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Heat say things will change, and change soon

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Heat say things will change, and change soon

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James and four teammates chatted for several minutes under a basket after the Miami Heat finished practice on Friday afternoon, each player sporting a serious look for the entirety of the conversation.

For the first time this season, the reigning NBA champions are dealing with some real trouble.

Back-to-back losses - at Washington on Tuesday, then by 20 points at home against a New York Knicks team that didn't even have Carmelo Anthony on Thursday - have soured the Heat mood. Add that to some poor defensive numbers and Miami already needing six late rallies before closing out wins so far this season, and it's easy to see why no one seemed to be laughing at work on Friday.

``When you win everything's great. When you lose everything's bad,'' Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. ``That's how it works.''

As Wade spoke, James was chatting about 50 feet away with Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and James Jones, a few of them sometimes gesturing at spots on the court as if to mimic how a play is or is not supposed to work. Typically, when the Heat are done with their actual practice, it's a light-hearted time, one filled with shooting contests and things of that nature.

That wasn't the case on Friday.

``There is a cloud over our team because we're not defending like we know we're capable of defending,'' James said. ``We have some room for improvement. The good thing is we can be great. But right now, we're not good. We're not very good right now as a team and we've got to get to that point.''

Miami's next chance to start getting to that point comes Saturday, when the Heat play host to New Orleans.

The Heat saw the Knicks make 18 shots - on 44 tries - from 3-point range on Thursday night, which became the latest entry on a list of events where Miami believes opponents have thrived simply by getting up to play against last season's champions.

So far this year, the Heat have seen opponents score at least 100 points 11 times in 17 games. Last season, that happened 16 times in 66 regular-season games.

Some of the highlights, or lowlights, include the following:

- Washington scored 105 points against Miami on Tuesday, the most the Wizards have managed in regulation against anyone all season, and remember, they had one win all year entering that game.

- Wayne Ellington made seven 3-pointers for Memphis in a win over Miami on Nov. 11. He's 3 for 21 from beyond the arc since, entering Friday.

- Raymond Felton had a season-high 27 points, and tied a career-high with six 3-pointers in the Knicks' win Thursday.

``Never seen anything like this,'' Bosh said of how opponents have at times scored at will against Miami. ``And I've played on some bad defensive teams. We're not one.''

The most troubling defensive stat of all for the Heat is likely this: Miami entered Friday 23rd in points allowed per game, after finishing fourth in the league in that stat last season. The Heat have allowed the third-highest number of 3-pointers in the NBA so far, nothing new after giving up the second-most makes from beyond the arc a season ago.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra often speaks of habits and the human condition, and he was asked Friday if Miami's struggles are simply because the team knows the playoffs are still four months away.

``If that is a reality, then that is a major problem,'' Spoelstra said. ``But we have an opportunity to correct it, you know, right now. If it goes too long, what it becomes is a tendency. Goes longer than that, it becomes a habit. If it continues, by the time you get to the playoffs, that's who you are. So that's what we're going to change right now.''

James insisted that the regular-season-is-irrelevant argument doesn't apply to Miami.

``Not for me,'' James said. ``It's not for me. My motivation is well beyond hoisting one trophy. I'm not taking any shortcuts to get to that point, so I can't allow my teammates to take shortcuts. We've got to be better. I've got to be better. It's that simple.''

For two years, ever since Wade and James and Bosh decided to play together in Miami, the Heat have been surrounded by what they call ``noise.'' Everything the Heat have done, the good and especially the bad, have been scrutinized. Winning last season's title, they figured, would relieve perhaps a tiny bit of that noise - that is, until the first rough patch of this season arrived.

It's now here. And some inside the Heat locker room think that the extra motivation might not be a bad thing right now.

``We understand what it takes to win,'' Haslem said. ``We understand that we have what it takes to win. But not performing at a high enough level defensively, it's just a shame. We've got to fix it. And we're going to fix it.''

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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