NBA AM: 2013 NBA Finals Get Underway Tonight
VIDEO OF THE DAY – Kevin Dillard
Former Dayton guard Kevin Dillard talks about the 2013 NBA Draft and what he brings to the table in today’s video of the day.Watch More Video Here
NBA Finals Get Underway Tonight: The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami HEAT kick off the 2013 NBA Finals in Miami tonight with a tip off just after 9:00 pm EST, and while the HEAT have home court almost no one expects this series to be decided in less than 6 games – HOOPSWORLD’s top writers took a swing at their predictions already and six of seven predicted the HEAT to win the series but in no less than six games.
Here are some thoughts on the series:
Not The 2007 Spurs: For years the Spurs were three guys deep. It was Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan and a bunch of role player-type guys who rarely played a big role as the game got close. That’s not the case with this year’s Spurs. The trust that Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich has in guys like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal is impressive and all three have delivered huge moments for the Spurs this season. Outside of Parker, who is Mr. Everything for the Spurs, this might be the year in which Duncan and Ginobilli are counted on to the least. Now both play a huge role in who and what the Spurs are, but they are no longer required to be great for the Spurs to win and that’s going to make it tough on Miami because San Antonio can and will go to a lot of guys, guys that can really get after it from the perimeter too.
Kawhi Leonard Can Guard LeBron: The Indiana Pacers were able to gain some level of advantage with HEAT forward LeBron James because Paul George was able to defend him without a lot of help. The Spurs have an even bigger option in second year swingman Kawhi Leonard. No one can “stop” James, but the hope is that you can force him to certain spots on the floor or bait him into to taking contested jump shots. Leonard’s length, defensive mind set and overall physical size should force James to work a little harder on offense to get his looks and Leonard, like George, may not need a lot of help in making James work for what he gets.
Tony Parker Is The Best Guard In The Series: There was a time when Parker was considered a second-tier guard, coming into this series it’s hard to argue that Parker isn’t the best guard on the floor and that’s a huge problem for Miami. Parker has made short order of some strong defensive-minded teams and unless Miami decides to put James on Parker, there may not be a defender in Miami that can slow Parker down. If Parker is able to get wherever he wants to go it’s going to be a long series because what Parker has done better than anyone is create the “panic in the paint” scenario where two players react to his drive, which leave someone on the wing wide open.
Wade Needs To Play At The Basket: It’s no big secret that Dwyane Wade is playing with a badly bruised knee and it’s impacting everything he is doing. People openly wonder what was so different in Game 7 of the Pacers series in which Wade erupted and it was because he wasn’t settling for bad jump shots on a bad leg. Wade is getting poor lift from that leg on his jump shots and its affecting his overall game. In Game 7 the HEAT attacked the rim more and that’s where Wade can still be extremely effective. The Spurs will obviously try and bait Wade into to taking long twos, but the success for Wade will come when he is aggressive at the rim and that’s where San Antonio could face its biggest challenge, especially in guarding Wade.
Slipping The Screen: Both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors struggled mightily with the screen game San Antonio runs. There were countless plays where a Spurs player was left virtually by himself in the corner for uncontested long twos and threes. Miami, who struggled against Indiana’s screen game, is going to find a more precise screen game in the Spurs. The HEAT defense is really going to need to stay with their man because trying to help could have dire results. The phrase pick you apart couldn’t be more true with the Spurs.
The Best Minds In Coaching: Some coaching matchups are snoozers, but this NBA Finals is bringing together two of the best basketball minds in the game. It’s hard to argue that Gregg Popovich isn’t the best coach coaching and while no one wants to give Erik Spoelstra credit, he has managed a massive group of egos into a three time NBA Finals powerhouse. Both coaches are masters at in-game adjustments, then you factor in the game-to-game adjustments and this should be coaching at its best. Spoelstra often gets dismissed because of his team’s raw talent, but the truth of the matter is getting all of those guys on script and on the same page is a daunting task and Spoelstra has done a great job in his three years, the problem is Popovich has been doing it for almost a decade and he is the master.
For the very latest on the NBA Finals make sure you are following Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) who will hold down the Miami side of the Finals and Yannis Koutroupis (@YannisHW) and Bill Ingram (@TheRocketGuy) who will have you covered in San Antonio with updates both on site and on twitter throughout the 2013 NBA Finals.
We Want To Know:
Mitch Talks Lakers: Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak talked with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com about a wide range of issues including the Dwight Howard’s free agency, the teams plans for 2014 and what he expects the roster to look like in the short term and in 2014.
“It’s something we did intentionally, where we have a lot of flexibility for that season,” said Kupchak of the Lakers cap room next summer. “It can be used a lot of different ways. You don’t have to focus on free agency; you can take a contract. If a player doesn’t fit into someone’s roster from a salary perspective — maybe due to the repeater tax, for example — maybe you can find a guy that way. There are a lot of ways you can use that space that we will have, and we’re looking forward to having that flexibility.”
That flexibility may also allow the Lakers to get below the luxury tax line and avoid the new repeater tax in the newest collective bargaining agreement that hammers teams that paid tax for consecutive years.
“The fourth year, “explained Kupchak. “Last year (2011-12) was year one, this past season (2012-13) was year two, next year (2013-14) is year three and 2014-15 is year four. It is within our control to avoid that.”
The Lakers still hold their one-time Amnesty roster cut provision and could opt to use it this summer, although Kupchak somewhat downplayed that option.
“It’s a tool that we’re aware of,” Kupchak said. “We have not decided if we will use it. It’s just a tool we know is available. We feel our players have value, but there is always a financial component to this business and the new collective bargaining agreement made some significant changes that we need to be aware of.”
That future flexibility will have an impact on what the Lakers can do this summer with roughly $3.1 million to spend on what could be as many as six roster spots, depending on who the Lakers choose to bring back.
“You’re not going to get really good, productive young players at a minimum salary,” said Kupchak of his free agent options in July. “You’ll end up getting the older player who’s had a good career that’s looking to contend for a championship, like Antawn Jamison last season.”
The one major player the Lakers have to contend with keeping is Dwight Howard and Kupchak understands where his team is with Dwight and believes the Lakers will be ready with options regardless of how it plays out.
“We have a dialogue, and we do talk,” Kupchak said of his interactions with Howard. “We’re not allowed to negotiate until July 1. We talk about when he’s getting in the gym and what he’s doing, how his back is feeling and things like that. From the conclusion of the season to July 1 is two months, so it’s important to work on your body and your game in that time.
“Dwight has earned the right to become a free agent, and he probably will be recruited and perhaps make a couple of visits. That being the case, I would hope that we’d have a chance also before he makes his decision.
“We would try to do what the other teams will do, which is convince him that this is the spot for him. I think we have an advantage in that he’s played here for a year. I’m biased – I think this is the best city to live in with the best fans in the NBA. There are certain things that you remind him of or talk to him about, and you hope that it plays in your favor.
“If there’s one thing we’re looking at this summer, it’s what Dwight is going to decide to do. That is the major moving piece. That will determine a lot about what we do. It’s the one decision we will have to wait on. Then we will try to have a plan a, plan b, plan c depending on what happens. It moves quickly, so it’s not like you can go to a plan b with certainty. There will be 29 other teams looking to improve their teams on July 1. But all of the “what if” scenarios will be talked about, reviewed and ready to go. We spend a lot of time on those what ifs, contingency plans. Every day brings more information in this league – coaches get signed up, and so on, which gives you more insight into what may happen in the summer. But when we get closer to the draft and July 1, it gets more juicy.”
The Lakers can offer the longest contract to Howard, an estimated $118 million as they can include a fifth fully guaranteed contract year, and while on the surface that sounds attractive, the truth is whatever new deal Howard signs is likely going to have an early exit after the third year so Howard can re-sign for another major deal before the current TV contract in the NBA expires and the revenue system could change.
The Lakers have hoped to get some sense of what Howard is thinking in advance of July 1, however its been made clear that Howard will explore all of his options as a free agent, which means the Lakers will have to sell themselves to Dwight in July.
The Lakers have $68.10 million in salary commitments next season, but have only Steve Nash’s $9.7 million on the roster for 2014-2015, giving the Lakers a fairly clean slate to work with in the summer of 2014.
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