Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins Won’t Let Themselves Slip Too Far in NBA Draft

They’ve each had some rough stretches. Possessions, halves, games, months—both Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart have struggled this season with inconsistency. 

Their weaknesses are obvious—a blind man could have detected them in Oklahoma State’s 72-65 win over Kansas, when Smart’s and Wiggins’ flaws were both exposed and easily detectable. 

But despite the mishaps and questionable plays, both Wiggins and Smart were able to showcase what differentiates them from the pack of 2014 eligible draft prospects. 

Their big-time appeal was flashed in blinding fashion, even if it was quick. Wiggins, the 6’8″ freak athlete that he is, made some plays that simply drive the hype toward his NBA ceiling. And Smart did the same, only in his own way.

But before dipping into Smart’s current draft stock, it’s important to note what powered it in the first place.

As a freshman in 2012-13, Smart had been one of those guys whose stat sheets got tossed out the window. Nobody seemed to care he shot below 30 percent from downtown or that he sported an uninspiring 4.2-3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Smart earned himself the reputation as a floor general and leader—a guy you can trust to command the offense and make the necessary play at the necessary time. 

Against Kansas, I’d be lying if I said Smart wasn’t brutally bad in the first 30 minutes of the game. From reckless drives to forced jumpers on the perimeter, his shot selection and decision-making were awful. A Marcus Smart skeptic would have had a field day with his first-half results, which saw him shoot zero of seven with two turnovers. 

But the attraction to Smart centers around the intangibles as opposed to the box scores—specifically his ability to actively take control of a game and individually impact its results when it matters. And that’s exactly what he did down the stretch against Kansas. 

On the other hand, the attraction to Wiggins stems from his long-term potential—he’s got the size of Paul George with the athleticism of Russell Westbrook. While his current offensive game is a work in progress, his two-way ceiling is limitless. 

Wiggins missed some opportunities against Oklahoma State, but at the end of the day, he made some plays that likely had scouts drooling on their notebooks. 

And the key one came with Kansas down two and just over two minutes remaining in the game. He went into attack mode, hitting Smart one-on-one with two hard dribbles before pulling up and separating into a jumper. And Wiggins was able to knock it down.

It’s a go-to type of NBA shot. Wiggins clearly has the size, athleticism and quickness to separate whenever he wants, so to see him go for it in the clutch and convert is a very promising sign. Just imagine if he can start creating and hitting this shot on a routine basis—it’s one of those unguardable shots that separates the good from the great. 

Wiggins actually missed 11 shots and made five against Oklahoma State, but it’s the quality of his makes that will allow scouts to overlook the quantity of his misses.

Like Wiggins, Smart’s strengths speak louder than his weaknesses. He stunk in the first half but absolutely took control late in the game, converting 14 points in the final 12 minutes.

He was knocking down everything from pull-up jumpers to strong takes to the rack. In between, he made the hustle plays that prompted many to label him a keeper and a winner to begin with. 

“After the game, I told him he’s a piece of work,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford told Cliff Brunt of the Associated Press. “You have to stick with him, because he’s going to make plays. He’s a competitor. That’s what he did. He was huge down the stretch.”

If you want to pick apart Smart’s game from head to toe, go ahead. You can probably find a bunch of aspects of it that needs tweaking and readjusting. But that “it” factor, though. 

In a must-win game against Kansas, he turned it up under pressure, single-handedly taking control of his team and command of its offense. Smart showed some poise, running the pick-and-roll with ease in a key spot:

Smart also demonstrated some of his scoring-takeover ability—despite his poor shooting percentage, he stepped up and hit a huge pull-up three-pointer to take the lead with under four minutes left:

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander expects this to resonate with Smart as one of his “strongest, happiest memories.”

Though ineffective in the first half, it’s that stretch where he shined in the second that’s likely to stick in the minds of the NBA folks. 

In terms of both players’ full body of work throughout the game, it wasn’t their best. Wiggins finished just 5-of-16 shooting, while Smart ended up five of 14. And we’ve seen this from both of them throughout their short college careers.

Still, with Wiggins and Smart, the ups are likely to outweigh the downs when it comes to evaluations and projections. 

In their second head-to-head meeting of the season, Wiggins and Smart flashed their strengths and weaknesses as NBA prospects. But when breaking them down and analyzing them, it’s important to appreciate what they’re capable of before docking them for what they’re currently not. 

It’s probable that we’ll continue to see Wiggins’ and Smart’s flaws as NBA prospects. But as long as they keep flashing the strengths that have gotten scouts excited in the first place, those weaknesses aren’t likely to allow their stocks to dip too much. 

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LeBron James, Heat teammates have a ‘girls’ day out,’ pamper themselves with pedicures (pics)

The Miami Heat had the night off Tuesday as the team was not scheduled to play until Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers after beating the Detroit Pistons on Monday night. The grind of an NBA season, obviously, takes its toll, and must have had LeBron James’ dogs barking, so he, along with teammates Roger […]The post LeBron James, Heat teammates have a ‘girls’ day out,’ pamper themselves with pedicures (pics) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Buffaloes try to ‘re-invent’ themselves without Spencer Dinwiddie

A little more than two weeks have passed since Dinwiddie tore his left ACL.

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Conflicted Miami Heat Continue Making It Harder on Themselves

ATLANTA — Yes, there’s evidence the Miami Heat can still get defensive.

You just need to be in the locker room to witness it.

“Why the hell would we be panicked?” Chris Bosh said Monday, as the Miami Heat finished an often uninspiring first half of the season with an unsettling 121-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “If you’re panicked, you’re an idiot.”

Perhaps so, considering that the Heat remain on a passable 58-win pace, and are in absolutely no danger of slipping out of the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Perhaps so, in light of Dwyane Wade‘s limited availability thus far (missing 11 of 41 games, including Monday), and in light of this team’s tendency to turn on another gear when the stakes are raised.

Perhaps so, since it’s apparent that Erik Spoelstra is still patching together his rotations, with some of Monday’s creations especially incongruous.

Still, perhaps the Heat should stop making this so much more difficult than necessary. They seem to think they’re conserving fuel for the long road ahead.

And yet, they’re not.

They’re burning it needlessly, night after night.

You see, it’s clear by now that they simply don’t do cruising well. They are too conflicted.

They care too little. They can’t be bothered to compete at peak level early, as was evident again when they allowed 71 points in the first half Monday, just five days after allowing 69 to Washington.

“All across the board, A through Z, there just wasn’t a lot of pride on that side of the court,” Spoelstra said of the defense.

And yet, they care too much. They have too much pride.

They can’t bear to be embarrassed, so they inevitably end up expending extreme energy to get themselves back into the contest, only to fall short, as has been the case in several recent losses, most notably in Brooklyn on Jan. 10, and here against the Hawks, when they actually took a one-point lead with 4:50 remaining before the offense finally fell apart (three Bosh misses, a Chalmers miss, a Chalmers turnover).

There’s been so much talk about the Heat’s physical health, most notably related to Wade’s frequent absences, even on nights—like Monday—that he clearly preferred to play.

But this pattern isn’t what you would prescribe to a team for maintaining its mental health.

The Heat tout themselves as seasoned vets, but they’re acting like college kids, ignoring every assignment for the first several weeks of the semester, and compelled to pop Adderall like Altoids to cram for an exam.

Wouldn’t they save some stress if they got serious a little sooner?

As Bosh said of the Hawks, “When they get rolling, if they get rolling, they are very, very difficult to stop. So you have to kind of exert your energy early to kind of take their confidence away. If they have confidence moving into the second half, you can see it going downhill.”

Monday, it went downhill against a team that is without its best player (Al Horford) for the season, got only two points from its sparkplug (Jeff Teague) and had to nurse Paul Millsap and Pero Antic through foul trouble.

It went downhill even as Shane Battier and Ray Allen, both of whom have slumped for stretches of this season, made all seven of their 3-point shots for Miami; even as LeBron James scored 30 and Bosh scored 21; even as Mario Chalmers contributed 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.

It went downhill because the Heat players refuse, in the opening minutes, to get down in a defensive stance, get back down the court after a miss and get down and dirty near the rim.

“Defensively, we’re not ready to play. So, what specifically? It’s a myriad of things,” Battier said. “We’re just not taking away much. Usually, when our defense is clicking, we’re taking away a few things out of the other team’s offense, and living with other parts of the other team’s offense. Right now, other teams have the full menu of what they want to get. It’s paint shots, it’s threes, it’s transition. So we need to get back to taking away what we want to take away and living with the rest.”

Then maybe they could actually take a rest later.

Miami hasn’t had many easy ones lately, whether in wins or losses, games in which Spoelstra can shave some of the starters’ minutes.

Yes, they’ve won 16 games by 10 or more points (39 percent), but that’s slightly off last season’s final total of 34 (41 percent). The season before, they won 29 games by 10 points or more (44 percent, in what was a lockout shortened season). And in their first season together, they also won 34 by 10 points or more (41 percent), while winning 58 overall.

The Heat have lost only four games this season by 10 points or more. That speaks well of them—they don’t just tank when things aren’t going well.

So, yes, there’s some pride.

But what if there was more consistent purpose?

Less procrastination?

Would there be a little less exhaustion?

“Basketball is a game of runs, we understand that,” Battier said. “But it’s more mentally exhausting to go through this every night, and just exhort everybody else, ‘Fellas, we need some stops. Let’s get three or four stops.’ That’s the exhausting part.”

Certainly, they’re tired of the questions. Spoelstra spoke of the team, now in the league’s bottom third in several defensive categories, needing “to decide where we want to go defensively.”

Bosh spoke of not being a “defensive-first team this year. If we were defense-first, we would be top five right now, or whatever, if you’re a stat guy. We’ve got some work to do. You know, you can’t stop anybody, you can’t win in this league.”

And James? He looked wearier than usual, biting on a towel during some of his short interview session.

“I can’t just pinpoint what it is, it’s a little bit of everything,” James said. “And at some point we’ve got to figure it out… A little bit of everything. It’s not good basketball right now.”

It’s not good for getting to their goal:

Getting through this season as fresh as possible.

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New York Knicks Finding New Ways to Embarrass Themselves

Cloudy with an incalculable chance of shameful losing.

Braving the weather conditions in the New York Knicks‘ locker room is impossible these days. They’ve been so uncontrollably bad and unpredictably inconsistent that it’s humiliating. 

It’s never the same story, either. Sometimes they fight, before finding ways to lose. Other times, they embarrass themselves from the beginning, overcome by apathy and incompetence. Against the Boston Celtics, the Knicks were simply awful, falling by 41 points on their home floor, the third-most lopsided home loss in franchise history.

In losing to the Celtics, the still Rajon Rondo-less Celtics, New York hit new lows of despicable. At 5-14, the Knicks have the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and continue to inhabit dead last in the Atlantic Division.

Less than 20 games into their season, it’s foolish to sound a campaign-long alarm. Turning their year around is not out of the question. After all, before this massacre, they were working off consecutive 30-point victories.

Need for change has hit an all-time high, though. Maintaining the status quo ensures the Knicks remain nothing more than a potential playoff team and blubbering disaster fused into one. 

 

Beantown Beatdown

Gross. No other word paints an adequate picture of New York’s effort against the Celtics.

Boston led by as many as 45 points in a game that was won in the first quarter. The Celtics took a 23-point advantage into the second and 27-point lead into the half. And a 36-point edge into the fourth. They just kept building…as the Knicks continued flailing.

Not one of New York’s starters posted better than a minus-29. Carmelo Anthony, on the heels of a 5-of-15 shooting display, registered a game-worst minus-40, prompting talk of in-game butt kickings:

That’s exactly what this was—an ass whoopin‘. And more. So much more.

The Knicks trailed by double digits for 45 of the 48 minutes played, or 93.8 percent of the game—against a Celtics team that ranked 24th in offensive efficiency before then. Are they kidding?

They dropped 73 points on 72 field-goal attempts—a performance worthy of Rudy Gay—while the Celtics exploded for 114 on 73 shots. Is that for real?

Four different Celtics scored at least 16 points, when only one player (Jeff Green) was averaging as much per game coming in. Really now?

Some defense; some offense.

Some effort. 

 

Straying From Success

Corners were previously turned in New York. A 30-point manhandling of the Brooklyn Nets and 38-point destruction of the Orlando Magic were just what the Knicks needed.

Then, this—a letdown of epic proportions.

“It’s a step backwards,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said after the game, per the Associated Press (via ESPN). “I thought we had turned the corner somewhat. I can’t have our guys stepping on the floor doing what they did tonight.”

No, he can’t. The team he needed to show up slept in. Or was still out gallivanting from the night before. Whichever excuse you prefer, really—it doesn’t matter.

Successful play styles were revealed in the previous two victories. Move the ball, shoot the three, make the three, and defend in spurts. That was it. Simple to understand and easy to follow.

Against Boston, the Knicks revolted in the worst way possible. After dishing out at least 24 assists in each of their last two games—both of which were winsthe Knicks went for 13 against the Celtics. Disgusting. 

There’s a clear correlation between how they move the ball and the number of baskets they score. In Brooklyn, 24 assists got them 44 made buckets. On Saturday, 25 dimes helped them to 44 as well. At Madison Square Garden on Sunday, 13 assists earned them barely half as many baskets (25). Disgusting again.

Isolations flooded New York’s offensive sets. Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert put their heads down. Only STAT found success, going for 17 meaningless points on 5-of-7 shooting. Only when Pablo Prigioni (four assists) was on the floor did the ball move at all. 

Threes weren’t made, or even shot frequently enough, as a result. Lack of ball movement rarely opens up opportunities from long range. It culminates in contested mid-range jumpers and wild shots around the rim. That’s exactly what we saw from the Knicks in their loss to Boston.

New York attempted just 16 treys after jacking up 27 versus Brooklyn and 34 against Orlando. Credit Boston’s still-disciplined defense, but the Knicks didn’t make hard on the Celtics. The Knicks rolled over instead, abandoning a successful blueprint in favor of one that’s benefited their opponents all season.

Wonder why they lost so badly no more.

 

Running Out of Time

We know more about the Knicks than you think. Sort of.

Nineteen games aren’t enough to coin them the second-worst team in the East. Or conclude that they’ll fail to make the playoffs. It’s not even enough to guarantee they won’t win the Atlantic Division. But we’re getting there.

All year, the Knicks have been inconsistent. Maddeningly turbulent. Imbalanced displays are the only thing you can count on.

They found a way to lose against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans. Resisted urgency against the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers. Picked apart the Nets and Magic. 

Forgot to show up against the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Celtics. Beyond frustrating.

There’s no wrapping your head around these Knicks, who are no longer battling a nine-game losing streak, but combating a system that yielded two straight victories. Two much-needed, hopefully revealing victories.

But as opposed to frolicking in the residual hype of a third consecutive win, they’re lamenting another self-inflicted defeat. Hanging their head in search of answers. Splashing around in failure, worst home record in the NBA in hand (tied with Milwaukee Bucks).

“It’s just one of those games where it happens,” Raymond Felton (scoreless) said, per the AP. “You hate that it happens, you hate to get beat like that inside your building. It was nasty game, it’s a bad taste in our mouth right now.”

Bad tastes like these will become all-too-familiar flavors if the Knicks’ propensity for reinventing compunction doesn’t submit to their elusive winning ways.

 

*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com (subscription required) and are accurate as of Dec. 7, 2013 unless otherwise noted.

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As Challengers (Derrick Rose) Fall, Miami Heat Must Challenge Themselves

MIAMI — The news reverberated from Chicago to both coasts Saturday, the news that Derrick Rose would need to reprise his return at some later date, after ripping the meniscus in his healthy knee, and likely shredding the Bulls‘ championship ambitions with it.

But the news really hit home here.

Dwyane Wade, after all, has been where Rose is—not just literally, as a fellow product of the Chicago area, but also figuratively, as an involuntary veteran of knee ailments.

So, after resting his knees for a week—and before scoring 27 points and defending dynamically down the stretch in a 101-99 win against the Magic—Wade was asked to recall his own experience with a torn meniscus, at a time he was trying to make his way at Marquette.

“It was 13 years ago, so technology was a little different,” Wade said. “When it was taken out, it was the thing to get me back on the court quick, but it wasn’t a long-term type of thing, so it opened me up to having some knee trouble. The only thing you do, the doctor that you choose, they give you the best advice.”

Did Wade have any say in the decision to take it out rather than repair it?

“No, I wasn’t educated, I didn’t know anything,” Wade said. “I just knew it was hurting, and I wanted it fixed. That was after my first year at Marquette, and I never dealt with any injury until that time. So it was all new to me. And I just wanted to get back on the court.” 

Rose is far more educated about knee injuries now than Wade was then, especially after the Bulls star suffered a major one in 2012. He may not have the option to repair it, since sometimes that’s not possible. But if he does, don’t assume that Wade and the rest of the Heat are pulling for him to pull himself out of action for the longest possible period.

There was no joy in Heatville due to Chicago’s distress. Many members of the organization offered their best wishes Saturday, whether on Twitter (Wade, Mario Chalmers) or through the media (LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra). They weren’t offering kind words merely to placate a public that would otherwise think them unfeeling. They really didn’t want to see this happen to him.

“I feel extremely bad for him,” James said. “I was watching the game last night, and that was the one thing I feared most, that he had hurt his knee pretty bad.”

And, as Spoelstra put it, “He’s too good for the game to not be out there playing. If I were just an average fan and not working for the Miami Heat, I would tune into their games to watch Derrick Rose play. Hopefully it’s not too bad, and hopefully he can come back and play soon.”

Truly, he does, even if it might mean a somewhat tougher road to another title.

And it’s not for humanitarian reasons alone.

Miami hasn’t shrunk from challenges the past three-plus seasons. On the contrary, it has appeared to need them, to sharpen and sustain its edge.

Simply, there are too few tests in the Eastern Conference, which is so depleted that the Bulls, even without Rose, might be the third-best squad, if now a distant third behind Miami and Indiana. The Nets and Knicks are a combined 6-18. The Cavaliers and Pistons are dysfunctional and disappointing. The 76ers, Celtics and Magic are playing for draft position. The Hawks are 8-6 but didn’t leave much of an impression on Miami’s players last week. The West has won 17 of the past 19 games against the East overall, with the Heat’s win against the Mavericks serving as the only exception.

A rising Rose may have given Miami a little more reason to curtail the complacency, not just in contests against Chicago, but maybe even in a couple more of those against the conference’s lesser lights, so as not to show any vulnerability. 

Instead, it seems like this season is setting up as one in which Saturday’s scenario will be commonplace. At halftime, the Heat trailed by 16, closing out with all the enthusiasm of a bar patron on a bender, and allowing Orlando to make 9-of-13 three point shots.

“I wish I could have started watching and we could have started playing at halftime,” Spoelstra said. “In the second half, we absolutely ramped up our intensity, activity. The second half was something our guys can feel good about it. And with this group, sometimes we have to go through the process of catching ourselves and getting back to our identity.”

The problem is, the Heat know they can pull such a stunt against 20 or so teams, and still recover and survive. They can be bored, but not necessarily beaten.

So it will keep happening.

On this night, Wade had much to do with the Heat’s rapid recovery, making eight of his final 10 shots, darting through for two dunks in the halfcourt, getting to the line, showing, as Spoelstra put it, “explosion” and “elusiveness.” He also stifled Arron Afflalo when it counted. After James saved a broken possession by jab-stepping and sinking an 18-footer over Afflalo, Wade effectively shut off Affalo’s foray to the rim, staying with him as the Orlando guard juked side to side.

“He looked fine in the first half,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “In the second half, he was exceptional.”

Thirteen years after doctors made a decision that could have turned out worse, but also—in light of all the pain he’s had to overcome—better.

It made you think about what Wade said about Rose before the game:

“No matter who we compete against, you don’t want to see anyone not be able to play the game of basketball, and live their dream before they want to.”

That sentiment should be shared.

Derrick Rose, the game needs you.

And so, for different reasons, do the Heat. 

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As Challengers (Derrick Rose) Drop Off, Miami Heat Must Challenge Themselves

MIAMI — The news reverberated from Chicago to both coasts Saturday, the news that Derrick Rose would need to reprise his return at some later date, after ripping the meniscus in his healthy knee, and likely shredding the Bulls‘ championship ambitions with it.

But the news really hit home here.

Dwyane Wade, after all, has been where Rose is—not just literally, as a fellow product of the Chicago area, but also figuratively, as an involuntary veteran of knee ailments.

So, after resting his knees for a week—and before scoring 27 points and defending dynamically down the stretch in a 101-99 win against the Magic—Wade was asked to recall his own experience with a torn meniscus, at a time he was trying to make his way at Marquette.

“It was 13 years ago, so technology was a little different,” Wade said. “When it was taken out, it was the thing to get me back on the court quick, but it wasn’t a long-term type of thing, so it opened me up to having some knee trouble. The only thing you do, the doctor that you choose, they give you the best advice.”

Did Wade have any say in the decision to take it out rather than repair it?

“No, I wasn’t educated, I didn’t know anything,” Wade said. “I just knew it was hurting, and I wanted it fixed. That was after my first year at Marquette, and I never dealt with any injury until that time. So it was all new to me. And I just wanted to get back on the court.” 

Rose is far more educated about knee injuries, especially after suffering a major one in 2012. He may not have the option to repair it, since sometimes that’s not possible. But if he does, don’t assume that Wade and the rest of the Heat are pulling for him to pull himself out of action for the longest possible period.

There was no joy in Heatville due to Chicago’s distress. Many members of the organization offered their best wishes Saturday, whether on Twitter (Wade, Mario Chalmers) or through the media (LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra). They weren’t offered merely to placate a public that would otherwise think they unkind. They really didn’t want to see this happen to him.

“I feel extremely bad for him,” James said. “I was watching the game last night, and that was the one thing I feared most, that he had hurt his knee pretty bad.”

And, as Spoelstra put it, “He’s too good for the game to not be out there playing. If I were just an average fan and not working for the Miami Heat, I would tune into their games to watch Derrick Rose play. Hopefully it’s not too bad, and hopefully he can come back and play soon.”

Truly, he does, even if it might mean a somewhat tougher road to another title.

And it’s not for humanitarian reasons alone.

Miami hasn’t shrunk from challenges the past three-plus seasons. On the contrary, it has appeared to need them, to sharpen and sustain its edge.

Simply, there are too few tests in the Eastern Conference, which is so depleted that the Bulls, even without Rose, might be the third-best squad, if a distant third behind Miami and Indiana. The Nets and Knicks are a combined 6-18. The Cavaliers and Pistons are dysfunctional and disappointing. The 76ers, Celtics and Magic are playing for draft position. The Hawks are 8-6 but didn’t leave much of an impression on Miami’s players last week. The West has won 17 of the past 19 games against the East overall, with the Heat’s win against the Mavericks serving as the only exception.

A rising Rose may have given Miami a little more reason to curtail the complacency, not just in contests against Chicago, but maybe even in a couple more of those against the conference’s lesser lights, so as not to show any vulnerability. 

Instead, it seems like this season is setting up as one in which Saturday’s scenario will be commonplace. At halftime, the Heat trailed by 16, closing out with all the enthusiasm of a bar patron on a bender, and allowing Orlando to make 9-of-13 three point shots.

“I wish I could have started watching and we could have started playing at halftime,” Spoelstra said. “In the second half, we absolutely ramped up our intensity, activity. The second half was something our guys can feel good about it. And with this group, sometimes we have to go through the process of catching ourselves and getting back to our identity.”

The problem is, the Heat know they can pull such a stunt against 20 or so teams, and still recover and survive. They can be bored, but not necessarily beaten.

So it will keep happening.

On this night, Wade had much to do with the Heat’s rapid recovery, making eight of his final 10 shots, darting through for two dunks in the halfcourt, getting to the line, showing, as Spoelstra put it, “explosion” and “elusiveness.” He also stifled Arron Afflalo when it counted. After James saved a broken possession by jab-stepping and sinking an 18-footer over Afflalo, Wade effectively shut off Affalo’s foray to the rim, staying with him as the Orlando guard juked side to side.

“He looked fine in the first half,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “In the second half, he was exceptional.”

Thirteen years after doctors made a decision that could have turned out worse, but also—in light of all the pain he’s had to overcome—better.

It made you think about what Wade said about Rose before the game:

“No matter who we compete against, you don’t want to see anyone not be able to play the game of basketball, and live their dream before they want to.”

That sentiment should be shared.

Derrick Rose, the game needs you.

And so, for different reasons, do the Heat. 

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Lakers surprise everyone but themselves

LOS ANGELES — If Opening Night was indicative of the rest of the season, a Los Angeles team will be representing the West in the NBA Finals.

It just won’t be the Clippers.

Despite Kobe Bryant starting the regular season in street clothes as he continues to recover from Achilles tendon surgery, the Lakers overcame numerous deficits and in the fourth quarter, they finally blew the Clippers straight out of Staples Center.

Mike D’Antoni’s club spoiled Doc Rivers’ Clippers coaching debut with a 116-103 victory over the team that is expected by many to rule the West this season.

For the first 3 12 quarters the prediction looked good as the Clippers led 79-75 going into the fourth quarter and were ahead by three with 9:26 left.

Then with Pau Gasol and Steve Nash joining Bryant on the pine for the entire fourth quarter, the Lakers literally ran away with the game. Xavier Henry scored a career-high 22 points, while Jodie Meeks scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to outscore the

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Denver Nuggets: 5 Players Who Need to Prove Themselves in the NBA Summer League

The 2013 NBA Summer League will kick off on Saturday for the Denver Nuggets when they face the Milwaukee Bucks.  

While the summer league isn’t flashy, it does answer a lot of questions that teams need answered.  Second-year Nuggets will showcase their talents acquired in the offseason, and free agents will compete for a spot on the Nuggets’ 2013-14 roster.

The Nuggets’ summer league roster will feature a plethora of talented young players including 2013 NBA draftee Erick Green and returning international Evan Fournier.

The team has been busy in the offseason; signing free agents Randy Foye and J.J. Hickson. The team’s also reportedly determined to re-sign free agent Timofey Mozgov, according to DenverPost.com. If Mozgov re-signs, the Nuggets will only have one spot left on their roster.

Here are five players who need to prove themselves during the tournament.

 

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2013 NBA Free Agents: 10 Players Who Will Overvalue Themselves

Believe it or not, professional athletes can be a little full of themselves sometimes.

This continues to prove true in the NBA, where players can turn down attractive contracts from teams in hopes of scoring an even better deal.

Sometimes it works out for them, while other times they can get burned and lose out on millions of dollars.

For the following players, it’s important to recognize their value early, as they could all be very disappointed by the time free agency comes to an end.

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