SH Blog: Chris Bosh is happy with his role with the Heat; Al Jefferson sprains ankle

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Chris_Bosh_cropOne of the only things as important to me as basketball is TV. Last week, they came together fantastically when Chris Bosh showed up on the best show on TV, Parks and Recreation. Bosh was only on screen for a few seconds, but they were some very memorable seconds. Check them out here.

Bosh isn’t Parks‘ first NBA player, of course. Roy Hibbert had a recurring role a couple seasons ago. Here’s hoping for a showdown in the near future — if not in Pawnee, then at least in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was so good last time, why not do it again?

Bosh is also the subject of today’s first news item, so let’s get right to the latest from around the NBA:

  • Chris Bosh is happy with his role in Miami, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, it would have been easy for Bosh to feel lost, adrift, perhaps longing for his own platform. But Big Three and third wheel are merely the basketball part of equation. Instead, Bosh has taken his championship platform and crafted his own stage, on the web, on television, in various media projects. It is why the member of the Big Three who would seem most likely to want to leave as a free agent in the offseason instead feels remarkably comfortable in his championship skin. “We have a lot of great players here; we’ve got LeBron, Dwyane,” Bosh said. “I’m not going to be crazy or be disrespectful to this team and take over their positions. I’m going to play my role to the best of my ability. As far as visibility is concerned, we have a unique opportunity to just really get out there and do some unique things. And, really, I try to take the bull by the horns and just try to build relationships that I want to build. And if I have certain opportunities that come to me, I’m going to take them.” “
  • GSW_Barnes_HarrisonSome mixed news for Warriors fans, via Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: “Warriors forward Harrison Barnes likely won’t play the two exhibition games in China next week. Golden State is deciding to rest Barnes so the inflammation in his left foot will subside. According to a team official, Barnes does not have a condition, such as plantar fasciitis, and the ailment is something that just developed over time. Barnes was in the gym more than any player in the month leading up to training camp, and word coming out of Golden State is his injury is just a byproduct of that. The expectation in Warriors world is that Barnes’ injury is nothing to be too worried about. But given the injury history, all fingers are crossed.”
  • Sometimes, there’s a news item that is more interesting for what it denies than what it confirms. This one, from ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace on Michael Beasley, is one of those: “Beasley needed treatment to reduce swelling above his eye following Thursday’s game against Detroit, and reports initially said the reason was that he struck himself in the face out of frustration for mistakes on the court. Beasley said Friday he did hit himself as he ran back down the court during the third quarter of the win. But Beasley, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and team officials said the wound above Beasley’s right eye was the result of an inadvertent blow he took from Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko as he attempted to block a shot in the third quarter, not from a self-inflicted punch. “I watched the video, and it does look like I knocked the mess out of myself,” Beasley said before Friday’s preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Sprint Center. “I had everybody in the world calling me and asking, ‘Why you so crazy?’”"
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  • Anthony BennettThe top two picks in the last draft faced off yesterday as the Cavaliers took on the Magic, and both looked good. Jodie Valade of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story, plus an outstanding mangled metaphor from Kyrie Irving: “It took nearly two full games, a bevy of missed defensive assignments, more than a dozen shot attempts that included a couple air balls, but Anthony Bennett finally showed up Friday. The Cavaliers’ No. 1 draft choice made his first real appearance of his short NBA career in his second preseason game, as he suddenly found his shooting touch while scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter to help Cleveland hold on to a 110-105 victory over Orlando at Amway Center. All but two of Bennett’s 16 points came in the fourth quarter, when he also managed to knock in two 3-point attempts – the first of his young career – and hit six straight field goals for the Cavaliers over a span of almost four minutes. … It was impressive enough that it nearly wiped out what had been a dominant performance from the 2013 No. 2 pick, Victor Oladipo. The Magic guard had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, and added eight rebounds and three assists. “He’s going to be great,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said of Oladipo. “He’s going to be great in this league. … His potential is out of the roof.” “
  • Royce White is back on the court. Jason Wolf of USA Today has the story: “Former first-round draft pick Royce White made his Philadelphia 76ers debut in a 97-85 preseason victory against the Boston Celtics on Friday night at the University of Delaware. He didn’t play a minute for the Houston Rockets, who drafted him 16th overall in 2012, as a rookie because of a sometimes debilitating anxiety disorder and fear of flying. “It’s fantastic to see him on the floor,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “That was my thrill. … Just to let him get out and be with his teammates and play an NBA game is exciting for him and for us. We want to help him in any way we can. Like I said before, he’s a talent.” White (6-8, 260) finished with five points, three rebounds and five personal fouls in just less than 10 minutes on the court. The power forward picked up his first four fouls in less than three minutes in the first quarter, two while trying to set picks.”
  • JazzAl Jefferson has a sprained ankle, but it could have been a lot worse for the new Bobcats center. Michael Wallace of ESPN.com reports: “Jefferson fell awkwardly to the court with 5:41 left in the third quarter when he landed on the foot of Heat center Chris Bosh as the two fought for rebounding position in the lane. Jefferson remained on the court for several seconds until a timeout was called so he could be treated by team trainers. Teammates carried Jefferson to the locker room, where a Bobcats official confirmed the sprain after X-rays were negative. A dejected Jefferson had his right foot in a walking boot as he left the Sprint Center on crutches. “It’s sore as [expletive], real sore — that’s all I can tell you,” Jefferson told ESPN.com as he left the arena. “It feels like I’ve got a heartbeat in it. All that matters is that it’s negative. It ain’t nothing I’ve never been through before, so I’ve just got to get treatment and make sure I’m ready for the season.” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said significant swelling in Jefferson’s ankle made it difficult to determine the extent of the injury or how much time the nine-year veteran might miss. But Jefferson will be out at least Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.”
  • Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News looks at how the Mavs are dealing with Brandan Wright’s injury: “Nobody’s quite sure how long Brandan Wright’s recovery from a shoulder fracture will take, but coach Rick Carlisle is certain of one thing. The next man up will have to do the job. Namely, DeJuan Blair, along with Bernard James and Samuel Dalembert. “If it’s going to happen, this isn’t the worst time,” Carlisle said Friday. “He’s got a little time to heal. It’s going to be evaluated weekly. It could have been a lot worse. “(We’ll have to) plug other guys in. Now Blair becomes more at the forefront. Sarge has to be ready. Sam has to keep playing like he did the other night. And it gives guys like Balkman and Melo to get more minutes in the preseason.” Wright, the 6-10 center-forward who had bulked up in the off-season and was primed for significant playing time after breaking out with a nice second half of the 2012-13 season, suffered a non-displaced fracture of the left shoulder in practice Tuesday.”

SH Blog: LeBron wants to be the greatest of all time, Kobe says he and Howard were never going to work

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NBA Media Day is in full swing for teams all around the league, which means plenty of status updates on players, coaching plans, headline-worthy quotes and more. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll get right to it:

  • aingeDanny Ainge realizes that the Celtics roster needs work, from Mark Murphy of Boston Herald: “The C’s are loaded at both forwards spots with Green, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace and (for now) Kris Humphries. Green’s versatility could actually find the scorer playing some off-guard this season. The off-guard spot is otherwise inconsistent with Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks the best scoring candidates, and with Courtney Lee returning from one of the most disappointing seasons of his career. “I wouldn’t say this is a perfect mesh of players, but I would like to see how they play together, and win jobs and opportunities, and just how players fit our system and Brad’s style of play,” Ainge said. “I like the competitiveness in camp, and I also like the team because there are so many questions to be answered, so many unknowns.”
  • Steve NashSteve Nash believes there are many question marks for the Los Angeles Lakers heading into the season, from Sean Deveney of Sporting News: “There is no comparing this year’s Lakers camp to last year. “It’s different,” Nash said. “It’s 180 degrees from last year. But you have got to embrace every year for what it is, the challenge. Maybe we will surprise everybody and turn into a completely different team than everyone expects.”… “I think it is really important for us at this point to just embrace these low expectations and try to find a real chemistry and build ourselves into a team that has some confidence,” Nash said. “We have so many new players, we have so many question marks with myself, Pau and Kobe’s health. Let’s not get to talking about championships right now. Let’s try to have a good camp and try to build a team and a chemistry that has the opportunity to go out there and beat people and win some games and get on a roll.”
  • Mike D'AntoniNash also says the Lakers never really ran Mike D’Antoni’s system last season, from Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA: “We didn’t have any basics last year,” D’Antoni said. “We told them the whole approach last year, but we couldn’t break it down. These guys have been going, 90 percent of them, for a month and a half (learning) the little things we’re doing, so it’s pretty smooth. They’re pretty far along.” They’re far along because there was a lot of ground to cover after the Lakers never fully took to D’Antoni’s style of play last season. ”We never really ran Mike’s system last year,” Nash said. “It was more a hybrid. I think that’s part of finding an identity is that through personnel, no training camp and very little practice time with all the injuries, it was hard to get Mike’s system going. It was hard to find that identity. So we already are starting to form an understanding of what he wants and how we’re going to play, which is greater than last year.”
  • DeAndre JordanDoc Rivers will count on DeAndre Jordan to make a huge different on the defensive end this season, from Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com: ““Oh, I think it’s huge for us,” Rivers said. “I think he will be consistent. I’m looking at DeAndre Jordan as an All-Defense player. I think he should be on the All-Defense team. I think he should be a candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. And that is going to require consistency for him to do that. We need him to be the captain of our defense, so I’m putting a lot on his plate. All the other stuff will take care of itself. If he does that job, I’m not that concerned about everything else.”… Where does this confidence come from? “I’ve seen his body,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if it was a year ago or two years ago, playing against him, I looked him and I thought, ‘Man, this kid should dominate defensively.’ I wasn’t here last year. I don’t know what happened with that. I can say this: He was focusing on offense, trying to be defense. He was focused on a lot of stuff. All I’m trying to do is narrow his focus. I’m trying to make it easier for him.”
  • JR SmithJ.R. Smith was apologetic for failing his drug test over the summer, from Marc Berman of New York Post: “The worst thing is I feel let my teammates and coach down,’’ Smith said Monday on Knicks Media Day. “I let Mr. [James] Dolan down. I’m looking to move forward from it. As soon as I’m able to play, I’m hoping to have a good season.’’… Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn’t sound happy about Smith’s suspension. “I don’t condone anything like that,’’ Woodson said. “J.R. knows he made a major mistake. I haven’t heard his comments, but I’m sure he’s apologized to the guys because we made a commitment to win. Hopefully it’ll be a learning experience.’’ Woodson also expects Smith to be ready for the season opener. An independent doctor hired by the NBA will give Smith a physical to determine if he indeed is ready to play before the suspension kicks in.”
  • GarnettKevin Garnett is not fond of the idea of sitting out back-to-back games, from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN: “Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Garnett said his talk with first-year coach Jason Kidd about possibly not playing both games of back-to-back sets “didn’t go too well.” ”I’m just being honest,” Garnett said in front of several laughing reporters during a news conference Monday at the team’s media day. “But I understand what he’s saying. He’s just making sure I’m durable and can get through an entire 82-game season. ”So I’m totally understanding of what it is. … He’s looking to better me, so I’m gonna try to be receptive to that.” Nothing has been finalized with respect to the issue, Garnett said. ”We’re still in wait-and-see mode,” Garnett said. “I just don’t want to be told anything. Hopefully I’ve earned the right to have an opinion in something that I’m doing. But more importantly, from a chemistry standpoint, I think it’s important for me to be out there with everybody, and I think it’ll speed the chemistry process up more quickly.”
  • WoodsonMike Woodson’s contract for next season has been picked up, from Nate Taylor of The New York Times: “Steve Mills, the Knicks’ new general manager, spent much of the last four days talking with Coach Mike Woodson, discussing the future of the team, where it can improve and how to handle the roster. Mills, who replaced Glen Grunwald on Thursday, made his first major decision Monday. He elected to pick up the option on Woodson’s contract for the 2014-15 season, a move that gives Woodson more stability in the organization… “I’m very excited about Mr. Dolan and Steve Mills giving me an opportunity to come back another year,” Woodson said at the news conference. “I tried to deal with my situation year to year. It’s never been about me in terms of what I do. It’s strictly about the team and what we’re trying to pursue.”

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SH Blog: Howard wants DPOY again, Cousins agrees to four-year deal with the Kings

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dwighthowardDwight Howard’s reputation took a major dive over the past couple of seasons due to all the drama surrounding his status as a free agent and his indecisive behavior. It didn’t help that his level of play dropped a notch after joining the Los Angeles Lakers last season after undergoing back surgery. Rather than receiving praise for stepping up and playing earlier than he was supposed to, he was scrutinized for being part of an underachieving team.

Now that Howard has found a home in Houston for the next four years, the center can go back to doing what he does best – dominate with jaw-dropping athleticism – and may now be in position to do so, with back issues seemingly behind him. Joining forces with rising superstar James Harden makes them a scary tandem, and they are expecting big things heading into the upcoming season.

Here are some thoughts from Howard about his current state of mind, from Jason Friedman of Rockets.com:

JCF: From a physical standpoint, is there any way to compare how you feel today versus how your body felt a year ago when you were still trying to work yourself back from back surgery?

DH: I’m so much better. My body feels a lot better. The little aches and pains that I was having for the most part of last season are gone already. It’s going to continue to get better. I’m very excited. I’m excited about the possibilities of what I’ll be able to do this season because my body is so much healthier. It’s a big difference. Last year I couldn’t really move the way I’m used to moving until the end of the season. Some of my bounce is coming back. I’m so happy about that.

JCF: Do you have individual goals that you’ve set for yourself this season?

DH: I just want to win a championship and Defensive Player of the Year and get back on top.

JCF: You have an elite pick-and-roll practitioner in James Harden on your team and another very good pick-and-roll player in Jeremy Lin. You’re probably the preeminent pick-and-roll big in the league. Have you guys had conversations about the work you plan to do together in that regard?

DH: We’ve had a lot of conversations about it. The main thing that I tell any guard that I play with is that when I set the screen, attack that big. Make the defense make a decision. Make my man make a decision. If he’s going to stay with me, you’re going to get a dunk or a layup. If he leaves me, just throw it to the rim. We’ve talked about all of this. The biggest thing I tell those guys is that every time they get the ball in the pick-and-roll is to just be aggressive – it opens up the whole floor. I want to be aggressive in rolling, but there’s times where, the way that I set those guys up, it’s going to open up everything for everybody else. I’m going to get my shots.

People who know basketball understand the effects of a good screen-and-roll. It starts with the point guard, it goes on to the bigs and then the rest of the guys on the perimeter. So I’m looking forward to it.

JCF: I asked Jeremy about this but I want to get your take on it as well: tell me about your one-on-one games with him in Aspen.

DH: (laughs) I love playing one-on-one with the guards. Actually he won one game and then I won the last game. When I play against the guards it’s good practice for my defense because I want to get my footwork back to where it needs to be. So playing against those guards really helps me – that’s the biggest reason why I like to play against them; it’s all about defense.

And here are some notable thoughts from Harden about some of his goals heading into the season, from Friedman:

JCF: I saw a quote from you earlier this summer where you said one of your goals is to be the best player in the NBA. What do you feel like you need to do to get into that conversation?

JH: I need to expand my game and win. You look at the best players, their teams are always winning, whether it’s Jordan or Kobe winning championships to LeBron now. So to be the best you have to win games and you have to produce every single night. Obviously it’s not going to come easy, but I’m working hard and I’m shooting for it.

JCF: I talked to Coach Sampson last week and he was talking about how he really wants to see you focus on becoming more of a two-way player. How are you approaching the defensive end this season?

JH: it’s definitely a huge focus of mine. Last year everything was new for me: playing that amount of minutes and having to do so much on the offensive end. My defense was slacking, I can admit that. In my previous couple years in Oklahoma City my defense was very good. So I’m trying to get back to good principles, good habits, and being more solid guarding the ball — that’s what I’m working on.

JCF: You don’t look like you’re 24-years-old. You don’t speak like you’re 24-years old. Do you feel like you’re 24, or do you still have to remind yourself sometimes that you’re one of these young guys, too?

JH: Yeah, I’ve got to grow up fast. I’ve got to be more mature out here. Things that I would normally do, I can’t do those things any more, whether it’s on the court or off the court. I’m just trying to be a leader; like you said, not just by showing but communication wise as well. I’ve got to work hard and I’ve got to be the best player out there at all times. I need to work harder than anyone. I need to take time to explain things to the young guys. I need to be a leader both by showing them and speaking when necessary, too. I’m still learning as well. But the more I work at it, the better off I’ll be.

To summarize, Howard wants to return to being the defensive player of the year, while Harden wants to become the best player in the league. The scary part of it is that the goals are actually reachable for both, although Harden will have his work cut out for him to be better than LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Okay, so maybe it’s unlikely for Harden to reach his goal, but he certainly has the talent to be in the conversation to be a top 5 player in the league (no matter what Dwyane Wade thinks).

The Rockets head into the season with high expectations. With two of their leaders looking to dominate their positions, they have plenty of reasons to feel optimistic.

Onto other news from around the league:

  • DeMarcus CousinsDeMarcus Cousins has been locked up by the Sacramento Kings for the next four years, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: “The Kings have reached an agreement on a contract extension with center DeMarcus Cousins for four years worth approximately $64 million. The most Cousins was eligible for under the collective bargaining agreement was five years and $80 million. The contract takes effect for the 2014-15 season. The deadline for first-round draft picks from 2010 to agree to contract extensions is Oct. 31. If the Kings had not reached an agreement, they could not sign Cousins until an agreement until after this season. Cousins joins Washington guard John Wall and Indiana swingman Paul George as members of the Class of 2010 to sign maximum extensions.”

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Sprung: With Paul George and solid core, Pacers are East’s most secure franchise

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George With wing extraordinaire Paul George signing a max-level, five-year contract with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, a legitimate argument can be made that the Pacers have the most secure medium to long-term future of any Eastern Conference team.

At just 23 years of age, the 6-8 small forward already is one of the top five defenders in the NBA, as evidenced by his regular season advanced numbers, and is quickly developing a really strong offensive game.

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Five Things To Watch: Miami Heat

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Chris BoshAs the back-to-back defending NBA champions, one could say that the Miami Heat stand in the best position of any team in the league. That’s probably true, but the 2013-14 campaign also stands as one of the most pivotal seasons in team history.

Why?

After this season, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will all have the option to test the free agent waters.

Although Wade said he wants to stay in Miami, perhaps a disappointing season with an aging core could give James pause about re-upping with the Heat. Already a champion as a supporting player, Bosh may want the spotlight. Regardless of whether the Heat three-peat, it is entirely plausible that key role players such as Ray Allen and Shane Battier will retire after this season.

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