- Despite slipping to a tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, the Heat like their roster and are confident they’ll finish the season strong, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We have everything we need,” said team president Pat Riley. “We have shot blocking. We’ve got pick-and-roll bigs who can catch lobs. We’ve got pick-and-roll bigs who can catch layups. We’ve got shooters, defenders. We’ve got a lot of versatility. … I think Coach (Erik Spoelstra) has done a great job in developing a system that’s for everybody. And so let’s get on with it.”
Teams that still have disabled player exceptions at their disposal for the 2017/18 season have less than a week to make use of those exceptions. Typically, disabled player exceptions must be used by March 10 of a given league year, but since that date falls on a Saturday this year, the deadline is extended until Monday, March 12. If a team doesn’t use its DPE by that date, it will expire.
As we detailed earlier this season in a glossary entry, a disabled player exception can be granted by the NBA when a team has a player go down with an injury deemed to be season-ending. The exception gives the club some extra cap flexibility to add an injury replacement by signing a player to a one-year contract, trading for a player in the final year of his contract, or placing a waiver claim on a player in the final year of his contract.
The deadline for teams to apply for a disabled player exception was January 15. Seven clubs received DPEs this season, with three of those clubs having used them already. Here’s that list:
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- Detroit Pistons
That leaves just four teams that still have their disabled player exceptions. These four clubs will see their DPEs disappear if they’re not used by March 12:
- Miami Heat
- Received $5,500,000 DPE for losing Dion Waiters.
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Received $2,756,757 DPE for losing Patrick Beverley.
- Utah Jazz
- Received $2,625,000 DPE for losing Thabo Sefolosha.
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Received $2,480,899 DPE for losing Alexis Ajinca.
While it’s still possible that one or two of these teams will use their disabled player exceptions, those exceptions are less useful at this point in the season. The trade deadline has passed, ruling out the possibility of using the DPE in a trade. And any player placed on waivers at this point wouldn’t be eligible for the postseason, limiting the appeal of using the DPE for a waiver claim.
That leaves free agents, and there simply aren’t there many unsigned players out there who would be worth more than the minimum salary. Veterans like Derrick Rose and Tony Allen remain available, but they started the season on minimum salary deals before being waived, so it’s not as if they’d warrant more lucrative contracts now.
Ultimately, it seems likely that the remaining four disabled player exceptions will expire without being used, but we’ll keep an eye on them through next Monday, just in case.
The Hornets are expanding their search for a new GM even though former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak remains a leading candidate, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.
The Hornets are looking to replace Rich Cho after announcing last month they wouldn’t extend his contract.
The club has received permission to interview Sixers VP of Player Personnel Marc Eversley, Rockets Executive VP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, league sources told Wojnarowski.
However, Kupchak’s longstanding relationship with owner Michael Jordan could still tip the scales in his favor, Wojnarowski adds. The Lakers replaced Kupchak with Magic Johnson last season.
Assistant GM Buzz Peterson is currently running the day-to-day operations for the Hornets and is expected to remain with the organization once a new GM is hired. Charlotte hopes to fill the position by the end of the regular season, Wojnarowski adds.
The Heat are missing three shooting guards because of injuries, but coach Erik Spoelstra won’t consider using Dwyane Wade as a starter, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Just as he did in Cleveland before being traded, Wade has become the leader of the reserves and his coach doesn’t want to take him out of that role.
“I want [Wade] to get as comfortable with that second unit as possible,” Spoelstra said. “That to me is a dynamic, game-changing lineup that I want them to continue to gain confidence in, get more comfortable with.”
Wade agrees with Spoelstra’s decision, saying he needs to get used to working with his new teammates. He is averaging 13.6 points in seven games since returning to Miami.
There’s more Heat-related news to pass on:
- The team still hasn’t determined the best fit at power forward to complement center Hassan Whiteside, Jackson adds in a separate story. Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk have all been tried in the starting lineup, but none has excelled in that role. Luke Babbitt is getting the start tonight, and the Heat were 21-14 last season with him in the starting lineup. However, Spoelstra doesn’t seem to consider him a long-term solution. “Luke is a guy we all like having on the floor, not for big minutes,” Spoelstra said. “But he helps your best players out there. He’s smart. He knows how to play off of guys. He knows how to be in the right spot defensively. But I am not looking for anything from last year. This team is totally different.”
- The Heat are missing two important ingredients to attract players who agree to buyouts, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Most free agents on the buyout market are looking for guaranteed playing time on a team with the potential to make a long postseason run. The Heat already have a crowded roster and currently hold down the final playoff spot in the East with a 32-30 record. Miami has nine days before its $5.5MM Disabled Player Exception expires, but Winderman doesn’t expect the team to use it. He adds that the Heat are considering Rodney McGruder, who recently returned from surgery on a stress fracture in his left tibia, to be their buyout addition.
- Two-way player Derrick Jones is active tonight, cutting him down to just five NBA days left on his 45-day limit, Winderman tweets. Once he hits that mark, Jones can’t be with the Heat until the G League season ends, unless he is signed to a rest-of-the-season contract or a 10-day deal.
The Raptors and Celtics are eight and seven games ahead, respectively, of the third-place Cavaliers, making it unlikely either team will fall below the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with only about 20 games remaining in the regular season.
Along with the top two teams in the East, the aforementioned Cavs and the Wizards and 76ers also have a 99% chance or higher of making the postseason, per FiveThirtyEight, with the remaining Eastern Conference teams’ chance of making the playoffs as follows:
- Indiana Pacers (94%)
- Miami Heat (89%)
- Milwaukee Bucks (88%)
- Charlotte Hornets (20%)
- Detroit Pistons (12%)
And despite the discrepancy in percentage between the Pacers, Heat and Bucks as compared to the Hornets and Pistons, only 7.5 games separate the five teams, with the eighth-place Heat and ninth-place Pistons only separated by three games.
Moreover, Charlotte and Detroit have the 29th and 25th hardest schedules remaining, while Indiana, Milwaukee and Miami have the 2nd, 18th and 26th hardest remaining schedules, per tankathon.com.
For their part, the Pacers still have to face the Warriors and Raptors twice each (home and away for both), in addition to one more game in Boston, while the Hornets’ toughest remaining game is in Toronto. Accordingly, the race could come down to the final days of the regular season, where the Hornets and Pacers finish off their schedules with a home-and-home on April 8 and 10.
So what do you think? Which three teams will join the other five likely contenders from the Eastern Conference? Will the Pacers, Heat, and Bucks hold on to their playoff spots or will the Hornets and/or Pistons bump one of them from the postseason? Vote below in our poll for three teams and then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!
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Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA.
- The Spurs recalled rookie guard Derrick White from the Austin Spurs, according to a team press release. He has averaged 16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 15 games with Austin.
- The Heat have recalled guard Rodney McGruder from their G League affiliate, the Sioux City Skyforce, the team announced in a press release. McGruder has not appeared in a regular season game after undergoing surgery on a left tibia stress fracture in mid-October. He appeared in two G League games last week.
- The Jazz assigned center Tony Bradley and guard Naz Mitrou-Long to their affiliate in Salt Lake City, according to the team’s Twitter feed.
Dwyane Wade is currently on a one-year contract, meaning he’ll hit unrestricted free agency again in July. Wade will be just 36 years old at that point, but he’s not ready to say with 100% certainty that he’ll sign a new NBA contract and continue his playing career, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
“I have told everybody around me that I am taking it after this season and go from there,” Wade said. “It’s the first year I’ve ever went into the summer with that mindset. I always went into it as a free agent or opting out of a deal to get another deal. This is the first summer I can say I’m just going into the summer and see how I feel and see the position this organization is in and go from there. I’m not really concerned with it, honestly. I’m cool with whatever I decide to do. It will be my decision.”
Admitting that he’ll have to determine after the season whether or not he wants to keep playing, Wade said there are a lot of factors to consider. Those factors range from wanting to reach certain milestones to taking into account the best interests of his family. Of course, Wade’s health and his drive to continue will also be key considerations.
“Do you want to put that same grind in again? As you get older, it’s a different kind of grind to get ready for games, to get your body ready,” Wade said. “[And] can you mentally go through another year and give it your all and not be checked out in the middle of that season?”
While Wade isn’t certain about his future beyond the 2017/18 season, he feels rejuvenated by his return to Miami, as Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports details. Admitting that he “had a little depression that last couple of days in Cleveland,” Wade said that the death of longtime agent and friend Henry Thomas was a turning point. Wade saw Heat president Pat Riley at Thomas’ funeral, and the encounter helped make him realize that he wanted to return to Miami.
“It sounds simple. But it’s like, sometimes, as a kid, you just need that embrace from your father,” Wade told Lee. “[Riley] coming to my agent’s funeral, a very vulnerable time for myself and [Udonis Haslem, who was also represented by Thomas], meant a lot to me. Just that warm embrace meant a lot to me as well. You know the business can get in the way. I understand that. I made the decision I made [to leave], but at the end of the day, I know that guy [Riley] would run through a brick wall for me. And this organization would. It felt right. I think that had a big thing to do with this trade happening to bring me back at this time.”
Based on those comments, and all that’s happened since Wade first left Miami, the future Hall-of-Famer seems unlikely to leave the Heat again this summer if he does decide to continue playing.
In his lone season with the Bulls and half a season with the Cavaliers, Wade did not have the luxury of a dominant presence in the paint. In Chicago, Robin Lopez was the primary center; in Cleveland, Kevin Love was more of an outside player. If the Heat bigs can play with the presence of past Wade-led teams in South Beach, he expects good results.
“When you got bigs like Hassan [Whiteside] and you got bigs like Bam [Adebayo] rolling to the basket, when they’re setting screens, you’re going to get into the paint,” Wade said. “Either all the way to the rim, some guys floaters, some guys pull-ups and lobs. Me, especially, I’m just getting back comfortable with it.”
Check out other news and notes from Florida’s NBA teams:
- Tyler Johnson has played well since the Heat returned from the All-Star break, In two games back, Johnson posted 15 points in a loss to the Pelicans and 23 points in a win over the Grizzlies. He is 12 for 22 from the field in that stretch. Johnson admitted his struggles before the break were due to pressing for results, per the Sun-Sentinel. “I think before the break, I was settling for too many jumpers and trying to shoot my way out of a funk instead of doing what I do best [and] being an attacker,” Johnson said.
- Jonathan Isaac has seen limited action in two G League contests with the Lakeland Magic as he resumes his comeback from an ankle injury. NBA.com’s Josh Cohen writes that Isaac is happy to shake off the rust with Lakeland before returning to Orlando. “I think it’s great, just getting back into things,” Isaac said. “I don’t take this time that I’m here for granted. I can still see I’m rusty. I missed some reads and stuff like that on defense and not being 100 percent there. Definitely will take this time for what it is.”
Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA.
- The Cavaliers have recalled rookie center Ante Zizic from their Canton affiliate, the team announced on its website. In 15 games for the Charge, Zizic has averaged 15.7 PPG and 8.9 RPG.
- The Magic assigned forward Jonathan Isaac to their Lakeland affiliate, according to Orlando’s PR Twitter. Isaac will attend Lakeland’s practice but he is expected to be recalled back to Orlando before the team faces the Knicks on Thursday. Isaac, who has missed almost three months with an ankle injury, is expected to see his first game action tomorrow for the G League squad.
- The Heat have assigned guard Rodney McGruder to their G League affiliate, the Sioux City Skyforce, the team announced in a press release. McGruder has not appeared in a regular season game after undergoing surgery on a left tibia stress fracture in mid-October. He is expected to play two G League games on Saturday and Monday before making his NBA return, tweets Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.
- The Lakers assigned rookie center Thomas Bryant to the South Bay Lakers for their upcoming two-game road trip, according to the G League team’s Twitter feed. Thomas has averaged 19.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in 27 games with South Bay.
- The Timberwolves have assigned rookie center Justin Patton to the G League’s Iowa Wolves, according to the team (Twitter link). Patton has yet to make his NBA debut but has averaged 11.9 PPG for Iowa in 25 games.