Dion Waiters

Eastern Notes: Cavs, Van Gundy, Waiters, Hornets

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and forward LeBron James believe the team has shown a lack of toughness in recent weeks, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Cavs have fallen to 22nd place in the defensive efficiency ratings and are in dangerous of losing the top seed in the East. Their latest loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday had both of them lamenting about the team’s lack of desire to defend. “It starts with the coaches but the players gotta look at themselves in the mirror, too,” Lue told Vardon and other members of the media. “They gotta be more physical, they gotta bring a physical presence and they’ve got to take pride in guarding their man.” James adds: “It ain’t about a group, it’s about individuals. … You can’t preach toughness, you’ve got to have it.”

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Pistons are in danger of sliding out of the playoff race and coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy is groping for solutions, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Detroit has lost five of its last six, including a last-second defeat to the Eastern Conference’s worst team, the Nets. “I think it’s pretty clear from these six games that I’m not finding the answers and not doing a very good job, so it starts with me. I’m the person in charge,” Van Gundy told Langlois and the assembled media. “I selected everybody in that locker room. I’m the one who wanted them in there. I decide who plays. I put lineups out there. I decide on defensive coverages. I call plays. So it’s all on me.”
  • Dion Waiters left ankle sprain has shown progress, so the Heat have not scheduled an MRI, Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post tweets. Waiters wanted an MRI if he hadn’t felt improvement, Chiang adds. Waiters has missed the last two games after suffering the injury on March 17th.
  • The Hornets will not participate in the trend of resting players, according to David Scott of the Charlotte Observer. That would go against the philosophy of owner Michael Jordan and assistant coach Patrick Ewing, who didn’t take games off when they played, Scott adds. “It’s easy for me, because I’m working for an owner who just doesn’t believe in it,” coach Steve Clifford told Scott. “And I have an associate head coach who would kill me if I started doing it.”

Free Agent Rumors: Teague, Rose, Olynyk, Waiters

Much has been made of Paul George‘s approaching free agency, but the Pacers star won’t be eligible to hit the open market until 2018. Another key Indiana player – Jeff Teague – will see his contract expire this summer, and if Teague leaves the Pacers as a free agent, that probably increases the likelihood of a George departure as well, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

One league source who spoke to Deveney predicted that Teague will seek a contract close to the max, pointing to Mike Conley‘s five-year, $150MM+ deal with the Grizzlies as one that Teague’s camp will probably bring up in contract negotiations. However, Deveney notes that Teague grew up in Indianapolis and would like to stay with the Pacers, which means a hometown discount isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Here are a few more notes from around the NBA related to current free agents or players whose contracts will be up this summer:

  • In a video for The Vertical, Bobby Marks and Chris Mannix identify Knicks point guard Derrick Rose and Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk as two free agents whose value is very hard to pin down. Mannix suggests he wouldn’t commit to Rose for more than one or two years, while the duo agrees that Olynyk will likely command an annual salary worth at least $10MM, a substantial price to pay for a player whose production has been inconsistent.
  • It has been a tale of two seasons for Dion Waiters, who is enjoying perhaps his best year as a pro in Miami, but has also been slowed by various injuries, including the ankle sprain that currently sidelines him. Still, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel doesn’t expect those injuries to give the Heat much additional leverage in contract talks this summer with Waiters, since they’re not serious, long-term ailments.
  • Former NBA players Solomon Jones and Jarnell Stokes are currently NBA free agents, but both players have signed D-League contracts, according to Chris Reichert of The Step Back (Twitter links). Stokes’ D-League rights are held by Sioux Falls, so last year’s NBADL will return to the Skyforce. The club waived former NBA center Johan Petro in a corresponding move.

Will The Heat Add To Their Roster?

In the latest edition of his mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel broached the subject of Miami adding depth to their shaky roster. As one of Winderman’s readers pointed out, the Heat are within striking distance of a playoff spot, but are missing several players due to injury. What’s more, they’ve committed a roster spot to Udonis Haslem– a great clubhouse presence who isn’t an in-game contributor at this point in his career. In response, Winderman wrote:

“The Heat, for at least another week, not only won’t be able to dress the allowable 13 players, but like Sunday, will only be able to dress 11. Yes, I appreciate the ‘we have enough’ mentality that coaches such as Erik Spoelstra stress. But having enough does not mean having the maximum possible resources in a playoff race that will make every game count. Whether it is signing Carlos Boozer back from China or adding a defensive wing, you raise a legitimate point. This team is hemorrhaging roster spots, and if the mantra is to be all-hands-on-deck, then playing with a full deck would be the best place to start.”

Now tied with Detroit for the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference, the Heat enter a vital stretch of their season without Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, or Josh McRoberts. While the team could pursue Lance Stephenson, whose second 10-day contract in Minnesota recently expired, he won’t be playoff eligible. Aside from reaching out to Boozer, Winderman lists Okaro White– who is “hardly getting off the bench lately”- as a potential source of production.

Heat Notes: Free Agents, Waiters, Wade, T. Johnson

The surprising Heat may be able to keep this year’s team together and still have cap room to be players on the free agent market, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. With team president Pat Riley saying at the All-Star break that he would use the rest of the season to evaluate which players will be kept, Jackson assesses the situation for several impending free agents:

  • James Johnson should get at least $10MM annually after his best NBA season, and possibly a contract similar to Evan Turner‘s at $70MM over four years. Johnson loves the team and the city, and the organization wants to bring him back.
  • Dion Waiters is also enjoying a breakthrough season and wants to sign a long-term deal with the Heat. But if Dwyane Wade stays in Chicago, there will be little competition at the shooting guard position in free agency and Waiters could get an offer of $14MM per year or more.
  • Wayne Ellington‘s $6.3MM deal for next season doesn’t need to be guaranteed until July 7th, the first day after the moratorium is lifted. The Heat will know where they stand with free agents before making that decision.
  • Willie Reed can opt out of hiss $1.5MM deal, and Miami may need to use part or all of its $4.3MM room exception to keep him.
  • The Heat have Bird rights on Luke Babbitt, so if he re-signs he will only count $1.47MM against the cap regardless of his salary.

If Chris Bosh is cleared off the cap as expected, Miami will have about $41MM in available space, with three small cap holds. If the Heat elect to keep Ellington and Babbitt, while using the room exception for Reed, that figure will be closer to $33MM. Jackson expects Riley to use that money to chase top-level free agents before committing to any of his current players.

There’s more today out of Miami:

  • The Heat aren’t sure when Waiters will return from a sprained ankle he suffered Friday, Jackson writes in a separate story. Waiters was on crutches after the game and has been ruled out for today’s contest with Portland. Coach Erik Spoelstra said it’s too early to talk about when Waiters might play again. “He’s young. He heals fast,” Spoelstra said. “He healed very fast from the last one and he rolled that one all the way over. There’s no way to really tell until we get through this process. We’ll see how he feels after this weekend.”
  • Wade is turning aside questions about free agency, but Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel envisions a scenario where the veteran guard could return to Miami next season. If Wade opts out of his $23.8MM deal, Miami could create additional cap room by trading Tyler Johnson, possibly to the Nets, who made the four-year, $50MM offer that the Heat elected to match.

Heat Notes: Waiters, Wade, Dragic

Dion Waiters is looking at a substantial raise this summer and he wants it to come from Miami, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The 25-year-old shooting guard is making an impressive case for himself in free agency, averaging a career-best 16.0 points per game and fueling a second-half surge that has the Heat back in the playoff race. Waiters, who is making $2.9MM this season, hopes his long-term future is in South Florida. “I want to get it done as quick as possible,” he said. “Let’s keep this thing rolling by any means. I don’t want to go into free agency with a couple days and make a decision. I don’t want that. I know where I want to be. Let’s just get it done. My mom loves it here. Would be mad at me [if I left]. My son loves it. My family loves it.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Waiters plans to contact former Heat star Dwyane Wade for tips on improving his game, Jackson writes in the same piece. He seems like an obvious candidate as Waiters has taken over Wade’s spot as a primary scorer in coach Erik Spoelstra’s offense. “I am definitely going to reach out to him to see if I can propel my game to a new level,” Waiters said. “That’s what the best players do.” If Waiters remains in Miami, it might prevent the Heat from having a reunion with Wade, who can opt out of his $23.8MM deal with the Bulls this summer.
  • The Heat aren’t sure how a bruised right eye socket will affect point guard Goran Dragic, relays Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Dragic suffered the injury in the third quarter Saturday when he was hit with an elbow by Toronto’s Cory Joseph. Dragic said his vision was blurry, but he wasn’t dizzy and hopes to play tonight in Indiana. “The plan right now is to travel him,” Spoelstra said Saturday night. “We’ll see; we’ll be smart about it.”
  • Development of players throughout the season has led the Heat to reassess not only their playoff chances, but their long-term future, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

Heat Notes: Weber, McGruder, Richardson, Wade

When the Heat host the Hornets on Wednesday, it will mark their first game against training camp cut Briante Weber, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Weber had been a fixture on Miami’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls for the past two seasons, helping the Skyforce win the league title in 2015/16. He signed two 10-day contracts with the Warriors last month, but was released when Golden State wanted to make room for Jose Calderon, and later Matt Barnes. Weber agreed to a 10-day deal with Charlotte February 27th. “I just told him I appreciated his attitude and his effort and what he brought to us,” Stephen Curry said about Weber’s time with the Warriors. “He has a lot to offer this league, his tenacity on the defensive end and his confidence. … He’s going to be around for a long time.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Rodney McGruder has come a long way to earn a starting job and get consideration for the All-Rookie team, Winderman writes in a separate story. McGruder went undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013, then played in Hungary and the D-League before making the Heat roster at the start of this season. “It is nice being mentioned,” he said. “… But I’ve just got to thank my teammates. The coaching staff put me in a great situation, that’s what I always say.”
  • The injuries that have followed Josh Richardson through his first two NBA seasons are a new experience, writes Shandel Richarson of The Sun-Sentinel. The former Tennessee standout said he never missed a game in college and only one in high school. But injuries limited him to 52 games last season, and he has sat out 30 already this year because of knee surgery and ankle problems. “Figuring out how to get through injuries has been good for me,” Richardson said. “… Now I just got to get my basketball rhythm back. I think I was starting to show good growth before I was injured the last time.”
  • Dwyane Wade keeps dropping hints about opting out of next season’s contract with the Bulls, but Dave Hyde of The Sun-Sentinel argues that it’s not time for a reunion in Miami. Signing Wade, who would want more than the $23.8MM he’s scheduled to get from Chicago, would make it unlikely that the Heat could keep Dion Waiters, who has been a major part of their recent surge back into playoff contention.

Eastern Rumors: Burke, Wizards, Hawks, J.R. Smith

Wizards guard Trey Burke didn’t travel with the club to Toronto due to a personal matter, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Under normal circumstances, there would be no need to read further into that news, but with Washington needing to clear a roster spot to sign Brandon Jennings, it might be safe to read between the lines, tweets J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com.

The Wizards were said to be shopping Burke prior to the deadline, and the fourth-year guard hasn’t played a major role in Washington this season, averaging a career-low 12.4 minutes per contest. Burke’s role will likely be further reduced with Jennings in the mix, and the former Michigan standout is also an expiring contract, with possible restricted free agency around the corner.

According to Haynes (via Twitter), the Wizards have yet to make a final decision on which player will be released to clear a roster spot, so it’s possible Burke will rejoin the team after its trip to Toronto. However, it looks just as likely that he has played his last game for the club. Stay tuned.

Here are a few more items of interest from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Speaking of Jennings, his teammate with the Knicks, Kristaps Porzingis, told reporters on Tuesday that being waived by New York was probably a good thing for Jennings. “He’s a great veteran, great guy,” Porzingis said, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com. “But he wasn’t, you could tell that he wasn’t himself lately so that’s probably the best thing for him. Because he loves basketball, he loves playing basketball (and) he wasn’t happy here.”
  • The Hawks are still considering options for their 15th roster spot, but the team expects to add a “true point guard,” according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter link).
  • J.R. Smith, who continues to recover from a thumb fracture, has rejoined the Cavaliers, though he’s not expected to play during the club’s current three-game road trip, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald looks ahead to free agency and wonders if a reunion with Dwyane Wade would be possible for the Heat this summer, exploring whether Wade would be a better fit for the club than Dion Waiters. As Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel observes, the Heat will have to evaluate Waiters as they would any outside free agent, since the team won’t hold his Bird rights in the offseason and won’t necessarily have a leg up on re-signing him.

Heat Notes: Riley, Dragic, Trade Deadline, Waiters

The Heat’s recent hot streak hasn’t changed the fact that this will be a crucial summer for the organization, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Miami won 14 of its last 16 games before the All-Star break to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. But Winderman says team president Pat Riley will have bigger issues than the postseason to consider when he decides what moves to make before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Heat will probably enter the offseason with Chris Bosh‘s salary-cap space reclaimed and with the knowledge that Tyler Johnson‘s cap hit will balloon from $5.9MM next season to $19.2MM in 2018/19. That creates a sense of urgency for a big move this summer. Miami will also have its draft pick this season, although the team appears out of the running for a top choice, but two of the next four Heat first-rounders belong to the Suns from the Goran Dragic trade.

There’s more this morning out of Miami:

  • Dragic, who once seemed a likely trade candidate because of his contract and the Heat’s poor record, has become indispensable as a team leader, Winderman writes in a separate piece. With Miami contending for a playoff spot, Dragic’s salary of more than $54MM over the next three seasons doesn’t seem nearly as oppressive. “Winning means something to him,” said coach Erik Spoelstra. “And that’s where you start with leadership, is bringing other people with you to make winning that important. And it’s uncomfortable for the majority of leaders, to take that first step. And that’s where he’s been very open to his growth.”
  • The Heat are focused on making the playoffs and are more likely to be buyers than sellers as the deadline approaches, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald asked two Eastern Conference scouts to rate Miami’s roster. They believe Dion Waiters will get offers of $10MM to $12MM per year when he hits free agency this summer, James Johnson is better than anyone believed and will probably get at least $10MM per year as a free agent and Tyler Johnson’s production is warranting the four-year, $50MM offer that the Heat matched last summer.

Heat Notes: White, Waiters, Richardson, Williams

Okaro White‘s new two-year deal with the Heat will feature a guaranteed prorated minimum salary for the rest of 2016/17, but the details of his 2017/18 salary are a little more complicated.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, White’s minimum salary ($1.3MM) for next season is currently non-guaranteed. However, he’ll get a 25% guarantee if he remains on the team through July 1, with another 25% becoming guaranteed on August 1. If White earns a spot on Miami’s opening-night roster, his full salary will become guaranteed.

Because he won’t have to wait until January for his full salary to become guaranteed, White is in a better spot than most players on similar deals — if the Heat don’t want to commit to his full salary, they’ll have to waive him in the summer, or by the start of the season, which would allow him more time to catch on with another club in the NBA or elsewhere.

Let’s round up a few more Heat-related notes…

  • Dion Waiters, who has played a key role in the Heat’s current 11-game winning streak, isn’t certain whether he’ll be able to play in the club’s next game after spraining his left ankle, per Jackson. Meanwhile, another Heat player battling a foot injury, Josh Richardson, hopes to play at least once for the team before this month’s All-Star Game, Jackson writes.
  • After being waived by the Heat on Monday, Derrick Williams sent out the following tweet: Pat Riley is a man of his word. Ultimate respect.” According to Jackson (via Twitter), that message stemmed from the fact that Williams’ release was a mutual decision. The former second overall pick wanted a chance to get more minutes with another team, and the Heat were willing to give him that opportunity by cutting him rather than hanging on to him in an effort to find a trade partner.
  • Within his latest mailbag, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel explores whether Goran Dragic might be the Heat’s point guard of the future, and discusses whether the club might get a chance to reunite with Briante Weber down the road.

Southeast Notes: Plumlee, Waiters, Brooks

Though the size of his contract may skew fans’ perceptions of their newly acquired center, Miles Plumlee performed admirably in his Hornets debut Saturday, writes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. So long as realistic expectations are applied, it’s hard to knock what the big man brings to the table.

Plumlee arrived in Charlotte earlier this week after a trade between the Hornets and Bucks and will step into the rotation immediately as a reliable low-post presence capable of defending the pick-and-roll. As well, Bonnell notes, he’ll provide a badly needed source of physicality for head coach Steve Clifford.

The caveat with Plumlee arriving mid-season after playing sparsely in Milwaukee is that he’ll have to play himself back into game shape. According to Bonnell, Plumlee mentioned this to Clifford upon his arrival with his new team. Between November 25 and January 20, a healthy Plumlee played double-digits just one time in 27 games.

There’s more out of the Southeast:

  • It took a while but Erik Spoelstra and Dion Waiters finally connected in such a way that the two-guard’s game could flourish,” writes Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. “It’s good bumping heads. It’s not anything bad,” Waiters said. “It’s like, ‘I’m challenging you. You can do more. Don’t settle for that‘”.
  • Credit a strong relationship between John Wall and head coach Scott Brooks as one of the main reasons why the Wizards have improved so much this season, writes Michael Lee of the Vertical. In the summer, Brooks visited Wall in the hospital following his knee surgery. “I told John, ‘You’re a three-time All-Star, you can take it one or two ways: You could say, ‘I’ve arrived in this league and I’m comfortable in this league.’ Or you can take the approach that ‘I want to get better.’ And I think he’s done a great job of taking that approach of getting better. I think he can be a top-five player in this league every year.” Currently Washington sits third in the East, 10 games above .500 at 30-20. Last year they missed out on the postseason with a 41-41 record.
  • Despite their bold transactions over the summer, the Magic have struggled to position themselves as contenders in the Eastern Conference. One of those offseason acquisitions, Serge Ibaka, has a particular approach to blocking out the noise inherent with the pending trade deadline in order to focus on turning things around. “I just delete my social media and focus on basketball. That’s it. I don’t read nothing,” Ibaka tells John Denton of the team’s official website. “[Trade talks] are nothing I can control“. The last time we checked in with the Magic, it was said that the club may be overvaluing its trade assets.
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