Talking Hoops with Zach Harper

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CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper (@talkhoops) stops by to discuss the Miami Heat’s preseason start, we discuss potential point guards and he tells us why head coach Erik Spoelstra is the real team leader and much more.

You can listen here or subscribe to the Hot Hot Hoops podcast on iTunes.

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Mario Chalmers is primed for a new stage

marioIf any Miami Heat player is familiar with controversy, it’s Mario Chalmers.

Only three months ago, Miami fans were calling for their point guard to be cut from the team. He looked lost, tired and often defeated against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Even with LeBron James at his side, Chalmers struggled to physically and mentally get past the exhaustion that had accumulated after four years of NBA Finals runs. And while the role players for Miami weren’t necessarily terrible, at times they looked incapable of giving the much needed support to help the stars on the team reach their winning potential. Despite the Finals being touted as an overall team loss, fans searching for accountability looked no further than ‘Rio.

When Chalmers debuted as a rookie, he showed promise as a playmaker and a shooter. Times, of course, were different for Chalmers back then; instinct drove his game and he didn’t need to worry about adjusting to Chris Bosh and James’ arrival. Basketball for Chalmers was how he liked it – simple action.

When forming an opinion, fans and pundits tend to rely on the principle of recency. Chalmers unfortunately is a role player we like to be overly critical of, almost offering him up as a scapegoat when things go wrong. This often became apparent when his teammates yelled at him, excused by the notion they knew he could take it and flourish with such criticism. Fans tend to forget the clutch shots he’s made in big moments because the lasting memory is defeat, followed by the loss of LeBron.

If his social media is anything to go by, it looks like we may see a different ‘Rio this coming season. Chalmers, now 28 years old, can be seen working on making his shooting more reliable, but it’s his proclamation of “becoming a jack of all trades” which tells us he’s looking at the bigger picture. Already throwing himself into preseason condition, his positive affirmations represent a newfound headspace. The fatigue he felt probably still hangs around, but this offseason isn’t the same; it’s no longer Groundhog Day. It’s already feeling different as this could be Chalmers’ season of redemption. No longer is the focus on simply spacing the floor for superstars. Instead, it’s shifted to becoming a more complete point guard with expanded responsibilities.

We don’t know if this reprised role will lead to Chalmers thriving as a leader. If he comes out early with the nourished mindset from Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, Rio could just be the answer that has been under our noses this whole time. Chalmers (28) and Bosh (30) are in the midst of their respective prime years. With Dwyane Wade’s re-conditioned help, Chalmers can be a big part of the team’s playmaking post-LeBron. Chalmers should be more involved with the ball now. If he can be effective in this expanded role, he can join Wade in running pick-and-pops with Bosh and Josh McRoberts to help stretch the floor.

Finding a balance between being an initiator and still deferring to the stars in front of him will be the key to how well he re-adjusts to playing a more traditional version ofpoint guard for the Heat. With Norris Cole still developing his game and possibly pushing Chalmers for more minutes, the motivation to prove his worth is still there for Chalmers. Having a capable replacement breathing down his neck should drive him.

HHHPod – Miami Offseason review

I chat with Earnest Christian and David Ramil to discuss the Miami Heat’s 2014 offseason. They discuss the loss of LeBron James, the new additions of Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, where the Heat stand in the Eastern Conference this coming season, and much more. You can read all of their Heat coverage at

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Do the Heat still have enough outside shooters?

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat

With the loss of some deep shooters, do the Heat still have depth when it comes to outside shooting? Let’s take a look at the options.

Amongst the panic these past weeks, little has been discussed about Miami’s outside shooting moving forward.

The retirement of Shane Battier along with the departure of James Jones, Rashard Lewis and possibly even Ray Allen, has left somewhat of a hole in offense. The Heat did a great job of acquiring capable scorers in Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger while keeping on 26th draft pick Shabazz Napier and rewarding prospectJames Ennis with a rookie contract but the question remains – who’s going to be spacing the floor for Miami?

The natural choice would be Chris Bosh, right? Only this season his role is changing; he’ll no longer be in position to be fed the ball while LeBron is drawing defenders. While instinct would assume his 3-point shooting would increase, it is more than likely to be lower as he will now be the go-to guy close to the basket in his new role. In 2013-14 season alone, Bosh took more 3-pointers (218) than his seven years in Toronto (168). It’s hard to really know if his new developed shooting will find it’s role into the new roster.

McRoberts comes into the Heat as a possible Bosh 2010-14 role filler; the big guy who can spread the floor while being able to catch and pass is more than likely going to take up where Bosh left off. In his 2013-14 season with Charlotte McRoberts threw up 291 attempts from deep (with 36.1% accuracy) the most he’s attempted in any season. A fluke, or an improvement on the 27-year-old’s game?

Not every Heat player has been improving in the 3-point department. In contrast,Dwyane Wade and Deng’s outside shooting have been on the decline in recent years (maybe decline is too generous of a word as it gives the impression Wade used to shoot particularly well). Deng has been efficient from deep at times, and at 29 years old he can still provide tenacity on both ends of the floor to help smooth out the kinks of LeBron’s departure.

However, Deng’s reliability from 3-point range remains in question. He was a league average 3-point shooter (34-35%) in his first season of high volume attempts from three. In 2011-12, Deng made 36.7% of his threes, which would be a welcome accuracy for the Heat this season. The questions come in the last two seasons in which he shot 32.2% and 30.2%, respectively, which is not what the Heat need from him. This shows with a higher volume of attempts he doesn’t have the consistency to be an accurate shooter but maybe if you get him good looks he can be an effective enough shooter.

With LeBron out of the picture, the jury is split on how Wade will perform. Most are quick to discard the mercurial player and his trouble knees with the Heat relying on him heavily. Wade has never excelled in deep shooting (he’s one of the weakest), though Pat Riley’s recent call on him needing to reinvent himself could be enough motivation for the 32-year old to work hard to improve that facet of his game.

The loss of LeBron also opens up new opportunities for Mario Chalmers. With James no longer dominating the court, the combination of Norris Cole and Chalmers is one to be nourished by Spolestra and Riley. We know both can shoot. Moving forward, this could now be the beginning of a point guard run team and while they’re probably not going to be spot-up shooters like in the past, they can still be effective from the outside while handling the ball more often.

Sure it’s not going to be a walk in the park this season but that is what makes this one exciting. There’s no more coasting, or waiting around until we hit April to witness this team’s motivation. A change is coming, so let’s welcome it with open minds.

What’s in store for Steven’s camp


Let Steven guide your children today.

NBA stars are few and far between; some are born with natural talent, others need nurturing. That’s why when I think of “Basketball Camp”, I think of none other than my friend* Steven Adams. I mean, where else are your kids going to learn how to source MVP’s as best mates or how to take an elbow to the head? It just makes sense. Steven begins running his camp over in New Zealand next month, so let’s take a look into what the children of tomorrow will be learning.

Learn how to get your opponents suspended while looking innocent.
Here, Steven teaches the rare skill of “provoking”. From Nate Robinson to Zach Randolph, Adams teaches your children the art of getting under the oppositions skin.  Not everyone has been so blessed to grow up playing rugby like Steven. Kicks to that head and broken bones are as common as a fan wondering why Kendrick Perkins hasn’t been amnestied. Future skills to pay the bills.

Learn to not be a dick!
If there’s one thing I can relate to Steven the most, it’s being a Kiwi in America. When you’re not dealing with another “throw another shrimp on the barbie” quote or explaining that no, you don’t know any hobbits, it’s your job as a New Zealander to make our country look great.

“For me once I go out there to America I’m pretty much representing all of New Zealand because most people haven’t met New Zealand people, so I have to take that into consideration. If I’m like a dick, then they’re like New Zealand guys are dicks. If you’ve just got a normal Kiwi attitude then they’re fine with it” said Steven in Auckland yesterday.

So go forth and be dick-free today!

Being a Kiwi is rad.

Following the lead from Flight of the Conchords, Adams is letting the world in on the Kiwi dry sense of humor. While often regarded as nonchalant, Adams has proven time and time again how important it is not caring about interviews. Be candid, never smile and always make reporters nervous. Adams reminds New Zealanders that their power is in nobody knowing where the hell you’re from. Keep it up, Steven!

Learn real estate with Steven.

Steven knows property. He knows that a clothesline is neither here nor there, he knows his wood, and he can point out the perks of a double oven. Steven Adams Property Developer? Sign me up!

Grooming with Steven.

That hair gel game doesn’t just create itself. Steven will teach your children the art of  the “Scoop and Swoop” – sticking your hand in a tub of gel and hoping for the best. See, this is what makes Steven a double-edge sword, he doesn’t only rely on his hair-gel game to get him over the line, oh no. There is also “Summertime Steven”, a special look Steven crafted throughout this year’s Summer League. Short on testosterone and lacking facial hair is a common occurrence throughout the youth of today, and Steven showcases how to pull off the wispy mustache with conviction.

"I don't think you're ready for this gel ay"

“I don’t think you’re ready for this gel-ay”

Steven will extend your vocabulary

Some players will cruise through a decade of  NBA and leave us with nothing — but not our Steven. Instead he’s generously given us more than most stars in a lifetime.

On his first year in the NBA:

“Probably the biggest thing is the private planes. Wow, that thing’s amazing. Got all the food on there, a bunch of drinks. I don’t know, It’s just amazing, never seen nothing like it. Tables, tables on planes, that’s amazing.”

On Oklahoma City:

“The winter is like, I was sliding around everywhere, it’s really cold. Like thunderstorms, it’s so hot. I was like, ‘Oh, man’. I don’t want to say it sucks, but it’s borderline.”

On watching Kevin Durant play basketball:

“I was amazed like the first time, like ‘Whoa, this is cool’ in practice. But after some time, you get used to it and now it’s just like ‘Cool.’”

“Steven Adams – An elbow in time” – on bookshelves soon.

Steven teaches why New Zealanders are better than Australians.

For most, this is a daily struggle and many misguided Australians go about daily life still not understanding the basic concept – New Zealanders are way cooler than Aussies. While it’s easy to make excuses for the Australians given their low IQ and reluctance to acknowledge their superiors, Steven had been an avid Aussie basher from the start and has used his profile to get the message out there.

“I search out Aussies and make it my job to make their lives miserable” Steven said back in May.

What a guy. Hopefully Steven continues his selfless crusade to get this message out to more people.

It’s OK to be hated.

So what if you got that kid sent off throwing a punch? That’s not your problem! Steven teaches it doesn’t mater if you piss people off, as long as your team is winning.

On people not liking him?

“Kinda sad, to be honest with you. I don’t like people not liking me. I like to think I’m a likable guy. And when they elbowed me, I’m like, “Aww, that’s our friendship out the door.”


*Steven is not really my friend although he should be.

Andrews and Oliver lead looks debate

Erin Andrews.

Erin Andrews.

After reading yesterday’s news involving the “demotion” of Pam Oliver, Fox’s No. 1 sideline reporter, female bloggers are on a tangent like no other. You see, Oliver, who at 53 years old (well in her nineteenth year), has been replaced by Erin Andrews. Tall, blond, beautiful Erin Andrews. Andrews will now occupy the No.1 role for Fox’s NFL team. Oliver will be ok though; she still has a job and it’s a great one. Only the public now feel her diminishing age (and looks) may have been the real reason this change at the helm occurred.

The internet as usual is mad, and posts are already riding on the angle of this being more than blatant disrespect to Oliver.  I’m sure no man or woman feels great about having to step down from such an incredible role, let alone one they’d called their own for almost 20 years, but this is TV. In fact it’s no longer just about TV; it’s branding, it’s social media retweets, website clicks and engaging audience. Heck, this sounds like it’s almost a business?

For the majority, I’m more than certain most have ignored 36-year-old Andrews’ sporting pedigree, instead focusing on her looks. While reading the opening paragraph to one article yesterday I could already see how this would pan out. It was more apparent in a few short hours this would either turn into a race debate, or an “out with the old” spiel among the obvious allegations it was simply about looks.

A good-looking women on the sideline prompts eye rolls. There’s no way she knows anything. Slept her way to the top. Must have a guy in the background helping.  The average fan then googles said reporters qualifications all in the hope of feeling vindicated with their assessment. Be it attractive or not, female sports reporters fight the ongoing battle of being taken seriously.

Entering the world of sports media is no easy task for a young woman wanting to enter a predominantly male field. If you’re deemed “attractive” you, for the rest of your career will be proving you are more than just looks. Woman almost start off with a media handicap, somewhat disadvantaged before they’ve even started. Yet, to contradict this barrier, your “looks” are the reason you got the gig in the first place. You’re just not supposed to acknowledge it. Instead, you are instructed by mentors and editors to look as A-sexual as you can across social media. There won’t be any summer bikini shots from you, hell no – no feeding the internet hounds today. You’d just be giving them what they want.

Who are they? Well they’re the ones who will never follow (insert attractive female reporter here) or tune in. They’ll never read their work or acknowledge that they know their sport.  They too are knowledgable, only no one notices them. Why? Because society deems them as “un-marketable”.

And now we come full circle.

Before Andrews was even presented the role she was screwed. In other words, you’re damned if you do and your damned if you don’t.  For no matter her experience or what the decision makers have in mind for their network, the public outcome was already determined – this was based on looks.

We don’t have to lash out at Andrews or feel we need to protect Oliver. I’m sure both view this nothing more than the evolution of sports broadcasting, after all it’s been happening to mens television for years.

But, for some women on the internet, it remains irrelevant.

Thanks, LeBron


Dear LeBron.

I’ve spent numerous hours being emotional over sport. This time it’s personal. I’ve always wanted the chance to be able to sit down and tell you how you are the reason for the dramatic changes in my life these past two years.

You’ve walked past me several times, once yelled out at me to avoid running me over and while I’m sure I’m no more than another fan amongst your legions of admirers, to me, you are one of the most significant people I have never met.

I only discovered you around 2005-06. Then, you were nothing more than a background on my then boyfriend’s MySpace page. He was a Celtics fan but loved you.

“He’s the best player in the world” he told me.

I, on the other hand, didn’t care for you at all and hated that our Saturday mornings (Australian time) were consumed by watching you instead of sleeps-ins and brunches.

Initially I thought you were full of it until I started to watch documentaries on you and read more about the one they called “The King”. Day by day you were growing on me and despite me being a then-casual Miami Heat fan, your journey was one I followed closely.

In 2010, I sat at my desk at the magazine publishing house I worked for and watched the news of your decision while pretending to edit copy. You chose South Beach and then and there my partner and I booked a trip to see you play in March 2011.

Weeks past and in that time I left my boyfriend, he instead went on the trip alone and I sat back regretting I never went. All I wanted was to see you play live. Sport is my soul existence, I live and breath it and just like Roger Federer, Usain Bolt and Rafael Nadal, you were another athlete I simply had to see before I missed the boat.

More time passed until last year in Feburay 2013 while watching the Miami Heat going on their winning streak, I finally booked my big trip to Miami to see you and the Heat, play. I’d never been here before and I was coming here alone. All I wanted was to cross seeing you dunk off my bucket list.

I landed here in Miami at 3am on a Friday, the Heat were playing Boston in one of the last regular season games. I woke up around noon, walked out of my hotel and took in South Beach like any tourist would before getting ready for the game.
I walked into the arena like a kid. There you were. This was really happening. I needed to share it all with friends and Twitter so I turned on my wifi and racked up an $1100 phone bill. I hardly remember the game. I was drunk on elation. Who cares. I was here getting to experience one of the greatest in our era play.

Then be it a mix of timing and fate, I never returned home. I stayed on and watched you win your second NBA Championship live. Game 6, I too stood 11 rows back and watched Ray chuck up that 3. Watched you receive your 4th MVP award. All of it. And it wasn’t just one Finals run, you lead me to two. Two ridiculous NBA Finals, one good, one not so much, both engraved into my memory for years to come. In turn, I experienced the most incredible three months of my life because you chose to come and play here.

I often wonder would I have ever saved and flown over to the US if you went to another team or stayed in Cleveland? Would I have stuck to the predictable L.A and NYC sporting destinations? I’ll never know, I just sit and think how crazy all of this has been.

What a ride! If it wasn’t for you I’d still be in Australia. If it wasn’t for you I’d have never known how much I was capable of enduring. The struggle to return to New Zealand for my Visa, leaving my family and friends, living in the ghetto in Miami because I’d run out of money. All of that made me a stronger person.

I witnessed some of the greatest basketball ever because of you. I met people I never would have, because of you. No, this is not a Kelly Clarkson song. This past 18 months have quite simply all come down to you. I continue on in Miami as a Heat fan regardless and I do hope you make the town of Ohio feel they way I did these past years.

I cant wait to see you return to Miami with the Cavs. I’m only sorry I never knew this was coming. But its not about me. Its about you.

Thank you. You will be missed.

I cant wait to see you return to Miami with the Cavs. I’m only sorry I never knew this was coming. But its not about me. Its about you.

Thank you. You will be missed.

Sometimes worse is better


Bernard Tomic is no Tim Cahill.

There’s been no rooting for the young Australian going into this weeks Wimbledon. No Instagram odes or viral videos wishing the former Australian darling of tennis well wishes, that is unless you count “I hope Tomic loses” as support. Straya, mate.

Instead, Tomic remains a far cry from Australia’s most beloved sportsman on the world stage and it’s partly due to his father, John. Unlike down under, the rest of the world doesn’t spend two days running repetitive stories about Bernie alledeglly caught up in a cocaine scandal (they’d prefer to stick to reputable news, like Caroline Wozniacki being dumped). For years, now it’s been Bernard’s father wearing the hat for sideline parenting gone wrong. Finally in May 2013, his continual courtside antics came to a halt and he was barred from being accredited for any of his son’s matches. The ATP doesn’t care for headbutting defenceless trainers, nor are they fond of bullying.

Given recent events, most believed this was Bernard’s chance to “get away”, to become his own person. It was often regarded this change would do him a world of good, not under his fathers scrutiny. Perhaps he would find his independence on the court all in the hope his fallen ranking would rise.

It seemed for a moment the world may have turned for Tomic. He cruised unscathed throughout the Australian summer of tennis, reaching the Sydney International final only to be beaten by Juan Martin del Potro. He came into the Australian Open earlier this year with the world on his shoulders.  Not since the 2013 US Open had Tomic advanced past the first round. His ranking was nothing more than a dance of inconsistency, and the public support had already dwindled. In Melbourne he drew number 1, Rafa Nadal, only to end up ripped to shreds by the media and public for leaving the star-studded bout with injury. Standing opposite to Nadal, it looked as though Tomic was going to put up a real fight. That is of course until he didn’t. Withdrawing in the second set with “groin gate”, it was now clear Australia were done with Tomic. “Be gone,” they said. “You’re un-Australian (whatever that meant).” Every last ounce of support for the mercurial 21-year old was wiped. He could almost be playing with a clean slate if he knew the meaning of it. The hot-tub fight, the lap dancing, the speeding. So Tomic.

Tomic was now nothing more than a jerk, but despite all the backlash it wasn’t enough for him. After two months out of the tennis circuit recovering from hip surgery, Tomic returned in the most inconspicuous way imaginable, returning to play in the 2014 Sony Open Tennis, where he lost the first round in 28 minutes. What made that so newsworthy? The match was the shortest recorded professional tennis match in ‘Open Era’ history. Amazing.

Today was different though. Bernie won and he won convincingly. Defeating Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-4 6-3 6-2, Tomic let it be known he can still play, particually when Dad is watching. Could it be that despite this tumultuous father/son combo, sometimes bad just makes good? Is it simply that John is Bernie’s Yoko Ono? Regardless of his unorthodox approach to coaching, Bernard is a better player with his fathers direction; he WANTS him there.

Now, while it may feel we have endured these two for years, they are still just starting. Bernie who turns 22 in October could possibly have now put the worst behind him and unless dad goes on another bashing tirade, John John is here to stay.

On Wednesday, world number 6 Tomas Berdych will meet Tomic in the second round. The 6’5″ Czech will be hard to get on top of but Tomic has what it takes if he wants it. Cast your mind back three years ago at Wimbledon where an 18 year old Tomic was nothing more than a pipe dream when he made the quarterfinals. 2011 was along time ago. It all looked so bright.

So Tomic.

Is it a shame our best odds at winning Grand Slams is produced from feral breeding? Sure. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the music.