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Undeserving Finalists

June 12th, 2011 9 comments

They conspired. They manipulated. They hatched a wicked plan nearly three years in the making and executed upon it with deadly precision in the span of less than forty-eight hours, to the shock and awe of supporters and detractors alike. They changed the rules for defining success in basketball’s greatest league to such an unprecedented extent that we’re all left searching for ways to invalidate the possibility in any new collective bargaining agreement to come. Hate the Miami Heat for it.

Hate them for what they did.

They bought themselves a contender. The league essentially gave them a blank check to buy every big name on the free agent market, and they did. They didn’t plan carefully. There weren’t countless other teams pursuing the very same plan. They didn’t execute their plan in a way no other team could. They just opened up their wallets and paid what nobody else would. There’s simply no honor in that.

It is far more honorable to draft and develop, to struggle season after season without taking steps to improve the franchise if the fruits of those struggles are consecutive lottery picks rather than freed up cap space. It is far more honorable to strong-arm smaller-market, salary-dumping teams that cannot otherwise afford to keep their talent into making lopsided, megastar trades.

Hate them for how they did it.

There was the issue of timing.

We, as a nation, have such a high standard of morality as to cry foul when impending free agents wish to speak with each other about the possibility of teaming up if such conversations happen in the few days leading up to the official start of free agency, because even though the timing of such conversations has absolutely nothing to do with the ultimate outcome, they are a violation of a set of rules we each understand completely and believe in deeply. Not a violation of league rules, as the commissioner emphatically confirmed, but rather a violation of moral character. We find it appalling that a couple of friends approaching the ends of their contracts would have the audacity to discuss the possibility of seeking employment together.

There was the issue of loyalty.

We should vilify the game’s best player for having the temerity to leave his hometown team after seven seasons of unrivaled individual success but little in the way of what really matters to show for it. This hometown hero, its heart and soul, its lifeblood, was nothing more than a caricature of loyalty. How dare such an incredible athlete put the prospect of winning a title above all else. He should be ostracized for such unthinkable behavior.

We’re okay if a certain star from Los Angeles crucifies his team in front of a national audience and demands a trade, and then goes on to demand that certain of his teammates be traded. We’re okay if that certain someone hails from Denver, and he holds his team hostage during the middle of an active NBA season while demanding a trade to a single team, providing his organization with no other options, and showing no apparent regard for his teammates or hometown fans in the process. We’re even okay if a certain someone leaves the only team he’s ever known for 12 NBA seasons in order to join a friend and chase a championship before he retires. We’re okay with these actions because our standard applies only to the best player in the game. All others are free to move without encountering our wrath.

We empathize with Clevelanders. Its residents are of too high a moral character for such a grand betrayal. Burning jerseys, death threats, pompous tongue-lashings from former owners – these are all perfectly appropriate responses to a single man’s decision to seek employment elsewhere. They are the actions of people deserving our sympathy.  Read more…

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NBA Lockout Appears Inevitable

April 16th, 2011 No comments

This Miami Heat team is positively thrilling. And while they don’t enter the playoffs tonight without flaws, they also have a legitimate shot at marching through the Sixers, Celtics, and Bulls all the way to the NBA Finals. Yet thanks to the squabbling of millionaires and billionaires over how to divide a $4 billion industry, this may be the last time for a long time to enjoy it.

Negotiations surrounding a new NBA collective bargaining agreement to replace the current six-year deal that expires on June 30 are not just in a stalemate. They’re turning nasty. A lockout seems inevitable. And it could last a while. It could wipe out the entire 2011-12 season.

The information, misinformation, accusations and counter-accusations are flying so fast and furious that you need an accounting degree and a decade of practical experience under your belt to actually be able to make sense of it all.

The two sides remain deeply divided over what percentage of revenue the players should receive and how owners should share their money.

Players currently receive not less than 57% of every dollar generated by the NBA in salaries and benefits. Players have no costs. Every dollar they make, they get to take home (excluding withholding taxes, of course).

Owners need to net their 43% share of revenues against all the costs of fielding their teams. According to Commissioner David Stern, the NBA will lose roughly $300 million this season. That’s actually better than the $340 million in losses last year and even better than the $370 million in losses the year before that. Stern has also spoken of losses of at least $200 million in each of the first three seasons of the current agreement.

That’s $1.6 billion in losses in six years. That’s huge! And the league has sent both audited financial data and tax returns to the player’s association to substantiate the losses.

The NBA is claiming the business model is broken.

Owners are seeking a complete overhaul of the league’s financial system, and have submitted proposals to the players that feature a hard salary cap, rollbacks to existing player salaries, shorter contract lengths, reduced annual raises, and the reduction of the players’ share of revenues from the current 57% to less than 40%.

But the players disagree with the story the numbers tell.

The players contend that the vast majority of the so-called losses is the result of creative accounting and tax loopholes. They contend that only a small number of teams are suffering, and that their problems can be addressed primarily through enhanced revenue sharing. Read more…

Horrible in the Half Court

January 28th, 2011 8 comments

The Heat’s half court struggles are confounding to all.

The Miami Heat is averaging 101.3 points per game thus far this season, while shooting 47.0% from the field.

That’s the best ever scoring output in the Pat Riley era and the second best efficiency mark in the NBA. Mighty impressive stuff for a team still very much a work-in-progress.

Yet hidden behind these statistics is a highly disturbing reality. The team simply cannot score in the half court. And Erik Spoelstra’s offensive system is to blame.

The expectation heading into the season was that the Heat would torment teams in transition, that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James would captivate us regularly with electrifying fastbreak dunks.

And, for the most part, they have. The Heat is shooting 61.3% en route to an average of 1.22 points on each transition possession, best in the league.

But the team only gets about 14 transition opportunities per game. While that’s actually quite a high total, it still leaves around 85 half court sets to deal with.

The problem, quite simply, is a fundamental lack of team basketball. Read more…

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Heat Sign Jerry Stackhouse, Waive Beverley and Butler

October 25th, 2010 10 comments

A freak injury to the right thumb of Mike Miller is expected to keep one of the NBA’s top three-point shooters sidelined for an extended period of time.

Miller fractured a bone and tore a ligament when the thumb on his shooting hand got tangled in a teammate’s jersey during a post drill at practice last Wednesday. He underwent surgery Friday to repair the damage. He will remain in a cast for four weeks, then move to a brace for several more weeks, then prepare once again for the start of the season. The Heat don’t expect him back on the court before January.

Pat Riley met with Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They chose Jerry Stackhouse, on a one-year fully unguaranteed minimum salary contract, for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. It needs an injection of youth and athleticism. It needs to develop for the future. It needs to identify players with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost. It needs to find tough, quick defenders.

Stackhouse is none of those things. He is old (he turns 36 next month). He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he has never been a good three-point shooter (31% for his career). He provides nothing this team needs.

He is nothing more than a sub-optimal stand-in for Miller. But when Miller gets healthy, he’s gone. Why sign someone who has no chance of being a member of the Heat come playoff time? Why sign someone who has no chance to be a part of the Heat’s future? Why eat up a valuable roster spot on such a player?

With the Stackhouse addition, the Heat roster stood at 17. The team had until 6 p.m. today to get its roster to the regular-season limit of 15 as they prepared for tomorrow’s season opener against Boston. Beverley and Butler were the final two cuts.

Beverley and Butler were both competing for the Stackhouse spot. They had a real shot at being a big part of the Heat’s future. Danny Green was a better option than both of them.

In an alternate universe, all three could have been retained. In an alternate universe, the Heat could have kept Beverley as its potential point guard of the future (by waiving Magloire), Green as its potential shooting guard of the future (by passing on Stackhouse), and Butler as its potential small forward of the future (by waiving Howard). That’s a quality developmental backcourt.  Read more…

Heat Should Pursue Danny Green

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

With Mike Miller injured, recently waived Danny Green could be the perfect fit.

Mike Miller is injured.

Miller sustained what appears to be a serious thumb injury on his right hand - his shooting hand - during Wednesday’s practice. He was injured when he got his hand snagged in a teammate’s jersey.

The Miami Heat have not yet announced the findings from an evaluation by a hand specialist yesterday, but the team is bracing itself to be without its best shooter for an extended period.

Although LeBron James has said that he is confident that Miller will play a majority of the regular season, this is no doubt a huge blow to the Heat. Having signed a five-year, $29 million contract with the Heat this past off-season, Miller was supposed to provide critical floor spacing for a trio of superstars in James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh who work best in space.

Instead, the Heat is left without a single backup shooting guard on the roster — none!

Pat Riley has met with Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They appear destined to turn to Jerry Stackhouse for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. This team needs depth. It needs players who can play. It needs to identify a player with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost, packaged in the body of a man who can provide solid backcourt defense.

Stackhouse is not that. He is old. He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he never had the ability to stroke the long ball; he is a career 30.7% shooter from beyond the three-point line. He provides nothing this team needs.

There is simply no way Stackhouse will be a member of the Miami Heat come playoff time. So why sign him now?

But the Heat does have a glaring need. Even when healthy, the slow-footed 6-foot, 8-inch Miller is more of a small forward than he is a shooting guard capable of defending the perimeter. The Heat desperately needs a quality shooting guard.

A possible solution comes from the unlikeliest of places. The Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dan Gilbert’s team has just done the Miami Heat a huge favor. It has waived second year guard Danny Green.  Read more…

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Heat Waive Kenny Hasbrouck and Shavlik Randolph

October 20th, 2010 No comments

As expected, the Heat have cut Kenny Hasbrouck and Shavlik Randolph loose.

Randolph never had a realistic shot at making the opening day roster.

Hasbrouck faced long odds to earn a spot. But he did nothing to help his cause during preseason play. He made just 9 of his 41 shots, including just 1 of his 15 three-point attempts, averaging 4.6 points, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 24 minutes per game.

The Hasbrouck-Beverley competition for a possible final roster spot was the most hotly scrutinized, debated and captivating storyline of the second half of the offseason – starting during Summer League play (where Hasbrouck dominated), through training camp and into the preseason. Hasbrouck was thought to have had the more NBA-ready game. That never materialized. Beverley struggled somewhat himself, but did average more points, rebounds, assists and steals during the preseason, while averaging fewer turnovers and fouls in nearly identical minutes. Beverley was also the vastly superior defender and three-point shooter.

The question now is whether the Beverley win will translate into a roster spot.

Teams are allowed to carry as many as 20 players in the offseason, but must cut to 15 by opening night. The Heat roster currently stands at 16. Fourteen are veterans with fully guaranteed contracts. Da’Sean Butler has a partial guarantee, but has been all but assured a spot as he continues his rehabilitation.

It would appear that the Heat have run out of available slots for Beverley. The situation was equally true when Beverley signed his fully-guaranteed, multi-year contract nearly three months ago, prompting speculation that he could be added with a roster spot that would be freed up by waiving fourth-string center Jamaal Magloire.

For a Heat team with limited options with which to meaningfully improve – having just traded away four first-round draft picks, the Heat’s competition will have roster-building advantages almost every summer – and considering Beverley’s considerable upside, waiving Magloire, who is unlikely to see any playing time this season, would appear to be the prudent approach.

Randolph and Hasbrouck do get nice parting gifts – both had $250,000 guarantees in their deals.

Contract Details of Heat Roster Players

August 31st, 2010 11 comments

The final contract details are in.

Here’s a look the specifics for all 18 players currently under contract to the Heat:

LeBron James and Chris Bosh were each signed-and-traded to a six-year, $109,837,500 contract in July 2010. They will each make $14,500,000 this season, with $1,522,500 raises every year thereafter (i.e., equal to maximum allowable 10.5% of this season’s salary). Each contract contains an Early Termination Option after the fourth season and a Player Option after the fifth season, effectively allowing each player to re-enter free agency prior to both the fifth and sixth seasons of his deal. Each contract also contains a 15% trade bonus. The contracts were each signed utilizing Bird rights, and then acquired by the Heat with cap  room. James and Bosh will be 32 and 31, respectively, at the end of their contracts.

Dwyane Wade was re-signed to a six-year, $107,565,000 contract in July 2010. He will make $14,200,000 this season, with $1,491,000 raises every year thereafter (i.e., equal to maximum allowable 10.5% of this season’s salary). His contract contains an Early Termination Option after the fourth season and a Player Option after the fifth season, effectively allowing him to re-enter free agency prior to both the fifth and sixth seasons of his deal. The contract also contains a 15% trade bonus. The contract was signed utilizing Wade’s Bird rights. Wade will be 34 at the end of his contract.

Mike Miller was signed to a five-year, $29,000,000 contract in July 2010. He will make $5,000,000 this season, with $525,000 raises every year thereafter (i.e., equal to maximum allowable 8.0% of this season’s salary). His contract contains a Player Option after the fourth season, as well as a 15% trade bonus. The  contract was signing utilizing cap room. Miller will be 35 at the end of his contract.  Read more…

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Heat signs Da’Sean Butler to a much anticipated two-year deal

August 30th, 2010 No comments

ButlerThe Miami Heat signed rookie Da’Sean Butler to a two-year, $1.3 million contract on Monday. Given the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, despite Butler’s ongoing rehabilitation from his gruesome left knee injury and his resultant uncertain NBA future, the contract was anticipated for quite some time.

Butler’s minimum salary contract will pay him $473,604 and $788,872, respectively, for this season and next. The first season is $300,000 guaranteed. The second season is fully unguaranteed, becoming 50% guaranteed if he is not waived before June 20, 2011, and becoming fully guaranteed if he is not waived before opening night of next season.

Butler will be competing for the 15th and final roster spot with Patrick Beverley (who received a shocking, two-year, $1.3 million fully-guaranteed contract of this own), Kenny Hasbrouck (who received a $250,000 partial guarantee), and Shavlik Randolph (who received a $250,000 partial guarantee).

Butler is still not healthy. He figures not to be for quite a while. Doctors originally thought Butler could be cleared for some basketball activity by the end of September. But the 6-foot-7 swingman had a setback with his surgically repaired knee in July, leading to a second surgery that pushed the estimated timeframe back to the beginning of the NBA season. Butler is now expected to return to game action by February.

“I couldn’t tell you when I’ll be back,” says Butler. “I’ve been trying to find out from my doctors and trainers when would be the perfect time and I get the same answer every time. Everybody’s body is different, so when you’re better, you’re better. You’ll know when you’re better and we’ll know you’re better. So, they will let me know when I’m good to go and I’m fine to do something. All I can do is just wait it out.”

Despite the setbacks, Butler seemingly has the inside track on the final roster spot. Riley has said that he considered Butler to be the 21st best player in the 2010 NBA Draft. He seems intent on keeping Butler through his rehabilitation.

Butler played four seasons at the University of West Virginia, finishing his career with 107 career wins, the most in school history. As a senior he was named First Team All-Big East, averaging a team-high 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 38 games.

For his career Butler started in 110 of 146 games for the Mountaineers, averaging 14.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.06 steals while shooting .448 from the field, .353 from three-point range and .732 from the foul line. He scored 2,095 points during his career, ranking third in school history behind Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley. Butler also ranks among school leaders in career double-figure scoring games (1st), field goals (3rd), three-pointers (4th), free throws (5th), rebounds (11th) and steals (12th).

Butler was originally selected by the Heat with the 42nd pick in the 2010 draft. The Heat was very attracted to his versatility and all-court game. It remains to be seen whether he can retain his already questionable explosiveness and athleticism after rehabilitating from one of the most severe types of injuries an NBA player can sustain.

It is certainly nice to have the benevolent Butler as an official part of the Miami Heat organization.

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Heat signs Patrick Beverley to a curious two-year deal

August 3rd, 2010 21 comments

Patrick Beverley signed a two-year minimum salary contract with the Heat on Monday

The Miami Heat signed Patrick Beverley to a two-year, $1.3 million fully-guaranteed contract on Monday. That much we know.

What we don’t know is why. Why did the Heat sign him? Why did they sign him so soon? And why did they fully guarantee his contract?

Despite the guarantee, Beverley is still far from a lock to make the regular season roster.

The Heat currently has 14 veterans under guaranteed contract. Teams can have as many as 20 players under contract during the offseason, but must pare down to 15 by the start of the regular season.

Beverley figures to compete with Kenny Hasbrouck, Shavlik Randolph, and Da’Sean Butler for the 15th and final spot. Hasbrouck and Randolph have each signed a $250,000 partially guaranteed two-year minimum salary contract, while Butler should be signed shortlyDespite the ACL tear in his left knee, Butler is currently thought to have the inside track.

Beverley was initially selected with the 42nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Draft. His draft rights were immediately traded to the Heat in exchange for a 2011 second-round pick and cash considerations.

If Beverley should fail to make the opening day roster, the Heat would lose his draft rights. Pat Riley will have wasted the $1,500,000 (and the 2011 second round pick) it took to acquire his draft rights, the $473,604 he is guaranteed for this season, the $788,872 he is guaranteed for next season, and the $788,872 in tax consequences his contract will almost certainly cause next season. That’s a total of $3,551,348. Wasted.

***

 So why did the Heat sign him?  Read more…

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Breaking down the Da’Sean Butler situation

July 30th, 2010 14 comments

Da’Sean Butler had played his way into a surefire first-round selection in the 2010 NBA Draft with a spectacular senior campaign at West Virginia last season, sinking six game-winning shots, earning second-team All-America honors, and leading the Mountaineers to the Final Four for the first time since 1959. With a first round selection comes the virtual guarantee of becoming a multi-millionaire.

And then one fateful play changed the course of Da’Sean’s career. With a little less than nine minutes remaining in the Mountaineers’ national semi-final match-up with eventual champion Duke on April 3rd, Butler drove to the basket and collided with the Blue Devils’ Brian Zoubek. Moments later, the senior forward lay on his back clutching his left knee, writhing in pain caused by a torn ACL, a sprained MCL and two bone bruises.

The image of head coach Bob Huggins consoling his fallen superstar was simultaneously touching and perhaps just a bit uncomfortable. But we can all certainly empathize. Instead of beginning his preparation for a potential starting spot in the NBA, Butler found himself instead fighting for any place at all.  Read more…

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