Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

LeBron… errrrr… Heat gets its target

MIAMI — The newest addition to the Heat is still overwhelmed by the endorsement.

Point guard Shabazz Napier made plenty of memories while starring at Connecticut before being selected in the first round of Thursday's draft: two national titles, first-team all-Big East, Huskies' top scorer his final two seasons.

None of that compares to being adored by the game's best player.

Napier will enter training camp not only as a potential solution to the Heat's point guard problem, but a player coveted by LeBron James. It was James who offered praise in April, when Napier was leading UConn in the Final Four.

James then was the first on social media to congratulate the Heat for trading up two spots to land Napier, who was drafted by Charlotte at No. 24 before being acquired by Miami.

Napier called James' strong backing "special."

"Sometimes, you don't get recognized," Napier said Friday. "If one of the best, if not the best, players in the world is recognizing you, I definitely appreciate it."

Heat president Pat Riley said he wasn't meeting any demands from James. He also likes the 6-foot-1 Napier. Still, it doesn't hurt to appease James during this important time. James recently opted out of the final two seasons of his contract to become a free agent.

"He's a winner. He's talented. He's skilled," Riley said of Napier.

"You just have to watch him play the game. I know LeBron tweeted something in the NCAAs about him. I mean, why not? I don't tweet. The point is LeBron and I have the same taste in talent."

Multiple media outlets reported throughout the week the Heat would attempt to move up from the 26th spot to draft Napier. He was projected as a mid-round pick but slipped.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Friday that the Heat actually had planned to gamble to see if he would fall until its pick. It came up two short but quickly dealt its first- and second-round picks of this year's draft and a 2019 second-rounder to the Hornets.

Napier said he never lost confidence while waiting in the draft room.

"It was good. I had a ball," he said. "I was told I wasn't going to go that far back. I wasn't stressing.

"The look on my mother's face, the look on my niece's face had me not thinking about what was going on. I was able to focus, especially being with my family."

Carmelo talks: Free agent forward Carmelo Anthony will meet with the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, Rockets and Mavericks, Yahoo Sports reported. The report said there is no front-runner and he hopes to decide during the second week of July. He can talk to teams starting Tuesday but can't sign until July 10.

Grizzlies: Forward Zach Randolph exercised a $16.5 million player option for 2014-15 season and agreed to a two-year extension worth $20 million. This season, Randolph, who turns 33 on July 16, averaged team highs of 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds.

Wizards: Forward Martell Webster had back surgery for a hernia­ted disc Thursday, the team said. He will miss 3-5 months, which could last into the regular season. Webster, who averaged 9.7 points and 2.8 rebounds last season, was hurt during a workout last week.

Draft ratings: ESPN drew its highest draft rating Thursday. The 3.1 overnight (about 3.6 million) surpassed the 2.7 of 2003, when James was the first overall pick. Last year drew a 2.6.

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