches at all three levels when on his game and handle play-making duties as a point-forward.

Weaknesses
Like plenty of European prospects before him, Musa has two huge areas to focus on if he wants to make it in the league: physique and defense. 

“In Europe, we don’t have people around here who are these kinds of athletes,” Musa said after a recent workout with the Indiana Pacers. "I have to develop myself into that kind of player to finish through contact.”

Notice he didn’t mention bulking up to help play defense. That’s because Musa apparently isn’t all that concerned with that end of the floor, which will be a major problem when the talent level spikes in the NBA.

Also, Musa apparently has a competitive side that boils over on the court and gets the best of him at times. That works when you’re someone like Draymond Green, an All-Star and multiple-time champion. Not so much when you’re a young player from overseas trying to find his way.

NBA comparison
While Musa would love to be compared to idol Manu Ginobili, we’re not about to make that link. Sorry, kid. 

However, another recent European prospect that was versatile offensively and was confident in his ability to the point of being cocky is Magic forward Mario Hezonja. That seems like a much better pairing. Like Hezonja, it will take time for Musa to adapt his body and game to the league before he is ready to contribute.

How’d he fit with Sixers
Offensively, Musa would appear to fit in pretty well with the Sixers. He likes to get out on the break and can knock down shots. He also would be able to take over ball-handling duties at times if needed.

On the defensive end, the Sixers have studs in Robert Covington and Joel Embiid that can cover up some deficiencies from others, but even they can only do so much.

Draft projection
Musa is projected to go anywhere from the late teens to near the end of the first round. With the Sixers holding the No. 26 pick and already having 11 players under contract for next season, he could be a serious candidate for a draft-and-stash selection.

More on the Sixers and the NBA draft

Despite Brett Brown connection, Sixers should steer clear of Kawhi Leonard trade

Despite Brett Brown connection, Sixers should steer clear of Kawhi Leonard trade

Brett Brown knows only one way to go about his business in the basketball world: attack.

That is evident from his pace-and-space style of play the Sixers have displayed since he took over as head coach. Now he has vowed to do the same thing as the team’s interim general manager.

“We are completely exploring aggressively all options, and I think we just know we need a little bit more,” Brown said Friday.

It’s evident the Sixers need help to become a championship-level team, but we’re not so sure it should come in the form of a man wearing black and silver hitchhiking his way out of San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard sent shockwaves around the NBA when he reportedly made it clear he wants a split from the Spurs. Per the reports, Leonard has Los Angeles — specifically the Lakers — as his top destination for a trade.

And while there’s no guarantee the Spurs send the former Finals MVP and two-time All-Star to Hollywood, the Sixers would be better served to stay out of the hunt. That’s because if the quiet superstar has proven anything over the past year, it’s that he can do a lot of damage to an organization without saying a word. 

Leonard missed the first 27 games of 2017-18 with a right quad injury. He returned on a heavy-restriction plan only to play seven contests before suffering a tear in his left shoulder. The swingman played one more game before being shut down indefinitely because of the nagging quad. 

After more rehab and eventually being cleared by the Spurs’ medical staff, Leonard opted to leave the team for a second opinion in New York. He stayed away from San Antonio while getting treatment, which allegedly caused friction within the organization that eventually blew up in a players-only meeting.

That didn’t deter Leonard from his plan. He didn’t suit up again nor did he show support for the squad in its first-round series against the champion Golden State Warriors. (Oh, by the way, Leonard has missed time in three straight seasons because of his right quad and reportedly still isn’t 100 percent).

Now if that’s enough to shake up the locker room of arguably the most stable franchise in all of sports, what impact do you think Leonard’s methods would have on the Sixers’ impressionable roster?

Could it be that Leonard just reached his tolerance level with the legendary head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs and simply needs a change of scenery? Of course.

But that’s not a risk the Sixers should be willing to take. Not for virtually the only player in recent memory to ever clash with the highly-respected Spurs. Not for a guy that’s willing to potentially walk away from a $219 million supermax extension for a $188 million maximum just to escape to his hometown of L.A.

Certainly not when it could mean parting with key pieces of your core (Dario Saric, Robert Covington and/or Markelle Fultz) in addition to the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. All for what could be a one-year rental player, as Leonard is able to opt out of his current deal after next season.

Surely the Sixers would want a guarantee Leonard plans to stay before pulling the trigger on a trade, but that’s not a handshake agreement they should be willing to trust. Even if old buddy Brown is the one shaking hands with “The Claw.”

“He’s a great guy,” Brown said. “I’ve spent years with him, as you know, in San Antonio. I’m reminded of the recruiting process we went through to identify him and the sort of pain we went through to give up George Hill to move up and target him. He’s good people, he’s obviously an elite talent and I enjoyed my time with Kawhi in San Antonio.”

Things could be even more painful for Brown this time around if he’s not careful.

More on the Sixers