Luke Babbitt

Southeast Notes: Wall, Porter, Gortat, Waiters, Ball

During the Wizards‘ Game 7 loss to the Celtics, Washington’s bench was outscored 48 to 5. That glaring disparity was certainly not lost on John Wall, writes Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. In fact, Wall’s last words before leaving the court Monday night were, “Forty-eight to five,” which he then repeated before departing with, “Our bench had five points.”

Here’s more out of the Southeast:

  • Despite the immense disappointment Wizards players are feeling after their Game 7 defeat, players expressed confidence that the team can continue to compete at a high level if it can keep its best players together. Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this offseason, is considered by teammates Wall, Bradley Beal, and Markieff Morris to be a vital part of the team’s core, reports Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Morris tells Buckner that Porter is worth a max contract and he hopes that he gets it.
  • As reported earlier today, Marcin Gortat feels underappreciated by the Wizards and may request a trade.  More details and quotes on Gortat’s feelings can be found via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
  • Impeding Heat free agent Dion Waiters said that the Heat do not need Lonzo Ball because they are covered at the point guard position with Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, and “other [players],”  reports Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Waiters also offered advice for Ball: “He’s got to go somewhere where he’s able to play his game. He’s got to go somewhere where he’s able to make mistakes. Because I think in this game today, he’s got to be able to make mistakes and have a coach who allows you to make mistakes, and you can learn from it.”
  • Luke Babbitt‘s future with the Heat is written about by Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Winderman concludes that, while Babbitt likely will not be an offseason priority for the Heat, the team will consider him because of his Bird Rights and skill set.

Heat Notes: Spoelstra, Johnson, Winslow

Heat players recently cleaned out their lockers, having failed to make the playoffs, and many of them will have an opportunity to go elsewhere this summer. James Johnson, Udonis Haslem, and Luke Babbitt will be free agents. Willie Reed, Josh McRoberts, and Dion Waiters all hold player options and Wayne Ellington could join the free agent market if the franchise declines his $6.27MM team option.

Coach Erik Spoelstra wants his players to feel comfortable returning to Miami, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. “This is clean-up day, not clean-out day,” the coach said.

Spoelstra added that his goal is to move forward with the team’s current group and compete for a championship. “Our organization is not going to change. We’re hard-wired to play and compete for championships,” he said. “Hopefully this is dot-dot-dot continued and we can build on this.”

Here’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat are thrilled with Hassan Whiteside‘s growth this season, as Winderman relays in the same piece. “I think his growth has been staggering,” Spoelstra said of the big man. “You can define it how you want. He can become one of the greats.” Whiteside signed a four-year, $98.4MM contract with Miami last offseason.
  • Johnson may consider taking a discount to stay with the Heat if it means keeping this year’s group together, Winderman passes along (Twitter links). “I’m home. That’s what it feels like. I love it here,” Johnson said of Miami.
  • Justise Winslow is recovering from shoulder surgery and is “way ahead of schedule,” according to Spoelstra, as Winderman relays via Twitter.
  • Prior to the injury, the Heat strongly believed Winslow would become a quality starter due to the work he put in last summer to improve his shooting, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Winslow admits that being sidelined hindered his ability to get comfortable with his new shooting mechanics, but added that he’ll continue to work on that part of his game.
  • Spoelstra feels Winslow would have helped Miami this season because of his efficient play, as Jackson passes along in the same piece. “He can generate threes for you offensively because he puts a lot of pressure in the paint, off the dribble, in transition. He’s an aggressive, bruising, physical type of player and he sees the floor. That helps create your three-point game,” the coach said.
  • In his latest mailbag, Winderman explains why it’ll be hard for the Heat to add a major free agent, such as Paul Millsap, and bring back the core of this year’s squad. The team can feasibly carve out approximately $37MM in cap space this summer and that may not be enough for Miami to add a max player in addition to own free agents.

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.

Southeast Notes: Payton, Fournier, Waiters, White

Magic point guard Elfrid Payton may have played well enough to win his starting job back, according to John Denton of NBA.com. Payton was among three players demoted when coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup November 27th. But Payton has raised his scoring average, assist totals and shooting percentages since the move, and Vogel is thinking about making him a starter again. “He’s competing and it’s my job to figure out if it’s best to keep him where he is and where he’s having success or to move him back in the starting lineup,’’ Vogel said. “I’m sure that we’ll probably look at that [starting him] at some point. I’d like to see him do this over a consistent stretch and I still might keep him where he is because he’s having success there. It’s just one of the things that I’m monitoring game to game.’’

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have been without leading scorer Evan Fournier since Thursday because of a bruised right heel, Denton notes in the same story. Fournier has been trying ice, massages and stimulation to ease the pain on the heel, but he was forced to miss another game tonight. “It’s definitely getting better, but one of the bad things about the NBA is that when you have so many games and it takes a week or so, in that time you have three games,’’ he said.
  • Heat guard Dion Waiters may find his playing time limited when he returns from a groin injury, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Waiters’ isolation game was useful when the team was shorthanded, but Winderman states that ball movement is now being emphasized and the development of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson at the wing spots is key to the team’s future. Waiters is considered very likely to opt out of the second season of his contract, and Winderman believes Miami may trade him before he can make that decision.
  • The Heat should consider unloading Luke Babbitt or Derrick Williams to make room for a younger prospect at power forward, Winderman suggests in the same piece. One possibility is Okaro White, who was cut by Miami in training camp and currently plays for the team’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls.

Heat’s Luke Babbitt May Be Out Two Weeks

The injury-ravaged Heat got more bad news Thursday night when forward Luke Babbitt suffered a hip-flexor strain, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra describes the injury as similar to the one that has sidelined shooting guard Dion Waiters for at least two weeks.

“Probably a little bit similar to Dion,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll find out more. But it’s a hip-flexor strain. It’s not a contusion. So we’ll evaluate him.”

The seventh-year forward is averaging 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds through 19 games, playing about 16 minutes per night. He has been in and out of the starting lineup as Spoelstra searches for the best combinations.

Babbitt was traded to Miami in July after spending the past three seasons in New Orleans. He is earning a little more than $1.2MM and will be a free agent when the season ends.

The Heat may be down to nine players for Saturday’s game after Josh Richardson was sent back to Miami on Thursday for treatment on his sore ankle. Waiters didn’t make the trip, nor did Justise Winslow, who has an injured wrist.

Heat Notes: McRoberts, Williams, Joe Johnson

The Heat are moving to Plan B after a 2-6 start, with greater roles for Josh McRoberts and Derrick Williams, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. McRoberts hadn’t played at all before Saturday, and Williams, one of the team’s many offseason additions, had seen just three minutes of action. Luke Babbitt, who has started every game, was benched early along with Dion Waiters. It’s likely that coach Erik Spoelstra will keep tinkering, as Miami fell to Utah even with the changes. “I really like these guys in the locker room we have, and we’re a hard-working group,” McRoberts said. “We’ll continue to figure it out. But it’s really hard to win an NBA game and we can’t forget that as we come together here early. I know it’s tough. I’m the last guy that wants to say that. I want to win every game. But I think we just have to continue to keep working and keep fighting together.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team faces the Heat Monday night, offered some advice on how to rebuild after the losses of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Winderman relays in a separate story. San Antonio was in the same situation with an aging roster, but was able to stay competitive by trading for Kawhi Leonard and signing LaMarcus Aldridge“We’ve had to do that over the years with Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker], and then making the trade for Kawhi before LaMarcus, because we knew we had to have more size at that three position,” Popovich said. “So we were able to get that done. And then obviously LaMarcus and now Pau [Gasol]. It’s as much about the pieces that go around those guys as anything.”
  • Jazz swingman Joe Johnson, who finished last season in Miami, told Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald that he would have been interested in staying if the organization hadn’t opted for a youth movement. “There was [interest on my part to come back], but nobody who was 30 and up was coming back,” Johnson said. “I saw that early in free agency. So, for me, there was nothing to talk about [with the Heat in free agency]. My stint here was very brief. I appreciated it, but I knew where they were trying to go once free agency started.”
  • Free agent addition Wayne Ellington is getting closer to making his Heat debut, Navarro writes in the same piece. The shooting guard has been out of action since suffering a severe right bruise on his left quad in the team’s last preseason game. There’s still no timetable for him to come back, but he has started running in a pool and may be cleared to run on the court this week. “Everybody I talked to said it was the worst contusion they’ve ever seen,” Ellington said. “That came from a few doctors. I knew it was bad, and I knew it was going to take some time to get right. But they’re also telling me they’re surprised how fast I’m healing from it.”

Heat Notes: Dragic, Bosh, Babbitt

Goran Dragic, who was excited to be teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh when he was swapped to the Heat at the 2014 trade deadline, may finish his career in Miami without either one, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wade signed with the Bulls over the summer and Bosh faces an uncertain medical future after failing his training camp physical. That leaves Dragic as the team’s new leader, and he says he wants to embrace that role. “When you have D-Wade next to you, or C.B., then they can take the game in their hands immediately,” Dragic said. “Now, probably it’s going to be a little bit different. I’m ready. I already felt great last year at the end of the season.” Dragic has four seasons and more than $70MM left on his contract.

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Miami has the option to apply for a Disabled Player Exception if its medical staff decides Bosh can’t play this season, notes Bobby Marks of The Vertical. If an NBA-designated doctor agrees, the Heat would receive a $5.6MM exception that they can use until March 10th. The exception can be used to sign a free agent to a one-year contract or acquire a player with one season left on his current deal, either through trade or waivers. The Heat have 15 players with guaranteed contracts, including Bosh, so a roster spot would have to be cleared before the DPE could be used. However, the Heat may be looking to get the rest of Bosh’s remaining salary removed from their cap, which they can’t do if they use this exception.
  • Luke Babbitt may have changed teams, but his role will be the same, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Babbitt, who was acquired in a July trade with New Orleans, was used as a stretch four with the Pelicans to create room in the paint for Anthony Davis. With the Heat, he expects to create room for Hassan Whiteside and driving lanes for Dragic. “That’s what NBA offense is, is spacing,” Babbitt said. “So to give guys, to maximize those guys, Hassan, Goran, to open up driving lanes, you have to have people to space it out that can shoot, that’s the way the league is going now.” Babbitt, who just re-signed with the Pelicans last summer, said the trade caught him by surprise. “I didn’t really know it was coming,” he said. “But once I got the news, mentally it just totally shifted over and I was excited. I had a good couple of years in New Orleans, but with this kind of rebuilding group I feel like I kind of fit with what we’re trying to do here.”

Heat Notes: Udrih, Williams, Ellington, Bosh

The Heat could use a veteran like Beno Udrih to serve as a backup to Goran Dragic, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Miami doesn’t have anyone else on its roster who has played point guard on a regular basis at the NBA level, and Winderman points out that Dragic, who missed 10 games last season, is susceptible to injury with his attacking style of play. The Heat reportedly have a “standing invitation” for Udrih to join them in training camp on a veterans’ minimum contract if he can’t get a better deal elsewhere. Udrih played 36 games with Miami last season before agreeing to a buyout in February to help the team avoid the luxury tax.

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • There could be a shortage of minutes on the front line for recent additions Derrick Williams, James Johnson and Luke Babbitt, Winderman notes in the same piece. They will essentially be competing at the same position, and shooting guards Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson could all see time at small forward because of an overcrowded backcourt.
  • Ellington is a prime candidate to be traded once this year’s offseason signees are eligible to be dealt starting December 15th, Winderman writes in a separate story. The Heat signed the 28-year-old shooting guard away from the Nets in July, but later added Waiters in free agency. Winderman believes Ellington will have to be exceptional from 3-point range to earn a regular spot in the Heat’s rotation. He shot 36% from long distance last season and is at 38% for his career.
  • The Heat are “cautiously optimistic” that Chris Bosh will be able to play this season, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, he cautions that nothing is certain with the veteran big man, who has had his last two seasons cut short by blood clots.

Heat Notes: Green, James, Wade, Riley

The addition of James Johnson, Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington left no room in Miami for Gerald Green, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Green, who agreed to terms with the Celtics this morning, spent one season in Miami and saw his playing time decline steadily as the year wore on. He appeared in 69 games, starting 14, and averaged 8.9 points per night. Green had expressed a desire to return to Miami, Winderman writes, and the Heat could have offered the same $1.4MM deal he received from Boston. Miami made it clear that the 30-year-old swingman wasn’t in its plans by signing Johnson, Williams and Ellington to be part of an already crowded rotation that includes Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler JohnsonAmar’e Stoudemire and Dorell Wright are now the only remaining unsigned free agents from the 2015/16 roster.

There’s more news out of Miami:  

  • As players become more powerful, the idea of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul on the same team becomes more likely, Winderman writes in another piece. During the season, James speculated on the possibility of the four friends someday joining forces.
  • Team president Pat Riley recently offered some insight on teaming up James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, Winderman relates in the same article. All three were slated to get max deals of $16.5MM per season, but they wanted to add Mike Miller and re-sign Udonis Haslem. Eventually, Wade volunteered to take less money, and James and Bosh agreed to sign-and trades. “The interesting part is on July 9th, they all agreed to come in on five-year deals, room only, so I didn’t have to give up any assets,” Riley said. “Then, at the 11th hour, they all wanted the sixth year. You know what that cost me and Andy [Elisburg, the Heat’s general manager]? That cost us four picks. I just said to them, ‘If you want the sixth year because I know you’re going to opt out after the fourth anyhow, but if you want the sixth year, I don’t want any of you to walk into my office and say, ‘Hey, can we get any young guys around here? Can we get some draft picks around here?’ Because they were gone.”
  • Riley’s decision to add more physical players this offseason was likely a matter of taking what was available on the market, rather than a strategy, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Winderman’s comment came in response to a reader’s question on whether acquiring Johnson, Williams, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed would make the Heat more like the roster Riley had with the Knicks.

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Howard, Bazemore

Pat Riley anointed Justise Winslow as the Heat’s starting small forward for next season, but he hasn’t addressed the larger question of power forward, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. Riley expressed his confidence in Winslow during a news conference Saturday, saying the rookie will be penciled in as the starting three for 2016/17. But if Chris Bosh isn’t medically cleared to play, that leaves Josh McRoberts, Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem as candidates to start alongside Winslow and Hassan Whiteside on the front line. Riley said even though Winslow is only 20, he’s ready to be an NBA starter. “I remember when James Worthy came to the Lakers and Jamaal Wilkes was incumbent,” Riley said, “and then there came that time, there came that time when it was just a matter of time when James Worthy was going to take his position.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Dwight Howard hopes his return home to Atlanta will revitalize his career, according to Steve Hummer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 30-year-old center, who signed a three-year deal worth $70.5MM with the Hawks, has even changed his number to 8 to signify “a new beginning.” Howard insists that his back, which required surgery in 2012, is no longer a problem. “My back hasn’t been an issue,” he said, “and I don’t think I’ll ever have an issue out of my back for the rest of my career.”
  • Kent Bazemore‘s comments at the press conference after he re-signed with the Hawks showed how much he wanted to stay in Atlanta, relays K.L. Chouinard of NBA.com. Bazemore, who landed a four-year, $70MM contract in free agency, said it was important to remain with the team he joined two seasons ago. “This is one of the high points of my life,” he said, “and I couldn’t choose a better place to be. I said I wasn’t going to get emotional, but I just love it here, you know. People have just embraced me and it just feels like home, man.”
  • It’s hard to understand why the Wizards re-signed Marcus Thornton so early in free agency, writes Ben Standig of CSNMidAtlantic. Thornton, who received a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, projects as a fifth guard, Standig contends, adding that it’s unusual for teams to fill roster spots with those type of players before Summer League begins.
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