Shootaround (Oct. 5): Miami Heat players show support for Chris Bosh

Spoelstra, Heat players support Bosh | Blatt to accept championship ring from Cavs | Fournier ready for bigger role | Millsap, Jack to miss 2 preseason games

No. 1: Spoelstra, Heat players back Bosh despite his recent comments — The ongoing drama and war of words between Miami Heat All-Star forward Chris Bosh and the team’s front office (particularly team president Pat Riley) doesn’t seem like it will subside anytime soon. Yet to those on the Heat who played alongside and coached Bosh, the current topics of conversation have not affected how they view the big man, writes Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald:

The ongoing feud between Chris Bosh and the Heat’s front office clearly hasn’t changed the opinions of his coach or his teammates.

Their support is still there for him.

“My thoughts don’t change. And they won’t change,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday when asked how Bosh’s comments on Friday toward the organization made him feel.

“I love Chris Bosh, his family. I said this so many times, Chris was very important to me as a head coach. With those teams, he was somebody I really leaned on. That extended outside the lines. It’s something I really have enjoyed and my hope is that relationship can continue.”

In case you missed it, Bosh, who has battled blood clots over the past 21 months and who failed a team physical last week, took aim Friday at team president Pat Riley in the fourth installment of his self-directed series, “Bosh Rebuilt.”

In it, Bosh not only declared his NBA career not over, he also claimed the Heat never reached out to him before Riley told a handful of beat reporters on Monday the franchise was no longer working toward his return and that Bosh’s career with the organization was probably over.

The Heat, through a spokesman on Friday, promptly and firmly replied to Bosh’s claims about not being reached by the team by saying Riley had called, texted and emailed Bosh as well as his agent and manager to set up a meeting last week, where the team was going to inform him of its intentions.

None of that ongoing drama, though, seems to affect his teammates or coaches that much.

“My heart goes out to him,” said veteran Udonis Haslem, the only remaining piece from the Heat’s past two championship teams. “I haven’t been in this particular situation, but I know how it feels to have a blood clot and I know how it feels to be in that situation. It’s not really comfortable; it’s painful.

“So there are a lot of things he’s going through, a lot of emotions he’s going through. You’re looking at somebody who has been a basketball player all his life. This is something that he knows, something that he loves. It’s not easy just to walk away from that.”

Guard Tyler Johnson, who spent a lot of time last season rehabbing from his own injury alongside Bosh, said on Monday at media day he just wants to see Bosh healthy. That sentiment was echoed by most of Bosh’s former teammates still with the team, including Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.

“I can’t really speak for the whole team, but for myself it is saddening because he was one of the guys who was a mentor to me,” Johnson said shortly after learning on Monday that Riley said the team was no longer working toward Bosh’s return.

“I think first and foremost [his health is] where my concern comes in — making sure him, [wife] Adrienne, his whole family [are OK]. I mean, he has five children. As much as we love basketball, I think we can all say we love our family a little bit more. Until more news or results come out from everything, first and foremost, I just hope that’s taken care of.”


No. 2: Blatt to accept championship ring from Cavs — The Cleveland Cavaliers enter 2016-17 as the defending NBA champions after staging a historic comeback to take the 2016 NBA Finals from the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs’ path to their reign at the top began last season under coach David Blatt, but he was fired at midseason and replaced by his assistant coach, Tyronn Lue (who was at the helm during The Finals). In a recent interview, Blatt says he has decided to accept a championship ring from the Cavs, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“(Cleveland) offered and I graciously accepted because they presented it to me in a way that was very respectful,” Blatt confirmed to reporter David Pick, who passed along the news on Twitter Tuesday. “The Cavaliers wanted to give me a ring because the organization felt that I contributed to the championship.

“It’s not my championship, I recognize that, but I also feel that I did something there, and I graciously accepted because it was a gracious offer on their part. The big thing for me was that I felt that they felt that it was earned, not given, therefore I was happy to accept.”‎

Even though the Cavaliers were dealing with a few injuries at the start of last season, they started 30-11 with Blatt. He was fired in January as general manager David Griffin saw a “lack of connectedness,” believing the team needed a new voice to boost their spirit.

Blatt’s top assistant, Tyronn Lue, was elevated to head coach and guided the Cavaliers to their first ever NBA championship, rallying from a 3-1 Finals deficit against the record-setting Golden State Warriors.

After taking a few months off, Blatt went back to his roots, accepting a head coaching gig overseas with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul of Turkey.

The club, which features former Cavaliers big men Semih Erden and Luke Harangody, is 11-0 in the last month-plus, a combination of friendlies and the Dogus Tournament. On Tuesday, Blatt led Darussafaka Dogus to a win over his old team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, where Blatt coached prior to accepting the Cavaliers’ offer in 2014.

Blatt went 83-40 during his season and a half with the Cavs, the best win percentage in franchise history, including a Finals appearance in his first season.


No. 3: Fournier ready for bigger role in Orlando — Shortly after the 2013-14 season, the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets pulled off what was then seen as a small trade as the Magic shipped Arron Afflalo to the Nuggets for Devyn Marble and Evan Fournier. Since then, Afflalo has more or less become a journeyman while Fournier has blossomed into a solid, young scorer for Orlando. After averaging a career-best 15.4 ppg in 2015-16, Fournier knows he’ll have to do more this season if the Magic are to reach the playoffs, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

Fournier worked on his mid-range game all summer, hoping it will round out his offensive game and complement his skills as a finisher and long-range shooter.

The Magic hope Fournier’s step-back jumper will symbolize upcoming growth. The franchise made a massive commitment to him during the offseason. First, the team traded another young wing player, Victor Oladipo, opening playing time for Fournier at shooting guard. The team then re-signed Fournier to a five-year contract worth $85 million.

“There’s a reason we invested in Evan Fournier,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a heck of a basketball player.”

Fournier might have to prove Vogel correct for the team to reach the playoffs this season. Fournier and Vucevic are the biggest scoring threats in the Magic’s projected starting lineup, and Fournier will attempt to improve on his breakout performance of last year, when he averaged 15.4 points per game.

He also must make a transition defensively. Instead of guarding bigger and stronger small forwards, as he did most of last year, he’ll be asked to guard quick, agile shooting guards. Fournier will have to chase shooters and fight through screens more often this year.

“I did a little bit of everything last year, so it’s not going to be new to me,” Fournier said after the Magic finished practice Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena. “It’s just going to be different from last year. I’m looking forward to it. I really worked on my body this summer. I feel like I’m stronger. It’s going to be a great challenge.”

“He just has a great rhythm, a great pace to his offensive game,” Vogel said, referring to Fournier. “He doesn’t force too much and he’s a great reader of defense. He’s got that shot-making as well that makes everything a little more fluid.”

Fournier excels at finishing at the rim and at shooting from long range.

So he focused his offseason energies on his mid-range shooting and on getting stronger.

“It’s going to pay off,” Fournier said. “I’m pretty confident.”


No. 4: Millsap, Jack to miss first two preseason games — The Atlanta Hawks open their preseason slate tomorrow night with a road game against the Grizzlies. Going up against Memphis’ big man combo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph would be a solid test for Atlanta’s new-look frontline, but the Hawks will not have All-Star forward Paul Millsap (or veteran guard Jarrett Jack) in the lineup for a few games. Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more:

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed Tuesday that Paul Millsap and Jarrett Jack will miss the team’s first two exhibition games at the Grizzlies on Thursday and at the Spurs on Saturday.

The move of holding both players out of the games was expected as each return from knee issues. The games are on the same road trip as the Hawks will fly directly to San Antonio after playing in Memphis.

Millsap recently had a non-surgical procedure on his right knee and the team said he would be sidelined for the first three weeks of training camp. Millsap continues to do shooting drills and spent time after the Hawks concluded practice Tuesday working with shooting coach Ben Sullivan.

Jack is returning from a torn ACL suffered playing for the Nets in January. The guard is being brought along slowly in his rehab from the injury.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: All things considered, Joel Embiid’s preseason debut with the Philadelphia 76ers went pretty well … The Houston Rockets and New York Knicks showed some solidarity before last night’s preseason game … Chicago Bulls rookie guard Denzel Valentine (ankle) expected to be out two weeks … The Orlando Magic have no reason to worry about Serge Ibaka’s knee … Houston Rockets veteran point guard Patrick Beverly (left knee soreness) will reportedly miss the team’s upcoming trip to China … Good read/look inside the mind of an NBA underdog player … Charlotte Hornets guard Ramon Sessions is giving back to his alma mater … Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe may be looking at a vastly different role this season …