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13 posts from October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


If any of these end up being way off, I'll deny, deny, deny...

No. of games played for Shaquille O'Neal: 69.
    Sounds like a lot? That's because it is, and I'm probably crazy to think he can do it. He has only played 70 or more twice in the past seven seasons. But he has played at least 67 in six of the last eight seasons, so two more doesn't seem like that much of a stretch.

No. of games missed, combined, between the starting backcourt of Dwyane Wade and Jason Williams: 20.
    Most of that will come from Dwyane, who'll probably miss eight or so to start the season. I just believe Jason is as healthy as he has been in three years, and he tries to play through any pain anyway, so you know he will in a contract season.

Points averaged by Wade, O'Neal and Davis: 25 ppg, 19 ppg, 16 ppg.
    That would be a total of 60 ppg -- a tad more than the top three in any of the years Wade and Shaq have been together. But they'll need more from the top three than they ever have because of questionable depth.

Wins: 51
    I actually think that if the guys stay healthy it'll be an easy 50-win season, but I don't want to sound like the eternal optimist. I just don't think you can assume guys will be hurt. I mean, what other teams are people assuming significant injuries for? I can't think of one.

Playoff seed: Third
    Tricky here, but I think the Magic and Heat will battle it out for the division, with the Magic taking it by a hair. I also figure either the Celtics or the Pistons (I can't decide on which one) will get the No. 1 seed, with the other team being a slight disappointment (there is no rhyme or reason to that prediction, it's just what my crystal ball says). That'll leave the Heat with the third-best record. Also, the Cavs and Bulls (yes, even with Kobe Bryant) will have slightly disappointing regular seasons.

How will the season end? Can't see that far into the future. Not without watching Dwyane Wade play for a couple months. Get back to me after the trade deadline.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dwyane looking good

Saw Dwyane go hard at the end of practice in some drills against Daequan Cook and Chris Quinn, and he looked real good. He might have been avoiding real hard contact on his left side, but that's probably more because he hasn't been completely cleared for practice, and not because he's tentative or anything like that.
He even said after that session that he could play right now, but he wants to come back at full strength and not worry about hurting the team while he's rounding back into proper form.
At the very least it was an encouraging sight. He seemed to be jumping without a problem, which is encouraging because J-Will didn't look this good last year at this time after the same knee surgery.
Dwyane also said he's supposed to see the doctor again on Thursday (at least that was the plan), and he will find out then if he can move forward in the rehab process. I'm guessing the next step is just full contact practice, but that could be wrong.
I'm thinking the earliest return date might still be Nov. 14 against Seattle at home.
But Dwyane is always pretty secretive and sneaky with that stuff (remember his return last season from the shoulder injury was a surprise), so you never know. Could even be earlier. I can't imagine, after seeing him Tuesday, that he needs that much more time. I guess we'll see.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Roster set

Heat cuts four young guys, two of them may be considered mild surprises. Jeremy Richardson and Devin Green were kind of expected, while Brian Chase and Marcus Slaughter had enough moments that you wondered if they would stick. But they're all gone, and the guys on the bubble that stayed are C Joel Anthony and PF Alexander Johnson (although you could argue that Chris Quinn, Penny Hardaway and Earl Barron were all considered "bubble" players, too).

I like that the Heat kept Johnson. I remember watching him play in the preseason last year with Memphis, and he was an impressive athlete. Riley said as much today, saying that AJ is the only one of his big guys who plays "above the rim." Plus, not only does he have some NBA experience, but AJ is a pure PF, and it's the position the Heat needs most.

I'm guessing the opening day starting lineup would be Shaq, Haslem, Wright, Davis and J-Will, with Smush, Penny, Blount and Zo the top bench options.
Could have problems covering Tayshaun Prince in that scenario, but it's a good enough unit to be competitive for a few weeks without Dwyane, as long as Shaq stays out of regular foul trouble and J-Will and Ricky shoot it well.
Shaq, on that note, said Monday that the Heat should be "well above .500" when Dwyane returns. Maybe it's that scraggly beard making him even scarier than usual, but I'm forced to believe him.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ricky and the Shaq factor

For somebody who is considered a chucker -- and let's face it, Ricky Davis is not the most selective of shooters -- Ricky has pretty good career shooting numbers.
In nine seasons, Ricky has shot 45.1 percent from the field and 35.2 from three point range. Paul Pierce, by comparison, has shot 44.0 percent for his career and 36.0 percent from three.
And last season, playing with Kevin Garnett and the T-Wolves, Davis shot 46.5 percent from the floor and 39.7 from three-point range.
So, if it's true that Shaquille O'Neal, even at this stage of his career, automatically makes his teammates more efficient, then does that mean we can expect an even more efficient, effective, season from Davis?
Davis has a couple of factors working against him, though. First, he's playing with these guys for the first time and hasn't had much time to get used to his teammates. Second, Shaq might not draw as much attention as he has in the past, so Ricky won't have as much room to operate.
Ricky has managed to take advantage of a couple of strong teammates in the past few years.
In his first season with Paul Pierce, a 57-game stint in 2003-04, Ricky shot 48.8 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three. And his only full season with Garnett was last year, arguably his most efficient full season.
I'm guessing Ricky can average anywhere between 14 and 16 points this season, which would easily be the best third scorer the Heat has had since Shaq and Dwyane have been together.
Last season, Jason Kapono and Jason Williams, 10.9 ppg, were tied for third highest scorer.
In 2005-06 it was Jason Williams with 12.3 a game.
In 2004-05 it was Eddie Jones with 12.7.
With J-Will in a contract year and seemingly healthy for the first time since he has been here, it has the potential to be a pretty strong offense once everyone is healthy. The only thing missing, maybe, is a drop-dead three-point shooter like Kapono, or even James Posey, who you knew was going to shoot it right around 40 percent from deep. Maybe J-Will and Ricky, taking good, open threes, can make up for that.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dorell, a big man?

I’m a little intrigued by the idea of spotting Dorell some minutes at power forward (he is 6-9-plus). He can rebound with anyone, when he wants to, so that part wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. And he can beat other PFs down the floor, as well as take them off the dribble and create easier than he would against SFs.

The problem, of course, would be at the defensive end against any prototypical PFs. And in the game Riley would prefer to play early on, which is pound the ball to Shaq, there won’t be too many opportunities for Dorell to take advantage of playing that position.

However, there are some teams that play rather unconventional PFs that I could absolutely see Dorell playing against. Here are the teams I came up with that spend a good amount of time playing PFs that Dorell could match up against regardless of style of game:

Atlanta: Marvin Williams, Josh Smith

Orlando: Rashard Lewis, Pat Garrity

Chicago: Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Andres Nocioni

Milwaukee: Yi Jianlian, Charlie Villanueva

Golden State: Al Harrington, Austin Croshere, Matt Barnes

Houston: Chuck Hayes

Phoenix: Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw

Wizards: Antawn Jamison

Other matchup possibilities, like Drew Gooden in Cleveland, are questionable, but I just don’t think Dorell would match up well against anyone, no matter how thin, that plays with his back to the basket. And then there are other teams, like Sacramento, where you’re not sure what they’re doing at power forward (Mikki Moore?), so I left them out.

So, I guess in short I’m saying it’s feasible. But it probably would be too seldom an often for Riley to be comfortable going to it. But then again, maybe Riles becomes proactive and forces the action, figuring that Dorell against a prototype power forward is difficult enough a matchup that it would force the other team to adjust. But that’s not exactly in Riley’s history.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Trade tidbits

First, I was wrong on the previous entry about Ricky's scoring average the one year in Cleveland. It was just over 20, not 24. I just had 24 in my head because that's what he was averaging right around midseason that year when I was considering his All-Star qualifications.
As for the not a single assist comment, I watched Ricky play more than a handful of those games when he was in Cleveland. He was strictly interested in getting his. Those five assists a game were almost by accident. Not that I think he's the same player now. He was just so happy to finally be free to play heavy minutes that he was jacking the ball up at every chance.

On to other tidbits about this trade...

For those who wonder if Ricky can play alongside Dwyane Wade, remember he did play a portion of the 2003-04 season with LeBron James in The King's rookie year. His numbers kind of support the idea that he is capable of playing with Dwyane. He averaged 15.3 points, 5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 22 games with Cleveland that year. That's not bad at all for a No. 2 perimeter option.
The other side of the coin, though, was the fact that he did get traded that year. That may have been because he didn't want to take a backseat to young LeBron (I seem to remember rumblings about that back then), or it could have had something to do with conflicting styles of play. I say Ricky's a more mature guy now (not quite wise old veteran, just more mature), and he'll have more of a willingness to play his part with Shaq and Riley in his ear. Plus, he'll be free to score a lot early, which will help him accept the eventual transition a bit easier.

This is, technically, Ricky's second stint with the Heat. He only played in seven games the first time around, mostly because he was riddled with foot injuries, but it's a second stint nonetheless.
The guy he was traded for, Antoine Walker, had two stints with the Celtics, and his second one worked out pretty well. 'Toine went back to the Celtics for 24 games in the 2004-05 season and averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and he almost helped knock the Pacers out of the playoffs that year.

Funny that Kevin McHale is in the middle of all this. Not only did he get played by Pat Riley and the Lakers in the 1980s (more often than not, anyway), but Riley has gotten him yet again with this deal. Not that Ricky and Mark Blount were necessarily in the Wolves' future plans, but they essentially got a mid-20s draft pick and half a mil from the Heat for two rotation-quality players (it could work out better if McHale unloads Antoine, which is supposedly going to happen... who else would want him, I don't know)
I guess McHale simply figured that if he can't get his team to the Western Conference Finals, he would at least try to play a role in setting up the Eastern Conference Finals by improving both the Celtics and the Heat.

Now that Dorell isn't going to be relied upon so heavily in Dwyane's absence, do you figure he'll be better off for it, or will he simply fall deeper into the jar now that it is no sure thing that he'll see significant playing time? I'd still like to see him play, largely because he can only be better with better talent around him. Also, a combination of Jason Williams, Dorell and Davis has fastbreak potential written all over it. Throw Dwyane into that mix, and I can see a lot more easy baskets than I envisioned just one week ago.

Smart move

It's not exactly the trade I was envisioning, but it definitely puts the Heat in a better situation than they were in for the past month. Here's why...
First, Ricky Davis is obviously a quality scoring option while Dwyane is out. When he was the top scoring option in Cleveland a few years back, the guy averaged 24 points a game. Even though that came without a single assist (that might not be entirely accurate), at least he's a threat. And you like to think he has grown some since then and won't just jack it up for the sake of jacking it up. He did play with Kevin Garnett, so you would assume he also knows, and is willing to dump the ball into Shaquille. He can play the three-spot now, or he can play it with Dwyane, either way making Riley's life easier for a while. Now Riley won't have to depend on Dorell, who hasn't exactly made anyone comfortable with handing him the starting small forward position. Now, Dorell might still be the starting small forward, both now and when Dwyane comes back, but at least there is less pressure on him to put points on the board.
If Ricky comes off the bench when Dwyane comes back, that just means the Heat has a much more consistent scorer than Antoine, and someone who can play at a faster pace without frustrating fans by missing easy shots or taking horrendous ones. I liked Antoine as a person, but his game was frustrating as all get out. If Dorell does still start with Dwyane back, that is probably best for him because he plays best with the full complement around him. It also keeps Smush Parker at the point guard spot when the team is healthy, which it looks like Riley would prefer because of Smush's inconsistency so far.
Onto the Mark Blount portion of the deal. I think that makes all the sense in the world for a few reasons. First, he can play power forward behind Udonis. He might be a center, ideally, but he's not a pure center by any means, and as long as he can defend at the PF position for 20 minutes a night, then he fits in perfectly to the pick-and-roll game because his mid-range jumper is cash for a big guy.
Blount also has two more years on his deal, which means he will slide in as Alonzo's backup as soon as he retires after this year, and he is quite capable of filling in for Shaq when Shaq misses his mandatory 20 games each year. His deal also coincides perfectly with the end of Shaq's, which keeps Riley's plan of being a room team after the 2009-2010 season intact.
Now, the Heat has given up a first-rounder, which must have been the only way the rebuilding Wolves would've done this trade, but it's not exactly like late first-rounders have worked out very well around here lately.
As for Simien, his lack of athleticism and inability to stay healthy will keep him from being a quality power forward in this league. The Wolves just picked him up because he can be off the books soon. Minnesota basically just gave up Blount's three years for 'Toine's two years.
Looks like a win-win-win (that third win is for Antoine haters who finally got him out of town).
Here is, when healthy, the Heat's probable nine-man rotation:
PG Jason Williams/Smush Parker
SG Dwyane Wade/Ricky Davis
SF Dorell Wright/Ricky Davis
PF Udonis Haslem/Mark Blount
C Shaquille O'Neal/Alonzo Mourning
OTHER BENCH OPTIONS: Penny Hardaway, Chris Quinn, Marcus Slaughter, Daequan Cook

Heat-Spurs preseason

Looks like Daequan Cook might be a fast learner. After Riley told him to play with confidence, he played his best couple games of the preseason. Tuesday he had 16 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes, including six threes. And that's playing without a full squad around him to draw attention elsewhere. If he keeps his head in the game like that, he could be a contributor. But that's probably a lot to ask of a guy that young.
Chris Quinn might have locked up his spot with his 11 points and no turnovers. And if Jason Williams gets suspended (he called an official a derogatory term real loudly to earn an ejection, and the league is overly sensitive these days), then Quinn becomes even more important. Factor into that equation the fact that Smush Parker is struggling with the idea that he's not playing in a triangle, and he looks pretty locked in.
Dorell's struggles continue to be disconcerting. It's obvious he needs some confidence right now, and he has no more preseason games to do so. So you wonder if a few good practice will be enough to shake him out of this offensive funk.
Also looks like Penny Hardaway is gaining the trust of Riles, who would always prefer to play a halfcourt game when Dwyane is out. Hardaway might not be fast, but he knows how to make smart decisions. He finished with 10 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes. Not bad.
As for Shaq, he had a strong first quarter, and I think he might have a lot of motivation to have a big season.
Not only does he have the personal issues that he wants to put past him, but he also is realizing how few opportunities he has left to win the five or six titles he has always talked about. I say Shaq is looking to play about 70 games this year, averages pretty close to 20 and 10 and shuts some people up. Whether or not that translates into a title depends on the other guys around him, but that's about as much as this team can ask of Shaq.
Last question: Who wins a game first, the Heat or Dolphins. Between now and Sunday, Nov. 4, the Heat plays the Pistons at home, the Pacers on the road and the Bobcats at home, while the Dolphins play the Giants in London and then a bye. That would be pretty embarrassing for the Fins.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

more Dorell

It seems like all people are talking about when it comes to the Heat this preseason is Dorell Wright (just read how many Herald stories have been written on him in the past month). But given the absences of Shaq and Dwyane, there's not much else of intrigue.
The latest story has an interesting angle, with Dwyane and Riley saying that Dorell is a pass-first player and he can't be judged on how he's scoring the ball because it's not in his nature to force the issue offensively. Also, because he hasn't played regularly in the past three years, that it's not that easy to score when called upon.
While I agree with the assessment, and I love that part of Dorell's game, it would still be nice to see him be able to put up an efficient scoring game every once in a while, even without his main guns around him. It's not like he's not talented. He has the ability, so maybe he should force it every once in a while to make sure it's still there, regardless of how long his "layoff" has been.
One thing I don't think he does enough is try to draw fouls. He's averaging just two free throws a game in the four games he has played this preseason. With his athleticism, he can force more whistles.
I guess part of the reason why I want to see him do more is because he has the type of game that would be exciting to watch, plus he has been waiting so long for this chance, I'd hate to see him spend another season wasting away on the bench. Not that that's really an option for this team because of its lack of depth, but you never know.
Also, the last thing he wants is to give Riles a reason to look elsewhere. I mean, P.J. Brown is still out there as a free agent, and if Riley can convince him to come on board, that leaves two certain forwards very available for a trade that could bring, say, Ron Artest to South Fla.
Now, as I've stated before, Ron is literally cra-zeh, but how much would Riles love a lineup of Williams, Wade, Artest, Brown and Shaq. My goodness, they would immediately supplant Boston as the trendy favorite for the Eastern Conference crown.
Not that I'm saying Dorell should think about any possibilities like that. He's got enough to think about. I'm just saying, if he has to wait until Shaq and Dwyane are back healthy for him to play his best game, then it's going to be a difficult wait.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not pretty

Not a great showing for the Heaters in O-town against the Van Gundies. It's why I wrote recently that if these young guys have to see much time this season it's going to be ugly. Because it was UGLY against the Magic, with Jason Williams sitting out, joining Shaq and Dwyane.
That left guys like Jeremy Richardson having plays run for him, which didn't turn out well at all. He apparently is unaware of Dwight Howard's physical abilities, because he tried to finish over him and was rejected a couple times.
I'm kind of flummoxed by the whole idea of guys like Richardson and Daequan Cook getting plays run for them in this game to begin with. Shouldn't Dorell get more looks to try to get into a play-making comfort zone. I mean, you already KNOW he has to play. Those other guys, if all goes well, won't see the floor in key spots anyway.
That said, when Dorell did try to do anything in this game, the result wasn't good. Maybe his quad was bothering him, but he didn't look especially quick, and his decision making was either poor or, once again, just passive. Plus he got into foul trouble, and he got yelled at for covering J.J. Redick poorly on one particular possession. It's the kind of performance that could easily have Riles not only ripping into his forward but once again looking outside the organization for help at that position. I might be overstating it a bit, but it's easy to see how Riley can be upset with Dorell, and he's not the most patient of coaches when it comes to young players. I think Dorell has looked real frustrated the last couple of games, and I'd like to pick his brain to see what he's upset about.

No one looked particularly good (Udonis, Antoine, Zo and Smush were about the only players who looked like they knew what they were doing), but Chris Quinn was pretty shaky after sitting out the last game, and Richardson had his worst game of the preseason.
My first look at Daequan Cook, and he looked a little better than I thought he would. You could see some potential in him, as long as his shot selection is good and he doesn't try to do too much.

Not much more to say about this one, other than I think the Magic is going to be a pretty good team -- somewhere between 46 and 52 wins, IMO. They have some really good shooters (and Rashard Lewis didn't even play in this game), and if they get a good running game going and a decent dose of Dwight Howard in the post, offense will not be a problem. And SVG can coach some defense, so that should also be strong, eventually.



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