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Patrick Beverley’s Journey to the Miami Heat

June 7th, 2010 1 comment

Patrick Beverley has had one lifelong goal – to play in the NBA.

After a trying, vindicating, tumultuous, and encouraging 21 years of life, his dream might just be drawing near.

The Early Years

Patrick was born to Lisa Beverley, a 17-year-old single mother, on the west side of Chicago.

As a child, he never met his biological father, Patrick Bracy, a local hoops star in his own youth. His only enduring connection to his father was his old high school basketball trophies that were always lying around. He revered them, claiming early on that he wanted twice the number of trophies his dad got.

The inner city of Chicago is a gritty place, with some of the highest levels of poverty in the United States. The area has been neglected for decades. Public schools are crumbling, store fronts are vacant, apartment buildings are dilapidated, graffiti covers the walls, windows are boarded up with bars on them, trash litters the sidewalks, and weeds sprout through the concrete. Basketball is often seen as the only way out, not just for young kids with talent but also for their parents and siblings. Developing talent is encouraged from a young age. It’s often seen as the only thing that matters.

The playgrounds of Chicago have long been a hoops hotbed. Derrick Rose is the latest in a long line of Chicago-raised NBA royalty. Before Rose, there was Dwyane Wade. Before Wade, there was Antoine Walker. Before Walker, there was Isaiah Thomas. Before Isaiah, there was Maurice Cheeks.  Read more…

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Memory Lane Revisited

June 6th, 2010 4 comments

It was July 2007.

Just fifteen months prior, the Heat had secured its first championship in franchise history, backed by the scintillating playoff performance of superstar Dwyane Wade. The Heat was flying high. Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton both quickly agreed to re-sign, wanting to win another title. During the championship parade in Miami, Shaquille O’Neal guaranteed it.

Then came the awful 2006/07 campaign. Shaq lost his last little bit of youth. Gary Payton was benched for poor performance. James Posey and Antoine Walker were deactivated after failing body mass exams. And the Heat was relegated to mediocrity. Miami became the first defending champion since 1957 to get swept in the first round in the following season, losing at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.

The Heat was looking to rebuild.

The priority was point guard, largely because the Heat had concerns about the health of incumbent starter Jason Williams – who had battled several injuries during his two seasons in Miami.

The primary target: Mo Williams.

Williams was the second-most-coveted point guard on the market, after the Pistons’ Chauncey Billups. In Williams, Riley saw a young point guard who did not need the ball in his hands, one willing to spot up for jumpers and help space the floor for a Wade/O’Neal tandem. The addition was speculated to vault the Heat back into title contention.

The desire was mutual. In his player biography, Williams listed Miami as his favorite NBA city.

The problem, of course, was money. Read more…

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Calculating the Salary Cap

June 5th, 2010 No comments

We’ve all been operating under the assumption of a $56.1 million projected salary cap, which was provided by Commissioner Stern prior to the playoffs. How did he come by that figure?

During July Moratorium, the league will project both basketball-related revenues (“Projected BRI”) and player benefits for the upcoming season. They will then look at the previous season’s Projected BRI to see if it was below the actual results (“BRI”). They will use these two data points to calculate the salary cap.

The league will take 51% of Projected BRI, subtract projected benefits, and make adjustments if the previous season’s BRI was below projections. They will then divide the result by the number of NBA teams to arrive at the cap.

( Projected BRI * 51% – Projected Benefits – (Projected BRI – BRI from last season, only if positive) ) / 30

This season’s BRI is almost certain to fall below original projections. I estimate that last July the league projected BRI growth of 1.6%. At the same time, they issued a warning that BRI could fall as much as 5%-10%, leading to original salary cap forecasts of $50.4 million to $53.6 million. The revised BRI decline of 0.5% then led to a bump in forecasts to $56.1 million.

Why would the league forecast BRI growth of 1.6% and issue a warning it could fall by as much as 10% at the same time?

The answer lies in how Projected BRI is determined. Read more…

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For Pat Riley, the time is now

June 2nd, 2010 7 comments

This is it. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.

Every decision that has culminated in the current Miami Heat roster was made by a Pat Riley who already had his current strategy in mind. He has no excuses.

It took a lot of patience for Heat fans to get to this point. We sat idly by as the best player in team history utterly wasted three years of his prime. We suffered through a 15-win season. We watched the rest of the conference improve around us.

We did it all because Pat asked us to trust in him. He convinced us it was all a means to an end. He had grander visions in mind – visions of rebuilding in the summer of 2010.

We didn’t always agree with the decisions he was making. There were several that infuriated us along the way.

When James Jones was signed in July 2008, the partial guarantee was dubbed as one which ensures that Miami could still have maximum spending capability. After a starting role in the 2009 NBA playoffs, he was banished to the bench for all but 503 minutes of mop-up duty in 2010.

Daequan Cook’s fall from grace had already removed much of the luster from the 3-point championship he won at last year’s All-Star Game when Riley made a decision in October to pick up Cook’s option for the coming season. Pat had already been informed by the league of a projected 2010 salary cap as low as $50.4 million, yet he was willing to invest more than $2.1 million in a player with an uneven track record who, at best, would never be more than a quality backup to one of the best players in the game today.

Despite our hesitations, we believed in him. Because he had the resume to suggest he knew better. And isn’t it always easier just to assume that the people with the power have access to information we don’t?

Along the way, we overlooked some miraculous draft blunders. We overlooked several high-profile failed recruitment attempts, rationalizing that the team simply didn’t have the money to make an adequate pitch.

Now we do.

When Pat developed his vision, he couldn’t possibly have envisioned such a vast wealth of free agent talent. It had simply never happened before. Without question, the NBA’s free agent class of 2010 is the most talented in league history. Read more…

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Exceeding the Salary Cap

June 1st, 2010 2 comments

Given the constraints imposed by the number $56.1 million, we’re all searching for ways in which the collective bargaining agreement would allow the Heat to exceed the salary cap.

There are four primary mechanisms which the Heat will be able to utilize to exceed the cap: Read more…

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Filling Out the Roster

May 31st, 2010 5 comments

Many of us have our doubts. We ask ourselves whether it truly can be done. Can the Miami Heat realistically build a championship caliber roster while operating within the confines of the salary cap? It doesn’t seem possible.

We point to the evidence. The four semi-finalists in the 2010 NBA Playoffs have team salaries as follows:

1. Los Angeles Lakers: $91,341,066
2. Boston Celtics: $84,069,655
3. Orlando Magic: $80,449,669
4. Phoenix Suns: $74,738,817

Each is significantly to ridiculously more than the Heat will be able to spend. But for the sake of argument, let’s analyze these numbers for a moment.

Yes, the Lakers, Celtics and Magic made a conscious decision to (over)spend. But they’ve realized some nice returns on their investments. The organizations are wildly profitable, producing an average operating income of more than $20 million during the 2008/09 season. And they’re perennial powerhouses.

I take more of an interest in the Phoenix number. If you recall, the Suns completed a blockbuster trade in July that sent Shaquille O’Neal to the Cavaliers in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavolic and $500,000. For the Suns, the trade was a straight salary dump. Wallace was subsequently bought out for $10 million from a contract that would have paid him $14 million. Pavolic, whose $5.0 million contract was only partially guaranteed for $1.25 million, was waived. With the moves, Phoenix saved $18.0 million in salaries and luxury tax payments.

The maneuvering also meant that $11,250,000 was spent on two players that didn’t make the regular season roster. So the true team salary, for comparative purposes, is a relatively paltry $63,488,817.

At just $63 million, the Suns put a big scare into the defending champions. The Heat, although constrained by the $56.1 million salary cap, will likely spend on the order of $60 million after utilizing its available exceptions. So all of a sudden, creating a winner seems possible. Difficult, but possible.

But operating with such limited funds does have its drawbacks. What it means is that Pat Riley will need to allocate the bulk of Micky’s money on the starting five. Therein lies the problem. The potential lack of depth becomes an overriding concern. Read more…

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Hedo’s unhappiness presents more trouble in Toronto

May 30th, 2010 No comments

Hedo Turkoglu signed a five-year, $53 million contract with the Raptors in July 2009

(Damn it! I’ve had this post in queue for weeks. Now that Hedo has come out and declared his unhappiness, it seems reactionary, rather than with brilliant foresight.)

Bryan Colangelo must be kicking himself now about his decision to sign Hedo Turkoglu.

It’s not Hedo’s fault that he was grossly overvalued on the free agent market. He’s not to blame for the fact that the Trailblazers and the Raptors wanted to pay him ridiculous sums of money: $52.8 million over five years to be exact.

What is Hedo’s fault is just how poorly he played in his first season in Toronto.

Some of it is a matter of skill, which makes it painfully apparent that Turkoglu isn’t the elite player many apparently felt he was. A solid and serviceable player, sure, but one with an inflated value due to an Orlando system that put the ball in his hands an inordinate amount of time.

Some of it is undoubtedly psychological. The pressures of living up to such a big contract coupled with the introduction to a new city can be substantial.

But a lot of it was purely motivational. He showed up to camp overweight and out of shape, and never seemed eager to do much of anything. Things got particularly uneasy as the Raptors suffered through a dramatic second half collapse, leaving the team outside of the playoff picture.

Whatever the case, one thing is for certain. The Raptor organization now finds itself in a difficult predicament. It could be something of a perfect storm in Toronto this summer: Chris Bosh will exit, the Raptors will have minimal cap space with which to work, and with the nearly unmovable contracts of Turkoglu and Jose Calderon, the Raptors seam poised for yet another season of disappointment.

Turkoglu has taken notice. Read more…

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Should the Heat be interested in Nate Robinson?

May 29th, 2010 8 comments

Robinson provided a big spark off the bench in Boston's Game 6 clincher against the Magic

Some of us that were watching the second quarter of tonight’s Celtics/Magic game may be contemplating the possibility of adding Nate Robinson to play the point for the Heat next season. After all, he will be an unrestricted free agent.

It may surprise you to know that the Heat did express an interest in Robinson at the trade deadline last season. But why would the Heat, a team known for its size deficiency in the backcourt, pursue the smallest player in the game today?

Nate’s lack of height is the first thing that comes to mind about him as a player. He is listed at 5’9″, making him one of the shortest players in league history (Muggsy Bogues, drafted twelfth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets, was a starting point guard at a shocking 5’3″), yet his height is the only thing that makes him a point guard. He’s really a shooting guard masquerading at the point. He has a scorer’s skillset and a scorer’s mentality, playing point guard only by default. He tends to look for his own shot rather than to set up others and can get wildly out of control at times. Robinson’s jump shot is also inconsistent, and he takes more three pointers than his conversion rate would suggest he should.

The flip side is that he brings tremendous energy to the game whenever he enters, and despite his size is capable of getting his shots off due to an explosive first step and impressive leaping ability. His defense is surprisingly effective for 5’9″ player, where his combination of strength and supreme athleticism allow him to stay in front of players far bigger than he is. Unfortunately, they’ll always be able to shoot over him.

Robinson is a high quality player as we saw tonight, despite the fact that God seems to have forgotten to grant him those final four inches. Even if his size worries you, his tunnel vision alarms you, and his swagger outright annoys you, you’d be hard pressed to deny his talent. He can flat out score in this league.

One can see why the Heat expressed an interest. He’s such a difficult force for opponents to contain, he’d be a perfect volume scorer off the bench – something the Heat has been desperately lacking for years. But his physical limitations and his temperament suggest he can never be anything more.

Simply stated, Robinson doesn’t work in South Florida. His skill set does not match the Heat’s need in the starting rotation – Miami needs more of a floor general, who can space the floor and contribute quality defense – and his value would price him out of the Heat’s range as a second unit contributor. Read more…

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Why LeBron James Should Consider the Miami Heat

May 28th, 2010 1 comment

I’m not sure if you already know this, but the rumor is that LeBron James is thinking of leaving Cleveland, now that his contract with the Cavaliers is up.

Everyone from Jay-Z to Barack Obama is in on the act of recruiting him.

Speculation over where he’ll end up has run wild. In the past 24 hours, Vegas oddsmakers have increased Miami’s odds of landing James from 35-1 to 7.5-1. In a poll of six ESPN experts, two felt Miami was the most likely destination.

According to John Hollinger, “He’ll soak up all the attention and do the full tour. But at the end of the day I think he’s going to try to rig it so he, Wade and Bosh end up on same team, or at least two of them. Right now, that’s most plausible in Miami.”

What was once thought to be the ridiculous bantering of the hopelessly delusional is now a potential reality. A combination of Wade, James and Bosh has to be intriguing, and it is possible.

Moving the contracts of Daequan Cook and Michael Beasley are the only things that stand in the way. And both should be quite easy to move. You’d have to think a team would be willing to take on Cook’s expiring $2.1 million contract for, say, up to $3.0 million in cash. As for Beasley, you’d have to think a team would be intrigued about the possibility of acquiring the troubled forward at no cost, and perhaps even surrender future draft considerations to the Heat in order to do so.

Still, the ultimate trio would seem unlikely. And, as surprising as this may sound, it may not even be in the Heat’s best interests.

With LeBron in the mix, entirely new scenarios open up.

If I were Riley, my recruiting pitch to LeBron would go something like this:

I would talk about the benefit of playing in an no-income-tax state like Florida, something that would be worth millions to James, whose off-court earnings dwarf his on-court salary. I would cover the weather, the beaches, the lifestyle, and all else the city has to offer. I would point to the rings on my finger. They are, after all, exactly what he wants. I would point to Micky Arison, the multi-billionaire owner willing to spend whatever it takes to make it happen.

But my focus would be on building a dynasty. Read more…

Q&A: Under-the-table-agreements

May 27th, 2010 No comments

The following question to Ira Winderman has piqued some interest from my shockingly tiny reader base:

“In all your posts, you are undermining and flat out discarding one very real possibility for the Heat to round out the roster. That is, for veterans like U.D., J.O. and Q, and even possibly Dorell, to sign a one-year minimum deal and keep their Bird Rights.”

It is easy to understand the connotation behind this question, though it is not explicitly stated. The concept would be for the Heat to sign any or all of the players mentioned to one-season minimum contracts. Doing so would allow the Heat to maximize cap space this summer and, with Bird rights intact, exceed next year’s salary cap to grant them significant raises for their troubles.

While this is quite a creative concept, the premise is inherently flawed.

This approach is illegal. Teams are not permitted to make direct agreements with a player that are not reported to the league. If they do, the penalties can be severe. Such a violation is considered by the league to be among the most serious a team can commit. A violation can result in a fine of up to $5.0 million, forfeiture of draft picks, voiding of the player’s contract, and/or the suspension for up to one year of any team personnel who were involved. In addition, the player himself can be fined up to $100,000, and prohibited from ever signing with that team.

You might be saying to yourself that the easier solution would be to report the agreement to the league in order to avoid any allegations of wrong-doing. Future contracts, however, are also illegal.

You might also be saying to yourself the league would never find out. This is very risky business – particularly for complementary players – with the penalties being so severe.

In the summer of 1999, the Minnesota Timberwolves tried this approach with Joe Smith. Smith left the Philadelphia 76ers to sign with the Timberwolves. The two sides made an under-the-table agreement that Smith would play under three consecutive one-year contracts at below market value ($1.75 million, $2.1 million and $3.6 million), and the Timberwolves would reward him by using their Bird rights to sign him to a much larger contract beginning with the 2001/02 season (reportedly worth between $40 and $86 million over seven years, dependent on performance clauses).

The league discovered the arrangement the following season, and responded by fining the team the maximum (at the time) $3.5 million, taking away their next five draft picks (two were later returned), and voiding Smith’s then-current contract. Owner Glen Taylor and GM Kevin McHale also agreed to leaves of absence (in lieu of suspensions). Most interestingly, the league also voided Smith’s two previous, already-completed contracts. This essentially stripped the Timberwolves of any Bird rights to Smith.

If Riley were to be found in violation, leniency would not be something that would be afforded. Pat has a history of violations of league rules. Read more…