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7 posts from February 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Can't Miss

It's amazing to watch how efficient both Shaq and Dwyane can be. I don't know how many other guards in the league can start a game 14 of 15, especially a guard who isn't considered a great outside shooter.

I thought Antoine Walker made a great point about Dwyane, one I haven't really considered. He said Wade does a great job of getting easy baskets, better than any of the top scorers in the league. You always hear scorers say how one or two easy baskets got them going. Well, Dwyane is constantly getting ahead of the defense to get as many of those easy baskets that he can. Sometimes even if he has a defender or two in front of him, as long as he's in open space, he'll get a layup anyway. You could say that doesn't work in the playoffs because teams get back on defense, but I remember quite a few occassions where Wade broke free, even against the Pistons.

Shaq said he splits his seasons up into four parts. This is part three, and it's when he starts to turn it up. At first I didn't really believe his song and dance about saving it for the end of the season, and in a sense I still don't. But I do notice that he looks quicker, more explosive and more committed to defense lately, so it seems his plan is working. Even Pat Riley is providing glowing reviews of Shaq lately, and he is normally semi-reserved in his praise for Shaq because he wants him to get in shape. Riley says Shaq is down to 326, and he seems pretty happy with that. In his last three games, Shaq is shooting 77 percent. That's pretty darn good no matter what he weighs.

Riley also talked about playing Zo and Shaq together. He's been saying it since he took over and I don't think it will, or should, happen. But at this point in the schedule, it might be the right time to take a look at it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Good to go

What does Derek Anderson do for you?
Not a whole lot, I bet. He is a guy who, when healthy, can get his own shot, which would have been more vital to last year's Heat team than this year's. The key to Anderson and whether it will be a good acquisition is his defense. I'm not sure what he looks like defensively because I only saw him play a few games this season, but he should be quick enough to stay with guys and slippery enough to get through screens. I don't think this takes Shandon Anderson out of the role as the defensive specialist. I think Pat Riley will keep Derek at the shooting guard spot, and possibly play him with Dwyane Wade in the backcourt together.

The shaky part of this deal is that Jason Williams could miss any game with his knee issues, but Riley had been trying to avoid paying Fitch anyway, and with Derek Anderson, Wade and Antoine Walker all capable of handling the ball, I think even if Williams misses a game or two that the team can get by at point guard. Gary Payton will have to play about 40 minutes, and the other eight or so should feature Anderson, Walker and Wade all on the floor together for ball handling.

I'm told  the Heat was trying to be more aggressive with bigger names like Walker and Williams right up to the deadline, but no one out there offered anything of significance. If that sounds hard to believe, consider that Riley also tried to trade Eddie Jones the first year he was with the Heat, and that this is the same Riley who made drastic changes this offseason when most people thought it was completely unnecessary.

We'll see what happens from here on out, but without any major changes, this team should continue to improve right up to the season's end.

Monday, February 20, 2006

All-Star edition

I wasn't at the All-Star Game, otherwise I'd have some more interesting things to blog on from the weekend. But looking at Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal's  numbers were pretty impressive. A combined 16 of 20 (80 percent) from the field for 37 points. How cool was it to see those two work together, or at least try to, for that give-and-go between Yao's legs?

Doug Collins mentioned that Shaq usually turns it on after the All-Star Game, which I'm not sure was necessarily the case last year. But I think because he's feeling better and better as this season goes along that he'll put some really good games together in the last 29 games.

I don't think this will be the last time you'll see LeBron James and Wade going 1-2 in scoring in an All-Star Game. Those two do so many similar things, but they still manage to work well together.

Not sure what I thought about Rasheed Wallace taking a three-pointer left-handed during the game. Was that equivalent to T-Mac throwing it off the backboard to himself? Or is it a little bit more of a mockery of the game because it's so low-percentage and not really that entertaining (how many fans in the arena do you think noticed he took it lefty?)?

I'm throwing out a ridiculous conspiracy theory for kicks: Wade and LeBron were 1-2 in minutes played in the game. Was All-Star and Pistons coach Flip Saunders trying to wear them out because his team will likely play the Cavs in the second round and the Heat in the next round? Hmmm.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Feeling good?

The schedule makers were good to the Heat's peace of mind this year, giving them two games against Orlando to end the unofficial first half of the season. Some things to think about going into the break:

Antoine Walker better as a starter? I know the matchups don't always work in his favor like Hedo Turkoglu did, but he has a better chance of putting up big numbers as a starter than as a reserve. And now that he knows where his shots would come from, and he's shooting 50 percent over a good stretch of games, maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to start him at small forward ahead of Posey.

If the Heat makes a major change (Riley said he would only make a trade if it was for a "frontline" guy) wouldn't that restart the whole chemistry-building thing? I'm actually on the other side of Riley's thinking, figuring a minor move is the way to go (another point guard or perimeter shooter/defender).

Udonis Haslem got back-to-back double-doubles against the Magic while playing against the league's leading rebounder. Think that has anything to do with his name being thrown around in trade rumors (nothing very credible, but it's out there)?

Just a hunch here, but look for Shaq to try to win MVP in the All-Star Game. Why? Just to temporarily quiet those who are calling him old and on the rapid decline.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Formula

I was talking to an Eastern Conference scout at halftime, one who hadn't seen the Heat play in a while, and he said he thought Dwyane Wade was better under Stan Van Gundy. I agreed and had been thinking this for a while.
The reason is this: For all the experience Pat Riley has, which has helped him get Gary Payton and Antoine Walker more involved in games, he's not really one to let a guard go isolation possession after possession. He's more old school and wants to either go in the post or run some sort of play. But when Stan was coaching, especially in the playoffs last year, he wasn't afraid to just line up Dwyane against his defender and let him go to town. And as you saw in the playoffs, it worked -- A LOT!
Well, look at the second half against the Pistons. Wade lined his guy up over and over, and it worked over and over again.

Maybe now, at least in the big games, Pat will call as many isolation plays as it takes to get a win. The best part about how Sunday's win came was that Shaq also managed a big game. And that should encourage Heat fans who think the team has no shot against the Pistons. I don't know if it's pride or stupidity, but the Pistons continue to play Shaq one-on-one (maybe it's because it worked against the Lakers). And if he can have a big game, and Dwyane can do his usual number against the Pistons, the Heat has just as good a chance against that team as last year.
Look at what happened Sunday. Shaq and Dwyane went off, Gary Payton helped out with 13 points, and no one else did anything, really, offensively. The Pistons nailed 11 three-pointers. The Heat just one. And somehow the Heat still won.

A couple other things to note about Sunday's game: Shandon Anderson was absolutely huge. His defense on Rip Hamilton is what allowed everything else to happen. There's no way the Heat holds the Pistons to 14 points in the fourth without him. Look for him to be a regular in the rotation, especially if Posey continues to play uneven basketball.
And I know Jason Williams didn't play much and had trouble with Chauncey Billups, but look for him to finally break out again and start playing like he had been before the finger injury. The stitches are gone, so he'll start playing aggressively again.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Make a move

Everyone has their opinions on trade possibilities, both minor and major. I wrote that trade column on Sunday, throwing out the idea of Damon Jones coming back here because he's not exactly thrilled in Cleveland, even with the money he's getting.
But there are other options out there, and I'd like to here some more opinions.

I think everyone assumes Michael Doleac is available (it's actually more than just an assumption on my part), so what about a Doleac for Jim Jackson trade? Jackson is best suited for a playoff team, but maybe not a playoff team that plays like Phoenix anymore. He's older, and the Suns are getting younger and faster. Is he washed up? I doubt it, especially if you're just asking for a few minutes off the bench. Does the Heat need another wing player? I go back and forth with that question. Right now I think the team could use another scorer at the backup shooting guard position, because Gary Payton has had his bad nights shooting from the outside.

The Heat can pick up Flip Murray from Seattle for the trade exception, then use him as that third point guard option. He's more of a scorer than Fitch is and less of a regular point guard, but he could split the actual ball-handling duties with D-Wade when they're on the floor together, or Antoine Walker when they're on the floor together. He might look like he's wearing blinders out there at times while he's playing, but I'm sure you'd feel better having Flip take a shot than Fitch. Flip could also play backup two.

Any other ideas?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Look ahead

Yes, the Nets game is a big game because the Heat wants to beat a quality team on the road and wants to distinguish itself as, at least, the clear No. 2 team in the East.
But if you look past this game, it could be the start of so much more.
If the Heat has the ability to beat the Nets on the road, it could also be capable of beating the Mavericks on the road next week. Then, there's a home game against the Pistons next Sunday. All three of those games will be treated as major challenges, and you know Riley will do everything to have them take that challenge.

OK, so look at the schedule past the Pistons. There's nothing there until the Heat plays the Pistons again on March 22.
After the PIstons next Sunday, it goes like this: Magic, Magic, Knicks, Sonics, Raptors, Celtics, Hawks, Bobcats, Wizards, Warriors, Cavaliers, Jazz, Celtics, Bulls, Knicks and Timberwolves. And of those games, the only road game that would be considered a decent challenge to the Heat is at Chicago.

Just pointing out the possibilities.



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