Kelly Olynyk

Heat Rumors: Winslow, Whiteside, Dragic, Ellington

Although the Heat lack a superstar player, there’s optimism within the organization that the team is capable of winning upwards of 50 games and a playoff round or two. Still, the Heat are aware that they face “major questions” about their ceiling, Zach Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN.com. As such, Miami is a team that figures to be active as the trade deadline approaches.

According to Lowe, the Heat – who may be in the tax next season – are projecting optimism that they could trade the lucrative new long-term contracts handed out to the likes of Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Kelly Olynyk if they need to. However, rival executives are skeptical that all those deals would be easily movable.

Here’s more from Lowe on the Heat’s outlook and trade possibilities:

  • Justise Winslow has been surpassed by Josh Richardson as the Heat’s small forward of the future, while Johnson has emerged as Miami’s top small-ball power forward, according to Lowe, who suggests that Winslow is a potential trade chip for the Heat. Lowe adds that multiple rival execs are calling Winslow the Heat’s version of Jahlil Okafor, though he thinks that’s “a little much.”
  • The Heat’s best and most realistic trade package if they look to make a big splash would likely be Winslow and Hassan Whiteside, says Lowe. Neither player has been a major part of Miami’s best crunch-time lineup as of late, so the club could dangle that duo in search of a star center.
  • The Heat have shown no interest in trading Goran Dragic, per Lowe’s league sources.
  • Waiters’ ankle injury has created some tension in Miami, with Waiters seeking a second opinion after the team put him on a non-surgical rehab program. The two sides hope to get clarity on Waiters’ recovery this week or next, according to Lowe, who notes that the veteran guard “almost feels redundant” on a Heat roster that features several ball-handlers.
  • Long-term luxury tax concerns for the Heat may cost them Wayne Ellington. The veteran sharpshooter is in line for a raise when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July and Miami likely won’t be able to afford him, prompting Lowe to wonder if the club would consider trading him rather than losing him for nothing.

Heat Notes: Frontcourt, Waiters, Patience

This time last season, Heat president Pat Riley made the decision to stand pat with a veteran core and it paid off in the form of one of the most impressive in-season turnarounds in recent memory. You can imagine, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel suggests, that Miami’s success so far in 2017/18 has muted trade talk at this point in the season.

The Heat, 20-17 and currently seventh in the East, sit well situated to nab a playoff spot. It’s plausible to even consider that they could gain the 1.5 games necessary to catch the Wizards who currently sit fourth in the conference if all breaks right down the stretch.

While Riley may not be content with a team whose long-term ceiling seems to fall short of genuine contention, there’s no indication that the organization won’t remain patient for the time being.

There’s more from South Beach:

  • The Heat have found success starting seven-footers Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk together and aren’t about to abandon the unconventional approach, even in the throes of the small ball era. “Right now, we’re going with it,” head coach Erik Spoelstra told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “There’ll be minutes that they’ll play together. There’s certain part of that combination that I really like and other parts that have to get better. […] And I don’t necessarily look at Kelly as seven-footer. He has versatility that’s much different than a normal seven-footer.
  • Plagued by a lingering sprained ankle, Heat guard Dion Waiters is pursuing a second opinion on how to treat the injury, an Associated Press report says. Waiters considered surgery when he initially hurt the ankle last March and may consider it again. The 26-year-old has already missed seven games this season, making it unlikely that he reaches the 70-game threshold required for a contract bonus to kick in.
  • A hypothetical trade scenario that would involved sending Hassan Whiteside to the Grizzlies in exchange for Marc Gasol is an intriguing one, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel says in a question-and-answer feature with readers, but the dicey history between Gasol and former Heat assistant coach David Fizdale could be a red flag.

Southeast Notes: Whiteside, Payton, Gordon

Heat center Hassan Whiteside returned from injury this week after missing 13 games with a bone bruise in his left knee. In his absence, the Heat modified their offense a bit to involve their big men in more dribble handoffs and other ball-handling activities, showcasing the skill of players like Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. And as Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel reports, Whiteside will be called upon to continue this change.

“You’re going to get assists when you handle the ball more,” he said. “It’s just part of the game. (Coach is) putting it into the big’s hands more (and) I love it, man. I can’t wait to get my hands into that. It’s not as much pick-and-roll as much as it was. It’s more handoffs, bigs flashing to the elbows, that sort of stuff.”

And while Whiteside is eager to see how he fits into the new offense, Winderman figures that the adjustment will be gradual as Whiteside’s playing time increases. As head coach Eric Spoelstra explained, “The rhythm, the timing, the cohesiveness, you can’t take it for granted. You actually have to spend time working at it and getting back into the swing of things. It’s one thing to watch it. It’s different when you drill five on five.”

There’s more today from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic guard Elfrid Payton may be playing some of the best basketball of his career, and it’s on the heels of head coach Frank Vogel asking Payton for more production and aggressiveness in the wake of a rash of injuries to the Magic roster, reports John Denton of NBA.com. Payton has averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game on 59.5 percent shooting since he was approached by Vogel.
  • As we discussed yesterday, Magic rookie Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely while he recovers from injury. In another piece for NBA.com, Denton explains how Isaac is being patient and waiting for his ankle to completely heal. Said Isaac, “Just take my time, day-by-day. It’s tough (being out). It takes time and trying to come back when it’s not completely there (physically) is tough, so I just have to be patient and take it day-by-day.’’
  • In yet another story for NBA.com, Denton also profiles how Aaron Gordon is beginning to embrace pressure packed moments. Gordon, only 22, has already made two game-winning three pointers for the Magic this season.

Southeast Notes: Wall, Hezonja, Olynyk

The Wizards may be without John Wall this weekend, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. The point guard continues to experience discomfort in his knee and underwent an MRI on it this afternoon.

John is definitely going to be questionable tomorrow,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “We’ll see how he feels [Saturday morning] and then make a decision from there.

The knee issues can be traced back to two weekends ago when members of the Wizards training staff administered a pair of IVs to help Wall recover from migraines and a general sickness. That fluid, however, collected in his knee.

The problem, Wall says, is that his mobility hasn’t returned despite having already had the fluid drained. If it doesn’t return soon, the 27-year-old All-Star who missed the team’s Friday afternoon practice, could miss his third game of the young NBA season.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Despite their best efforts, the Magic didn’t find a taker for Mario Hezonja prior to October 31, Zach Lowe of ESPN writes. That date is significant because the team was forced to decide whether or not to extend the swingman through 2018/19. When no trade materialized, the club declined the option. Now, Lowe writes, a team should buy low on the project and see if they can develop him into a serviceable rotation player. Despite going fifth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, the 22-year-old has averaged just 5.3 points through his first three seasons.
  • At this point in the season, Kelly Olynyk is not projected to hit the 1,700-minute plateau that would trigger an extra $1MM in salary, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. The big man is averaging 18.5 minutes per game for the Heat so far in 2017/18.
  • Backup forward Mike Scott has thrived in his first year with the Wizards. The 29-year-old has averaged 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game off the bench in Washington and the man he replaces in the starting lineup has taken notice of his playing style. “I think he’s trying to steal my game,” Markieff Morris joked. “We kind of resemble each other a lot more than what I thought before he got here.

Southeast Notes: Isaac, Vogel, Olynyk, Monk

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is missing his fifth straight game tonight with a sprained ankle, but the team hopes to have him back by the end of its current road trip, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. The sixth player take in this year’s draft, Isaac has averaged 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in his first 12 NBA games. At 6’10”, he is tall and versatile enough to defend several positions.

“You hate to say you’re missing a 20-year-old rookie, but we are,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a dynamic player, especially on the defensive end, and he’s missed. But every single team in the league has got guys out.” Orlando is starting a four-game road trip tonight that will run through Monday.

There’s more news from the Southeast Division:

  • Vogel considered making a lineup change, but decided to keep the same starting five for tonight to allow his point guards to get more comfortable in their return from injuries, Robbins adds in the same story. Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin both missed time with hamstring problems, with Payton coming back November 13 and Augustin returning Saturday. “[We’re] staying the course right now,” Vogel said. “I think we’re still dealing with not having been at full strength and we’re trying to keep guys in their roles while we try to achieve that.”
  • Pat Riley’s decisions to bring back most of last season’s roster and use future cap room on a small number of players aren’t working out so far, writes Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Miami is off to a 7-9 start and there are concerns that the current roster doesn’t fit well together. The problems have been particularly acute in the second half of games, where the Heat rank last in the league in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting. The worst move of the offseason appears to be the four-year, $50 million deal for Kelly Olynyk, who at 18.4 minutes per game is playing less than in any of his four seasons in Boston.
  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford believes the lack of a team “identity” contributed to a recent six-game losing streak, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte snapped that slide Saturday as Clifford juggled the rotation, which included benching rookie guard Malik Monk for the first time this season. “You lose six in a row and the defense has been bad,” Clifford explained. “It’s not Malik’s fault, it’s just his position; [Michael Carter-Williams is] a difference-maker defensively.”

Florida Notes: Gay, Whiteside, Magic, Augustin

Rudy Gay might have been a better free agent target for the Heat than Kelly Olynyk, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. In response to a reader’s question, Winderman notes that Gay was rehabbing from his Achilles injury in Florida and expressed interest in coming to Miami before winding up in San Antonio. Gay got a little more than $17MM over two years, with about $8.8MM of that as a player option for next season. Olynyk received $46MM over four years from the Heat.

Gay would have given Miami a proven alternative at small forward when Rodney McGruder was lost to a left tibia stress fracture. The Heat couldn’t have known in July that McGruder would be unavailable, but Winderman says depth at that position would have been desirable if the plan all along was to move Justise Winslow to power forward. Gay is averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds through 16 games with the Spurs, while Olynyk is putting up 9.2 points and 5.5 boards in 15 games.

There’s more this morning from the Sunshine State:

  • In the same piece, Winderman questions whether the Heat will be willing to make another max offer to Hassan Whiteside if he opts out of his current deal after next season. As small-ball continues to spread throughout the league, some teams are re-evaluating the worth of traditional centers. Whiteside will have an early-termination option on his salary of slightly more than $27MM for 2019/20.
  • After being one of the league’s early-season surprises, the Magic already face a crossroads to their season after Saturday’s 40-point loss to the Jazz, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando came out of the gate at 6-2, but is back at .500 after dropping four straight games. Coach Frank Vogel hinted that changes might be on the way and called last night’s performance “unacceptable,” a sentiment shared by many of the players. “I think we lost what made us good at the beginning of the season: playing together, having fun out there, enjoying the game,” Nikola Vucevic said. “Over-dribbling, over-trying to get stuff instead of just playing simple basketball, like we did earlier in the year, it just affects us little by little. It just takes away from our energy. It’s like it’s taking little bites [out of us]. By the end of the game, there was no energy left.”
  • The Magic got some good news Saturday with the return of veteran guard D.J. Augustin. An important part of Orlando’s surprising early-season success, Augustin missed seven games with a hamstring injury. He was held scoreless in 17 minutes yesterday, but was averaging 8.3 points and 5.1 assists through his first eight games and shooting 39% from 3-point range.

Heat Notes: Olynyk, Whiteside, Hayward, Williams

Free agent addition Kelly Olynyk has dropped 16 pounds and made changes to his game since coming to Miami, writes Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Olynyk believes the weight loss has made him more mobile, and he is tied for the early-season league lead in drawing charges.

“You’re trying to beat somebody to a spot, and if they’re going to go through you, then you got to go down,” Olynyk explained. “In this league and the way it’s played today, sometimes if you try to stand your ground and try to resist and you go into them, now they flop and now it’s your fault. So why take the risk? It’s a turnover, it’s your ball and now you’re going the other way.”

Olynyk’s four-year, $50MM deal includes a $1MM bonus if he plays 1,700 minutes this season, a figure he never reached in his four seasons with Boston.

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Starting center Hassan Whiteside began drills Friday with assistant coach Juwan Howard, but still isn’t ready for a full practice, Navarro adds in the same story. Whiteside has missed four straight games with a bone bruise in his left knee. The Heat prefer that their players participate in a full-contact practice before being cleared for games. “We’re going to be in constant communication as he rehabs and does treatment and starts to get back into the mix and that’s why we’re just continuing to say he’s day by day, because that’s what he is,” said coach Erik Spoelstra.
  • If not for the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, tonight would have been the Heat’s first meeting with a player they tried hard to get in free agency, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Miami was among three finalists for Hayward, along with Boston and Utah, and waited through and waited four days before he announced his intention to join the Celtics. “We loved the meeting with Gordon,” Spoelstra said. “There’s a reason why we recruited him. And we thought it went well. You just never know how those things are going to play out.”
  • Rookie guard Matt Williams, who was assigned to the G League today, only used up three of his allotted NBA days this week, Winderman tweets. Williams, who is limited to 45 days in his two-way contract, spent four games with the team before being demoted. The clock didn’t start until Monday when G League training camps opened, Thursday didn’t count because the Heat had an off day and Friday was considered a travel day as Williams headed for Sioux Falls. The 3-point specialist didn’t get into a game for Miami.

Heat Notes: Olynyk, Richardson, Mickey

The Heat handed Kelly Olynyk a four-year, $46MM contract this offseason and one rival Eastern Conference GM is not impressed with the transaction, as he tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

“Not a huge fan of Olynyk and think they overpaid by about 20 percent. I have no idea why he got a player option. But basketball wise he’s a good fit,” the anonymous GM told Jackson.

Olynyk’s contract contains a player option worth slightly over $12.2MM for the 2020/21 season. That same GM also offered his opinion on Jordan Mickey, whom the team signed to a two-year contract in August. “End of the bench NBA player [that] can play for 8-10 years in the right system as a shotblocker, rebounder, energy guy,” he said.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • Josh Richardson, who inked a four-year, $42MM extension with the Heat this offseason, may have been able to land a larger contract had he held off on signing until he reached the free agent market. However, the 2015 No. 40 overall pick is happy with the deal he signed, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel relays. “Let’s be real, $42 million is a lot of money,” Richardson said. “So I can live on that forever. I don’t really worry about what everybody else is doing. I don’t like comparing myself to other people. So when they came to it, it was kind of like a no-brainer.”
  • Hassan Whiteside injured his knee on opening night and the big man’s absence has forced Mickey to take on a starting role. The 6’8″ big man has mostly played the four during his time in the league, but he has no issue playing center when needed for the Heat, as Winderman passes along in a separate piece. “I feel comfortable at whatever position he puts me at, whether he needs me to guard the bigs on the court or guard one of the smaller guys on the court,” Mickey said. “That’s where the NBA is going now, bigger guys guarding small guys. So you’ve got to continue to grow with the game.”
  • The Heat don’t have many scoring options on the wing, making Dion Waiters‘ recovery from an ankle injury even more crucial, Winderman contends in a recent mailbag. Waiters suffered the injury last season and hasn’t been able to suit up yet as a result of it.

Heat Notes: Nelson, Hammons, Olynyk, Winslow

Jameer Nelson may seem like an attractive option for a Heat team without a true backup point guard, but that doesn’t mean Miami will try to sign him, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel in a mailbag column. The Nuggets waived Nelson today to open a roster space for Richard Jefferson. If no one claims the 35-year-old and his more than $4.7MM salary before Friday, he will become a free agent and can sign with any organization.

The Heat’s option best option to back up Goran Dragic, according to Winderman, is probably Josh Richardson, who is being used as the starting small forward. Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson can all handle the ball, but none is a traditional point guard.

Winderman states that team president Pat Riley didn’t seem concerned about finding another backup when he was asked about the situation in preseason. “If we didn’t feel comfortable with Tyler and with Josh and also with Dion, then we would have gotten probably, exactly what you’re talking about — a veteran, 10, 12 years in the league, can really play, smart, can run an offense, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,” Riley said. “But we don’t feel like we need that. And if we did, then it would have been easy for us to acquire that kind of player.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • A.J. Hammons‘ easier path to being traded may have helped him earn Miami’s final roster spot, Winderman adds in the same piece. DeAndre Liggins, who was waived Saturday, would have provided wing depth and probably would have played more than Hammons, whom Winderman ranks eighth among the team’s bigs. However, because Liggins signed with the Heat during the offseason, league rules wouldn’t have allowed him to be traded until December 15. Hammons, who was acquired in a July trade with Dallas, can be dealt at any time.
  • Miami plans to let free agent addition Kelly Olynyk show off his passing skills, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The Heat signed Olynynk with an eye toward allowing him to expand his game, just as they did with James Johnson. “They’re going to put the ball in my hands more and let me be myself and create plays and facilitate for others,” Olynyk said.
  • Rodney McGruder‘s injury means the Heat can’t afford to bring Winslow back slowly, writes Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Winslow had surgery in January to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and was limited to 18 games last season. “Obviously we don’t like to see teammates go down – that’s unfortunate – but our mentality is always next man up,” Winslow said. “So, most likely, that’s looking like me. My role is going to be increased earlier in the season. I’ve just got to be ready.”

Heat Rumors: Hammons, Liggins, Olynyk, Waiters

Rodney McGruder‘s injury could force the Heat to address the imbalanced roster, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. McGruder is out 3-6 months with a stress fracture in his leg, swinging the door open for Miami to keep or add another wing player, Jackson continues. The bottom of the roster is filled with power forwards and centers — Bam Adebayo, Udonis Haslem, Jordan Mickey and A.J. Hammons — and the Heat may have to waive Hammons and his guaranteed two-year contract to fortify the wing positions. Miami could keep either DeAndre Liggins or Matt Williams Jr. from its training-camp roster to fill the void, Jackson adds.

In other developments concerning the Heat:

  • Kelly Olynyk has made a strong case to be the starting power forward, even though James Johnson came into camp as the favorite to win the job, Jackson reports in another story. Olynyk has meshed well with center Hassan Whiteside in preseason action, which is making the decision tougher for coach Erik Spoelstra, Jackson continues. “Their skill sets really complement each other,” Spoelstra told Jackson and other media members. “Kelly does a lot of things very similar to JJ in his own personality, in his own way. We think it fits. We think it works whether he comes off the bench or not, I like the dynamic.”
  • Dion Waiters had to wait out the Gordon Hayward free agent saga before the Heat committed to him with a four-year, $52MM contract, Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni notes during an in-depth feature on Waiters. A confident Waiters opted out of his deal this summer and the gamble ultimately paid off when Miami lost the Hayward sweepstakes and instead spent a chunk of their free-agent money on Waiters. “He likes to say he bet on himself, but he also bet on the organization,” Spoelstra told Nadkarni. “We bet on him as well. We’re not only about reclamation projects. We wanted to develop a relationship that would last longer than a year.”
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