When fishing for NBA whales, better know the peculiar traits of each species

 

Pat Riley invented the notion of hunting for “whales” in NBA free agency. You know, the biggest of the big in terms of talent, which implies the ability to turn a team into a championship contender overnight plus, of course, the immense amount of money they must be fed.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin (No. 32) of the Los Angeles Clippers. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Some of the names being thrown around this year don’t seem to fit the category all that naturally for me. Sure, the current salary structure may indicate maximum contracts are due, but does the player’s actual production deserve that special designation?

Let’s say Miami could get a shot at the following free agents, though in some cases it is ridiculous to ponder, and let’s separate them out by their particular species of whale.

Blue whale (Largest animal on earth at 69 to 90-plus feet in length) – We’re talking Kevin Durant here. He won’t be leaving the Warriors, of course, but what a splash he would make with any new team.

Finback whale (72-82 feet) – It’s a stretch but I’ll put Blake Griffin here because he averages 21 points and close to 10 rebounds per game and has high visibility from appearances in several national TV commercials. Guy gets injured every playoff season, though, and his attitude is suspect.

Right whale (45-60 feet) – Here we find Gordon Hayward, just once an All-Star, and Chris Paul. The first is a sensational shooter but is not always in monster mode. The second, Paul, is a trusted leader and a tough competitor but needs to be teamed with other top stars in order to chase a title.

Sperm whale (35-60 feet) – Deliberately leaving this one blank so that none of you goofballs out there start snickering.

Humpback whale (42-50 feet) – Here we find Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap and Miami’s Dion Waiters, three guys who lack the consistency to scare you every night. Dwyane Wade could fit this, too, if he options out of the $24 million that Chicago owes him, which I would not advise.

Minke whale (28-30 feet) – Shaun Livingston and Patty Mills are postseason tough but can’t rate them much higher on the food chain if they’re not automatic starters.

Beluga whale (13-15 feet) – JJ Reddick, Jrue Holiday and Taj Gibson. There’s a lot to like about all of these guys but they would still be role players on a great team.

Narwhal (13-15) feet) – This animal is just plain gnarly, with a long tusk protruding from its mouth and plenty of other traits that only Charles Darwin could love. I’m thinking Kelly Olynyk here, right?

[Malik Zaire is what Gators want, but what they need is Franks as starting QB]

[Will Trubisky match numbers of Tannehill, another lightly-used college QB?]

[From the day he left high school, LeBron was compared to Magic Johnson]

 

Kyle Lowry’s Game 3 breakout is where Heat lost control of the series

To me the story of the Heat-Raptors series was told in the second half of Game 3, and it happened, somewhat surprisingly, at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat had gained a road split to open the series, remember, and everything was looking good for a 2-1 lead with one more game to play in Miami.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 15:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Tyler Johnson #8 of the Miami Heat defends in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Tyler Johnson of the Miami Heat defends in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

How could that possibly be with Hassan Whiteside sidelined by a knee injury earlier in the same game?

Because Dwyane Wade went on one of his classic scoring spurts in the third quarter that night. He scored 18 of Miami’s 28 points in the period, with a couple of three-pointers back to back. That woke up a sluggish offense and tied the game at 68-68. The place was booming with sound and confidence and with love for the franchise’s cornerstone player.

Then Kyle Lowry put out the fire.

Toronto’s all-star guard is not Wade’s equal. Never will be.

Fact is, Lowry scored just seven points in the series opener against Miami and topped 20 points just one in the previous seven-game series against Indiana.

In the fourth quarter of that Game 3 on May 7, however, Lowry hit his stride. He scored 14 points in the period with a couple of three-pointers included at the cruelest possible times.

His game total of 33 points couldn’t top Wade’s 38, but the power of his fourth-quarter leadership gave Toronto a 95-91 victory. Miami suddenly was down in the series and never back got on top of it again.

Lowry probably won’t average 23.4 points per game in the Eastern Conference finals the way he did against Miami. He won’t be anywhere close to being the best player on the court either.

[Some things LeBron might be doing during long break between playoff rounds]

[Winslow and Richardson bring Heat a rare boost from the NBA draft]

[QB Brandon Doughty well worth a seventh-round pick for Dolphins]

Don’t expect him to back down, though, against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. He’s another of those tough-minded guys from Villanova, and a Philadelphia kid from the start. Listen to this quote and you’ll hear it.

“LeBron’s probably one of the best players in the league, besides Steph Curry,” Lowry said after his own 35-point against the Heat in Sunday’s Game 7 of the Eastern semifinals.

LeBron might have treated Wade with a little kindness if the Heat had advanced, once King James was done scoring 30 points and all. It won’t be that way with Lowry.

It’s an opportunity that Lowry first started earning, though, in Game 3 at Miami and then carried to a rousing conclusion. All we can say is good luck to him, and of course good luck to the first Canadian team ever to reach the conference finals, eh?