Sunday, June 06, 2010

Day Of Heat, Haiti and Healing

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti - First and foremost, I'd like to thank the Heat and Project Medishare for allowing a select group of IMG00027 newspaper and television reporters to take part in a remarkable day of service, sacrifice and stunning scenes from Haiti.

There's no way to compare catastrophic tragedy and measure the impact of natural disasters. But what I witnessed in Port Au Prince on Saturday - six months after the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti - reminded me a lot of the heartache, suffering and sadness that followed Hurricane Katrina.

I've now had a ground zero experience with both, and it is something I won't forget for the rest of my life.

There was a lot of good Saturday that emerged amid the rubble of a nation still staggering from the earthquake. There was hope amid the hopelessness. The Heat donated $25,000 through its charitable fund to Project Medishare's effort to build/renovate a hospital that would move patients from tents to a structured facility.

Among the highlights from the trip ...

--Before the flight to Port Au Prince departed from Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra addressed his role within the organization for the first time since team president Pat Riley left the door open for a possible return to coaching last month.

Spoelstra said he was given assurances from both Riley and Heat owner Micky Arison that he would be back next season as the Heat's coach.

"I didn't take the way everybody else took it," Spoelstra said of Riley's suggestion that he might be open to Spoelstra-Yellow returning to the bench if a prominent free agent made it a condition of signing with the Heat. "I can see how it's portrayed out there in the media. But I didn't really take it personally. Nothing's changed."

Spoelstra said part of working for "a Hall of Fame presence" in Riley is having to deal with the conjecture.

"He and Micky have given me assurances, but it's not needed," Spoelstra said. "And I've told them that."

--Project Medishare co-founder Dr. Barth Green posted up with Alonzo Mourning in the G concourse as medical supplies and staffers were being gathered for the trip Saturday. With Mourning by his side, Green discussed how the non-profit organization would use donations such as the $25,000 the Heat generated from funds raised during the team's annual family festival.

"This week, we're moving to a hospital we spent the last several weeks fixing up," Green said. "We've got state-of-the-art operating rooms. We're moving all of the supplies and will have the only ICU facility in the region. We're increasing the capacity and will be operating a 90-bed critical care hospital."

Green went on to lay out the broader plan for Project Medishare, which is to ultimately train Haitian medical staffers to run the hospitals and clinics once the buildings are restructured.

--Once Vision flight 401 touched ground at Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport, new Heat Community and Corporate Liaison Tim Hardaway was in a full sweat preparing for a day of hospital visits and touring of the region's hardest-hit areas.

"This is something that's not only needed for the people of Haiti, but also for people who might take for granted some of the things they have in life," Hardaway said. "The Heat organization and a lot of people in South Florida have a close connection with the people over here. Hopefully we can help affect peoples lives down here in a positive way, even if it's just for a day."

--In addition to Spoelstra, Mourning and Hardaway, Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay made the trip. IMG00020 Gay, a close friend of Dwyane Wade, contributed to the $1 million Wade and Mourning raised through pledges earlier this year for Haiti relief.

Gay said he wanted to do more than support the cause financially. "I wanted to come down here and see what it was all going to," Gay said. "Some of the things I'll do today, I'll keep with me the rest of my life."

On another note, Gay will be a restricted free agent on July 1. He got a close-up look at how the Heat operates on a community level and even took a couple of the tampering jokes in stride. One of the funnier moments from the trip came when Gay had to quickly duck out before a publicity photo was snapped in which Mourning, Spoelstra and Hardaway presented the Heat's $25,000 check to Project Medishare.

--On a final note from the day-long mission, Mourning left lasting impressions on just about every Zo Photo child he touched and every adult patient who clamored to touch him. As great a basketball player as Mourning was during what should be a Hall-of-Fame career, he's already eclipsed the marks he made on the court with his philanthropic deeds off the hardwood. He's putting muscle behind his money.

The demands on this man's time have to be overwhelming, but he still shows up whenever he's called to Haiti. This was his fourth trip to the country - and he was one of the first public figures on the ground days after the earthquake hit on Jan. 12.

"There's always more you can do," Mourning said as the delegation boarded the flight back to Miami after six hours of the ground in Haiti. "For me, for all of you, for a lot of people involved with this, the work is far from finished."

(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, July 30, 2009

Summer of Elightenment

Yes, the wait for Lamar Odom on the free-agent front continues for the Miami Heat.

No, not everyone in the organization is sitting around waiting on pins and needles for that decision. SPO-Coach

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is half a world away in the Philippines, in the midst of a near two-week trip to his mother's homeland to conduct clinics and basketball camps with the country's youth. Spoelstra, 38, returned to the Philippines for the first time in 35 years.

Had a chance to catch up with the soon-to-be second-year Heat coach during a conference call Thursday morning. It was 10 a.m. on this end, but it was 10 p.m. where Spoelstra was speaking from a dinner meeting with various dignitaries and basketball officials.

The conference call was set up under one condition by the Heat: That Spoelstra wouldn't have to address the free-agency frenzy that has engulfed the team amid its wait for the Odom situation to be resolved.

Instead, Spoelstra talked at length about how enlightening this trip has been for him, given the chance he's had to reconnect with one side of his roots some 6,000 miles away. Spoelstra is the first coach in NBA history to be of Filipino heritage. Spo hasn't reached Manny Pacquiao level when it comes to the natives. But he's gaining ground. Especially after this trip, where he's been on the go teaching and inspiring both young and old from 7 a.m. until nearly midnight each day.

"I have a great deal of pride about my heritage," Spoelstra said. "I've been able to reconnect with family, some I haven't seen since I was three years old. To be able to come here - 6,000 miles away is a special feeling."

Spoelstra made the trip with Heat assistant coaches Dave Fizdale and Chad Kammerer. They've crossed the country to speak to government officials and instruct youth, college and pro basketball players. Spoelstra has chronicled the trip in blog entries posted on the Heat's web site. One of the things that surprised Spoelstra the most was the knowledge of the NBA at every age over there.

"They know about the (Heat's) free agent possibilities and trades," Spoelstra said. "So we started asking them questions. Who has the most titles among NBA players? One kid raised his hand and said, 'Bill Russell.' Another said, 'He has 11.' We were blown away by that."

Spoelstra and the staff are scheduled to return to Miami on Aug. 3 to oversee another set of intensive offseason workouts for the Heat's younger players. The team already completed one session earlier this month. 

"The guys are coming back the first week of August ready to work," Spoelstra said.

Maybe there will be a Lamar resolution, with Odom in tow by then. 

Then again, at this rate, maybe not. 

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

LIVE! Game 5: Miami Heat 91 @ Atlanta Hawks 106 (FINAL) -- ATL Leads Series 3-2 ... Dwyane Wade INJURED, RETURNS ... Marvin Williams OUT

Wade2 ATLANTA -- George Richards here, ready to give you another evening of LIVE! Heat.

The last time I was in this arena, the Florida Panthers season all but came to an end.

That could happen to the Heat as well.

The Hawks got a big win in Miami on Monday night and are now trying to take control of this opening round series tonight against the Heat.

If Miami loses, it's in trouble; sure, the Heat have a Game 6 at the Arena on Friday night, but it would have to win this thing in a Game 7 here in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. That won't be easy. So a win here is critical for both teams.

(If there is a Game 7, it will be on ABC on Sunday @ 1 p.m. Check local listings. Speaking of that, former Channel 10 sports guy Chuck Dowdle is walking around the arena. Dude has become an institution in ATL. Of course, that just shows how old I am. I remember him calling UM games back when Howard was the head coach. But I, once again, digress)...

-- Dwyane Wade says he's playing tonight, and came into the arena sporting a trenchcoat. He must be cold. Not me. I walked to the arena from my hotel and it has to be 85 out there. Felt nice though. Good walk.

Wade is in the starting lineup despite his back spasms. Coach Erik Spoelstra says he took treatment and rest throughout the afternoon so he should be good to go. If Wade was to go out, seems like Spoels has a plan, one that includes moving the ball around more to create some offense.

But if No. 3 isn't in there, good luck with that.

-- The Hawks will be without Marvin Williams for a third straight game because of a wrist injury suffered here in Game 2 last week.

-- Check back throughout the night. Not going to be much on the play-by-play (did way too much of that on Monday and these basketball guys score a lot quicker than the hockey guys) but more of what's going on down on the floor.

Spirit FIRST QUARTER -- FIRST QUARTER -- FIRST QUARTER

-- D-Wade in the starting lineup, getting ready to start this thing. Fans here were given white t-shirts, so don't adjust your TV sets.

--Al Horford picks up his first foul of the night, just 24 seconds into the game. Jermaine O'Neal misses his first, makes his second. Unlike all of Monday night, the Heat have a lead. Of course, it's only 1-0. But it's something.

--The Heat looked to be trying to play without D-Wade early on, the Heat star not even touching the ball until he took an inbound pass with 8:28 left in the quarter. DW worked the ball in and took a shot from the top of the key; it rimmed out.

--DW now on the scoreboard, sank 1 of 2 FTs with 6:35 left in the first...MIA 9-6..

--D-Wade just collided with Josh Smith fighting for a loose ball and hit the ground hard -- and landed on his already hurting back. Wade stayed on the floor while play went on around him, writhing in pain; he is still down. The team's medical staff is out there at midcourt. Wade is in obvious pain.

He just stood up to applause from most in the building, holding his head. Looks like he may have taken a shot to the noggin. He's headed into the locker room now.

-- Daequan Cook came in for DW, but nothing so far out of Miami since Wade went to the locker room.

Jermaine O'Neal is saving the Heat right now, scoring four points since Wade went down. He has 10 going into the second quarter. DW is still in the locker room.

SECOND QUARTER -- SECOND QUARTER -- SECOND QUARTER

-- Dwyane Wade is back in the game..returned to the court with 10:26 left in the half and is fouled..he and Solomon Jones push and shove, Dick Bavetta all but smothers Wade from getting into any trouble as tempers flare. Funny stuff...

More importantly, Wade is back. Heat down four...

--Wade just hit one of two FTs; techs handed out to three players.

-- Wade just went after Mo Evans on a dunk, the two landing in a heap. Wade bounced right back up though; Evans OK as well. Both landed awful hard.

Wade assessed a flagrant foul. ATL gets possession back with Evans at the line (he hit one of two)...and then Hawks pick up two more. Bad call on the flagrant; DW was definitely going for the ball.

--Not looking good for the Heat; only guys on the floor now who can score are O'Neal and Beasley...Wade hasn''t hit a shot and is 2-of-4 from the line...\James Jones playing good D though, just took a textbook charge...

--Wade just hit his first FG of the night, a long b-line shot with 3:38 left in the second...

--Now Horford is hurt after being fouled by Jones while going hard at the hoop...OK., he's up...he missed the first FT, makes the second...Heat getting run tonight...down 20 with 2:32 left in the first half...

-- When DWade gets six points in a half, this is what you get: a Heat blowout. Miami is just getting beat up here in ATL and look ready to get home. There are 24 more minutes left, and Miami can still make a run. But it's going to take a lot of DWade and he doesn't look able right now. Very stiff. Just missed a 3-pointer at the end of the half, a shot he probably makes another day. But not this one.

Will be back in the third...

THIRD QUARTER -- THIRD QUARTER -- THIRD QUARTER

--OK, D-Wade looks pretty good here to start the second half....

DW has made all three shots he took, and he looks crisp and refreshed. Good for him. Anyway, he has six points in the first 1:56 of the third period -- matching his entire input during the opening half.

-- Wade just missed his first shot of the half, now 5-of-6 shooting in the third....Heat cut deficit to 14 a few times, but have yet to come any closer. ATL now leads by 18 with 5:47 left in the third...

--Well, they're back to 14...

--Jermaine just picked up his fifth foul with 2:33 left in the third...thats not good...Beasley is in now...

--Heat are going into the fourth quarter down 15...

FOURTH QUARTER -- FOURTH QUARTER -- FOURTH QUARTER

--OK kids, Heaters are down 19 with 8:16 left. Think I'm going to concentrate on my other work for now. If I don't return, you know what happened. Blowout city, baby.

Will return to this Bat Channel by Saturday morning at the very least.

See you at Game 6. Wear black.

It may be time for the Heat's 2008-09 funeral. 

Drive careful everyone....


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