Friday, December 09, 2011

Does the Heat have enough without mid-level center?

So, camp begins today and the Heat struck out on signing a center with its full mid-level exception. Sam Dalembert didn't take the bait and the Heat wasn't in a position to trade for a big name like Nene.

Instead, the Heat is taking a flyer on center Eddy Curry, hoping the once overweight big man is ready to take his career seriously. Is it enough? Remember, team president Pat Riley indicated last season that it was the Heat's top priority to sign a center with its mid-level exception.

It appears Riley did the best he could with the limited resources at his disposal. The addition of Shane Battier provides a top-notch defender to the mix and that could be important come playoff time. For example, if the Heat meets the Bulls in the playoffs again, Battier could guard Bulls forward Loul Deng, which would allow LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to conserve energy.

A retrospective example: If the Heat had a defender like Battier in last season's Finals, things might have turned out differently. Instead, James couldn't keep up with Jason Terry and, conversely, James didn't have enough left in the tank to close out the series.

At least, that's one guess as to what happened to James in The Finals.

Of course, free agency is far from over and the Heat could potentially still reel in a quality center willingly to take less money to chase a championship. Options are limited at this point, though.

The Heat's other area of need heading into free agency was the point guard position. All signs point to Mario Chalmers resigning with the Heat, but if a larger offer sheet than his qualifying number is placed in front of Chalmers, there is a very real chance he would take it. The Heat would then have to match the offer or, worse case scenario, go searching for a starting point guard at the start of camp. Carlos Arroyo, anyone? (According to the latest speculation, the Knicks are interested in Arroyo.)

Expect it to be worked out by Friday afternoon when practice begins. If Chalmers is absent, that means another team has offered him a contract and the Heat would have three days to match it.

As for the original question: Does the Heat have enough without a mid-level center? I'd say yes. For me, this free-agency period isn't nearly as important to the Heat as some would like you to believe. Give me Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh and I like my chances.

-joe

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Bunches of (Free Agent) Hunches

Forget the Fourth of July. The First of July is here and the fireworks will soon begin in the biggest free LeBron-Wade agency market in NBA history.

D.Wade is a free man. LeBron is the most sought-after player on the market. Chris Bosh is tweeting like crazy without saying much of anything definitive.

And the Heat's executive power force of team prez Pat Riley, VP Nick Arison, Heat legend Alonzo Mourning and coach Erik Spoelstra is jetting from coast to coast to meet with the team's top targets.

Before we get any further, let me first recommend that you follow me on twitter, which is the quickest way to get our updates amid the free agency frenzy. Just click the link at the bottom of this post and we're all set.

As we reach the midway point of the first day of free agency, I've got a bunch of hunches after some of the initial developments across the country.

Hunch One - The Heat made one of its first recruiting pitches to Amare Stoudemire out in Los Angeles just after midnight. But we've learned that the sides emerged from the amicable, hour-long session without the Heat offering Amare a contract. That's a clear indication that the Heat, despite its aggressive pursuit of Amare at the February trade deadline, is taking a Bosh-and-see approach in its quest for post help. Bosh tweeted this morning that he received proposals from the Heat, Rockets, Raptors and Bulls. Perhaps there are legitimate concerns about Amare's knees. Remember, we reported last month about his visit to a South Miami clinic to have his knees examined. That clinic, coincidentally, is also used by the Heat.

Hunch Two - My feeling all along has been that LeBron James would find it too hard to walk away from Cleveland when all is said and done. The imminent hiring of Byron Scott might be the best thing the Cavs could have done to help convince James to stay. Not only does Scott bring credentials as a former championship player, he also has led the Nets and Hornets as far into the playoffs as those franchises have been in a long, long time. One key nugget to keep in mind. Scott was really, really close to Chris Paul as coach of the Hornets. James and Paul are good buddies. This might encourage Paul to push for a trade to Cleveland, which has a few attractive pieces to send back to New Orleans for its troubles. Mo Williams (native of nearby Jackson, Miss.) and All-Star forward Antawn Jamison could be a start.

Hunch Three - If Stoudemire somehow walks away from Phoenix, look for the Suns to consider pushing for Carlos Boozer as a potential replacement. Boozer could easily fill the production void Amare would leave behind. Not sure how much salary-cap space the Suns would have to make room for Boozer. But it's clear that Boozer would be a much cheaper option than Stoudemire - although you'd get the same production. We learned in February that the Suns were willing to take Boozer from Utah in that failed three-way trade with Miami that would have sent Stoudemire to the Heat. Utah backed off because it didn't like the pieces it would have gotten back for parting with Boozer at the time.

Hunch Four - As hard as it might be for Dwyane Wade to open his mind up to considering other options in Wade-Olympics free agency than returning to the Heat, he's going to seriously listen to the Bulls, Nets and Knicks. Those teams could offer as much or more for him than Miami could in terms of surrounding him with impressive talent. The Heat has a clean slate as far as its roster is concerned. But the Bulls have Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng along with their cap space. The Nets have Devin Harris and Brook Lopez in addition to space for two max stars. On paper, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers don't really stack up to those other parts. New York simply has cap space and Broadway appeal. But Wade has tremendous respect for Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, who was on the coaching staff of Team USA's gold medal squad in Beijing.

Well, those are my hunches for now. More to come as the madness continues.

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

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vegas-bound Beas? The Odds of That

Despite the controversy and trade rumors that continuously swirl around Michael Beasley, the polarizing Beas-V-Hawks former No. 2 overall draft pick doesn't sound as if he's played his final game with the Miami Heat just yet.

Speaking at an adidas promotional event in Spain, Beasley was quoted in a Hoopshype blog posted Monday morning saying he hopes to stay in Miami and plans to play in next month's summer league.

The Heat will send a team of new draft picks (center Dexter Pittman, forward Jarvis Varnado) last year's draft pick (guard Pat Beverley) and lower-level free agents who seek invitations to October training camp.

In many ways, Beasley is playing for his Heat future at the present, too.

Having said privately for months that he hopes to get one more shot to make things right with the Heat after two seasons of inconsistent play, locker room immaturity and uncomfortable off-the-court issues, Beasley's willing to take an unusual step to prove it.

"I'm going to play summer league. Pretty much don't stop," Beasley said in the interview from Spain. "I haven't had any vacation. I just went straight to working out. I feel I can do a lot to improve my game to help the team and take us further in the playoffs."

The Heat confirmed Monday that Beasley wasn't just blowing smoke. He was one of a handful of players team president Pat Riley has been trying to encourage to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, with the Heat opening its five-game schedule July 11.

Beasley and Chalmers are the only Heat players under guaranteed contracts for the 2010-11 season. But that is expected to soon change with free agency starting on Thursday. Miami had also been trying to get Daequan Cook to play summer league before he was traded last week along with the No. 18 pick in the draft to help create more salary-cap space.

Beasley and Chalmers remain development projects entering their third seasons in the league. So summer league is probably a good thing for both. Beasley has average about 15 points and 7 boards through his first two seasons, but still has several more levels to go before he becomes the player the Heat needs.

The problem is, he doesn't have long to get there - and he might have to go elsewhere to finally arrive. If you take Riley at his word last week, when he said Beasley wouldn't be dealt just to create more cap space and that the team hopes to build around him, there is reason for Beasley supporters to be encouraged.

But in times like these - amid the free agency frenzy and desperate push to rebuild teams into title contenders on the fly - it's tough to believe anything anyone says. Riley included. Beasley, too.

For the record, I'm not one who believes the Heat is just plain better off without Beasley. Right now, he's just not the No. 2 option to Dwyane Wade that many hoped he would be as soon as he stepped into the league. But I see no problem sliding Beasley to a third, fourth or fifth option on the team.

If Mike Beasley is your fourth-best player after a free agency overhaul, then that says something about the depth of your team. In that role, he's essentially the Heat's mid-level option, with that $5 million salary he's due next season. Look at it like that, and Beas can be seen as a bargain and much less a burden.

For his part, Beasley hopes to join a Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire next season in Miami - not be replaced by one of them. He also believes Wade will stay in Miami because Wade "already has laid his foundation."

Regarding his own personal development, Beasley suggested his is often overly criticized, although he admits to making plenty of mistakes.

"Everybody makes mistakes and I feel like sometimes mine have been magnified," Beasley, 21, said. "I feel like I'm expected to act older than what I am. I'm not saying that's a reason to do some of the things I've done. But, you know, I'm like everybody else. I make mistakes, learn from them and move on."

Sort through the public support of Beasley and the recent behind-the-scenes bartering for his services on the trade front, and the question still lingers.

Mike Beasley apparently is headed to Vegas.

But what are the odds his next game will be as a member of the Miami Heat - even with the watered down version that gathers in the coming days for mini-camp in advance of summer league play?

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

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Answers to Thursday's Heat Q&A

Q: I think Bosh is more than likely somewhere else with a better sign and trade opportunity as opposed to the Heat. If that is the case, I personally would prefer a Boozer/Joe Johnson combination than just getting Amare or Amare with Johnson. What do you think? Also, do we have the cap space, or can we attain it through a Beasley trade, to get a Brendan Haywood, Earl Barron, or bring JO back at a discounted rate to be our center?

Answered 06/17/10 14:33:27 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I'd take Haywood, but I'd rather keep Beasley than let him walk for a reunion with either Earl Barron or Jermaine O'Neal. And I'm with you on the Boozer, Johnson pairing, although you'd then certainly need a center presence, which, I guess, would bring J.O. into the equation again.

Q: Great work Mike. Look into your crystal ball and tell me who you see Lebron, Bosh, Stoudemire, J.Johnson, and Boozer signing with?

Answered 06/17/10 14:31:32 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: Not sure I can afford crystal in this economy. But I'll look into the knockoff I got from the Opa-Locka flea market last week and tell you that ... LeBron will be back in Cleveland. Stoudemire will be in Miami or Chicago. Bosh will be in Chicago or Miami. Joe Johnson will be in New York. And Boozer will join Johnson in New York. But don't put too much stock in that ball. It was $2 bucks and doesn't have a return policy.

Q: Is Ricky Williams Smoking Ganja again? Or, just Mr. Ross? They both are predicting the Dolphins are going to the Super Bowl next season. Do you think the Dolphins are capable of playing in the Super Bowl next season?

Answered 06/17/10 14:28:24 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: You've reached the wrong Q&A. Press "0" for Jeff Darlington, Dolphins beat writer.

Q: Hi Michael, if Lebron and Wade team up and say Bosh decides to go for LAL who would be a better choice Boozer, Amare (most like not since he wants max contract) and I think Scola is available? Tnx.

Answered 06/17/10 14:27:13 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: In that scenario, I'd have to go with Boozer because he'd be cheaper and plus he's a better spot-up shooter than Amare. Playing alongside attack-the-basket players such as LeBron and Wade would create plenty of open looks for kick-out, mid-range jumpers. That's Boozer's game, in addition to his rebounding.

Q: hey mike when july 1 is here how long do u think it will take before the fireworks begin and in your expert opinion what do u think is a realistic scenario for the heat also if we can't build the team with sign and trade and we have to sign free agent directly which will prevent us to go over the 56 millions cap this year isn't it better to keep beasley for one more years and see how it works around 2 stars and then go all out in the next free agency when mr arisson will be able to go over the cap and finish to build a championship team cause i don't know how much over the lakers and celtics are but it doesn't looks like u can make it to the final round with a cheap salary team by the way when was the last time that a team won the champs and stayed under salary cap rule if it ever happen ? thank you for your time

Answered 06/17/10 14:25:37 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I really wish I had the answers. But I don't. I have educated and slightly-informed opinions. But Pat Riley is better than just about anyone in the league at keeping things close to the vest, despite being in on just about every available player. My guess is that Miami will end up with either Bosh or Stoudemire, make a strong play for Gay, look for a veteran pg in a trade, use at least two of its four draft picks to fill out roster spots and convince a proven league vet or two to come on board for a shot to contend in the East and unseat Boston and a weakened Orlando/Cleveland/Atlanta for a shot at the Finals.

Q: Just read somewhere that not only is Amare here but Rudy Gay is here with him working out this summer. Can you envision the Heat signing Amare and sign-and-trading Beasley/Cook for Gay? I think Gay, Wade, and Amare would be a great core if the Heat cannot land LBJ/Bosh.

Answered 06/17/10 14:22:56 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: That certainly would be the most explosive 2, 3, 4 trio in the league in my opinion. But I'm not sure the Grizzlies will allow Gay to walk this summer. If Gay doesn't want to be there, which I'm told he doesn't and wants out, he might have to take the one-year qualifying offer and then wait for unrestricted free agency next year - or a trade at the Feb. deadline.

Q: Good day mate! At least Amare was honest that he is NOT signing any contract that is not a maximum deal. 1st question is do you think he deserves one? Because I don't think so, I'd rather have Boozer if Amare's asking for a max. 2nd question is do you believe what these max-contract deserving FA's (LbJ, Bosh, etc.) whenever they say that winning is the most important thing and getting that max isn't that important to them? Do you really believe they would sign anything under the max?

Answered 06/17/10 14:20:30 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I don't think any of the top five free agents (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire, Dirk) is signing for anything less than the max. I think there are only about 7 max slots available throughout the league at this point. Boozer, Johnson, Gay - those guys might have to settle for less than the max, even though there might be money out there.

Q: It seems as if Bosh to Miami is gaining some steam since he and D-Wade had dinner together. At the end of free agency, do you think Wade convinces Bosh and Johnson to join the Heat? If they do, would be a be top 2 team in the east?

Answered 06/17/10 14:17:21 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I'm not sure I'd go that far just because they had dinner together. Heck, Wade attended a tennis tournament with Star Jones a couple years back, but that didn't mean they kicked off a commitment. I believe the Heat would face more competition and difficulties getting Bosh than they would Stoudemire. As far as Johnson is concerned, it's just a matter of how much he's willing to win and at what cost in terms of a less-than-max salary from Miami.

Q: So the New York Times published a article saying that Ray Allen wants to come to miami. It says that he knows Chris Bosh will sign too. So all the cap space for Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade? Is it really worth it to spend it on them? What would be the line up? Would dwayne wade switch to point guard?

Answered 06/17/10 14:14:31 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: It was the New York Daily News that published the rumor as part of a weekly NBA gossip column. Here's a tip. Only believe 1 percent of half of the rumors you hear about NBA free agency.

Q: will stoudemire go with the heat

Answered 06/17/10 14:12:12 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: The fact that Amare is here now working out, has established an offseason residence here and went as far as to get those MRIs at a clinic that just happened to service other Heat players certainly leads one to believe that something is in the works come July 1.

Q: trade Beasley,Jones,Cook with #1 pick to the pacers for Roy Hibbert and T J Ford. Then trade Ford to the warriors for Correy Maggette. Sign Steve Blake as the point guard. Starting 5: Blake,Wade,Maggette,Bosh,Hibbert bench: Chalmers,Raja Bell,Henry,Haslem,Jerome Jordan,Joel Anthony,other draft picks Or Trade Beasley,Jones,Cook and #1 pick to the hornets for Darren Collison and Okafor. Resign Wright. Starting 5: Collison,Wade,D Wright,Bosh,Okafor bench:Chalmers,Raja Bell,Henry,Haslem,Jerome Jordan,Joel Anthony,other draft picks Mike..

Answered 06/17/10 14:10:43 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: There you go. Spin again.

Q: Hi Pat-riley! i know that you have been busy to try to improve our team this summer. but my point view is : whoever at the power foward ,rudy gay at small forward,wade,whoever at the point guard or mario charmers and the center spot draft pick or O'Neil. reserve at the bench wright,haslem,patrick,draft pick at center,richardson,beasley or another draft pick.

Answered 06/17/10 14:09:45 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: You've got the wrong email if you're trying to reach Pat with another roster request. Try priley@whyinhellwouldItaketheseemailsfromfans.com

Q: Hey Mike, another question, is there any chance or way that Riley can bring Ricky Rubio here? I tend to think that he's not going to play in Minnesota and Minnesota is not going crazy for him, so can Riley work out a trade? If so, can he get him out of his European contract to get him here? I guess I'm asking if a) can this be done, and b) do you think it is a good PG option? Rubio looks like he's got good vision, can get the ball in the post and has a nice shot/range if Wade kicks out to him. What do you think?

Answered 06/17/10 14:07:22 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I won't be sold on Rubio until I see him getting it done in the NBA, against superior athleticism and quickness on a night in and night out basis. That's not to disrespect what he's doing overseas, but I need to see more than a few highlights. I believe Riley would rather go with a more proven vet at the point guard position. Even though J-Will and Payton drove Riley crazy with their attitudes and actions at times, there was a trust factor there that hasn't existed at that position since the championship team disbanded.

Q: After resigning Wade and Bosh trade Beasley,Cook,Jones to hornets for Collison and Okafor. Keep Collison and seeing as the pacers are interested in Okafor trade Okafor for Hibbert and Troy Murphy. Imagine having Murphy to backup Bosh. starting 5:Collison,Wade,D Wright,Bosh,Hibbert bench:Chalmers,Raja Bell,Gordan Hayward,Murphy,Jerome Jordan,Joel Anthony,other draft picks Mike...

Answered 06/17/10 14:04:39 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I like. I like. But the question you have to ask is this: why would New Orleans need Beasley, Cook and Jones when they have David West, James Posey and Peja filling those exact same roles already?

Q: Hi Michael, hope u'r welle this week, as usual, under the florida sun... i have two questions for you today... first one : what choice would you do if you were in charge in the organisation, for the draft(choices which for you, would have the best sense)? second question: admitting bosh wants to come and Pat riley wants bosh to wear a heat jersey... it looks like a S&T is not so easy to do... so what is your thought about a three or four team deal to get every one happy?thanks for all...and take care. "bonjour de la france!"

Answered 06/17/10 14:03:07 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: If I'm Miami, I simply take the best player available, regardless of position, with the NO. 18 pick. The Heat has needs at every position, considering only two players are under guaranteed contract right now moving forward. Depth was an issue with this team the past few seasons. Having said that, I'd go with a Big with the first-round pick, either Whiteside or solomon kid from Florida State.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/qna/forum/heat_chat/index.html#ixzz0r8XucaC1

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Haslem's Home Visit

Clearly, the gesture was genuine. Haslem

No one can truly question how much the Heat appreciates Udonis Haslem and how much he's done with and for the organization these past seven years.

So, on Haslem's 30th birthday Wednesday, the only NBA franchise he's ever known showed up on his Southwest Ranches sprawling lawn to surprise him with a birthday bash.

Clearly, Pat Riley is going above and beyond when it comes to showing the love for the two most-tenured players on the team. Earlier this week, the Heat unveiled a billboard near Dwyane Wade's North Bay Village residence that was designed like a basketball contract.

Both Wade and Haslem are free agents. But whereas the Heat has every intension and dime of salary-cap space it needs to offer Wade a six-year, $125 million contract on July 1 as its top free-agency priority, Haslem falls a bit down Pat Riley's to-do list.

Yet the public showing of affection and appreciation on Wednesday went a long way in showing Haslem that he's really wanted here. The question is: Can the Heat afford to keep him? Better yet, is Haslem truly willing to take a paycut from the $7 million he earned this season to come back?

With all of the family demands, including taking care of his cancer-stricken mother, Haslem has said his decision this summer is based on being able to supply his family's needs long-term as much as it is finding the right fit on the the court.

This is likely the last relatively lucrative contract Haslem will sign in his career.

And if the Heat truly wants to do what it takes to bring him back, it could affect several other decisions. If bringing back Haslem is a priority, then there's a concrete chance that Michael Beasley is on the way out.

If re-signing Haslem to a respectable deal is truly the goal, then, barring sign-and-trade scenarios with HaslemParty other players on the roster, it would also eat into significant salary-cap space believed to be earmarked to attract the likes of Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Joe Johnson.

The plan of action is crystal clear with Wade, the only other contributor remaining from that 2006 title team.

But the plan remains cloudy when it comes to Haslem and the Heat, despite the clear skies that hovered above all of the hoopla at UD's home Wednesday on one of the classiest days in the franchise's history.

"I never knew so many people cared," Haslem said Wednesday. "In my 30 years, this is the best birthday I have ever had. Who would want to go anywhere else with an organization like this."

Sincerely recruiting Haslem is one thing. Honestly being willing and able to do what it takes to sign him is another challenge completely.

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

J-Will Assists on Shaq's Slam

A week that began with Sports Illustrated releasing a story in which Shaquille O'Neal slammed the Heat's Jason_williams professionalism and work ethic during the 2006 championship run ended with the point guard of that title team offering his own less-than-nostalgic assist.

The Heat has often come out on the short end when former Miami point guard Jason Williams is asked to compare his current Orlando Magic squad to the Heat's 2005-06 team that won a championship.

I had a chance to catch up with J-Will as he tries to grab another championship ring, this time with the Sunshine State's other NBA team. The feature story will run in Sunday's edition of the Miami Herald to advance the Orlando-Boston series.

As the Magic prepared for Game 1, J-Will explained what the main difference is between the teams. And his reasoning didn't differ too much from O'Neal, who questioned out loud in the S.I. article this week how the 2006 Heat ever won that title with its partying ways off the court.

"I didn't even know that was going to be a shot at the title," Williams said. "But I'll take it. D-Wade carried a lot of that slack."

With the Heat down 0-2 against Dallas in the Finals, it was Wade who stepped up and rescued Miami on the way to four straight victories by averaging nearly 40 points a game. Wade was named Finals MVP, and could be the only player remaining from that championship run when the 2010-11 season opens.

Williams believes his current Magic team is far deeper and much more focused than Miami's champion.

But it remains to be seen if the Magic has enough heart and the necessary finisher to complete the job.

"We weren't as focused when we won the championship in 2006," Williams said. "I can say that. I was there. I saw it. I was at the shootarounds, all the practices and stuff. Don't get me wrong. We got the job done. But here, with every little thing, we're so focused."

The irony of it is J-Will and Shaq were two of the bigger problems on that team when it came to attitude, J-Will&Pat work ethic and meeting Riley's demands for defense and conditioning. They were also big reasons why the Heat won. And Miami hasn't seen their level of production at center and point guard since they departed. But I remember hearing something about the two of them getting tossed out of practices, including an infamous session when Shaq supposedly refused to leave and charged after Riley before Alonzo Mourning stepped between them.

That's one of the many legends that came out of that season. Maybe it happened. Maybe it didn't. But there was always something going down with that team during the championship season and title defense that followed - and fizzled.

On one hand, there's so much talk out of AmericanAirlines Arena about the Heat culture, loyalty, honor and class. And then, on the other hand, some who were supposed to be part of all those things look back and toss molotov cocktails at that championship run.

It's almost as if that season needs to be featured as the next ESPN 30 for 30 documentary and directed by ChrisPerkinsEnterprises.

The more you learn from that magical 2006 season, the more it goes into one of two files. There are those who are forever fond of the memories. And others who seem to get too much pleasure out of essentially farting on the foundation of that success.

Williams is appreciative of winning a championship with Miami. He admits that. And he's a straight shooter about it. But he's even more thrilled with the opportunity he has to get another title as a Magic reserve.

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Game 5 Breakdown: Celtics 96, Heat 86

BOSTON - On to the offseason, which is the season that really mattered most in the Heat's quest to Game5-main contend.

The Celtics commenced that rebuilding process for Miami with a 96-86 victory over the Heat to take the first-round series 4-1. Boston moves on to make perhaps one last run at a championship with its current unit.

The Heat moves on to the makeover that should surround Wade with the kind of star-studded help he needed but failed to get during this first-round series. One thing is clear after Wade delivered another amazing game only to watch in go down the drain: The Heat better get this man some help quickly this summer.

That's two seasons of Wade's prime now that he won't get back - last year's MVP candidacy that ended in a 43-win season and a first-round exit in the playoffs, and this year's 47-win campaign that was closed out thoroughly by the Celtics. If you saw nothing else this series, you witnessed just how much a supporting cast can mean to a team.

What if Wade had a shooter like Ray Allen? What if he had a swingman - even one past his prime - like Paul Pierce who can take over the scoring load for a quarter or two to relieve Wade of such heavy lifting?

Boston surrounded Pierce with Allen and Garnett two years ago - while Pierce still had some productive seasons left. At 28, Wade is going to need that kind of roster boost to take capitalize on his prime.

With 13 free agents on the roster, there will certainly be massive change this summer for Miami. Now, it's Pat Riley's turn to do the heavy lifting. That process started with Tuesday night's loss. It continues with Wednesday morning's exit interviews.

And then comes the real recruiting work to put that $24 million in salary cap space to work.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade capped a remarkable series by scoring 31 points, dishing 10 assists and grabbing eight boards in 46 minutes. He showed the league - and all of its pending free agents - what it would be like to play with him in what amounted into a silent recruiting pitch. Make no mistake: Boston might not be what it was two years ago, but it remains one of the best defensive teams in the league. The Celtics threw two defenders at Wade when he had the ball and even when he didn't. They dared the refs to call defensive three seconds on every possession. Still, Wade managed to do enough to rally the Heat from that 21-point deficit to four. But Wade clearly expended all he had in the comeback. At a time when he needed a lift from teammates. There wasn't enough help beyond Mario Chalmers. Wade closed the series averaging 33.2 points, 6.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds on 56.4 percent shooting.

TURNING POINT: That came when the Heat sliced a 21-point lead to four early in the fourth quarter. But Game5-second Glen "Big Baby, Ticket Stub" Davis answered by converting a three-point play on a spinning layup and free throw with 9:29 left to push the lead to 79-72. The Heat didn't get any closer.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The Celtics' balance offset the Heat's one-man band. Beyond that, Boston shot 58.3 percent from three-point (7 of 12) range compared with 25 percent from the Heat (5 of 20). The Celtics also outscored Miami 12-2 in fastbreak/transition points.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: After seeing how this series played out, who should be invited back for next season? Jermaine O'Neal came up small at a time when the Heat needed him the most. Udonis Haslem couldn't hit a shot or free throw for most of the series, although he was aggressive on the boards. Neither Carlos Arroyo or Mario Chalmers offered much in the way of resistance to Rajon Rondo. Michael Beasley was outplayed by Glen Davis, not to mention Kevin Garnett. Four of Miami's five starters are free agents. The fifth - Beasley - might be the first one out of town, depending on what the Heat can fetch for him. There were times when you simply had to feel for Wade, who kept swinging and swinging and swinging. And while Pierce could look to Ray and  Ray could find Garnett and Garnett got relief from Rondo, there was really nowhere else for Wade to turn when he needed someone to take over for a spell. Credit the Heat for fighting hard. Pat Riley got what he wanted out of this team, an improved record from last season and a return trip to the playoffs. Beyond that, this was all about the summer of 2010. Well now it's here.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Mario Chalmers was the only other Heat player to score in double figures. His Game5-Rio 20-point contribution was his playoff career high. He was 6 of 13 from the field, 3 of 8 on threes, 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. Chalmers got 14 of those points in the second half, as the Heat battled back from that 21-point deficit. Everyone else was severely limited. Haslem, who had been playing through one sore ankle, injured the other Tuesday. Quentin Richardson aggravated his bruised left hand and had little left out there. Jermaine O'Neal was consistent in his lack of contribution. Beasley was benched after a rough first half that saw miss all three of his field goals, commit three turnovers and struggle defensively. So, in other words, Chalmers wins by default here. 

NEXT UP: Exit Interviews - Wednesday, AmericanAirlines Arena

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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Celtics 85, Heat 76

BOSTON - There are essentially only two things that matter from the opening game of this playoff series Playoff-Main between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

Boston bullied the Heat to snatch an 85-76 victory after coming back from a 14-point deficit. And the Celtics also took advantage of an opportunity to try to punk the Heat in the process late in the game.

It's on now. If there's one thing this Heat team has proved throughout the course of the season is that it responds to this type of adversity. As Dwyane Wade made it clear after the game.

"They try to bully you," Wade said. "They try to push you to the limit. We're not going to back down."

The real shame of the matter for the Heat is that it had this game won. For the third time in four meetings with the Celtics this season, Miami allowed a game it seemed to be in control of slip right through its fingers. And considering the 22 turnovers Miami committed, that might be the perfect analogy.

Put it this way. Boston doesn't need Miami's help to beat the Heat. Yet Miami assisted the Celtics anyway. I don't think Game 1 did anything to disrupt the Heat's confidence. Miami knows it is capable of beating this Celtics team. But knowing you can do it and actually getting it done are two different things.

The Celtics carry a 1-0 lead into Game 2 on Tuesday night. So expect the Heat to spend the next two days kicking itself in the rear for allowing Saturday's golden opportunity to slip away.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: There have been plenty of nights when Wade's overall play was good enough to overshadow his high-turnover outings. But this is the playoffs. That doesn't often happen at this stage of the season, when every possession is magnified, especially down the stretch. Wade had 26 points on an effIcient 11-of-18 shooting from the field. He also had eight rebounds and six assists. But the seven turnovers were crucial. This wasn't necessarily a case of Wade being reckless. His teammates let him down on numerous occasions by dropping passes or fumbling the ball away or failing to be in a spot where they should have been. On the other hand, Wade was clearly in the wrong for tossing that alley-oop well beyond Udonis Haslem's reach at one stage late in the game. Even against Boston's nagging defense, Wade was still able to get to the basket just about any time he wanted. It appears the Celtics are fine with Wade going off for big numbers. But the Heat's supporting cast must command Boston's respect.

TURNING POINT: The Celtics used a 34-10 spurt at one point, a run that started midway through third quarter once Paul Pierce found his offense. But just about every Celtics player contributed to the game-changing rally. Tony Allen was scoring, Glen Davis rebounded and kept balls alive. Boston's bench outperformed the Heat's. And then the cagey vets took over from there.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: This one's easy. Really easy. Miami, which had been one of the best teams in the league at protecting the ball, committed 22 turnovers that led to 38 points for Boston. Nothing hurt the Heat more than its generosity Saturday night. The 22 turnovers were the most by the Heat in a game since 2008. And the 38 points surrendered off turnovers were Miami's most in the Pat Riley era with the team, which dates to 1995.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: It's going to be interesting whether the league takes any sort of punitive stance on Playoff-Fight the semi-skirmish that broke out with 40 seconds left in the game. Neither team backed down during the incident that involved Quentin Richardson, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis and several others after Pierce fell into the front row near the Heat's bench. Replay not only showed what appeared to be a right-handed shove-punch from Richardson that appeared to catch Davis, it also showed a blatant elbow thrown into the crowd as Garnett was trying to separate himself from the mix. Beyond that, you have to wonder what Richardson was thinking with some of the postgame comments he made. There was this: "(Pierce) was on the ground crying. I don't know what was going on, two (Pierce/Garnett) actresses over there, that's what they are." Referee Joe DeRosa determined that Garnett's elbow contacted Richardson and warranted the ejection. Richardson then launched into Garnett and Pierce again after the game. "I don't like them and they know it." Richardson also suggested Pierce was playing the diva role with the injury. "Sometimes he falls like he's about to be out for the season and then he gets right up. Is he taking another break like he does so many times?" Wow. And I mean, wow. I haven't heard this sort of lyrical battle since Pac took out Biggie and Bad Boy Records in Hit 'em Up. Quentin is going to be a marked man from here on out in this series. He's got the gift of gab. But he better bring his game, too.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Might as well stay with Richardson here. He was the only other Heat player in Quentin-standalone double figures. Richardson was 5 of 10 from the field, including 3 of 6 from three-point range for 15 points. he also had four rebounds, three assists and a steal in 30 minutes. But his most productive moments came during the altercation and in the post-game locker room. Wade is going to need help to offset Boston's Big 4. The Heat caught a break because Ray Allen was far less than his usual dagger-delivering self. Q is going to have to not only defend, but also knock down threes and, just as importantly, drive to the basket and try to get defenders into foul trouble. 

NEXT UP: Heat at Celtics (Game 2), Tuesday 8 p.m. - TD Garden

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bracket Breakdown, Beantown & Ballots

Did anyone expect otherwise? Celtics Heat Main

Because it really shouldn't be a surprise that the Heat isn't a popular pick nationally to get past Boston in the first round of the playoffs. When it comes to tradition, legacy, championship banners and big names on the back of jerseys, Boston clearly has the edge on Miami.

But this is about basketball. The Heat isn't facing the Celtics' tradition. It's facing the team that has limped into the playoffs, is aging right before our eyes and is rolling on fumes and pride at this point.

In a lot of ways, this Celtics team reminds me a lot of the Heat's 2006-07 team that came back intact after winning the championship the previous season. Big names on the jerseys. Big talk in the locker room. Big pride and egos. But when it came time to flip the switch in the playoffs, those things only got Miami swept.

This is not to suggest the Heat, on the other hand, has presented a strong case for consistency this season, either. Clearly, this is one of the more intriguing matchups in a playoffs full of interesting series.

But for now, let's generate a different sort of debate. The NBA's deadline to turn in ballots for league awards was Thursday. Here were my submissions on the four awards for which I was selected to vote.

Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks - Not only has Brooks fostered a system that allowed Kevin Durant to rapidly blossom into an elite player, he also guided one of the youngest teams in the league to a 50-win season and a playoff berth in the NBA's most difficult conference. Runner up: Scott Skiles. Third: George Karl.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard - Statistically, we're looking at the Bill Russell of this  Howard-UD generation. Of course, Howard has a long, long, long way to go when it comes to championship rings. But there is not a more dominant rebounder and shot-blocker in the league. It's a shame Howard doesn't get more consideration for the MVP award. Runner up: Gerald Wallace. Third: Josh Smith

Most Improved: Andrew Bogut - It has taken a while, but Bogut took a significant step this season toward living up to his No. 1 overall pick status. He elevated his game to become arguably the second most productive center in the Eastern Conference this season. Unfortunately, that devastating arm injury seriously deflated the Bucks chance to do much damage in the playoffs. Runner up: Russell Westbrook. Third: Marc Gasol.

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James - You know when you've reached Jordan status when folksLeBron-Wade start looking for a reason not to give you the MVP. But the case is simple for LeBron in this case. The numbers that won it for him last season are even better across the board this season. He's the best player on the best team in the league. Runner Up: Dwight Howard. Third: Kevin Durant. Fourth: Amare' Stoudemire. Fifth: Dwyane Wade.

Filling out the ballots was a grueling process, especially this season. It just seemed the allotted number of selections was too low. That forced some difficult decisions - as should be the case - as to whom made the cut and whom didn't. It wasn't easy to leave Kobe Bryant off the MVP ballot, although his support system sort of diminished his need to be spectacular every night. It was just as difficult to omit Jerry Sloan and Mike Woodson from the coaching ballot. Joakim Noah was right there at the Most Improved cut-off.

If you had those ballots, how different would yours have been? You get five MVP choices and three for each of the other awards. Fire away.

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


Monday, March 01, 2010

10 Reasons for Playoff Panic

We can be honest with one another, can't we? Wade-Ref

So let's start here. The only certainty with this Miami Heat team is that there are no longer any certainties.

What once seemed to be a forgone conclusion that Michael Beasley would develop into a major star isn't that much of a lock any longer. 

What seemed almost a definite when it came to Dwyane Wade's long-term future in Miami is now as cloudy as it's ever been.

And even this team essentially being a lock to make the playoffs - even in its state of sub-mediocrity - is no longer a sure thing, and probably never should have been to begin with. Your instincts told you last summer, as seemingly every team in the East made upgrades, that something like this could happened.

And now, it has. Today, Miami sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings. That's one spot below the eighth and final seed in the playoff mix. If there ever was a time to lift a finger to push the postseason aspirations panic button, it's now.

If you're still convinced beyond reproach that the Heat will make the playoffs, then you probably have a lot more conviction than, perhaps, even some in Miami's very own locker room at this point. Otherwise, here are 10 reasons to legitimately worry about the Heat's chances to make the playoffs.

Spo-back-JO 10. Because many - if not most - fans have already braced themselves for an early offseason, and wouldn't be surprised in the least if this team missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

9. Because there is still a huge disparity in the money Miami spent two summers ago on James Jones, Yakhouba Diawara and Mario Chalmers and the production that trio provided off the bench.

8. Because everything you were told about the 10,000 shots, 10,000 dribble drives and 10,000 passes taken during last summer's development of Chalmers, Jones, Daequan Cook and others has equated to 30,000 reasons to wonder if it was all a waste of time.

7. Because the Heat has picked the wrong time of the season to succumb to injuries.

6. Because many of coach Erik Spoelstra's motivational methods and tactics have run out of steam, if they ever gained any in the first place.

5. Because the Heat has the ninth-worst home record in the league at 14-14, which means there's essentially no home-court advantage on which to rely going down the stretch.

4. Because this latest, last-ditch, desperate attempt to rely on zone defense only confirms that there are just too many defensive deficiencies on this team to hide.

3. Because, for all of the promise, potential and hopeful planning, Michael Beasley and Dwyane Wade just haven't been able to be mutually effective on a consistent basis when playing together.

2. Because Dwyane Wade clearly said he wanted more help last summer and never got it. So, although heRiley-Hush would never say it publicly, this has turned into sort of a "I-told-you-so" referendum on the roster.

1. Because the fact of the matter is that this season was never truly supposed to be much more than a waiting game for the reason season: The 2010 offseason of free agency fixes. Anything more would have been a bonus. Credit Pat Riley for keeping a straight face through this 82-game exhibition.

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


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