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Monday, October 13, 2014

Luol Deng on facing the Hawks following this summer's controversy: 'Obviously, that’s going to be in the back of your head'

Heat forward Luol Deng plays the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday for the first time since the organization used offensive language to describe him in a scouting report.

“Obviously that’s going to be in the back of your head, but it’s the players that you’re playing against,” Deng said. “They’re not the ones who said what was said.”

During a meeting with Hawks executives and owners over the summer, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry disparaged Deng by calling into question his character. Ferry also inferred that Deng’s African heritage somehow detracted from his abilities as a basketball player. Following the controversy, Ferry was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the team.

Deng hopes to use the incident to “do something so someone benefits for the mistaken that was made,” but the Heat’s forward hasn’t had any contact with Ferry or the Hawks. Deng said on Monday after practice that he was closer to signing with the Hawks than the Heat at one point during free agency, and that interest from Chris Bosh helped sway Deng to the Heat.

Heat makes first cuts to roster with more on the way

The Heat waived Chris Johnson and Reggie Williams after returning from Rio de Janeiro. The roster stands at 18 players, but teams can only carry 15 players during the regular season.

At this point, five players are competing for two roster spots: guards Shannon Brown, Tyler Johnson and Andre Dawkins, and forwards Khem Birch and Shawn Jones. Based on playing time and the Heat's needs, Brown and Dawkins appear to have inside tracks, but even those players aren't locks. The Heat also could waive all five players and sign two free agents to fill out its roster.

Dawkins is a young player with nice range, and that combination is tough to find on the Heat's roster. Brown offers a tough veteran presence and he told the Miami Herald last week that he's confident he'll be making the team.

The Rio wrap-up blog post: Stuff I learned

No.1 Don't drink the water.

I'm not saying I went around chugging the stuff from the tap, but somewhere along the way my body was invaded by black death. Still, I managed to write THIS and THIS and THIS and THIS and I'm back at practice today, but don't ask me how.

No.2 Blanket statement here: Chocolate in Brazil can save the world.

No.3 Huge growth potential for the NBA in Brazil. During one 15-minute walk, I saw about 10 beach volleyball players who could probably play right now in the D-League.

No.4 Good luck covering the Olympics, guys and gals. Get ready for all-day bus rides.

No.5 Those girls don't think you're cute. Those girls are working.

No.6 The NBA should adopt tassel nets.

 Tasslenets

No.7 When in doubt, stay as close as possible to the guys with the big guns.

 Security

No.9 They know how to throw parties in Rio.

IMG_3034

No.10 The Heat is a long way from ready for the regular season.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

When Spoelstra gives you a 'Spo smile,' you know something's up

#### UPDATE ####

—So, I'm all set to go cover Heat practice after a nine-hour flight and a long wait in customs and an even longer bus ride. I get on the elevator heading down to the lobby in this hotel in Rio ON THE BEACH and the lift stops at the third floor.

The doors open and there's Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and his top assistant, David Fizdale, and they're both staring at me ... and not getting on the elevator. Spoelstra then smiles one of his Spo smiles, and the doors close. I get off at the lobby prepared to board the bus for another ride...and that's when I figured out what that Spo smile meant.

The Heat canceled practice today.

________________________________

FROM EARLIER TODAY

For the first time in over four years, the Heat is on the outside staring into the LeBron fishbowl, and that reality is going to set in here in Rio de Janeiro over the next three days.

In the meantime, Chris Bosh says he's just happy to be here.

“I’m looking forward to having a great time,” Bosh said. “I’ve never been. I think this is a chance for us to soak in another culture and take a nice trip in the NBA, so this is always a good opportunity to see the world. If it wasn’t for basketball, I wouldn’t have gone to 100 percent of the places that I’ve been to, so I’m very excited and looking forward to meeting to some Brazilians.”

Such an ambassador, that Christopher Wesson Bosh.

So ... this Rio place is pretty exciting, and I can't wait to experience it (or experience as much of it as the NBA security apparatus will allow. We had some kind of serious police/military/commando escort from the airport to the hotel, which is across the street from the beach.)

My first bit of Rio exploration invovled me trying a Coca-Cola. I just had to do. Coke! ... In Rio! ... And it tastes like Coke!

Next on the agenda is Heat practice from 2-4 p.m. local time. (Rio is an hour ahead of Miami.) I'll update the blog accordingly, and in the meantime drink more Coke to stay awake.

 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

On the Heat's growing concerns at point guard and other observations from the second preseason game

Norris Cole started at point guard and he played well, so that was a major positive for the Heat on Tuesday night in its second preseason game, a 108-101 overtime loss to the Orlando Magic.

Now the bad news.

While Cole's debut at helm of the offense helped calm some troubled waters, it is already obvious (and sometimes painfully so) that the Heat's needs at point guard go well beyond who is introduced on the videoboard before the game. Starter is important, yes, but so is depth, and the Heat doesn't it have it right now in the backcourt.

The memory of LeBron James has cast a long shadow over the position.

Cole finished with six assists and two points in less than 27 minutes, and that allowed Mario Chalmers to come off the bench as something of a hybrid guard. I wouldn't call it a true Sixth Man role at this point because, well, he also had to do plenty of ball handling, which has never been a true strength. The Heat could use a third point guard, but rookie Shabazz Napier is developing slowly.

Napier has received minutes at the end of both preseason games, but nothing more, and he has had trouble getting off shots, which is a troubling.

Cole noted after that game that the Heat had been sloppy at point guard to begin camp and he focused on cleaning some of that up. The Heat had 22 assists to nine turnovers overall (not bad), but was an even better 17-to-4 in turnover-to-assist ratio entering the fourth quarter.

—James Ennis was a bright spot once again for a rebuilding team looking for young and athletic players at a bargain. Ennis 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in less than 29 minutes of work, and also sparked the comeback near the end of regulation.

—Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and looked better than his preseason debut against Anthony Davis in New Orleans.

—Can't blog much tonight. Gotta catch a bus to the airport and then a flight to Brazil.

Stuff from the Heat's shootaround today, including Spoelstra on LeBron, Stan Van Gundy and this 'microwave society' we all live in

Dwyane Wade called the Heat’s point-guard position a work in progress on Tuesday after the Heat’s shoot around. The progress continues tonight with a home preseason game against the Orlando Magic before the team boards a plane for Brazil. The Heat plays LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday in Rio, and one of the biggest voids the Heat must fill after losing LeBron is at point guard. Mario Chalmers is the veteran at the position, but his role as completely different last year than what it is expected to be this season. Norris Cole is the backup at the position, but pushing to be the starter.

“We’ll need them to be aggressive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his point guards this season. “They’ll have more opportunities than they have in the past. I don’t want them thinking they have to shoulder all the responsibility to create opportunities for the rest of the team, but the more aggressive they are and the more confident they are, the better it is for us.”

Tons more from shootaround Spoelstra today:

## On the offense:

“We’ve made some progress. We’re trying to balance the two so we’re really trying to set the tone defensively for this training camp. But offensively we’ve been spending this time trying to build continuity and trust and working on helping each other get open shots. I thought the other with the second unite they did a very good job of moving the ball and helping each other.”

--The Heat has put in long hours in the gym in the last two days after a poor showing against the New Orleans Pelicans. Spoelstra is hoping for a result (or at least a few major signs of progress) tonight against the Magic:

“We spent the last two days really working on the whole group and we really made some progress. We’ll see tonight when we get some real defense out there.”

## How to implement an offense with a guy as important and unique as Josh McRoberts out with an injury:

“I think that’s what helps because he is so unique and so skilled and has such a high IQ, Josh can fit in to virtually any kind of offense and he’ll make it work and he’ll make it seem to flow. When you think of flow, that’s usually when you have either a super-high IQ point guard, or a super-skilled high IQ big, and that just helps the flow of your offense. I think he’ll be able to fit in. He’s doing things in practice and he’s very observant. He asks all the right questions. But a lot of what we’re doing anyway is because of the skill level of our bigs.”

##On the progress of James Ennis:

“We went into it with an open mind and the way we’re looking at James is we want to invest time in him. It has been two summers and two summer leagues and one training camp, partially, and he has made progress. We just want to continue for him to grow, and get better and understand our system and see where he can go. He’s already much better than he was last summer. When you have young players like that who are hungry and who also have a very good work ethic, you don’t know what their ceiling can be”

--So, it sounds like Ennis is still very much a work in progress. Spoelstra used a lot of D-League buzzwords and phrases there if you were paying attention.

##Where is Luol Deng fitting offensively:

“I think he fits in with all those intangible gaps. He is really a versatile player, which obviously we like those kind of guys. They can do a lot of different things. But he is very comfortable and efficient playing off the ball. And I think that fits into our system very well with his cuts and his secondary post ups and his offensive rebounding and his random, miscellaneous drives. And we think he is an underrated shooter. So all of these things we think fit with the type of game we’re doing because he makes it work.”

##On Stan Van Gundy returning to the profession:

“I’m sure the Detroit press is loving it. They’re going to have a new storyline every single day. But Stan definitely seems reinvigorated. We text now probably more than we talk because both of us our so busy. But we text enough. I probably fired off a text right before training camp asking him, ‘Are you sure this is really what you want to do? I’m sure it is quite different than what he was doing last September, just hanging out.’”

##Van Gundy was out the league for two seasons. Will he have to play catch up? What’s different in the league then and now?

“Stan is super sharp. He’ll figure out whatever adjustments…it wasn’t like he was on a total exodus from the league. He was watching the league, and saw how everything was going. That’s one of his strengths, being able to adapt.”

## Has Van Gundy mellowed out at all?

“No, not at all. I wish I had more time to talk to him. It’s just that I love the give and take and arguing and hilarity of the conversations usually. And it might not have anything remotely to do with basketball. Oftentimes it’s not.”

## On the Heat’s coaching staff and how it’s working out?

 “Number one, we wanted it to be a player development staff. Number 2, there is great continuity and No.3 there is great versatility. Guys with a lot of different backgrounds and former head coaching experience. Keith [Smart] is only 50 years old and he has a wealth of NBA experience. And we have future head coaches in line and everybody is hungry and ready to work because there is going to have to be a lot of work done this year.”

## With the TV deal and player contracts getting shorter, the importance of having core Heat players like Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade:

“It is absolutely vital. It is absolutely critical in our microwave society now, and it is seeping into pro sports more than ever. We always talk about how there is constant change and turnover in pro sports, well now it is on steroids. Your windows to put together great teams are shorter, your windows to even have a familiar group of guys to build a culture is shorter. And if you don’t have that consistency in your organization, you’re leaving it to random chance. That’s the toughest thing to do, to build consistency and continuity, and it starts with your ownership and your management and then everything just falls into line from there. So, the one thing you can count on with the Heat is stability. That doesn’t guarantee you anything, but at least it gives you a head start.”

## What will it be like facing LeBron on Saturday?

“I haven’t gotten to that point, but it will probably be a little strange. At least we’re in a different country for it, so the whole trip will be a different experience.”

Monday, October 06, 2014

Vague and Tenebrous Tweets by Almario Vernard Chalmers: Did Chalmers get benched today?

This is a running blog post of all the entertaining stuff Mario Chalmers writes on Twitter and/or Instagram...

This is a great thing, this new blog-post idea, because I can pretty much speculate about whatever I want because Mario Chalmers is so enjoyably vague and tenebrous when he communicates with ... his fans? ... his teammates? ... his coaches? ... his family? ... himself? I'm not quite sure, but does it matter? That's also part of the fun, obviously. Who the heck is Mario Chalmers talking to and what on Earth is he talking about?

Monday, Oct. 6, 2014

Is Mario Chalmers benched?

I raise this question based on purely anecdotal evidence, if you even want to call it that. After a long day of practice, in which the team ran over its scheduled stopping time by at least an hour, Chalmers posted this to Instagram:

"After the day of negativity I had it's good to b around some positive energy..."

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 9.49.35 PM

Why would Chalmers be depressed? Well, being demoted to second-string point guard is enough to put anyone from Miami in a bad mood. (Of course, so is being in stuck in traffic on Biscayne Boulevard waiting on that damn bridge, or getting busted for smash porn, or, you know, getting plucked from your bubble by the Coast Guard.) Anyway, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has said several times during training camp that competition is wide open at point guard. Norris Cole has made it clear that he is pushing to be the team's starter, and, of course, Chalmers didn't exactly have the best possible finish to the 2014 playoffs.

He was benched for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and there was probably a time after The Finals when he thought he wasn't returning to the Heat.

Anyway, Chalmers went 0 of 2 for two points in the Heat's preseason opener. He played just 21 minutes and recorded two assists and two turnovers. Meanwhile, Cole played more than 23 minutes and went 4 of 8 from the field for 10 points and had four steals, two assists and didn't commit a turnover.

It is of vital importance this season that the Heat identities a reliable point guard who can manage a game, run the team's offense and score some points. The Heat didn't have a true point guard during its championship run because, of course, LeBron.

Josh McRoberts might not be fully healthy for the #Heat season opener, which is kind of a problem.

Last week we asked the all-important question "Is it time to start worrying about the Heat's projected starting power forward?" and the answer appears to be yes. Yes, it is time to worry.

On Monday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra indicated that Josh McRoberts might not be cleared medically in time for the start of the regular season. The Heat opens the season on Oct. 29 with a home game against the Washington Wizards. McRoberts is recovering from offseason surgery on is left great toe.

“It’s too early to tell, but he’s doing a lot,” Spoelstra said. “I anticipate he’ll increase his workload significantly in the next week to 10 days.

The Heat plays the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday before flying to Brazil for a preseason game against LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. McRoberts certainly isn't expected to play in either game unless, of course, Spoelstra is being completely evasive, which sometimes he is wont to do.

But, for the purposes of this blog post, let's assume McRoberts is out for at least the next 10 days, which means at best he'll be back for the Heat's preseason home game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 17. That appears to be a best-case scenario.

McRoberts missed the Heat's preseason opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, which rasied more questions than it answered, and it's beginning to seem like there will be plenty of questions revolving around this team by the time the season starts. For starters, McRoberts is supposed to be an important piece to the team's new offensive system, so if McRoberts isn't playing preseason games and participating fully in practice, then the Heat can't really implement much of what it plans to build upon throughout the season.

So, that's kind of a problem.

It means that even if McRoberts is healthy by the season opener, and plays against the Wizards, the team will only be starting at square one. On top of that, the Heat will be playing without LeBron James for the first time in four years. Some major growing pains could be in store for the Eastern Conference's four-time defending champions, but, hey, it could always be worse.

OF NOTE

## Chris Andersen went through a full practice session on Monday, according to Spoelstra, but Andersen remains questionable for Tuesday's game due to a sore calf and foot.

## Asked if all 20 players in camp were traveling to Brazil on Tuesday night, Spoelstra said yes, but left room for doubt. "Yes, as of right now," he said.

## A story on how the NBA's new national television deals could affect the Heat will be in Tuesday's paper.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Here are three things to think about after tonight's loss by the #Heat

STUFF I'M THINKING ABOUT

1. Could rookie forward James Ennis average more than 10 points per game as a rookie?

If that actually happened, everyone in the Heat's scouting department should get raises. An unexpected offensive infusion this season from someone like Ennis would certainly help compensate for the loss of LeBron James. Ennis led the Heat with 17 points tonight in Miami's 98-86 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Ennis, who played in Perth, Australia, last year, is an athletic wing who has put in the work developing his outside shot since graduating from Long Beach State. The Heat is hoping for big things from Ennis as a back-up to Luol Deng, and he delivered in his first NBA preseason game.

2. Birdman and Josh McRoberts didn't play. Is it time to start worrying?

Probably not, but it's not a positive sign that Chris Andersen finished last season with an injury and he's nursing another injury after the first week of training camp. Soreness and aches and pains are common in the preseason, of course, but for someone who relies so much on athleticism, it's at least worth noting. Josh McRoberts is being held out as a precaution after having surgery on his toe after last season's playoffs. That's not unusual either, but a lot is expected out of McRoberts this season and it would help if he could use the preseason to learn the Heat's system while also getting into shape (as opposed to doing that over the first month of the regular season).

3.Did Chris Bosh shoot at all during the offseason?

Chris Bosh went 3 of 13 in his debut as the Heat's offensive focal point. As first impression go, that's not a good one. Does it matter? Not one iota, of course. It's the first preseason game. Still, Bosh's poor night shooting isn't going to build any confidence among teammates. He'll need to round into form before the season starts, and the first preseason home game on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic would be a good time to start.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Stuff I saw at the Heat scrimmage and other things from training camp like the depth chart and also some craft beer

So, let's start this blog post by first making note that, while I was setting up my laptop and munching on some carrots courtside on Wednesday night before the Heat's scrimmage, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra walked up for some small talk and asked, "What could you possibly write about this scrimmage or take away from it?" or something like that.

And then I wrote this: MY STORY IN TODAY'S PAPER ABOUT THE HEAT'S SCRIMMAGE

Spoelstra also asked me if I was on a gluten-free diet because I was eating carrots and almonds, and I assured him that, no, I prefer gluten over all other protein composites because, well, obviously and also and such and such and so on.

Well, turns out, there were things worth observing from the scrimmage — important things, actually. As in, who didn't play.

Chris Andersen didn't compete in the scrimmage and neither did Josh McRoberts. Andersen has a sore calf muscle, and of course you would have known this immediately last night if you follow me on Twitter. McRoberts still hasn't been fully cleared by the Heat's training staff after having surgery on his left great toe following last season's playoffs, but we already knew that and asked this question about McRoberts on Wednesday afternoon.

—The training camp roster stands at 20 players right now and a lot of people are probably wondering who's going to make the team because there are 13 new players in camp. Five players will be cut before the regular season and fans are always wondering about the 13th, 14th and 15th players on the roster because it's important to people who will sit on the bench all season or get shipped back and forth between Sioux Falls.

So, right now I'd say Justin Hamilton, Shawne Williams and Andre Dawkins are the 13th, 14th and 15th players, but in no particular order. Hamilton can't compete in contact drills until Oct. 20 after being diagnosed with a heart flutter on Monday, so that might hurt his chances.

—I spoke to Hamilton on Wednesday night and he said he was doing fine and feeling great. He was treated on Monday for his heart flutter, so hopefully everything is back to normal for him very soon. He had a great season in Sioux Falls last year before being signed by the Charlotte Hornets and then the Heat.

—Note: Hamilton has a trigger on his one-year, non-guaranteed contract this season that pays him about $400,000 if he's still on the team on Dec.1. Hamilton has already been paid half of his contract, which started at the end of last season.

DEPTH CHART AFTER THE FIRST WEEK OF CAMP

POINT GUARD

—Mario Chalmers

Chalmers entered camp in good shape, which is important because his backup is a fitness nut and a workaholic and gunning for starting point-guard role. Chalmers had some good moments during the scrimmage, but his attempted alley-oop off the glass to Tyler Johnson was a poor decision.

—Norris Cole

Always improving, Cole's development as a point guard could give the Heat some options this season on the depth chart. If Cole can start at point guard, then Chalmers might come off the bench to spell Dwyane Wade. Chalmers could be a solid Sixth Man if put in the right situation, at least that's what the Heat might be thinking.

—Shabazz Napier

The Heat is hoping he can develop fast enough to be a viable option as a backup. That would free up Chalmers to be the Sixth Man, and allow Cole to be the starter. The most important thing Napier can provide at this point is solid defense, and he did that during the scrimmage.

SHOOTING GUARD

—Dwyane Wade

Did Dwyane Wade things early in the scrimmage. He's healthy, so that's all that really matters here.

—Shannon Brown

Traveling call while being guarded by Napier wasn't a good moment, but other than that Brown provided a veteran presence. He was 3 of 4 from the field shooting.

—Andre Dawkins

Using a very light pencil here for Dawkins, who is an undrafted rookie. He is from Duke, though, and the Heat love their Duke players. He also shot the ball nicely in the scrimmage, and the Heat needs as many shooters as they can get right now.

SMALL FORWARD

—Loul Deng

Showed some of his offensive versatility in the second half. Finished the scrimmage with 15 points.

—Danny Granger

Granger missed some early three-pointers and then hesitated on a look. Spoelstra and assistant coach David Fizdale immediately reminded Granger to shoot whenever he's open. "That's why you're here," Spoelstra told him. Granger later provided a spark in the third quarter with a flurry of three-pointers. He'll need to do that often this season.

—James Ennis

Found his confidence in the second half. The Heat likes Ennis' infusion of athleticism on the wing.

POWER FORWARD

—Josh McRoberts

Sat out the scrimmage.

—Chris Andersen

Also sat out the scrimmage.

—Shawne Williams

Williams started alongside Wade, Deng, Chalmers and Bosh and took advantage of his opportunity. He had 17 points with three three-pointers.

CENTER

—Chris Bosh

His driving dunk is what everyone is talking about, but Bosh's leadership and energy are probably the things that most please the coaches.

—Udonis Haslem

Started bleeding in the first quarter and spent the break between the first and second quarters arguing with officials. Yep, he's ready.

—Justin Hamilton

Sat out the scrimmage.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Is a South Beach bling king from Ohio partly to blame for ending the LeBron James Era in Miami?

A South Beach bling king from Ohio might be partly to blame for the Heatles break up, and for not only LeBron James going back to Cleveland, but also Mike Miller and James Jones joining the Cavaliers as well.

Haider Zafar of Ohio, who allegedly conned Miller, Jones and Rashard Lewis out of millions in 2013, is expected to plead guilty to multiple wire fraud charges, according to court documents filed on Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio. The Heat amnestied Miller in 2013, but not before a Heat employee introduced Miller, Jones and Lewis to Zafar, who then swindled them to the tune of $7.5 million, according to a grand jury indictment.

So what does this have to do with LeBron going back to Cleveland? Well, let's just say the whole mess didn't help Miami's chances of keeping last year's team together.

It's well known at this point that the Heat angered LeBron by amnestying Miller not long after Miller helped the Heat repeat as NBA champions in 2013. Miller said earlier this week in Cleveland that LeBron thought the move "was an unnecessary change." That's Miller being nice, of course. Really what probably made LeBron most angry is that the Heat amnestied one of his best friends to save money and then squabbled with Miller over money a South Beach bling king stole from Miller and then, in an odd twist, gave to the Heat.

It's a bizarre tale, and one that certainly infuriates Miller, Jones and Lewis. It's probably not a coincidence then that all three of those players no longer play for the Heat.

The alleged con man, Zafar, posed as a successful businessman in 2013, and promised to invest money for the three former Heat players. Instead, he took the money and purchased a package of floor seats to Heat games for $1 million. In Miami, the term "South Beach bling king" is used to describe what everyone else in the country would simply call "the biggest d-bag imaginable on Planet Earth." Bling kings rent Ferraris and Lamborghinis, throw money around nightclubs, text on 95, drink Moet Chandon, race boats through manatee zones, and, when the Heat was going to The Finals every year, all the bling kings tried to be seen courtside at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Well, apparently at least one former Heat executive couldn't resist all that damn charm.

Stephen Weber, who used to be the Heat's executive vice president of sales, was just a smitten kitten for Zafar and his liberal consumption of Moet Chandon out of plastic flutes at Heat games. And what sales executive wouldn't love that guy? Guys who blow large sums of cash are good for business, right?

So, Zafar wanted to meet some Heat players and pull the ol' Nigerian prince bit. Weber set up the meetings between Zafar and Heat players, and apparently vouched for Zafar as well. According to Miller's attorney at the time, Weber told Miller that Zafar "was the real deal."

Of course, when lawyers get involved, stuff gets ugly. Long after Miller, Jones and Lewis figured out the game, Miller's attorney leaked news that Miller was thinking about suing the Heat. Zafar used $700,000 of Miller's money to buy the tickets and Miller wanted the Heat to give the money back. When the Heat and Miller couldn't agree on a settlement, tensions frayed even further.

LeBron, of course, knew about all of this last season.

Udonis Haslem signs on to be an executive producer of an inspiring film about a South Florida youth basketball coach with ALS

Heat power forward Udonis Haslem has signed on to be an executive producer of an inspiring film about a South Florida youth basketball coach with ALS.

The film “Who is Lou Gehrig?” is being directed by Gil Green, who is well known in the music video business and also directs commercials and the Heat’s player introduction videos. Green’s lifelong friend, Jeff Fogel, has ALS, but continues to coach girls’ youth basketball at the North Miami JCC. The movie will focus on Fogel’s powerful imagination, which he uses as a coaching tool.

“He doesn’t make it about himself and he doesn’t crawl into a shell and give into his circumstances and limit himself,” Haslem said of Fogel. “He continues to use his mind and use his heart to contribute to others and give back. For me, that’s just like the ultimate, because I’ve known people who have had diseases and illnesses and just kind of given up and gone into a shell.

“His story is inspiring.”

The finished film will be screened at this year's Borscht Film Festival, which is Dec. 18-21. The film will feature Haslem’s debut as an actor. He will play himself. Many of Fogel’s lessons as a coach revolve around his players imagining they’re playing for the Miami Heat.

Haslem has donated $10,000 to the project, but Green is still short of his financial goal to finish the film. For more information about donating to the project please visit the film’s page on KickStarter.com. The deadline for donations is Oct. 9.

Is it time to start worrying about the health of the Heat's projected starting power forward?

Heat power forward Josh McRoberts will not play in the Heat’s preseason scrimmage on Wednesday night, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the team’s morning training session.

McRoberts had surgery after last season’s playoffs to remove bone spurs in his left great toe. The Heat is being overly cautious to work McRoberts back slowly. He is expected to start at power forward for the Heat this season. McRoberts' recovery process is a concern for the team, but nothing to panic about at this point.

“He has been able to do more each day,” Spoelstra said. “We’re progressing him. We’re trying to be smart about it. We’re still almost 30 days until the first game, so we want to make he’s taking steps forward and not steps back.

“But he had a great summer of the work. The last three weeks he was able to spend here in our facilities and work with our coaches but also get the necessary treatment and work with our training staff.”

McRoberts played well in an expanded role last season for the Charlotte Hornets, and the former Duke standout strengthened his profile and reputation with inspired play against the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. His physical confrontations with LeBron James highlighted the series.

Center Justin Hamilton will also miss Wednesday night’s scrimmage, which begins at 7 p.m. at AmericanAirlines Arena. A live video stream of the scrimmage will be available on Heat.com. Hamilton experienced dizziness due to a heart flutter on Monday and can’t compete in contract drills for at least three weeks.

Other players could sit out of the scrimmage as well.

 “We’ll see how everyone is feeling after today’s workout,” Spoelstra said.

Some questions before the Heat's open scrimmage tonight

With weary legs and nagging pains from five days of training camp, tonight's Heat intra-squad scrimmage at AmericanAirlines Arena will likely be light on revelatory observations. Still, this is the first time anyone outside of coaches and team personnel have observed the Heat together sans LeBron, so there is some intrigue.

Here are five things I'll be looking for tonight. The scrimmage begins at 7 p.m. and fans can watch it live at Heat.com.

1. How will Chris Bosh be used?

With LeBron in Cleveland, Bosh is now the team's most versatile player. He'll play the four and five this season, and both Bosh and Dwyane Wade have hinted toward Bosh doing a little bit of everything with the ball in his hands — back to the basket, driving, three-point shooing, distributing. Bosh's number of touches in the team scrimmage should be more than double from the last four years. Wade is still the team's major offensive threat from the wing, but Bosh will be at the heart of everything the Heat does on both ends of the floor. How he transitions into his new role as a franchise player is the major question facing the Heat. Off the court, Bosh has been working this week to assume the locker room leadership role that LeBron held for four years.

2. Will there be a breakout youngster?

There are plenty of young players in camp this week and they'll each get their chances to make solid impressions tonight. Norris Cole first showed signs of his potential during the team's preseason training camp scrimmage.  Small forward James Ennis starred in Australia last year and Heat coaches and executives are hoping for big things. Rookie point guard Shabazz Napier improved throughout summer league, so he'll be expected to build off of that momentum.

3. How mobile is Danny Granger?

There have been some mixed messages about Granger's health throughout the first week of training camp. Granger said on Tuesday that he hasn't felt any pain in his left knee and hasn't been limited. At the beginning of camp, he said he would be on a "maintenance program" throughout camp. Granger will be needed this season to offset the losses of Ray Allen, Shane Battier and James Jones.

4. How often will we hear or see the phrase "Heat lifer?"

Micky Arison, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra talk about being "Heat lifers" as often as possible these days. It's obvious at this point that the "Heat lifer" idea is the franchise's major marketing push to keep its fanbase thriving this season. It's a proactive approach, but there's always a subtle reminder of LeBron James every time I hear it. Then again, hearing Birdman drop a "hashtag Heat lifer" quote randomly during an interview never gets old. Maybe the video department can just record Birdman saying it and play it back during games.

5. How will Luol Deng fit into the Heat's system?

Most likely extremely well, but Deng is the man replacing LeBron James, so he'll have some added pressure to make an immediate impact.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wanna be a D-League baller? Here's your big chance

One of the great things about the Heat's affiliation with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League is that pretty much each year the teams are going to hold open tryouts and roll the balls out for anybody who wants to try and make the team.

This year's tryouts are set, and the Miami tryout for the Sioux Falls Skyforce will be held Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ransom Everglades High School. The application deadline for the tryout is Friday, Oct. 17., so don't procrastinate. (See information below about the application process.)

The Heat has invested a lot of time, energy and money into its relationship with the Skyforce, so this tryout isn't just some kind of publicity stunt. Heat and Skyforce personnel will be on hand to evaluate potential players, so that means if you want to ball in front of a real live Heat executive, here's your chance.

Who knows? Maybe you'll make the team, play a few years in the D-League and then get picked up by a team overseas. Or, maybe you're a late bloomer with a 44-inch vertical and you just want to dunk on somebody at Ransom Everglades in front of NBA brass. That's cool, too. Keep in mind, though, that playing for the Skyforce could earn you a promotion to the NBA one day. D-League All-Star Justin Hamilton is expected to make the Heat's team this season and compete for minutes in the rotation.

A tryout for the Skyforce is also being held at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sunday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The application deadline for that tryout is Oct. 10.

IMPORTANT! APPLICATION PROCESS
(from the Heat's press release)
Applicants must be eligible to play in the NBA D-League and are required to pre-register by submitting the registration, release and health information authorization forms, along with a $150 nonrefundable fee, to the attention of Justin Van Kooten (605) 332-0605 at the Skyforce office via e-mail: justin@skyforceonline.com, fax: (605) 332-2305 or regular mail: Sioux Falls Skyforce, 2131 S. Minnesota Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD 57105 by the deadline dates listed above as no walk-up applications will be accepted on the day of the tryout.

All forms are available online at:

http://www.nba.com/dleague/siouxfalls/photos/2014-15_Open_Tryouts.pdf

Wade on LeBron and other things he said today at #Heat training camp

Some notes on Dwyane Wade and stuff from Day 3 of the Heat's training camp...

—The morning session was teaching intensive and Dwyane Wade some of the new players need to do a better job of learning on the fly.

—The team took a break for lunch and air mattresses are available for players who don't want to leave the arena during training camp. Tonight's schedule includes some live-ball drills at full speed.

—Wade called Norris Cole "a monster" defensively, and said the next step in his career would be learning "how to be effective as a point guard and as a scoring guard."

"He's got to figure out the perfect way to do that, and it's not always easy for guys," Wade said. "But if he can figure it out, he can be very dangerous for us. But I'm very confident. He's a kid who loves to work, and he wants to be as great as he wants to be. So, I think he'll figure it out."

—Wade on LeBron: "I don't have no cameras in Cleveland. I don't know what's going on on the court."

—Wade had some loud and colorful neon yellow Li-Ning shorts on today. I asked him if they were Jams. Wade didn't know about Jams.

—When will Wade know if this current team is as tough as it needs to be?

"You really don't see the true identity of the team until you start losing. Obviously, individually everyone has a story and has the potential to have an edge and all this great stuff, but to go to The Finals four years in a row you've got to be a tough team mentally, and I thought we were very tough even when we weren't playing our best. So, the jury is still on that for this team."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stuff Birdman says

I've decided it's high time to start a running blog of the stuff Birdman says because he says a lot of profound stuff. Some of the quotes will have context, and others will just stand alone ...

Wednesday, Oct. 01, 2014

—Why he's making Miami his permanent offseason home:

“Living in the city where you won a championship is probably good for business.”

—On improving his jumper

“I was told a long time ago that even though I’m called Birdman, you can’t jump forever. Like Shaq says, you have a certain amount of jumps. You’re limited to a certain amount of jumps in your career, but I’ve been blessed to be able to jump at 36, so I’m going to be able to use that a couple more times, but I want to be able to shoot it, too.

“That will prolong my career another three years … maybe.”

Friday, Sept. 26, 2014

—Asked about playing for such a bargain price during the 2013-14 season. (Birdman played for the veteran's minimum, but was still receiving a salary from his previous contract with the Denver Nuggets.)

"I was playing at a bargain last year? I was getting two checks. That's what they called me in the locker room. 'Hey, what's up, Two Checks?'"

—On if he worked out of the summer

"I lifted boxes. I walked in the Texas heat. I walked up and down a mountain at 11,000 feet."

—On the new flavor of his power drink, Birdzilla.

"I'm not going to tell you what flavor it is, but it might be greet tea with ginseng."

 

 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Some stuff from the first day of #Heat training camp (More on Chalmers-LeBron thing and a Danny Granger update)

FIRST, a link to my story on the first day of training camp...CLICK ME! (Important note on Birdmanzilla at the end of the story, so read all the way down.)

Now some other stuff...

Let's clear the air a little bit on the controversy/none controversy that cropped up involving Mario Chalmers on Friday.

As I posted to Twitter on Friday, Chalmers did refer to LeBron James as "that guy" during Media Day. But Chalmers didn't seem to choose that wording as a slight to James. A reporter asked Chalmers if he did it on purpose and Chalmers quickly corrected himself.

"We don't have to call him that guy," Chalmers said. "He's still King James, LeBron."

Still an oddly worded way to refer to someone — surname first, like when you're at the social security office — but it was pretty clear Mario meant no disrespect. Chalmers put out a tweet directed at LeBron just to clarify, which was also a little odd. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 11.50.20 AM

Anyway, moving on...

If you haven't read Lee Jenkins' profile of Erik Spoelstra over at SI.com, you should probably do that. Great work as always by one of the best sportswriters in the business. 

I chatted with Justin Hamilton for a few minutes on Friday. If you don't know who Hamilton is yet, he's the Heat's rookie center who might end up receiving consistent minutes this season backing up Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. Hamilton sacrificed money last year and the chance to play in Europe and instead signed with the D-League and Heat-affiliated Sioux Falls Skyforce.

"It was really hard to turn down so many good offers overseas, but I knew there is only a certain amount of time to get back in the NBA, and I wanted to utilize that. I felt like I was an NBA player. I just needed to get back into it, so I stayed here close so I could stay in the NBA terminology and the way the NBA works and be easy to get back in."

The Heat traded for Hamilton in the second round of the 2012 draft and he played in Croatia his first season as a professional. He was with the Heat last year during the preseason but broke his nose and didn't make the team. Instead of returning to Europe, he took his chance in Sioux Falls and it's close to paying off.

"I went from [Miami] to Sioux Falls because I was used to that Heat culture and just the way they do things," Hamilton said. "So going to Sioux Falls was really beneficial in just working on my game and just having a lot more practice time than an NBA season and using those games to build my resume."

Hamilton was an All D-League First Team Selection last season as well as being named to the D-League All-Defensive First Team and D-League All-Stars.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he wanted Danny Granger to go through about 70 percent of practice on Saturday, "but I forgot about him and he went the whole way through."

Granger said on Friday that the Heat didn't want to burn him out during training camp and risk another knee injury. Granger has had two knee procedures, including one two months ago, and he's attempting to reestablish himself in the league this year. He played just five games in the 2012-13 season due to knee problems and was limited last year as well, although he did play well with the Clippers during the end of the season.

Granger's role on the team is unclear, but the best-case scenario is that he can play some sort of role similar to that of Ray Allen last season.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Chris Bosh's message to the City of Miami

Chris Bosh might be a familar name, but he will play a new role this season for the Heat. He's the team's marquee player with LeBron now in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade expected to miss a large chunk of games resting his knees.

On Friday, Bosh sounded ready to accept the challege:

“I’ve been in a similar position like this before in the past, and I feel like I can bring a lot to this team. I’ve had to play a role in the last four years, but moving forward I think I can show just the city and the organization what value I can bring — how much I can turn up the intensity and how much more weight I can put on my shoulders.”

Luol Deng hopes to turn controversy of Danny Ferry's comments "into something positive"

Speaking with reporters on Friday at Heat Media Day, forward Luol Deng said he hoped to turn the racially sensitive comments made by Hawks general manager Danny Ferry "into something positive."

Deng signed with the Heat this offseason after LeBron James left for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Deng will be an important player this season for a team that has reached four straight NBA Finals. But instead of talking about how he will fit into the Heat's system this season, Deng spoke at length on Friday about the offseason controversy caused by Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who disparaged Deng with some racially charged comments during a meeting with Hawks executives.

"I do forgive them," Deng said of the Hawks. "It's not something that I want to hold onto for the rest of my career or my life."

In a player evaluation during the meeting, Ferry said Deng was "a good guy, but he's not perfect. He’s got some African in him. I don’t say that in a negative way."

Ferry later took an indefinite leave of absence from the Hawks after the comments were made public.

"I don't think Danny is racist," Deng said.

 

Monday, September 01, 2014

Assistant coaching shake-up changes personality of Heat's bench

Two long-time assistant coaches for the Heat will no longer be regular contributors to the day-to-day operations of the team.

Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo and coaching legend Ron Rothstein have been reassigned by the Heat, the Herald confirmed on Monday. McAdoo and Rothstein were both originally hired as assistants by Heat president Pat Riley. Yahoo Sports first reported the story.

With McAdoo and Rothstein likely off the bench, assistants David Fizdale, Dan Craig and Juwan Howard are expected to assume more prominent roles. Fizdale is considered one of the top assistants in the NBA and a likely future head coach in the league, Craig has a growing reputation as a talented skills coach and video researcher and Howard joined the Heat’s staff on a full-time basis last year.

This latest shake-up of the Heat’s bench is an extension of the team’s busy offseason. Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did well to salvage the team’s roster after LeBron James left the team for the Cleveland Cavaliers. When preseason training begins later this month, the camp will have many familiar faces, but a notably different collective personality.

Spoelstra, who began his career as a video coordinator for the Heat, inherited assistants McAdoo and Rothstein from Riley's coaching staff. With the exception of Howard, all of Spoelstra's assistants now started their careers with the team in the video room. 

It’s unclear what roles McAdoo, 62, and Rothstein, 71, will have with the team. McAdoo was an assistant with the team for 19 seasons after a Hall of Fame career that began at the University of North Carolina and then spanned the NBA and Europe. Rothstein was equally beloved by longtime Heat fans. He was the Heat’s first head coach before his latest stint with the team.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Birdman is officially back

The Heat re-signed Chris Andersen on Saturday. Heat president Pat Riley on Birdman:

"Chris Andersen has had two great seasons with us and without him, we would not have been able to win the 2013 NBA Championship,” Riley said. “I’m happy he decided to come back and we’re looking forward to a great season from him in the power rotation.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Haslem officially re-signs with the Heat

Udonis Haslem was the first player to leave millions on the table in the hopes of keeping the Heat together.

On Friday, the Heat rewarded him for his commitment to the franchise and the city and officially re-signed Haslem to a two-year deal. Haslem’s new deal was made official after an emotional three days that saw former Heat players Mike Miller and James Jones both join LeBron James in Cleveland.

“Udonis Haslem has been a fixture in Miami over the last 11 years,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “He's a team player, an encompassing all-purpose player, that would play just about any position or role in order to win.

Haslem, a three-time champion for the Heat along with Dwyane Wade, played a limited role in the 2014 NBA Finals, but he likely will be more involved in the Heat’s interior plans next season with outside-shooting forwards Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis and Jones no longer on the team.

Battier retired after the Finals and Lewis agreed to a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks late Tuesday night. Jones, in somewhat of a shocking move, agreed to leave the Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Jones had said after the Finals that he wanted to remain with the Heat.

Haslem’s new contract, which the Heat will file under the collective bargaining agreement’s “room” exception, is reportedly worth $2.732 million in the first year. His old contract would have paid him $4.6 million next season. Under his new contract, Haslem is due a 4.5 percent raise for the 2015-16 season.

Haslem has left more money on the table out of loyalty to the Heat than many NBA players earn in their entire careers. He sacrificed potentially $14 million in 2010 to stay with the Heat and pursue championships with his hometown team, and he was rewarded with two more rings. Now, Haslem is set to become a Miami-Dade and South Florida legend for life.

Haslem is adored by Heat fans and the City of Miami and the Heat’s ownership and upper management view Haslem as the gold standard for a franchise that prides itself on toughness, loyalty and hard work, and preaches sacrifice for the team above all else.

Over the years, Haslem has sacrificed more than anyone else for the Heat, the team that gave him a chance as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He is entering his 12th year in the league and is already the Heat’s all-time leader in rebounds (5,332).

“It's been such a privilege and honor to have him with the organization and I'm so happy that he decided to come back,” Riley said.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

James Jones the latest former Heat player to join LeBron in Cleveland

Pat Riley couldn't keep them all in Miami, and on Wednesday forward James Jones agreed to join LeBron James in Cleveland, according to a report.

Jones, 33, spent six seasons with the Heat, winning two championships. Jones said at the end of the season that he wanted to remain in Miami, but LeBron apparently recruited Jones heavily. LeBron, Jones and Ray Allen went on vacation together to the Bahamas after the Heat lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals.

LeBron received a commitment from another former Heat player on Tuesday when Mike Miller joined the Cavaliers. LeBron values both Jones and Miller for their abilities to spread the floor offensively on defense. LeBron openly called for Jones to be inserted into the Heat's rotation during the NBA playoffs.

Rashard Lewis is heading to the Dallas Mavericks

Rashard Lewis is moving on.

The Heat free agent has agreed to play for the Dallas Mavericks next season for the veteran's minimum, according to Yahoo Sports. Lewis played for two seasons with the Heat, and won a championship in 2013.

STORY: Heat signs Dwyane Wade and agrees to terms with Udonis Haslem

STORY: Luol Deng is the Heat's new "warrior."

Lewis joins a revamped Mavericks team that recently signed Chandler Parsons as a restricted free agent. Lewis will likely backup Parsons. The Mavericks also add center Tyson Chandler, guard Raymond Felton, forward Richard Jefferson and center Greg Smith.

"Rashard made a difficult decision to join Dallas after two memorable seasons in Miami," agent Colin Bryant told Yahoo Sports. "He would like to thank [Heat owners] Micky Arison, [executives] Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and the entire Heat organization. He will always consider them family and champions.

"After talking to [Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle, he felt a comfort level with the Mavericks. He's excited to join another championship organization."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dwyane Wade calls Miami 'home' and himself a 'Heat lifer' on an emotional day

The emotional conclusion of the Heat’s free-agency saga came to a defiant end on Tuesday with Dwyane Wade finalizing a new deal to remain with the only professional team he has ever known.

Wade came to terms with the Heat and then sent out a message on Twitter calling Miami “home.”

“Home Is Where The Heart Is,” Wade wrote. “My Home, My City, My House…#HeatLifer”

Home and happiness and loyalty have been themes throughout the week for Wade, the Heat and LeBron James, who on Friday called the pull of home more powerful than the tug of what he had helped build in Miami. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh beat a path to the NBA Finals for four-straight years and won two of the last three NBA championships. Now, the next time they’re on the court together, it will be as opponents.

Wade and Bosh give the Heat a strong core entering next season while James will be the leader of a young but talented roster in Cleveland.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Luol Deng, Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen agree to deals with Heat

Life after LeBron is coming together for the Heat.

In major victories for the team considering where it was on Friday, the Heat finalized a two-year deal with small forward Luol Deng on Sunday afternoon and followed that up with new contracts for Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen. Sunday’s haul gives the Heat four important free-agent signings since losing out on LeBron James. Chris Bosh, the most important piece of all, provided the Heat with vital free-agency momentum on Friday when he agreed to become the team’s interior anchor. Bosh was expected to sign a five-year max contract worth $118 million.

The Heat has rallied impressively since James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Wade's statement on LeBron

From Dwyane Wade:

“As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey. In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal – to win championships and we succeeded. We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years.

"Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family. LeBron made the right decision for himself and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots.

"As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pat Riley's statement on today's big events

From Pat Riley:

While I am disappointed by LeBron's decision to leave Miami, no one can fault another person for wanting to return home. The last four years have been an incredible run for South Florida, Heat fans, our organization and for all of the players who were a part of it.  LeBron is a fantastic leader, athlete, teammate and person, and we are all sorry to see him go.”

“Over the last 19 years, since Micky and I teamed together, The Miami Heat has always been a championship organization; we’ve won multiple championships and competed for many others. Micky, Erik and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to win and compete for championships for many years to come. We’ve proven that we can do it and we’ll do it again.”

 

LeBron breaks news he's returning to Cleveland with personal essay; Heat owner thanks star player

LeBron James broke the news of his decision on Friday with a personal essay published by SI.com and told by writer Lee Jenkins.

James is going home to Cleveland and said the reason for returning to the Cavaliers and leaving Miami was his love for Northeast Ohio:

"My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now."

James won two championships for the Heat and helped the team reach the NBA Finals four years in a row. During that time he elevated the profile of the city and moved the Heat into the upper echelon of NBA franchises. Heat owner Micky Arison thanked James publicly on Twitter shortly after James' essay was published.

“I am shocked & disappointed in today's news,” Heat owner Micky Arison said on Twitter. “However I will never forget what LeBron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories @KingJames.”

 
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