Thanks for joining me for another week of NBA discussion. I appreciate the opportunity to do this with you guys - and for ESPN.com. Let's get right to the questions. I see some good ones are already lined up and waiting.
How long do you predict this heat winning streak will last if they don't lose any of the next 3 and show up in full force versus indiana? Is there a potential to extend it to 25+ wins or is that not something they're aiming for?
Streaks are difficult to predict. Depending on LeBron's availability for tonight's game, the Heat could very well take a loss in Minnesota. It's the second night of a difficult back-to-back set and is also Miami's third game in a span of four nights. That said, logic would suggest Indiana on Sunday represents the biggest threat to the Heat's streak. But if you're a Miami fan, don't worry about any of that stuff down the road and just enjoy the ride.
i think it was absurd for ESPN to even float the idea of Lebron going back to Cleveland. If Lebron is in Miami winning titles why would he want to leave. That's like Jordan going to the Wizards in the middle of his two Championship three-peats. He left the Cavs for a reason..I know they have Kyrie but they're not a playoff team and probably wouldn't be a playoff team two years from now. When he came to Miami, the Heat with just Wade were a 4 or 5 seeded playoff team. Wade and Bosh would still be all-stars..why would he leave that for a team thats not going to contend...Lebron did say he's trying to win not 4, not 5, and so on..so I dont get why some of the writers on here believes he leaving..Everybody thought he was going to NY and guess what happened..You may be not guilty of it but I'm seeing alot of divide and conquer attempts on ESPN
ESPN didn't float the idea of LeBron possibly going back to Cleveland to play at some point. LeBron floated the idea of LeBron possibly going back to Cleveland to play at some point. The bottom line is that we don't know what the man will do when it's time to make his next decision. But if you believe that it's only a basketball-related decision, you'd be mistaking. Quality of life and comfort for his family will be major factors in what LeBron wants to do with the next half-a-dozen years of his career.
Dont you think Miami is peaking too soon, there still two months and are they going to sustain their play?Are they complete with the Birdman? thanks
I'm not sure I buy into the notion of an NBA team peaking too soon. They're playing well right now. Will they run the table the rest of the way. No. But peaking too soon isn't as much of a concern as remaining healthy and playing at a high level. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have talked about turning things up a notch at right around this time of the season, specifically with Wade rounding into form after making methodical progress from offseason knee surgery. They've hit a nice pace right now, but there's another notch for the Heat - and some of their top contenders - to get to as well as we head down the stretch.
What is your take on Blake Griffin? I think he is a flopper. And he gets away with a lot of offensive fouls, from pushing in the back, to pushing off on dunks. Not to mention he whines to the refs nonstop.
Blake is the difference between the Clippers being a dark horse for the NBA Finals and the Clippers potentially getting eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. How he performs will dictate a lot for the Clippers. Chris Paul is the unquestioned catalyst for that team, but Blake is the player who makes them a difficult and dangerous matchup for either the Spurs or Oklahoma City. I'm not sure he's as confident in his offensive game yet to carry the team in crunch time when a bucket is needed in the post. But he's going to have to grow up quick in the playoffs.
Is LeBron a cyborg because I would need an entire knee replacement if I had fallen like he did yesterday?
That fall Sunday in New York looked a lot worse in full speed than it did once the replays were shown. Still, LeBron got up and finished the game in impressive fashion with another strong fourth quarter display. I've said all along that the most impressive thing about LeBron, to me, is his durability. He's a tank. I've seen him play through aches, pains and even injuries that would have kept some other players out days, if not weeks. That said, his status for tonight's game in Minnesota has yet to be announced. Could he use a day or two off just as a precaution? Absolutely. But he's the last one to take himself out of the lineup.
Is there any team at all that YOU believe can come in the way of a Heat championship season?
Yes. A healthy San Antonio Spurs team. Other than that, nope.
Do you think Derrick Rose plays this year?
I'm speaking on hope far more than knowledge here, but I sincerely hope he's healthy enough to play at some point this season. People tend to overlook the fact that he was injured in April/May - which means he's not even a complete year removed from the surgery to repair a torn ACL. It used to be unheard of for guys to come back from that in less than a year. I realize Iman Shumpert of the Knicks suffered the same injury on the same day in the playoffs last season and has been back for about a month. But each body is different, and Rose is expected to carry far more responsibility when he does return. It's good to see he's traveling with the team these days. Hopefully, again, that's a sign that he plans to get back relatively soon.
Percentage that the Kings move to Seattle?
Considering that the league has already been officially presented the offer from the Seattle group and is reviewing all facets of it, I think it would take a tremendous rally - a grand slam of sorts - for Kevin Johnson's plan to keep the Kings in Sacramento. My thinking is that it might be a little too late for Sacramento. I also think the only factor that's allowing the city to even maintain a pulse in this equations is KJ's credibility with the league as a former star player.
Michael, many insiders suggest that Miami won't have enough money to keep the Big 3 and sorround them with talent, they are wrong because someone like D.Wade will take a pay cut to continue to win. He will make his 10's of millions of $ not in a NBA contract but on his shoe deal with Li Ning and he need to continue to win
There's absolutely no way Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh is going to take a pay cut, meaning they'd opt out of their contracts to take less annual salary. There are more creative ways for the Heat to keep LeBron, Wade and Bosh together than many people think. Pat Riley and Micky Arison will have had three full years to prepare for ways to execute their plan by the time those opt-out clauses come into play in the summer of 2014.
How many teams do you think will start trying to zone OKC after yesterday's game with the Clippers? Were you surprised that Durant admitted to the media that the zone threw him off his game and he was not sure what to do with it?
Not surprised at all. Durant and Westbrook have a way of being honest and forthcoming that surprises some. I remember last year in the Finals when they both admitted that being under that level of spotlight and on that stage was a bit overwhelming for them in the first two games against Miami. This was after they trounced the Lakers and then rallied in remarkable fashion to blow past the Spurs in the Western Conference finals. As far as the zone, I don't see that working long-term against OKC. They have enough capable shooters and effective ball-handlers to make the proper adjustments over time.
After the Lakers either miss the playoffs or are swept out of the first round, who do you think they'll get in return for trading Pau and Dwight?
Count the Lakers out if you want. I'm not brave enough to do that just yet. I see them gradually putting enough of a rhythm together to get into the playoffs. And if that happens, as I said last week, it would mean they're playing pretty well going into the postseason. If they get completely healthy and catch either OKC or San Antonio on the mend or out of sync, strange things can happen. That said, they're not trading Dwight so it'll have to be Pau. And if the Lakers can somehow flip him in some way for a disgruntled Kevin Love, well ...
What's up with the perception that the way you beat the Heat is with size? Size doesn't work, ball movement and outshooting shooting does.
True, but those outside shots become wide-open looks if there's an aggressive big man in the post the Heat must pay attention to.
What is it going to take to bring back the interest in the dunk contest? Is it all on Lebron?
For starters, it's going to take expanding the field and eliminated the time clock on dunks. You get one attempt per round. You miss it, you're done. Short of getting the established stars in, the league must find a way to get the top rookies, second-year or third-year players to participate. That way, you're not begging a guy who's 10 years into his career to enter for the first time. The veterans would be left alone by then.
Tony parker being out is a blessing in disguise. It's Kawhi Leonard's time to shine. In February he averaged 14 and 6 with almost 2 steals. With tony out, it gives leonard the opportunity to develop further and give us another threat come playoff time.
That's one way to look at it. I don't question San Antonio's depth. They have it, clearly. What I do wonder is whether Parker will regain his rhythm in time for the first round. He makes them a dynamic threat. If he's not ready or not completely right by then, the Spurs are first-round-upset vulnerable.
If I'm a Rocket fan - and will have to play one of the top 3 teams in the west for a possible 1st round matchup (SA, OKC, LAC) - who would I rather face of the 3?.... I know I'm crazy to ask for it, but given our TX rivalry, I think we could beat the Spurs
It just proves that the playoffs are all about matchups. The Rockets wouldn't want OKC at all. If Parker is healthy, the Spurs could be a headache by then, too. From a style standpoint, the Clippers play that up-and-down, transition style that would seem to best suit Harden's game and match Houston's strength. I'd say the Clippers, Spurs and OKC in that order of preference for Houston in a 7-game playoff series.
Michael,Do you see an issue with the plan of many super stars taking pay cuts such as LeBron and Bosh. The whole idea of the CBA (other than saving owners money) was to help balance out big-market teams and smaller markets. However, if players are willing to take a pay cut because of big-market endorsements making up the money, we will just get even more dominant teams such as the Heat staying together.
It's also problematic when you have middle to small market owners who aren't willing to spend to even try to win anything and hide behind youthful rebuilding projects for four, five, six years in a row. You can't legislate competitive balance. In the NBA, there will always be four, five, maybe six teams truly committed to trying to win a title, and another dozen who clearly aren't trying to do much of anything. San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Indiana are three examples of small-to-medium market teams that are playing to win it all. Each one of those teams not only drafted well, but supplemented their rosters with smart free-agency decisions.
What would you do to rebuild the Sixers? Who should stay and who should be moved?
Let's face it: the Bynum deal is appearing more and more likely to be a complete bust. The silver lining is that it allowed Philly to clear out some players who may not have been part of their long-term future anyway - although parting with Vucevic seems to have been a big-time mistake. But it's not just the Bynum deal that's hurting the Sixers. Some of their free-agency decisions haven't panned out well either. At the end of the day, you build around Jrue Holiday. I'm not sure there's another player on the roster that you absolutely have to have moving forward. It's a long rebuild for Philly. And you also have to wonder if Doug Collins hasn't worn down himself or the team too much to stick around much longer.
You don't think OKC has the chance to beat Miami? Do you think they just aren't good enough, or don't matchup specifically with the Heat?
I've said it all along. The Thunder play right into the Heat's hands, stylistically. Unless Ibaka and Perkins can find a way to make the Heat respect them on both ends of the court, they can't dictate much of anything. And that doesn't include the need for Russell Westbrook to be far more efficient against the Heat. Bottom line is unless OKC can force the Heat to make adjustments, they won't be able to beat Miami at its own game.
It seems like the Toronto Raptors are one piece away from being a playoff team. Who do you think they should go after in the off season? Or maybe someone will finally take Bargnani back in a trade...
Toronto is overstocked with perimeter athletes and slashers. They need three-point shooting. A Mike Miller, Kyle Korver or JJ Redick type would work wonders on that roster. There is no balance or floor-spacing. Address that, and you're talking about a playoff run next season, easily.
What did the Celtics do last year to make the Heat go 7 games?
They slowed the Heat down, dictated tempo for the most part with Rajon Rondo and benefited from Miami being less than full strength with Chris Bosh dealing with that strained ab muscle. Plus, they tend to defend, defend, defend and force LeBron to have to rely on teammates a lot more than he's comfortable doing at times. But that was last year. This year will be a completely different ballgame without Rondo there, although Boston could still be dangerous in the playoffs for any team if Green and Bradley can supplement Pierce and Garnett at very high levels.
That's my time for the week. Thanks for all who sent questions and comments. Take care and let's do this again a week from today. Until then, peace. MW