Erik Spoelstra

Southeast Rumors: Thomas, Nored, Whiteside, Hawks

Free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas would be a good fit for the Heat but they probably don’t have the salary-cap space to sign him, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel speculates. Thomas’ ability to score in bunches would boost a team prone to scoring droughts, Winderman continues. But it’s doubtful that a former All-Star coming off an injury-marred season would take a short-term deal, Winderman notes, as the Lakers guard is more likely to pursue what could be his last significant contract.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets will hire Ronald Nored as an assistant coach on James Borrego‘s staff, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Nored served as the Nets’ G-League head coach this past season.
  • Pat Riley‘s silence over the Hassan Whiteside situation in recent weeks suggests a trade is more likely than reconciliation, Winderman opines in another blog. Though Winderman believes Whiteside and coach Erik Spoelstra would like to find some middle ground, a separation appears to be in order despite the issue of Whiteside’s contract, which has two years and over $52MM remaining. Whiteside was disappointed with his reduced playing time.
  • The Hawks will bring in six prospects for a workout on Tuesday, according to a team press release. That group includes  Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Kyran Bowman (Boston College), Dorian Pickens (Stanford), Kerem Kanter (Xavier), Tremont Waters (LSU) and Kenrich Williams (TCU).

Heat Notes: Dragic, Haslem, Spoelstra, Lottery

Goran Dragic has retired from international basketball, but he might be persuaded to change his mind for the 2020 Olympics, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. After helping Slovenia capture the European championship last summer, Dragic plans a much more relaxed offseason this year.

“The people from the federation have been here in Miami; they tried to persuade me,” Dragic said. ‘We had a good meeting. I said my body at that time, I need to think about myself and my career. I gave to my country everything I had. Now it’s time to end.”

Dragic, who turned 32 last week, is hoping a few months of rest will pay off next season. He played 75 games this year, but his numbers declined across the board in scoring, assists and field goal percentage.

There’s more today out of Miami:

  • Udonis Haslem appeared in just 14 games this season, but Dragic says the intangibles he provides makes him worth a roster spot, Jackson adds in the same story. “It’s really tough to explain to people outside what he means to this team,” Dragic said. “Everybody is looking, ‘OK, he’s not playing’ but they don’t know how much he brings to this team, especially with his experience and leadership. A lot of guys in this locker room need leadership like UD, especially Hassan [Whiteside]. I think UD can provide that. He’s there where usually some guys would not be, in the toughest moments, when you need something, he’s there. That’s why everybody loves him.” Haslem, who will turn 38 in June, is headed into free agency and hasn’t decided if he wants to play another season.
  • Don’t expect a coaching change in Miami as long as Pat Riley remains the team president, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Erik Spoelstra is closely tied to Riley’s philosophy, Winderman notes, and the current roster probably wouldn’t fit together without him in charge.
  • The Heat won’t be involved in Tuesday’s lottery, but the results could affect them for years to come, Winderman points out in a separate piece. The lottery will help determine the balance of power at the top of the East, with the Cavaliers owning the Nets’ unprotected first-rounder and the Lakers’ first pick headed to either the Sixers or Celtics. Those teams could add to their talent base or they could use a high lottery pick as a bargaining chip if the Spurs decide to trade Kawhi Leonard.

Spoelstra Talks Whiteside, Wade, Ellington, More

While there has been a ton of speculation since the end of the Heat’s season earlier this week about Hassan Whiteside‘s future – or lack thereof – in Miami, head coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t indulge that speculation today when he met with reporters. As Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes, Spoelstra said that he “loves” working with Whiteside. The Heat head coach also downplayed the long-term impact of Whiteside’s minimal role – and underwhelming performance – during the postseason.

“In two weeks, nobody will be talking about that,” Spoelstra said, per Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. “We can go take some time away. Hassan can get his mind off this and in a few weeks we can get back and connect and then start to share our experiences. He’s not the only guy that’s had to go through something like this. His head coach has. And like I said, a lot of players that have come through our system have been through that kind of playoffs. That is the playoffs. There’s going to be heroes. There’s going to people place blame on. None of it is fair. That’s just the way it is, and we can help him through that process.”

Spoelstra didn’t offer many specific details on the Heat’s offseason plans, but did share some thoughts on the future of Dwyane Wade, Wayne Ellington‘s upcoming free agency, and Miami’s ability to evolve into a legit contender, among other topics. Here are a few more of Spoelstra’s end-of-season comments, via Navarro:

On whether Wade will continue his career and return to the Heat:

“When we hugged after the game, I was basically in tears. And I’ll be honest, right now I’m just not emotionally ready to go there or even to have just a normal conversation. I tried to walk by. I said I don’t want to read anything in his eyes. I just said, ‘Hey, let’s both get away. Let’s connect for lunch in a few weeks.’ And we’re leaving it at that right now.”

On the possibility of the Heat re-signing Ellington despite cap constraints:

“First, I know the visions of my boss (team president Pat Riley). Anything in this league, he can get done. So people are saying, ‘Can you contend for a title with this team?’ I know who I work for. And then, secondly, I know the creativity of (general manager) Andy Elisburg. But none of it has to be decided right now. Wayne know that we love him.

“It was a unified symbiotic relationship where I think he really benefited from our culture. We benefited from his commitment to become the player that was transformational — his ability to come off screens. … And he can keep on going. If it means I’ve got to recruit him and tell him he can shoot 20 threes (per game) next year, quote me on that right now.”

On Spoelstra’s belief that the Heat can contend with their current cure:

“I haven’t even talked about it with Pat, but I’m sure he’ll say the same thing. We see progress, we see growth. Expectations do not scare us. What the opinion is on the outside, how rational or irrational people may think we are, we don’t care. We think we have a group that can contend.

“We believe as much as anything, you grow through continuity. It’s hard to start over. You see teams that get a little sick at sea when it gets a little uncomfortable. Our group doesn’t. But we’re also well aware of where we’re trying to get to and how much improvement we need to get to it. Whether that’s all from inside, that’s the only thing I’m focused on right now. We won’t even talk about anything personnel-wise for months. We don’t have to get to that point right now. That’s going to be Pat and Andy’s responsibility. It’s not the first time they’ve been able to build a championship-contending team. So we have great confidence and faith in the full holistic plan.”

Pat Riley Fumed, Then Realized LeBron ‘Did Right Thing’

Heat president Pat Riley was furious when LeBron James bolted Miami and returned to the Cavaliers in 2014 but now feels James ‘did the right thing.’ That’s one of the revelations by Riley to author Ian Thomsen in his new book “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown between LeBron, Kobe, Doc and Dirk that Saved the NBA” which was excerpted in a Jackie MacMullen story for ESPN.

Riley came to that conclusion slowly, as he fumed for months over James’ decision to go back to Cleveland. He ultimately understood that James would never be truly accepted in his home state again unless he won a championship there.

“My beautiful plan all of a sudden came crashing down,” Riley told Thomsen. “That team in ten years could have won five or six championships. But I get it. I get the whole chronicle of [LeBron’s] life. While there may have been some carnage always left behind when he made these kinds of moves, in Cleveland and also in Miami, he did the right thing.”

Other notable revelations in the interview included:

  • James hinted early in his first Heat season during a meeting among Riley and the Big Three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James that he wanted Riley to return to coaching and replace Erik Spoelstra“I remember LeBron looking at me, and he said, ‘Don’t you ever get the itch?’ I said, ‘The itch for what?’ He said, ‘The itch to coach again?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t have the itch.’ He didn’t ask any more questions, and I didn’t offer any more answers. But I know what it meant, and I always go back and wonder about what he was thinking at that time. “
  • The public outcry after James’ announcement that he would be “taking my talents to South Beach” shook up James when he headed to Miami.  “That night at three in the morning we met him at the airport. … They got off the plane, and I remember walking right up to LeBron. He was worn-out. He was just worn-out. He almost had tears in his eyes.”
  • Riley had no contact with James until Game 7 the 2016 NBA Finals, when Riley texted him. “As soon as he hit the floor, I sent a text to him. I said, ‘Win this and be free.’ He never got back to me with a response.” Riley and James continue to be at odds, according to MacMullen.

Latest On Heat Center Hassan Whiteside

Heat center Hassan Whiteside expressed regret on Monday over his postgame tirade on Saturday in which he ripped coach Erik Spoelstra, Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel reports. Whiteside was upset when he didn’t play in the fourth quarter and overtime during a loss to the Nets. “The minutes have been like that all year. It’s really frustrating. … It’s crazy. I don’t understand it,” he told reporters afterward. After meeting with Spoelstra, Whiteside said he didn’t handle the situation the right way.

“I was just frustrated, man,” Whiteside told Richardson and other reporters. “I was frustrated that we lost. I really wanted to get that game … I could have handled it different. But I got so caught up in wanting to get that win. I get real competitive. I really want to be out there. But I just trust coach’s decision.”

Whiteside was fined for his tirade and Spoeltra said the issue has been resolved. “We’re moving on. It’s behind us,” he said. “You can tell right now by the mood of the gym that’s long gone.”

Whiteside has played an average of 25.6 MPG, 7.0 less than last season. Whiteside has two years and $52.4MM remaining on his  contract after this season but can opt out after next season.

Florida reporters weighed in on Whiteside’s future:

  • Tensions between Whiteside and the team can only hurt his trade value, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel opines. It’s now uncertain whether Whiteside will remain on the team after this season but the Heat sent a message by fining him that they’re fed up with him and will no longer coddle him, Winderman adds.
  • Whiteside will get traded after the season despite his efforts to end the controversy, Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel anticipates. He has constantly frustrated the team with his inconsistent play and rookie Bam Adebayo can take over at center with a more unselfish mindset, Hyde adds.

Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Prince, Gordon/Isaac, Johnson

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is excited about the prospect of getting the team’s two-way players, Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton, back with the team this weekend, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

With the G League regular season concluding tomorrow, the 45-day restriction upon two-way players is lifted, freeing them to return to the NBA for the remainder of the regular season. Jones Jr. is back with the Heat for tonight’s game against Oklahoma City, with Walton joining the team before Sunday’s game in Indiana. As for the two-way system itself, Spoelstra is a fan, even though he thinks a few issues need ironing out.

“The system is a little bit clumsy, but I’m sure we’ll iron that all out in years to come. I’m a big fan of the two-way contract. I think it’s good for teams, it’s good for the player. We’ve seen the benefits of developing our guys with us (the Heat), but also getting those guys a lot of game reps in our culture, in Sioux Falls.”

Jones Jr., 21, is averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 29.1 minutes per game this season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat’s G League affiliate, while also starting eight games for the Heat during the team’s struggle through injuries. Asked whether his development is of importance to the team, Spoelstra said of course:

“Absolutely. We always envision where a player can go. We do that with an open mind and a commitment to our player development. He’s improved this year with us and that’s worth noting, because he’s committed to our (the Heat’s) process. I think he has to break into this program as a defensive-minded player. That’s really where his potential is. It’s been very intentional that we try to get him on the best wing opponent every night and really embrace that challenge regardless of how many minutes he plays and what his offensive responsibility is. He has to guard, he has to be able to impact on that side of the floor. And that got better. It still has a long ways to go, but he’s starting to understand where he can break through.”

As we’ve noted generally before, neither Jones Jr. nor Walton are playoff-eligible for the Heat unless signed to a standard contract before the final game of the regular season. This is unlikely as Miami already has 15 players on its roster.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks‘ forward Taurean Prince has improved his three-point prowess throughout his career, but no more so than this season, writes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, where he is shooting 40.4% from behind the stripe.
  • The Magic are excited to be able to play versatile forwards Aaron Gordon and rookie Jonathan Isaac together for the remainder of this season, writes John Denton of NBA.com.
  • Just in time for the playoffs, James Johnson is finally realizing the level of play the Heat expected when they signed him to a lucrative contract this summer, Winderman adds in another piece.

Southeast Notes: Whiteside, Vucevic, Ilyasova

The Heat have been aggressive on the trade market, but don’t expect them to deal Hassan Whiteside without a significant haul coming back in return, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. The franchise knows all too well how much of a role the 28-year-old has played in the team’s emergence as a defensive force.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra has reined in his inconsistent big man’s minutes this year, a luxury he can afford with other options like Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo on the roster.

Despite the decreased workload, Whiteside is as efficient as ever, posting 14.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in just 25.8 minutes of action. Those are per-36 rates of 20.0 and 16.4, respectively, up from 18.8 and 15.6 per-36 in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Heat Notes: Bosh, Spoelstra, Winslow

The Heat experienced some déjà vu during their game against the Nets in Mexico City on Saturday as former champion Chris Bosh was in attendance for the team’s 101-89 victory. It was a welcome sight for many of Bosh’s former teammates and coaches, including Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel writes.

“We’ve been in touch. He looks good,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “His family, his kids are doing well. I love CB. He’s Heat family for life but man it’s strange. You see him and it’s like you go back to 2012 just like that. You realize how fast times goes by in this league.”

Bosh has not played in nearly two seasons after his issue with blood clots was ruled career-ending following a medical review by the NBA and the players’ union earlier this year. Bosh reached a unique agreement with the Heat in July where his salary would longer count against the team’s salary cap after he was waived.

We noted last month that Bosh was “keeping his options open” regarding his future as an active player. However, given his medical complications, it remains a longshot that an NBA team will give him a chance to resume his career.

Check out other Heat news below:

  • Also from the Sun Sentinel’s Shandel Richardson, Heat forward Justise Winslow has taken a demotion to the bench in stride and is finding success in that role. “I didn’t really take it as a bad thing or a good thing,” Winslow said. “For me, I just see it as an opportunity to be even more of a playmaker with that second group especially with the great spot up shooters we have in Wayne [Ellington] and Tyler [Johnson].”
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes that Erik Spoelstra thrives under stability with the Heat, something David Fizdale and other recently dismissed coaches have not been afforded. Spoelstra has been the head coach in Miami through the era of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh, and in recent years during a rebuilding stage. He feels that teams will need patience to compete and that stability with coaches is critical.

Texas Notes: Nowitzki, Gay, D’Antoni

Fans are paying an average of $1,300 per ticket for the Mavericks‘ season finale in hopes of seeing Dirk Nowitzki‘s final game, but Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News warns that Nowitzki’s retirement isn’t a sure thing. The German star hasn’t made a decision about playing beyond this season and says health may be the main factor. A right Achilles problem early last season limited Nowitzki to 54 games and doomed the Mavericks to a 3-17 start.

“If I miss another 30 to 40 games in a row, then obviously, it’s not meant to be,” said Nowitzki, who is preparing for his 20th NBA season. “But if I can stay sort of healthy like I did at the end of the season, when I thought I moved OK and had some good games, then maybe we’ll do two more [seasons]. But we’ll see how it goes.”

There’s more news tonight out of Texas:

  • Assuming he spends the entire year in Dallas, Nowitzki will join Kobe Bryant as the only players with 20 years of service to the same organization. During an appearance this week on Sirius XM radio, Nowitzki lamented the league’s move away from franchise cornerstones (h/t to Michael Singer of USA Today). “The new NBA is a little different,” he said. “It’s about making money, it’s about winning and not as much about being loyal anymore.” Nowitzki displayed his loyalty this summer by re-signing for $10MM over two years after opting out of a $25MM salary.
  • Rudy Gay hasn’t played a game yet for San Antonio, but he already calls himself “a Spur for life,” relays Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. Gay agreed to a two-year, $17MM contract this summer that contains an $8.8MM player option for next season, but he sounds fully committed to San Antonio. “I think it was a do-or-die point in my career,” said Gay, who is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his season in January. “I wanted to be with an organization that was known for winning and can help me raise my game to the next level.”
  • Rockets mentor Mike D’Antoni accepted his Coach of the Year award Friday from the National Basketball Coaches Association, writes Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. D’Antoni was a co-winner along with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra after guiding Houston to a 55-27 record and the third seed in the Western Conference. “The tie was legitimate and there were five or six others who received significant votes,” said NBCA president Rick Carlisle of the Mavericks. “So it really spoke to the quality job that everybody did from top to bottom.”

D’Antoni Captures Coach Of The Year Award

Mike D’Antoni was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year, which was announced on the TNT awards show Monday night.

D’Antoni led the Rockets to the third-best record in the Western Conference at 55-27 in his first year with the club. The Rockets finished 41-41 in 2015/16. He also won the award in 2005 when he patrolled the sidelines for the Suns.

The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Heat’s Erik Spoelstra were the other finalists. The Hoops Rumors staff gave two of the five votes to D’Antoni.