Marc Stein: Miami Heat

Add the San Antonio Spurs to the list of teams pursuing sharpshooter Ray Allen.

ESPN.com has learned that the Spurs are trying to barge their way into the race to sign Allen ... which first, of course, requires one of the 39-year-old's suitors to persuade him to play next season.

Allen announced last month that he's still deciding if he wants to play what would be his 19th NBA season.

The uncertainty, mind you, has had zero impact on interest. The reigning champs from San Antonio join Doc Rivers' Los Angeles Clippers and, of course, LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers on the list of elite teams pursuing Allen. The Dallas Mavericks have also tried to make a play for Allen this summer, and there are surely other suitors yet to be identified since he remains available.

The Spurs have only one open roster spot at the moment but, as ESPN.com reported Friday, have also registered interest in Mexico star center Gustavo Ayon while remaining hopeful of re-signing reserve center Aron Baynes, whom Australia is relying on heavily at the FIBA World Cup in Spain with Andrew Bogut absent.

"It's August, and I don't want to rush to judgment," Allen said earlier this month at the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Classic in Connecticut. "I want to get to September and see how I really feel."

Allen has been a member of championship teams in Boston (2008) and Miami (2013), and he holds the NBA record for most 3-pointers made both in regular-season play (2,973) and the postseason (385).

Teams eyeing Emeka Okafor's return

August, 24, 2014
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Even after losing an entire season to injury, Emeka Okafor is a man in demand.

Roughly half of the league, I'm told, has registered interest this summer in Okafor, despite the fact that the 31-year-old free agent missed all of the 2013-14 season while recovering from a serious neck ailment.

The list of pursuers for the defensive-minded center, according to NBA front office sources, includes LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers as well as LeBron's old friends in Miami.

But I'm likewise told that Okafor is unlikely to sign anywhere until midseason as he continues to recover from his herniated disk.

Said one source: "He'll be in high demand when he's back."

Okafor suffered the injury in the preseason while with Washington last October and was dealt to the Phoenix Suns shortly before opening night in the big trade that brought Marcin Gortat to the Wizards. The Suns were widely expected to then use Okafor's $14.5 million expiring contract in a subsequent deal -- such as trading for Pau Gasol -- but ultimately passed on a follow-up move.
Miami's Dwyane Wade and New York's Carmelo Anthony are the latest stars to secure a no-trade clause rarely seen in the NBA, according to sources familiar with their new contracts.

NBA rules dictate that players can add a no-trade clause to a new contract only if they have a minimum of eight years of service time and four years with the same team.

Wade easily qualifies under those conditions after spending his entire 11-year career with the Heat, but Anthony is the beneficiary of a favorable rules interpretation to join Wade, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett in this exclusive club.

Anthony hasn't spent a full four seasons with the Knicks, but because he has finished each of the past four seasons in New York, it was ruled that Anthony qualifies to have a full no-trade clause added to his new five-year, $124 million contract with New York.

Bryant, Duncan, Nowitzki and Garnett were the only four players in the league last season to possess a full no-trade clause in their contracts.

Bryant and Nowitzki retained their respective no-trade clauses in their new deals, with the Los Angeles Lakers' star about to start a two-year, $48.5 million extension this season and Dallas' Nowitzki having finalized a new three-year, $25 million deal Tuesday.

Garnett's no-trade clause, meanwhile, carried over from Boston to Brooklyn after he waived the clause in July 2013 to allow the Celtics to deal him with Paul Pierce to the Nets in exchange for a package that included three first-round draft picks.

No-trade clauses are harder to secure in basketball than they are in other sports because they can be introduced into new contracts only. League rules preclude no-trade clauses from being added to extensions.

The star players with the leverage to negotiate a no-trade clause, furthermore, often sign lucrative extensions before they have the requisite service time. Had Wade, for example, signed an extension with the Heat in June instead of opting out, going onto the open market and then landing a new deal, he would not have been eligible to receive one.

In Major League Baseball, by comparison, players automatically earn veto power over trades through the "Ten and Five" rule, which stipulates that players with at least 10 years of service time and five in a row with the same team are granted the power of consent on trades.

Why Kawhi?

June, 16, 2014
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Marc Stein and Amin Elhassan discuss Kawhi Leonard's NBA Finals MVP performance .. along with some "What Next" questions for LeBron James.

Heat running on empty

June, 13, 2014
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J.A. Adande and David Thorpe join Marc Stein to break down the weary Heat's stunning and ongoing fade in their fourth consecutive trip to the Finals.



Spur-rific

June, 13, 2014
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Hall-of-Famer Hubie Brown joins TrueHoop TV to marvel at the Spurs' dominance of not one, but two straight games in Miami.

MIAMI -- The Miami Heat's immediate focus remains overcoming a 2-1 NBA Finals deficit to the San Antonio Spurs, but discussions have begun within the organization about trying to grow their so-called Big Three into a Big Four, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that Heat officials and the team's leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.

The mere concept would require the star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to all opt out of their current contracts by the end of the month and likely take further salary reductions in new deals that start next season to give Miami the ability to offer Anthony a representative first-year salary. The Heat also are prevented from making any formal contact with Anthony until July 1 and can do so then only if he opts out of the final year of his current contract. Anthony has until June 23 to notify the Knicks of his intentions, according to sources.

Click here for the full story

Kawhi-et no more

June, 11, 2014
6/11/14
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TrueHoop TV's Marc Stein, David Thorpe and J.A. Adande break down Kawhi Leonard's breakout Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

The King returns

June, 9, 2014
6/09/14
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Marc Stein and Amin Elhassan dive into LeBron's bounce-back Game 2 and how the tables were turned on the Spurs.


SAN ANTONIO -- If LeBron James or any other player in these NBA Finals has further issues with cramping, they can take some comfort in the knowledge that the league has no restrictions against administering pregame or in-game intravenous fluids or the use of the "cramping pills" that James referenced after Game 1.

Such anti-cramping measures are generally sanctioned by all professional sports leagues in North America. IVs are utilized often during pro and college football games, for example, to help athletes combat heat while wearing so much equipment.

James said he took seven anti-cramping pills in addition to drinking extra electrolytes Thursday night as part of his futile attempts to ward off the cramps that limited him to just 37 seconds of court time in the final 7:31 of Miami's 110-95 loss to the Spurs in Game 1.

The pills, according to league sources, are an electrolyte and mineral mixture and possess no medicinal or performance-enhancing benefit.

Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com that the Heat went into Sunday with no plans to deviate from their usual protocol when it comes to keeping James hydrated, trusting their longstanding measures to combat James' history of cramping that they've relied on since a similar episode occurred during the 2012 NBA Finals.

The Heat regard what happened here Thursday night as an extreme situation, thanks to an electrical failure at the AT&T Center that caused the building's air conditioning to shut down and led to temperatures that climbed above 90 degrees on the court.

After the madness of Thursday night's fourth quarter, James was administered 2 1/2 bags of IV fluid to rehydrate.

"I did everything that I needed to do to prepare for this game, prepare for this moment and, you know, to feel like my body failed me last night, I was angry in the fact that I couldn't help my team get over the hump in a huge Game 1," James told reporters Friday at a Finals news conference.

James was also felled by cramps during Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals in Miami against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sources say that the Heat have inevitably been flooded with numerous home-ready suggestions from fans after it happened against San Antonio, but Miami coach Erik Spoelstra insists that "our staff and LeBron's diligence has really taken care of that matter just in terms of his preparation before games [and] what he's doing during games in terms of always filling himself up with electrolytes, fluids, cramping pills when necessary.

"We have had minimal issues with it, and he's been able to handle it much better than before. [Game 1] was so extreme. That's the toughest part for people to understand. He was burning through his fluids and calories at an extraordinary rate, so about halfway through the first quarter we understood that this was a different environment."

The AT&T Center released a statement Friday insisting that the air-conditioning issues had been fixed and tested and would be fully operational for Game 2. Spoelstra countered by saying that the Spurs should be fined by the league if they can't get the building to an appropriate temperature for the rest of their home games in the Finals.

Overheated

June, 6, 2014
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NBA Finals quickie preview

June, 3, 2014
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Seven quick hitters to set up this NBA Finals rematch pitting two teams that went the distance when they met this time last year ... with an assist to my pal Steven Martinez from ESPN Stats & Information:

1. It's our first NBA Finals rematch since Chicago and Utah met in 1997 and 1998. Of the previous 12 Finals rematches, six resulted in a split and six teams won it both times.

2. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is looking to become the fifth coach in league history to win five championships, joining Phil Jackson (11), Red Auerbach (nine), John Kundla (five) and Pat Riley (five).

3. Miami's Erik Spoelstra is bidding to become just the fourth coach in NBA annals to pull off a three-peat. Jackson, Auerbach and Kundla are the others; no NBA team has three-peated since the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-02.

4. The Spurs are making back-to-back Finals appearances for the first time in franchise history and are the first team since the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons to make it back to the Finals after losing a Game 7 in the previous Finals.

5. The Heat are the first team to advance to four straight NBA Finals since the Boston Celtics from 1984-87. The Celts went 2-2 in those Finals trips, with the Los Angeles Lakers going 2-2 from 1982-85 and Boston going 9-1 in its 10 straight trips from 1957-66.

6. San Antonio's Tim Duncan can join Michael Jordan as the only players with at least four NBA Finals MVP trophies if he wins the 2014 award, while Miami’s LeBron James attempts to join Shaquille O’Neal (2000-02) and His Airness (1991-93 and 1996-98) as the only players to win three straight Finals MVPs.

7. The Game 1 winner of the NBA Finals goes on to win the series 70.1 percent of the time (47-20). Don't forget, though, that the Finals format has reverted back to 2-2-1-1-1 for the first time since 1984.

Video: Breaking down the MVP race

March, 18, 2014
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NoahMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsThe Chicago Bulls, led by Joakim Noah, have become the team no one wants to face in these playoffs.

Western Conference scout on Joakim Noah and Chicago's success without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng:


"My all-time favorite guy has been carrying them. I love me some Joakim Noah. His passion just keeps them going.

"I don't buy that [Rose was holding Noah back]. I don't think that at all. [Noah is] doing more now because he has to, not because he wants to. With the level of depth and talent they have right now, he has no choice but to showcase more of his stuff.

"I'm curious to see what they do with Jimmer [Fredette], because they do need his outside shooting. But I don't see him playing a whole lot. Maybe he'll come off the bench when they're playing a team that really packs it in, but he's not going to be Kyle Korver, because Korver is 6-6 and keeps people in front of him. If Jimmer gets on a roll you can play him a little bit, but putting him on Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole or [Dwyane] Wade ... that's going to be a problem.

"But they're as close to healthy as they've been for a while having [Kirk] Hinrich back. He's huge for them. [D.J.] Augustin has done a great job since he got there, but now you've got some depth. And if they're going to have any chance against Miami, they need Hinrich, because he can guard their point guards or D-Wade and make shots when he's healthy.

"I really think they're gonna be a pain in the butt for both [Miami and Indiana in the playoffs]. The Bulls will take the challenge of playing Miami or Indiana and convince themselves that they can beat the team that's getting all the hype. But I think they're more likely to beat Miami in a series than Indiana, because Indiana has enough depth inside to help neutralize Noah.

"Between [Roy] Hibbert and [Andrew] Bynum and [Ian] Mahinmi, they have enough depth to counter Noah. Then it comes down to the Bulls making shots. But Miami's big weakness is rebounding. And that's one area where Chicago obviously excels.

"I don't know that Chicago can beat either one of them. But I could see them making it a seven-game series against the Heat and a six-game series against the Pacers."
This is an excerpt from today's edition of 5-on-5:

Fact or Fiction: LeBron's 61-point performance is his best game ever.


Stein: Fiction. The 25 straight points against Detroit, Game 7 in Boston, his Game 7 last June against the Spurs ... all of LeBron's playoff hits trump a Monday night in March against Charlotte. But let's appreciate it for what it was: The best game ever played by an NBA player wearing a mask. It is the smallest of sample sizes, obviously, but LeBron is shooting 67.2 percent from the field in his three games as Masked LeBron. How is that possible?


Fact or Fiction: LeBron is now the frontrunner in the MVP race.


Stein: Fiction. Since 5-on-5 rules forbid hedging, I'll say that I've still got Durant in the lead because of the load he's shouldered in carrying OKC to a 22-8 record in the games Russ Westbrook has missed through injury. But I'm using lead in the narrowest sense. What we've seen from LeBron over the last few weeks -- don't forget the crazy 3 he drained in Golden State before All-Star Weekend -- has essentially prompted me to delete the word "frontrunner" from my MVP lexicon for the rest of the season. As covered here today on Stein Line Live, these guys keep pitching frontrunner status back and forth in such a spectacular manner that we're probably all just better off letting them play this out to the finish line before we try to call the race. In keeping with one of the mantras of the season, let's run through the tape. The right answer might very well be: Neither of them has the MVP lead on March 4.

Click here for the full 5-on-5 roundtable »

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