Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surprise party

Go ahead and choose which one of these elements from Wednesday's game was most surprising, because this game was full of shockers.
--Udonis Haslem's performance: It wasn't so much that UD was able to score 13 points with five UD red rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot. It was the way he did it, and the timeliness of it. And that he managed to play 23 minutes in two long bursts. 
He single-handedly revived the Heat in the first half, and he helped the Heat maintain a lead while the Chicago crowd was about to explode.
Haslem had a facial dunk over Keith Bogans and another transition dunk on Derrick Rose. But it might have been his two jumpers -- two crucial jumpers -- that were most difficult. He hadn't hit one of those since before the foot injury, and to hit a pair in those spots in the second half was downright gutsy.
--The rest of the rotation: Erik Spoelstra spent the first half trying out players like women try on new shoes. But by the second half, he realized what was working. UD, of course. But also Mike Miller, who played 18 minutes, essentially in place of Mario Chalmers. Miller and Haslem, who weren't fully in the rotation until Wednesday, were the only Heat bench players to play more than five minutes. Meanwhile, Mike Bibby played 35 minutes. That's Mike Bibby, 35 minutes!
--The rebounding numbers: The Heat hadn't outrebounded the Bulls in four tries, and in the last game were embarrassed on the boards. This game, with Joel Anthony only playing 22 minutes and Jamaal Magloire playing five minutes, the Heat outrebounded the Bulls 45-41.
LeBron James had 10, Dwyane Wade nine, Chris Bosh eight and Miller had seven in his 18 minutes. The Bulls still managed 17 offensive rebounds, but that's because they missed 54 shots.
--The Heat defense: The Bulls shot 34 percent from the field and scored all of four points in the final 8:44 of the game. And here's how those four points were scored: Taj Gibson had his shot blocked going up for a dunk, and was hanging on the rim as it bounced off the backboard and back through the rim. So, technically, it shouldn't have counted.
The next two points were also Gibson, and again he had his shot blocked, but this time Anthony accidentally tapped it into the Bulls basket with the side of his hand. So if not for a missed call and an own-goal, the Bulls don't score at all in the final 8:44. What was Charles Barkley saying about the Bulls having the best defense he's ever seen?
This Heat defense is pretty good itself.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Efforting

Is it as simple as effort?

The first three meeting between these two teams came down to single possessions, basically, and this one was a blowout because of what looked like simple effort.

The Heat's bigs were outworked by the Bulls bigs, and the Bulls perimeter players were more disruptive defensively than were the Heat perimeter players.

So what's the solution? UD shrug

Well, other than just trying harder, the Heat might just be going to its go-to effort guy. That would be Udonis Haslem. It's difficult to expect extended segments of basketball from UD, but based on the fact that he played the final minutes of Sunday's game, you can pretty much infer that Erik Spoelstra's plan is to include Haslem into the rotation Wednesday.

Now, as much as the game came down to rebounding and poor performances from both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, it also didn't help much that Spo went to a combination that hasn't seen the floor in forever -- if ever. Playing Jamaal Magloire might have sounded like a good idea, giving Derrick Rose another big body to go through before getting to the rim. But Cat can't rotate nearly fast enough to affect the lightning-quick Rose, or move quickly enough to keep the Bulls bigs off the boards.

Now, going to Udonis could help, because again, effort is his game and even though he's smaller, he's a rebounder and can hang with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. But he is in no shape to do that for 30 minutes or more. But when Udonis can't do it, the Heat might need to stick to the smaller lineup when Joel Anthony is off the floor. Go with Chris Bosh at center and LeBron at the four. The Heat is quicker that way and can be disruptive defensively. And when LeBron is asked to rebound, he normally responds very well. It would be up to Bosh and LeBron to hit the boards and keep the Bulls off the offensive boards in that scenario, but that's not too much to ask of those guys.

If effort is the simple answer, then Game 1 was essentially a wake-up call for the Heat. If the issues go much deeper than that, then it will be evident again in Game 2. You can say that the Heat's offense looked awful against the Bulls, but then again, that's not the first time that's happened. The Heat offense has a way of recovering, starting with LeBron and Wade playing more like themselves.

We'll see if that all comes together.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Physical reaction

We can already see the Heat's going to have to be very careful to avoid a "payback" sort of scenario from the officials in Tuesday's Game 2 against the Celtics.

Even before the league changed James Jones' foul on Paul Pierce to a flagrant 1, there was plenty of discussion as to whether Pierce deserved to be ejected, or if both of the fouls against Pierce (Dwyane Pierce-wade Wade had the other) should've been called flagrants.

And now that the league made that distinction, there's even more of a sense that the Celtics got the wrong end of it in Game 1. So it might just be human nature for the officials in Game 2 to be watch Heat players more closely and possibly to even favor the Celtics if any skirmishes break out or especially physical plays occur.

Basically, the Heat players have to be mindful of that possibility and play hard but not get overly physical or let their emotions get the best of them. Because after Pierce got the quick boot, there will likely be very little hesitation to hand out techs in this game either. Wade especially needs to watch himself, because it's widely assumed he got away with one Sunday.

That said, the Heat probably needs to attack the basket a little more and create contact. Because the team can't rely on hitting as many outside jumpers as it did in Game 1. Wade will likely go to his mid-range game as long as he's in rhythm, which is normally how he puts up big scoring nights. But LeBron James might want to consider driving a bit more, even if he knows the Celtics will be waiting for him. A shot fake every once in a while wouldn't hurt, because he'll need to get to the line to make up for the fact that Boston just refuses to let him score around the basket.

Wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Udonis Haslem at least in uniform Tuesday, even if he doesn't play. He's itching to play, and he says he's not feeling any lingering effects from his surgically repaired left foot the day after practicing.

"Definitely I could be part of this series, and without being as athletic and not even having my timing, just the physical aspect that I could bring to the game would probably help us a little bit," Haslem said Monday.

Shaquille O'Neal might return Tuesday also, but we've heard that song and dance from the Celtics for almost three weeks now. If Shaq does play, it'll be difficult to activate Udonis and have both Jamaal Magloire and Erick Dampier on the inactive list. That would likely mean a visit to the inactive list for Juwan Howard. Rondo slump

If Shaq does play, it only opens up another passing option for Rajon Rondo, who played some of his best basketball of the year when he had Shaq in there. Even without Shaq, look for Rondo to play an aggressive and smart game start to finish. He might have been trying too hard to start Sunday's game. But had he not been in foul trouble, he still probably would've finished with a triple-double.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun in a foreign land

Good time for Eddie House to get hot, in the game he knew he'd get huge minutes.

That career-high 35 points might not be enough to convince Erik Spoelstra to get him into games come the playoffs, but it does go to show you that he's a great option to have. No one's sure if Mike Miller or James Jones can stay healthy for the entire playoffs, so House doing that is a good confidence boost heading into the postseason. Jones fist

Jamaal Magloire's 19 rebounds was kinda fun, too, but probably most important is that James Jones  continued his red-hot shooting. After hitting 4 of 6 from three in Toronto, James is now 18 of his last 28 from distance (64.3 percent) over his last eight games. After that extended slump mid-season, this monster recovery has to bode well for Miami

In case you missed it, the Heat's playoff schedule for the first round goes like this:

Game 1, Saturday 3:30pm in Miami

Game 2, Monday 7pm in Miami

Game 3, Thursday TBD in Philadelphia

Game 4, Sunday 1pm in Philadelphia

* Game 5, Wednesday TBD in Miami

* Game 6, Friday TBD in Philadelphia

* Game 7, Sunday, May 1 TBD in Miami

*(if necessary)

 

 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bibby-Murphy-Arroyo

So how big a deal is this Heat acquisition of Mike Bibby, who you presume would be the team's starting point guard once he's ready?

Well, most people want to call it a minor upgrade over Mario Chalmers.

That's fair. It's not as if Bibby is the same guard he was five years ago, or even the same guy who averaged 16 and five in his first year in Atlanta.

However, the difference between Bibby and Chalmers remains significant enough that it can greatly affect the outcomes of games the Heat plays against the better teams in the league.

If you look at the Heat, the most important things a point guard can do to help is shoot the three well and not turn the ball over.

Well, in both those areas, Bibby is significantly better than Chalmers. Since Chalmers began starting this season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.13 to 1, whereas Bibby's in his time with Atlanta this year is 2.87 to 1. And last season, his ratio was 3.4 to 1, which is very good for 80 starts on a playoff team. Bibby scream

This season with Atlanta, Bibby knocked down threes at a 44 percent clip, career-wise has shot 38 percent from three and last year in the playoffs was 54 percent from distance. Chalmers is at 36 percent for the year, 35 percent for his career, and he's right around that career mark (34.5 percent) since being named a starter.

Why are those differences so important? Well, for starters, the three-point number is a very big difference, and can easily mean the difference between a close game and a comfortable margin.

But overall, those numbers can translate into victories. Consider that the Heat's last six losses, all of them against winning teams, have come by an average of 4.0 points, and none of them have been by more than five points. By avoiding a turnover or two in those games, and making an extra shot or two, you easily could be talking about the Heat losing none of those games, or at least winning a few of them.

And in that case, we're not talking about the sky falling around this team.

Not to mention that, with that trust, the Heat can start a play late in games with Bibby rather than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, therefore making both of them an option off the ball. That takes pressure off Wade or James to both create and finish when it matters most. That's not even taking into account that Chalmers has been better this year coming off the bench anyway.

As for the defensive side of the ball, yes, Chalmers is theoretically the better defender. But for every good play he makes, he also will commit a senseless foul or gamble for a steal and cost the team overall. Bibby at least knows his limitations. And as long as he understands the Heat's defensive system, he won't be a liability on that end while on the floor.

As for Troy Murphy, yes, that would've also been a big get for Miami, but only if he didn't mind playing some center and banging with bigger guys. Because at the PF spot, Chris Bosh will be taking up 36 to 40 of those minutes. With the Celtics, Murphy can play a tad more minutes at PF, because backup Glen Davis essentially moves to center at times anyway, and was going to be doing that a lot now that Kendrick Perkins is gone. But once Shaquille O'Neal is healthy, the Celtics are going to have to decide whether they want to stay big, meaning O'Neal on the floor heavy minutes, or go to a lineup that includes some combination of Murphy, Davis and Kevin Garnett on the floor. Theoretically, that would favor the Heat come playoff time because Miami can use a smaller lineup itself and still compete inside (that's assuming Udonis Haslem is healthy and can play 20-plus minutes by then). Of course, that would require limiting Davis, who's one of the newest Heat killers in the league.

The point is, Murphy makes the Celtics deeper and gives them a stretch-four, but that team will have to make sacrifices if it wants to make him a big-minute regular. The Heat, on the other hand, fills a need with Bibby without making any significant sacrifices.

As for Carlos Arroyo being cut, it would seem like an unfair/unprecedented act to cut the man who was once the starting point guard. But Arroyo has a history of falling out of favor with teams, whether it's because of his play or for being tough to deal with.

Could the team have cut Jamaal Magloire? Yes, but chances are the Magic would've picked him up for some depth at center. Could the team have cut Juwan Howard? Yes, but he shares an agent with Bibby, and knowing one of his own would get cut could've nudged Bibby in another direction.

Overall, the team had less reasons not to cut Arroyo, so that's where they went with it.

 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Point guard possibility?

It's just a thought, really, but Jason Williams just got waived from the Magic, and he only likes to play in two places (family reasons), Miami and Orlando.

Well, should the Heat even consider bringing in J-Will for another run? The Heat has already taken Carlos Arroyo out of the rotation, should they cut ties with him altogether? That would be plain cold-blooded, but it happens all the time in this business. It doesn't necessarily have to be Arroyo who's waived to make room for him. Jamaal Magloire hasn't played in a while and is, technically, the fifth center on the roster. Jwill

Williams, 35, still wants to play, according to his agent.

"This is a buyout that's been discussed for some time," Williams' agent, Dan Tobin, told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's mutually beneficial. They'll have three quality point guards instead of four and it'll give him an opportunity to play elsewhere when that opportunity presents itself. He's not retiring.

"For him, it's about playing basketball."

Want more reasons?

Well, J-Will and Mike Miller are pretty much BFFs, and I know Mike wanted badly for the Heat to sign Williams before the season started and he eventually went to the Magic. Udonis Haslem is boys with J-Will also, and Dwyane Wade already won a title with him. J-Will happens to be terrific at throwing the lob pass, knowing when to, when not to and getting it right on target. The Heat has a guy or three who enjoy the lob pass.

I'm just saying, it wouldn't be a crazy idea.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stackhouse effect

The Stackhosue signing makes perfect sense. He's a veteran who can still play some defense and hit open shots, and even at this point in his career might be a tad more versatile than James Jones, who doesn't work much off the dribble and rarely handles the ball.

But still, the Heat will probably ease Stackhouse into any playing time. There are too many new parts to this team to add another brand new contributor just before the first game. The rotation will probably include James Jones and Eddie House, and if for some reason that's not working, then Spoelstra will probably start to incorporate Stackhouse.

The problem now is there will have to be two cuts made. It still seems pretty simple to me. You cut Patrick Beverley and Da'Sean Butler. Butler can stick around Miami and re-sign when he's actually healthy, which is probably next season. Jamaal Magloire still feels like he's more important to the team as an emergency center option. Zydrunas Ilgauskas isn't exactly injury prone anymore, but he is still 35 years old. And Dexter Pittman is probably too young to contribute. So Big Cat must remain.

On a random note, just saw where the Hornets got a hold of Jerryd Bayless from the Blazers for a 2011 first-round draft pick. I know the Heat is just about fresh out of draft picks to trade, but it would've been nice to get Bayless. I've always liked him and thought he was buried in Portland. Plus, is anybody sold on Mario Chalmers? I'm pretty sure I know that answer.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Top 15, starting five

Funny how people originally thought the Heat's supporting cast around the Big Three would be made up of scrubs, and at this point the roster's deep enough to make the final choice on the 15-man roster rather difficult.

The locks for the roster are obvious: LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Haslem, Miller, Ilgauskas, House, Anthony, Chalmers, Jones, Arroyo, Howard and Magloire.

That's 13, leaving two spots open with about five guys fighting for them.

Dexter Pittman is probably a lock, given that he's a big guy the Heat drafted and they love to develop big guys with potential. Pittman would be a fourth center, yes, but Pittman would likely be stashed on the inactive list every night. Then if Big Z has health issues, there's still depth to deal with the bigger teams like Boston.

Shavlik Randolph and Kenny Hasbrouck, though they were on the team at some point last year, are probably out when you consider that, a) the Heat has enough in the power rotation without Randolph and b) Hasbrouck hasn't even been the best defensive specialist in camp.

That distinction would go to Patrick Beverley, who played point with the red team that featured the Big Three in Friday's scrimmage.

If he makes the roster, though, that would mean Da'Sean Butler, another draft pick, wouldn't. Of course, Butler is working his way back from a torn ACL, but if he really was a coveted player, there's always the fear that if he's cut here, another team could sign him, work him back to health and have a significant contributor in the future. I'm sure with Wade and LeBron on the perimeter, it's not as if the Heat is very concerned about losing a potential role player, but why would the team have signed Butler at all if the plan wasn't to work him back to health themselves? The guess here is they signed him as a show of good faith, so when they do cut him, he'll work his way back to health in Miami then re-sign down the road.

So my guess is Pittman and Beverley get those final roster spots.

But back to the top of the roster... Should be interesting to see who Spoelstra starts against the Pistons on Tuesday. If it were my starting lineup, I'd go with Bron, Wade, Miller, Bosh and Anthony. But based on how LeBron talks about playing the point, I doubt he wants to start there. So it'll likely be Chalmers (or healthiest available point guard), Bron, Wade, Bosh and Anthony. Not a ton of shooting there, especially if it's Arroyo or Beverley starting, and even with Chalmers it's not as if he's threatening enough an outside shooter to keep teams from just packing in the defense. To me, either Miller, House or Jones should be on the floor whenever the combo of Wade and Bron are on the floor. But I guess we'll see where that goes.

 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

5 Heat Scrimmage Reflections

The Heat pulled the curtain back on their training camp preparations Friday for a scrimmage that gave Wade-LeBron players their first chance to play basketball under normal game standards.

We were there for a rare start-to-finish view of the Heat's first dress rehearsal for the Tuesday preseason opener against Detroit. We present five reflections from Friday's scrimmage.

1. Big 3 Chemistry - There are still plenty of kinks to work out between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But they certainly will enjoy luxuries they've never experienced before now that they're playing for the same team. After spending the first half split apart, Bosh, James and Wade were in the red team's starting lineup for the second half of Friday's scrimmage. That red team either scored or got to the free-throw line on at least 60 percent of its possessions when Wade, James and Bosh were on the floor. That's huge. When Wade wasn't driving to the line and drawing fouls, Bosh was stroking his baseline, turnaround jumper. At one point, he scored on that move four times in five possessions. James was allowed to play free safety on defense, and seemed to be guarding three guys at a time.

2. LeBron bests Wade again - James got the upper hand on Wade when they anchored different squads in the first half of the scrimmage. James' white team built an early double-digit lead in the first half and was up by about 20 at one point before closing out with a 49-34 victory. James' squad has been getting the best of Wade's teams for most of the week. LeBron's playmaking ability is as good as advertised. His passing might be his best skillset, and that's saying a lot considering all he can do on both ends of the court. But it was Wade who made the play of the night when he banked in a lefty hook from halfcourt after James fouled him by grabbing his right arm. The play didn't count because a time-out was called moments earlier. But it was still the play of the week.

3. Starting 5 set - That might not be the case just yet. But the red team that opened the second half consisted of Pat Beverley at point guard, Wade at shooting guard, James at small forward, Bosh at power forward and Joel Anthony at center. It's pretty safe to assume that four of those five will be in the starting lineup when the preseason opens on Tuesday. Obviously, Beverley, who has been stellar on the defensive end in workouts, won't be the Heat's starting point guard. He was in that role Friday because Mario Chalmers was held out of the second half of the scrimmage, perhaps as a precaution to prevent more wear and tear as he works his way back from that high ankle sprain.

4. Bench Boost - The fact that the Big Red team couldn't exactly pull completely away from the white team of reserves says one of two things. Either Bosh, James and Wade are still weeks away from working out some of the chemistry kinks. Or, the bench might be even better than many people believe. James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Carlos Arroyo, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller started for the white team. Miller eventually was traded midway through the second half to the red team. That allowed Haslem to be a lot more aggressive offensively than normal. James Jones also looked really good and knocked down shots to keep the game competitive. James took advantage of his opportunities with Eddie House sidelined with shoulder soreness.

5. Riddle in the Middle - The Heat still does not have a legitimate low-post, offensive threat at center. There's size, rebounding and shot-blocking. But not necessarily all at the same time. Big Z certainly was a crowd favorite among the military fan base. He also knocked down a few shots, and drew loud cheers and chants after every positive move he made. Joel Anthony was active and altering shots at the rim. And Jamaal Magloire was an enforcer in the middle. Just don't ask him to shoot free throws. The Heat might prove to be dynamic enough at the other four spots to overcome some shortcomings at center. Rookie Dexter Pittman might be the best back-to-the-basket option at the position, but will he get an opportunity for meaningful minutes as the fourth center in the rotation? Not likely.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Decision on Dampier?

Two meetings with two teams in two conferences over the span of three days. Dampier

That, apparently, has been free agent center Erick Dampier's itinerary this week as the 6-11 veteran big man plots the course to his next destination, with training camps opening league-wide next week.

Dampier, 35, has exited meetings with both the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat this week without signing a contract as of Wednesday evening. Although there were indications out of Houston that Dampier was expected to make a decision by Thursday, a source said Wednesday night that nothing was imminent.

The Heat and Rockets are believed to be frontrunners among a group of teams that, at one point or another, had included Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix. Houston reportedly offered Dampier a two-year deal worth about $4 million. The best the Heat can counter with is the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million a year.

That means the equation is pretty much simple for Dampier. He's faced with a $600,000 question, assuming the Heat made a firm offer. Miami, obviously, appears much closer to a championship team than Houston. Add in the fact that Dampier is 35, and it's easy to see that time might not be on his side when it comes to how many potential title runs he has ahead of him.

Houston clearly has a defined role for Dampier, with Yao Ming returning from a foot injury and limited to about 24 minutes a game this season. So, in other words, Dampier would seem to be more needed in Houston, yet more of a luxury in Miami.

The Heat seems sold on Joel Anthony after investing a five-year, $18 million contract in his services. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire will be counted on to be one-year stop-gap type options at the position. And Pat Riley has gone out of his way to praise the merits of Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh and Juwan Howard as fill-in options at center if needed.

From all indications I've received, Dampier has been favoring Miami since he realized his days in Charlotte were numbered. But this could all be decided by which team wants him more.

Perhaps Heat team president Pat Riley will address the situation when he meets with the media Thursday at noon. The team, however, was certain to mention in its press release that Riley was not expected to announce any trade or player signing.

Perhaps that changes overnight. Or, the Heat heads into next week's camp convinced it's set at center.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)


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