How can the Miami Heat improve?

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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."

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

CHICAGO — Had a half-dozen other things gone differently Wednesday night, the Giants might have spent the hour after the game shrugging off a blowout loss or celebrating one of the best at-bats of the year. 

Three innings after the game was nearly lost for good, Mac Williamson saw 12 pitches from Wade Davis, who entered with a perfect ERA in 19 appearances, fouling eight of them off before slamming a two-run homer to right. The play came with some comedic value, as Williamson nearly passed Eduardo Nuñez on the bases. It also came with some historic value, as it snapped a streak of 19 consecutive solo shots that was two shy of the MLB record. 

The homer was not, however, the talking point after the game. A few minutes after Williamson went deep, Joe Panik was tossing his bat into the grass in frustration over a called third strike that ended the game and clinched a 5-4 win for the Cubs. Ten minutes after that, Bruce Bochy watched the highlight and tossed his phone onto his desk. 

“It’s a shame to end on that call, it really is,” Bochy said. “We had him on fumes and that’s not a strike. But they got the call and that’s it.”

The Giants were left with their third loss in four games, a run that has halted their momentum. They again are 11 games back in the National League West, with so many nights like this one: A comeback seemed real, but the mistakes were too much to overcome. 

Williamson, in talking about his homer, pivoted and pointed to a blunder of his own. In a tied game in the fifth, Miguel Montero hit a single to right with Addison Russell on first. The speedy shortstop watched Williamson as the ball rolled into the outfield, and when Williamson didn’t charge as hard as he otherwise might, Russell took off for third. The throw was perfect, but late. Russell scored on a fly ball. 

“The home run is really cool but it would have been a lot cooler if I hadn’t have made the mistake earlier in the game and given them the extra run,” Williamson said, explaining that he has tried to focus on being smooth to the ball and not rushing on fast outfields. In the past, rushing has led to bobbles and extra bases. 

Another costly sequence came in the eighth. After the Giants left the bases loaded in the top of the inning, Steven Okert gave up a triple to Jason Heyward, who scored on a sacrifice fly. Okert, so good when he was first called up, has been less effective of late. 

“We’ve got to get our lefties going,” Bochy said. “We gave them a run there and that put it at three and that’s just enough to cover it for them.”

Truth be told, the Giants were probably lucky to even have worries at that point. The wind blew a three-run Heyward homer inches foul in the sixth, and while the Giants grumbled about the final call of the game, an earlier call on Heyward for running inside the base path took a Cubs run off the board and killed a rally. It was correct by the letter of the law, but one you rarely see. The Giants escaped, but they wouldn’t come all the way back, despite Williamson’s late push. 

The young outfielder has been looking to make an impact since coming back up on the last homestand. He knew how tough Davis has been. 

“He’s been the best in the game this year and the numbers speak for themselves,” Williamson said. “He has phenomenal stuff. You get in the box and figure you’ve got nothing to lose, battle as tough as you can.”

Williamson fouled off good strikes and tantalizing balls. When he lofted a 2-2 pitch toward right, he took off out of the box. The ball carried just over the wall, and Williamson didn’t look up until he rounded third. That’s when Phil Nevin started yelling at him to slow down. Nuñez, who had a tight hamstring, turned and told Williamson to slow down.

“I kinda blacked out for a second there,” Williamson said. 

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog,’” Nunez said.

The moment temporarily sent a rush through the dugout. Minutes later, the Giants were left livid over a game that probably shouldn’t have been so close, but nonetheless was right there for them to steal. 

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Giants will need a win on getaway day to clinch their first winning road trip.

Wednesday's comeback attempt fell just short, as the Giants scored two in the ninth but lost to the Cubs 5-4. Since taking the first two games in St. Louis, they have dropped three of four, falling 11 games back of the Rockies in the division.

Here are five things to know from the coldest Giants game of the year … 

— Mac Williamson fouled off eight pitches before going the opposite way against Wade Davis, who entered with a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances. The two-run homer ended a run of 19 consecutive solo shots by the Giants, two short of their own MLB record. It was the first homer off Davis in two years. 

— The sixth inning was one of the stranger escapes we’ve seen from a pitcher this season. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward blasted a Matt Moore pitch right down the line and it looked like it would give the Cubs a 6-2 lead. The wind blew the ball a couple of feet foul. Heyward then topped one down the line and Moore’s throw bounced away from first, allowing a run to score. But the umpires called — correctly — Heyward out for running inside the line. It’s a call you rarely see. Moore then struck out Addison Russell to keep what could have easily been a 6-2 or 4-2 game at 3-2. 

— Before the first game of this series, a Giant asked in the dugout, “I wonder what some of the Cubs’ numbers would look like at our place?” Anthony Rizzo is a .159 hitter with no homers in 18 career games at AT&T Park, but he had no issues on a night when conditions were worse than they are most nights in San Francisco. Rizzo homered off Moore in his first two at-bats. 

— Rizzo will occasionally put a bunt down to beat the shift — he had an accidental bunt in his third at-bat — which the Giants have long wanted Brandon Belt to do. Belt pushed one away from the shift in the sixth, and even though it was too close to pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the throw was off and Belt reached second. One of those a week would open up a few more holes. 

— This lineup has made a habit of making mediocre and downright bad pitchers look good, and the actual good ones are taking advantage, too. A night after Jon Lester recorded his first complete game of the year, Hendricks threw seven innings for the first time.