The Scoop: It's likely just a training camp deal and the two parties have been in talks for at least a couple days. James was with the Spurs last season and started one game. He's very unlikely to make the rotation to start the year.
It's taken us all year to get back here, to the place where the two best teams in the NBA — the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs — can once again take center stage and begin a heavily anticipated rematch to vie for the right to call themselves NBA champions. As we set about our previews, analysis and predictions, the question facing us is this: Which participants in Round 2 of this heavyweight battle will matter most over the games and weeks ahead?
In the interest of providing guidance to BDL's readership in a trying time, I submit to a trusting public a new installment of Dan Devine's Inarguable Power Rankings , identifying which items in a group of things are most powerful. In this episode: Dan Devine's Inarguable Who Matters Most in the 2014 NBA Finals Power Rankings.
Let's dig in and weigh in. And please remember, as always, that the list is the list.
32. Justin Hamilton, Austin Daye and Damion James (three-way tie). Hamilton, a mid-March signee who spent most of this year in the D-League, is the fourth-string center on a Heat team that works best when playing one big guy. He and James, whom the Spurs added on a 10-day contract in April to soak up some late-season small-forward minutes, have been inactive throughout the playoffs. Daye, who joined San Antonio at the trade deadline and had one memorable performance against the Philadelphia 76ers, played six minutes against the Dallas Mavericks and has been inactive for the past five weeks. If any of them appear in anything other than a suit in this series, then something has gone wrong.
29. Toney Douglas. Douglas comes out ahead of that trio for three reasons:
• He spent most of the last month of the Heat's regular season as a starter as Miami managed Dwyane Wade's minutes, so it wouldn't be quite as stunning for him to get run;
• He's a defense-first point guard, and you don't have to strain your brain too hard to envision Erik Spoelstra dusting him off as a last-gasp option to check Tony Parker before putting LeBron James on him;
• OK, there isn't actually a third reason, but there is some third person:
28. Jeff Ayres and Aron Baynes (tie). Gregg Popovich might send in his depth-chart bruisers — who combined for 13 points, 10 rebounds and four assists off the bench when the Heat beat the Spurs by 12 back in January — if he needs some frontcourt heft, help on the glass or hard fouls given. With Miami's tendency toward playing small and the presence of several other, more talented and versatile bigs in San Antonio's rotation, though, it's unlikely we'll see them in non-foul trouble/garbage time scenarios.
26. Michael Beasley and Greg Oden (tie). It is probably asking too much of the Basketball Gods to draw up a situation in which Miami's so desperate for offense that Spo calls Super Cool Beas' number, or so bereft of answers for Tim Duncan on the block that he summons Oden. But a boy can dream, and despite the former top-two draft picks logging less than 11 combined minutes this postseason, they still "matter," both musically:
Michael Beasley was singing "Easy Like Sunday Morning" by The Commodores in the pregame locker room. — Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) May 31, 2014
... and rhythmically:
... if nothing else.
24. Marco Belinelli. The Italian shooter has struggled mightily this postseason and seen his role in Pop's rotation dwindle down to just six minutes of playing time in Game 6 against the Thunder. That probably won't change in the finals, because in his last 10 games against Miami — two this past regular season, three last regular season with the Chicago Bulls, and five during the Bulls' playoff loss to the Heat — Belinelli has shot just 25.6 percent from long distance and is a combined -115 in 285 minutes. Arrivederci , Marco.
23. Matt Bonner. "The Red Rocket," a.k.a. "The Red Mamba," a.k.a. "The Sandwich Hunter" came off the end of the Spurs' bench to play a surprisingly large role late in the Thunder series, after Pop inserted him into the starting lineup for Games 5 and 6 to improve San Antonio's spacing by drawing defensive menace Serge Ibaka out to the arc. Bonner scored just six points on 2-for-10 shooting in 31-plus minutes over the two games, but the strategy of separating Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter paid off, as the Spurs roasted the Thunder defense in Games 5 and 6, whether the shot-altering Ibaka was on the court (San Antonio scored at a scorching rate of 114.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's stat tool) or not (118.9 points-per-100).
Given the Heat's non-shot-blocking-dependent defense and preference to play smaller more frequently, Bonner might get some chances in this series. But the more multi-faceted Boris Diaw presents a higher-class option than Bonner, who averaged just over six minutes per game in last year's finals, for prospective San Antonio hybrid big/small lineups.
22. James Jones. The 11-year veteran went from out of the mix to in the rotation during Miami's first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point land. Spoelstra put him back on the shelf to start Round 2 against the Brooklyn Nets, only to reinsert him midway through the series, largely at the behest of LeBron, who lauded "the space James provides and his ability to shoot the ball." Jones made just three brief cameos in the Eastern Conference finals, as several other members of Miami's rotation found their long-range strokes to provide space and punch against the Indiana Pacers' defense; should that knockdown shooting continue, Jones' services probably won't be required. If the Heat's other shooters come back to Earth, though, Jones is just the sort of "in case of emergency, break glass" space-creator that could wind up tilting a game.
21. Udonis Haslem. He's been a rock for the Heat for more than a decade, but while Haslem — who will turn 34 between Games 2 and 3 — remains a tough (and, frankly, threatening ) customer and important locker-room presence, he's just no longer a consistently positive on-court contributor. Miami's been nearly 35 points per 100 possessions better with Haslem off the floor this postseason, scoring more effectively when a long-range shooter replaces his midrange game and locking down defensively with a quicker defender to track opposing stretch fours around the perimeter.
This continues the trend we saw late last postseason, when Haslem had some success in guarding Duncan early in the finals , but Miami's offense seemed stuck in the mud in his minutes, prompting Spoelstra to insert Mike Miller into the starting lineup for Game 4. Haslem played just 21 total minutes after Game 4, and finished the series a -33 in 64 minutes of burn. If San Antonio stays big with the Duncan-Splitter frontline, Haslem's still got a role, albeit as an inferior option to Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis at this point; whenever either team goes small, Haslem's got no real place in the series.
The Scoop:Yep, it was that kind of party for the Spurs with several players getting plenty of rest tonight. Coach Gregg Popovich joked about James earlier this season when he joined them and was asked about how the forward will help. "If we're ahead by 20 or down by 20, we might find out," Popovich said. James made his 17th start of his career tonight.
The Scoop:With the Spurs playing the second half of a back-to-back set tonight, then another one on Apr. 10 and 11, it makes sense to add James to their roster. They may have lost Austin Daye for a bit with a lat strain and James should see some time on the court as soon as tonight. He might actually guard college teammate Kevin Durant for some point during tonight's game.
The Scoop:The first thing to come to mind here is that Austin Daye's lat strain could cost him time. The Spurs are going to rest some players over the next two weeks, so added healthy depth is high on the priority list. For all we know, James could get a couple starts, but he's not worth owning in almost any league yet.
Apr 2 12:00 ET
News (various sources)
Joakim Noah wishes he could do yoga with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau (Ball Don't Lie) (4 Hours Ago | courtesy: Ball Don't Lie) Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has always found a sound balance between the frantic and ferocious nature of his game and off-court tranquility, though many have jokingly chalked that up to Joakim’s particular strain of recreational activities. The same cannot be said for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who reportedly has very little in terms of a personal life outside of basketball, in between putting in marathon shifts and sometimes sleeping at the team’s practice facility. The secret to Noah’s success in keeping things outwardly chill? He won’t and shouldn’t give it the full credit, but apparently yoga helps quite a bit. And he’s convinced it would help with his volatile and single-minded coach. From an interview with Bill Schulz at the Daily Beast : Coach Thibodeau always looks like he’s on the verge of an aneurism. What, if anything, could you do to calm him down? He looks like that whether he’s happy or sad. But I’d have him do yoga with me. He could use that. What’s the most pissed off he’s ever been at you? He gets pissed off a LOT. But he never makes any clash we have public, and he calms me down a lot as well. He knows when to let me vent. I’d pay good money to see a sitcom starring you two as comically mismatched roommates. I don’t know if could watch that. I don’t know if I could watch that, either. I’d rather be watching the East’s best center and best coach take their odd coupling to the basketball court. I’m hardly an expert, but yoga does help. On days that I practice it, I feel less anxious, centered, sometimes more positive and definitely more focused than usual. Noah has such an unusual game with the physical demands of both a guard and a bruising big man that it only makes sense that he would start his day with an exercise that involves calming and physical activity. Perhaps coach Thibs would be well-served to join him in a session. Both are wonderfully intriguing cases as we head into 2013-14. Noah might be the son of a tennis legend (Yannick Noah, 1983 French Open winner), but he was hardly a basketball prodigy – a unique and self-taught player that had to work his way into high school and college prominence in ways that you would hardly call “orthodox.” From a snippet from Jonathan Abrams’ feature at Grantland : “I wasn’t pampered by the process,” Noah said. “A lot of these guys from a young age, especially when you’re a top player in your age group, you get a lot of people telling you how great you are. Everyone wants to be your friend. I never had that. I had to deal with that a little bit because of who my father was, but as a basketball player I didn’t have to deal with that.” Instead of competing at ABCD, Noah mopped and dried the courts and worked the hot dog stand while LeBron James, Sebastian Telfair, and other prep standouts hustled up and down the floor. “He was the cutest, most lovable, horrible basketball player I ever saw at that age,” [camp leader Sonny] Vaccaro said of Noah. “But he had this determination. He cleaned the floor. We called him the tennis guy.” “The tennis guy” turned out to be a major recruit for Florida University, where he went on to win two NCAA titles. That led to a gig with the Bulls, in what was thought to be an apprenticeship under former Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. Wallace was not keen to instruct the excitable rook, though, and the two clashed. It took the acquisition of journeyman Brad Miller – just about Noah’s polar opposite – for things to click. By this time, Miller (who became fast friends with Joakim) was a master at high post passing, finding cutters and lanes when plays broke down, making others better with just the flick of the wrist. Offensively, Noah learned from Miller’s moves, leading to a near-historic batch of center-styled passing during the 2013-14 campaign. That season ended with a one-sided first round loss to the Washington Wizards, as the Bulls once again look to steel themselves for a long and arduous season that will no doubt come into contact with a LeBron James-led group during the playoffs. James’ teams have ended Noah’s seasons three times in the last five seasons, and the two are notoriously cold to one another. What matters in the months before that pairing, even if the two do play each other on Monday night in a meaningless exhibition game, is Noah’s health. He was playing on a knee that required surgery during Chicago’s 2014 playoff run, and he’s still recovering from what the team is calling an arthroscopic procedure (though the recovery time from such a procedure is usually far shorter than what the team listed over the summer and what Noah is working through right now). Joakim says that he’s improving, but this is a crucial year for his Bulls. New signee Pau Gasol is already 34, Noah turns 30 midway through the season, and the time to win is now. There is the fear that Noah’s legs and Tom Thibodeau’s big basketball brain – two assets that were put to the test with Derrick Rose missing nearly all of two seasons – might be reaching a straining point. That things might be fit for a collapse. An understandable collapse, but perhaps an unavoidable one. Maybe if Tom bought a mat and joined in a time or two, the Bulls could stretch this out. (Also, yeah, if you’re wondering, Joakim Noah still has other calming influences to turn to .) If a player tests positive for marijuana, the first penalty is an automatic four game suspension and mandatory counseling. Yet, the league now has TWO franchises in states where pot is legal: do players discuss this ridiculousness? Everybody sees the hypocrisy. To paraphrase Peter Tosh, if Illinois were to legalize it, would you advertise it? [ Smiles ] To quote Bob Marley: Time will tell. So, there’s that. I’ve only heard the Black Crowes version of that song, so I can’t possibly know what Joakim is referring to. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops More...