How can the Miami Heat improve?


How can the Miami Heat improve?

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Pat Riley's approach to free agency has changed considerably since 2010, simply because the Miami Heat have nowhere near the same amount of money left to spend as they did during the coup that brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together. Still, the sales pitch from the Heat president will remain the same. "There's a lot of room out there this year," Riley said. "But there aren't many teams that have a chance, really, to win a title. And I think a lot of veteran players might be interested in something like that." So again, when free agency starts on Sunday, Riley and the Heat will ask prospective newcomers to make a sacrifice. They can also show those recruits that their current formula works -- with this year's NBA championship trophy serving as proof. After draft night came and went without the Heat making any significant changes to their roster, Miami's attention now moves to free agency. Because the NBA's shopping window hasn't opened, Riley didn't discuss any of his specific targets by name. But it is widely assumed that the Heat will try to woo Boston guard Ray Allen, who when healthy remains one of the game's best outside shooters. James, the league's reigning MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, shared that terribly kept secret on his Twitter account Thursday night. "While watching the Draft my son Bryce ask Is Ray Allen gonna play for the Heat,'" James tweeted. "I said I don't know. I hope so.'" Let the recruiting begin. Riley said the Heat have "five or six" guys targeted to open the free-agent period. "If we could add a shooter that would help us, because we are that kind of a team," Riley said. "If we could get a real big that had to be guarded and had some versatility, then we might try to go in that direction. If there's a 3-point shooter that's long and can defend, then we might go in that direction. So there is a lot of areas you can go. There isn't one specific thing. I just know that we want to find as much space as we can on the floor for Dwyane and for LeBron and for Chris to be able to operate." The Heat spent years making sure they would have the spending capability to land a trio like James, Wade and Bosh in 2010. This summer, Riley and the Heat will go into free agency only able to offer the mini mid-level exception of 3 million, or a veteran's minimum contract of about 1 million, or the ability to package some future draft picks in trades. Moving players through trades is another option, though Riley said the Heat are "not exploring" that yet. Riley said there have been no discussions about using Miami's one-time amnesty provision this summer, on Mike Miller -- who made seven 3-pointers in the title-clinching win over Oklahoma City -- or anyone else. Riley also said that Miller plans to take a couple weeks to decompress before making any decisions about his future or surgical options. Miller met earlier this week with Dr. Barth Green to evaluate his back, the primary source of his pain during the season. Riley said the team will guarantee center backup center Dexter Pittman's contract for next season, meaning he will earn about 885,000. Eddy Curry might factor into the team's plans again, with Riley saying he would have a conversation before too long with the veteran center who appeared sparingly in 14 games this season, none in the playoffs. He also said that the strained lower abdominal muscle that sidelined Bosh for nine playoff games was more daunting than previously thought. "He's still nursing an injury," Riley said. "He had a significant abdominal injury that I'm sure that if we weren't in the playoffs against Boston then he probably would not have played for another three or four weeks." Wade removed himself from Olympic consideration on Thursday, telling USA Basketball that he will need surgery on his left knee this summer. Bosh, who also played on the 2008 gold medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics, said earlier this week he was "all in for now" on participating in the London Games, but would reassess after speaking to doctors. And on Friday, that reassessment came: Like Wade, Bosh has taken his name out of the Olympic mix. "This injury was a pretty serious one," said Henry Thomas, Bosh's agent. "He was able to come back and play under the circumstances because he was trying to contribute to them winning a championship. There's still pain. There's still discomfort. And the real concern is if he doesn't rest and do the rehab associated with the injury, this could become sort of a chronic thing for him." Riley also said the celebration of the championship, at least for people like him, coach Erik Spoelstra and other team executives, is pretty much complete now. This past season was fueled in many respects by the pain of losing the 2011 finals to Dallas. Obviously, that pain was replaced by joy this time around -- but Riley is still hoping the Heat find some way to sharpen the focus again, even after winning it all. "One of the things that you need to think about, all of us after last year, how did we feel when we got beat by Dallas here? You saw guys falling down in the hallway here because of their disappointment and how discouraged they were," Riley said. "So whatever the players did last summer, I would advise them to try to go back to their caves and hibernate again." He is not as brash as he once was -- for example, he won't guarantee that the Heat will repeat as champions, like he famously did when he was coaching the Lakers during their "Showtime" era. All Riley will say now is that Miami believes it has built a team capable of contending for a long time. "If you can win it, you enjoy it, you put it in your back pocket," Riley said. "We've won two titles in the last six years. We have a compelling, contending team. It excites me to try to make it better. And so we're a contender. We'll be the defending champion next year, but as long as you have a chance and you feel like you can improve this team, then that's all it's about."

Player-by-player examination of the 2016-17 Kings

Player-by-player examination of the 2016-17 Kings

Opening night is finally upon us. When the Sacramento Kings take on the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, they do so with plenty of new faces from the team that finished last season 33-49. Here is a quick look at the team that will take the floor during the 2016-17 campaign with the hopes of snapping the Kings’ decade-long playoff drought.

Who’s Gone

After Sacramento decided not to pursue Rajon Rondo, the former All-Star took big money to join the Chicago Bulls. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson will be asked to fill the void left by the NBA’s leading assist man from last season. Also leaving the Kings are Seth Curry (Mavericks), Quincy Acy (Mavericks), James Anderson (Turkey), Caron Butler (free agent), Eric Moreland (free agent), Duje Dukan (Croatia) and Marco Belinelli (traded to Hornets).  

Who’s New

With Rondo leaving, Vlade Divac took a one-year, league minimum gamble on Lawson with the hopes that he can turn around his career. Veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo was inked to a 2-year, $25 million deal with a team option in year two at $1.5 million. At the wing, Garrett Temple (3-years/$24 million) and Matt Barnes (2-year/$12.5 million) were added for depth. Anthony Tolliver was brought in to play the stretch four position. He’s on a two-year $16 million deal with a team option at $2 million in year two. With two draft day deals, the Kings were able to make three selections in the first round, drafting big man Georgios Papagiannis (13th overall), wing Malachi Richardson (22nd overall) and power forward Skal Labissiere (28th overall).  

Who’s Left

DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh season with the Kings and expected to play a huge role in the upcoming season. Despite politely asking for a new address during the summer, Rudy Gay is back for another season in Sacramento. Ben McLemore is entering his fourth season with the Kings after being selected with the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. Forward Omri Casspi returns for his third straight season in Sacramento, although he’s played for the Kings for five of his eight NBA seasons. Point guard Darren Collison is in the final year of his 3-year, $15 million deal that he signed in the summer of 2014. Big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos are back for year two. Cauley-Stein was selected with the sixth overall pick last year and Koufos is in the second season of a 4-year, $33 million deal.   

The Starters

Ty Lawson - Point Guard

The 28-year-old veteran will man the point guard position while Collison is out for the first eight games of the season (league suspension).  Lawson spent last year bouncing between Houston and Indiana, playing in a combined 66 regular season games. The speedy guard is coming off a down year and looking to get back to the player that averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists during the 2014-15 season in Denver. He is expected to lead the second unit once Collison returns to action Nov. 8 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Arron Afflalo - Shooting Guard

Afflalo joins the Kings after playing last season for the New York Knicks. The 31-year-old shooting guard brings a stabilizing influence to the Kings’ backcourt. He’s bounced around the league a bit, but he can shoot from the outside (career 38.5 percent from 3-point range) and has a nice post game for a guard. He’ll be asked to play major minutes early in the year

Rudy Gay - Small Forward

When Gay signed a 3-year extension in 2014, it was with the understanding that he would form a nice 1-2 punch with DeMarcus Cousins under head coach Michael Malone. Three coaches later, Gay has already informed the team that he will opt out at season's end. He is coming off a down offensive season, but his role in George Karl’s system was limited a season ago. The 30-year-old forward has every reason to put up big numbers as he approaches free agency next summer.

DeMarcus Cousins - Power Forward

The franchise cornerstone big man is fresh off Olympic gold and looking for his first playoff berth. After averaging 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season, Cousins has clearly cemented himself as the game’s best pivot. He’ll be asked to open the game at the power forward spot, but will spend most of his season manning the center position. He’s taylormade to play in Joerger’s high-post style of play and primed for his third straight All-Star bid.

Kosta Koufos -- Center

Teams around the league like to start big and then make mid-quarter adjustments. Koufos knows Joerger’s system from their time together in Memphis. He will get the nod early, but expect plenty of Willie Cauley-Stein, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver and Omri Casspi alongside Cousins as Joerger looks for the right mix. Koufos is a defensive-minded big that can rebound and score efficiently around the hoop. He’s in the best shape of his career and will likely be asked to open the game guarding the opponent's tough big.

The Rotation

Garrett Temple

While Collison is out, the Kings will ask Temple to play plenty of point guard minutes behind Lawson. After game eight, the versatile wing will play minutes at the 1, 2 and 3 as a perimeter stopper. He’s not a scorer, but Temple is a great locker room influence and plays with an infectious tenacity that fans will instantly appreciate.    

Ben McLemore

After starting 190 games in his first three seasons in the league, McLemore will get an early shot to play behind Afflalo at the two. He’s had plenty of struggles, but the former first round pick can shoot, he’s a big time leaper and he has the tools to be a very good NBA defender. If he can’t show that he’s ready to play rotational minutes during Collison’s absence, it could be a long season on the bench for the 23-year-old guard.

Omri Casspi

Casspi was a lethal weapon last season as both a starter and a reserve for Karl. He shot an impressive 40.9 percent from 3-point land and 48.1 percent from the floor on his way to a career-best 11.8 points per game. Casspi is in a dogfight for minutes with Tolliver, Barnes and Temple. He missed time during camp with a hip issue and an illness, but he finished camp strong. When the Kings go small, expect Casspi and Barnes to form a strong forward combination.  

Matt Barnes

At 36, Barnes showed that he has plenty left in the tank last season playing for Joerger in Memphis. Not always the most popular player amongst the fans, the Sacramento-native plays a gritty brand of basketball that has earned him the trust of his coaches and teammates. He’s likely not going to log 28.8 minutes or average 10.0 points per game like last season, but he’s a quality veteran presence that can still run the floor like a gazelle and lock down forwards on defense.

Anthony Tolliver

The Kings shocked the NBA world a bit with their investment this summer in the 31-year-old Tolliver. Another team-first guy, Tolliver can hit the open 3-ball, play defense and shock you with a sneaky block here and there. Joerger loves veterans and this is one handpicked by new assistant GM Ken Catanella. Can he bring the “Tolliver Effect” to Sacramento?

Willie Cauley-Stein

It’s not that Cauley-Stein has fallen out of favor in Sacramento, but he’s up against some serious veteran contenders for minutes this season. The lanky defensive stopper still looks slightly uncomfortable in the Kings’ new system. He will get his bearings eventually and make a nice addition to Joerger’s small ball lineups. Cauley-Stein has never been asked to run a high post or hit a 20-foot jumper in his young career. He’ll get minutes, but how many will depend on quickly he can acclimate to the new offensive and defensive schemes.

The Rest

Skal Labissiere

The rookie out of Kentucky has been the talk of camp. He has tremendous length and athleticism, but he’ll need time to develop. Labissiere will see time in Reno with the Bighorns, but expect the Kings to keep him around the team so their staff can develop this top tier talent.

Georgios Papagiannis

Another young big that needs development time in Reno, Papa G has trimmed down considerably since we first saw him walk in the door. The Kings will be patient in bringing the 7-foot-1 center along. He is a giant with a soft touch both inside and outside. If he can learn the high-post system and continue to show improvement in his physique, the Kings might be onto something in year two and three.

Malachi Richardson

Lost in a numbers game at the wing, Richardson will commute back and forth from Reno with his fellow rookie class. The smooth shooting guard/forward has great size and length to play the two, but his shot selection and accuracy must improve to make an impact at the NBA level. Coaches rave about his demeanor and he routinely beats veterans in 3-point shootouts after practice.

Marquette King a renaissance man, though punting is his specialty

Marquette King a renaissance man, though punting is his specialty

SARASOTA, Fla. – Raiders players had free time on Monday afternoon, and most scattered through the Sarasota Ritz Carlton hotel and the surrounding town.

Not Marquette King. The Raiders punter found a baby grand piano and started tickling the ivories. He wasn’t practicing chop sticks. The guy can flat play.

“I’m like Nick Cannon,” King said. “I can’t read music, but I can play what I can hear.”

King can flat punt, too.

While he simplifies his duty to catch it and kick it, it’s a bit more complicated than that. King seems to have mastered the art in his fourth season and the Raiders’ full-time punter.

This season could be his best, and that’s saying something. He’s averaging 42.4 net yards per attempt – the highest of his career – and has put 15 of 34 punts inside the 20-yard line. To top off that excellent stat line, he only has three touchbacks.

King had an excellent day against Jacksonville. He averaged 50.6 net yards over five punts and put four inside the 20. He also made one hard to catch. Jacksonville’s Rashad Greene muffed a punt that Andre Holmes recovered, giving the Raiders the short field required to score an easy touchdown.

Oh, and there was something about a 27-yard run off a bad snap, where he earned a first down with surprising speed.

What was King thinking on that crucial run, one that helped put Jacksonville down on Sunday afternoon?

"I just thought that,” King said, “if I ran fast enough, my ratings would go up on Madden.”

That earned some honors. King was named AFC special teams player of the week on Tuesday morning.

King, a master of social media, came up with a term for doing all that: Punthlete.

That’s an accurate term for someone among the first of his kind, a rare athlete who has become a real weapon for a quality Raiders team.

He can do other things, but earns a great living specializing in one thing.

“There ain’t nothing to really talk about,” King said. “You just catch the ball and punt it. There’s technique to it, but…”

King trailed off at that point. He isn’t interested in talking about his craft. The guy knows how to have a good time, whether it’s acting like a mannequin in a Sarasota Gap store, playing drums with a local band or playing soul music without much effort.

King taught himself how to play piano two seasons ago out of boredom on road trips, and learned the trade pretty fast.

“When I see pianos in the lobby, I just wanted to play it,” King said. “Now that I know how to play it, I can just play.

“I need it myself. It’s therapy.”