NBA Notes: Wade says Game 5 should be the best

slideshow-061413-heat-wade-uspresswire.jpg

NBA Notes: Wade says Game 5 should be the best

SAN ANTONIO -- The question in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday will be which teams are going to show up.

That goes for both the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

After a thrilling Game 1, won by the Spurs on Tony Parker's clinching basket, the teams haven't delivered a classic since. The Heat won by 19, lost by 36 and cruised by 16. The last few minutes of each game have looked more like an October exhibition than a mid-June championship clash.

Maimi's Dwyane Wade says fans shouldn't worry. He expects Game 5 to be the best of the series.

In finals knotted at 2-all, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series 20 out of 27 times (see full story).

Spurs: Team worried about Ginobili
SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili isn't scoring.

He's played a careless game instead of his famously creative one. So far in these NBA Finals, where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade just delivered a forceful reminder in Game 4 about stars deciding this series, the San Antonio Spurs are still waiting on one of their biggest.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Friday that Ginobili hasn't found a rhythm in the playoffs. But he says it's too simplistic to merely ask, "What are we going to do to get him going?"

Simplistic, maybe. But their prospects of the Spurs winning a fifth title may hinge on just that.

Ginobili scored just five points in Thursday night's loss. He's averaging 7.5 points in the Finals, down from his 11.8 scoring average during the regular season (see full story).

Nuggets: Gallinari could return sooner than expected
DENVER -- Danilo Gallinari's knee surgery wasn't as complex as anticipated, so he could return to the Denver Nuggets sooner than expected.

Gallinari tore his left ACL in a game against Dallas on April 4 and was expected to miss at least half of next season. He underwent surgery this week at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, where he was operated on by noted surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman.

Team spokesman Tim Gelt forwarded a statement from the clinic to The Associated Press on Friday night that read: "Danilo Gallinari had an arthroscopic procedure to promote healing of his ACL tear, which was found to be partially torn at the time of surgery. Dr. Steadman has performed over 2,000 of these procedures. We are hopeful that Danilo will return to basketball sooner than if he had a complete ACL reconstruction."

Gallinari also posted a video Friday on his official Facebook page in which he delivered the good news, saying in Italian that his recovery time will be "completely different" that previously expected (see full story).

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said Tuesday following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk. … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in "I Am Legend," and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”