August 14, 2022

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Ira Winderman: Does a lure door await Warmth in opening spherical of NBA playoffs?

This was earlier than the Brooklyn Nets went into Philadelphia on Thursday night time with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and annihilated Joel Embiid, James Harden and the 76ers.

As a substitute, it was a debate two nights earlier on the identical community that carried Nets-76ers, when WNBA star Candace Parker and former Miami Warmth teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade had been debating the truth of the Warmth ending because the No. 1 playoff seed within the Jap Convention solely to probably face the Nets within the first spherical.

It’s a prospect that looms if the Nets end No. 8 within the East, which is a definite eventuality: Brooklyn loses the opening sport of the play-in match after which wins the second.

And it could be a disheartening actuality for Erik Spoelstra and his crew, regardless of the very best face put ahead.

It additionally would hearken recollections for the Warmth of the 1999 opening spherical.

That season, the New York Knicks by season’s finish had been much more proficient than a No. 8 seed, however a fractured heel and prolonged damage absence for Latrell Sprewell left them as simply that. It additionally was a season Pat Riley’s Warmth completed because the No. 1 seed. An Allan Houston jumper later, within the winner-take-all last sport of the opening spherical, and it was over for the Warmth. Arguably essentially the most devastating second in franchise historical past.

This season, it has been Durant lacking time much like Sprewell, on this case a knee damage, plus Irving’s ban on house video games on account of a vaccine rule more likely to be lifted by New York Metropolis prematurely of the April 16 begin of the postseason. And Ben Simmons, who didn’t even play Thursday in Philadelphia, additionally looms as a Brooklyn lineup increase.

So there they had been, within the TNT studio — Parker, O’Neal and Wade — debating whether or not one other Warmth first-round nightmare could possibly be looming.

Parker: “This isn’t a matchup that Miami needs to see within the first spherical.”

Shaq: “Who? What?”

Shaq: “Miami needs all that smoke, reduce it out.”

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Parker: “Miami doesn’t need Brooklyn within the first spherical.”

Shaq: “Miami needs that smoke. Oh, come on D-Wade, alma mater.”

Parker: “Miami doesn’t need Brooklyn within the first spherical.”

Wade: “They don’t need Brooklyn.”

Shaq: “Yeah, they need the smoke.”

Wade: “In the event you get Brooklyn, you’re going to say, ‘Deliver ‘em on.’ “

Parker: “However you don’t need Brooklyn.”

Wade: “You don’t need Brooklyn within the first spherical.”

Shaq: “They need all that smoke. They ain’t terrified of no one.”

Parker: “No one mentioned they had been scared. You don’t need to play Brooklyn.”

Wade: “You need to play KD and Kyrie within the first spherical?”

Shaq: “If I’m the primary seed, yeah.”

Wade: “Come on Shaq.”

Shaq: “Yeah.”

Parker: “Shaq, come on.”

Shaq: “Come on Shaq what?”

Wade: “Shaq, come on.”

Shaq: “I need all of the smoke. I’m the chimney man.”

Shaq: “I’m simply making an attempt to point out the Warmth some respect, as a result of they actually don’t get so much.”

In fact, if the Warmth do maintain on to the No. 1 seed, a Brooklyn victory within the No. 7-vs.-No. 8 play-in sport would lock Brooklyn into the No. 7 seed and a gap best-of-seven in opposition to the No. 2 seed.

The problem there may be that if Toronto stays at No. 7, Ontario guidelines may nonetheless be in place that ban an unvaccinated Irving from taking part within the play-in spherical opener.

The proper world, one which would supply wiggle room for the Warmth, could be the Nets vaulting the Cleveland Cavaliers for No. 6, assuring a first-round assembly with the No. 3 seed.

However time seems to be working on the market, even with Jarrett Allen sidelined for Cleveland. There merely are too many remaining Nets house video games, video games that also may imply no Irving at Barclays Middle.

And it’s not as if any humorous enterprise on closing night time of the common season on April 10 may essentially present an escape hatch on the prime of the standings, with the No. 7 seed to not be identified till two days later, when the play-in spherical opens.

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So, sure, there doubtless shall be Shaq-like bravado from the groups on the prime of the East, loads of “Deliver ‘em on.”

However there is also a lure door doubtlessly awaiting, one which could possibly be much like the gorgeous silence of that Allan Houston second at Miami Area 23 years in the past.

For the Warmth, whilst spectators, the play-in spherical may nicely outline their season.

Both that, or the audacity of Shaq must permeate Erik Spoelstra’s locker room for 2 sudden weeks on the finish of April.

IN THE LANE

LITTLE EXTRA: If it appeared as if there was slightly additional coming from the Phoenix Suns in Wednesday night time’s victory at FTX Area, that’s as a result of there was slightly additional. Guard Devin Booker mentioned the Suns’ 123-100 house Jan. 8 house loss to the Warmth nonetheless resonated. “We wished this one dangerous, to be utterly trustworthy,” he mentioned. “We’ve plenty of respect for his or her crew, particularly for what they did to us in Phoenix. We simply wished to show a degree. They’re enjoying the very best basketball over right here within the East and we’re doing the identical within the West, so it was a heavyweight matchup.” And virtually a TKO, in gentle of the Suns’ 111-90 romp.

AGING OUT: At 28, it seems Josh Richardson has discovered himself aged out of the San Antonio Spurs’ rotation. Connected as wage to the draft picks acquired from the Boston Celtics on the buying and selling deadline for Derrick White, the previous Warmth guard has been held out of 5 video games since becoming a member of the Spurs on Feb. 10. “I’m the massive bro round right here,” Richardson mentioned, in response to San Antonio’s Specific Information, with solely Doug McDermott, 30, older on the Spurs’ roster. “That is new for me, being one of many oldest guys on the crew.” As lately as 2017-18 and ‘18-19, his last two seasons with the Warmth, Richardson had began all 154 of his appearances. “A number of it’s psychological,” Richardson mentioned. “While you’re not enjoying on daily basis, it’s straightforward to get down on your self and begin blaming different folks and begin pondering of dumb excuses.”

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SECOND CHANCES: To a level, the Warmth might have prolonged Nik Stauskas’ NBA profession with the emergency 10-day contract they prolonged in December amid the crew’s COVID outbreak. From there, a renewed Stauskas returned to the G League, the place he scored 100 factors over a two-game span with the Denver Nuggets’ affiliate after which landed a two-year contract with the Celtics. “I used to be prepared to present in, to be trustworthy,” the 28-year-old 6-foot-6 guard mentioned, in response to the Boston Globe. “Simply enjoying within the G-League all yr. I had instructed myself that if it didn’t work out this yr, that I’d be OK with strolling away from the sport. . . . It’s been a very long time coming for me, personally, simply to sort of get again thus far, sort of cracking a roster.”

PERSEVERANCE CITED: Having guided Victor Oladipo for a part of final season, Houston Rockets coach Stephen Silas mentioned he was heartened by Oladipo’s comeback with the Warmth. “Clearly, for Victor, it’s nice for him, after all the pieces he has been via, the accidents. It’s like one after the opposite,” Silas mentioned earlier than Monday night time’s sport at FTX Area. “He’s aggressive. He needs to do issues the precise method. He’s a fighter. For him to combat via all the accidents that he has had and handle the ups and downs, the emotional a part of what he’s been via is admirable.”

NUMBER

$290,000. Warmth assure to ahead Haywood Highsmith for the steadiness of the season, based mostly on the three-year contract he signed with the crew this previous week. Highsmith additionally has salaries of $1.8 million and $1.9 million for the non-guaranteed last two years of the deal, with varied set off dates additional guaranteeing a part of the contract, if nonetheless on the roster.

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