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12 posts from December 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Not the problem?

For those who think Ricky Davis isn't a problem for this Heat team, especially in close-game situations, here are some numbers that would say otherwise (this was before the Wizards game). Ricky is...

-Shooting 2-15 FG in the 4th qtr and OT of the Heat's 3 OT losses......
-0-5 with a turnover in the 4th qtr and OT against Orlando
-In the 8 victories, he's shooting 51 percent but averaging only 10 field goal attempts
-In the 22 losses, he's shooting 41percent, yet averaging over 14 field goal attempts

Friday, December 28, 2007

One-man show

And, no, I don't mean Dwyane Wade.
Yes, Wade was the reason the Heat managed to stay in the game, but Ricky Davis is the reason the Heat didn't pull it out.
It's pretty hard, sometimes, to trace a loss to just one guy, but this one falls on Ricky's head.
From the quick shots late in the game, especially when the Magic started doubling Dwyane, to leaving his feet and fouling Hedo Turkoglu when the game was tied with 52 seconds left, to his turnover while trying to find Cook, which happened because Ricky just gave up on getting the ball to Dwyane and decided he wanted to be the man on that possession.
Those are the "little things" that make the difference in a game, and Ricky has yet to do those things in a Heat uniform. It's tough to watch sometimes, especially when it happens with the game on the line.
Couple more things... I wrote the other day that Jason Williams was playing like he's waiting to get traded. I feel a bit guilty about that after learning he was playing hurt. Who knows how much that has affected him... Looks like Dorell has figured it out and will have a real NBA career (playing with Wade has been huge for him)... And I can't wait until Luke Jackson starts hitting shots, because it's painful to watch a good shooter struggle to get it going. He's way better than that, and it looks like he's guiding the ball right now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Nothing going right

I thought the most telling series of events during Tuesday's game came in the third quarter. It was then when things started going bad for the Heat, and on a high screen-and-roll play, Dwyane didn't wait for Udonis to set the screen, started his drive to the basket and got Udonis a moving screen foul, his fourth, sending him to the bench. Another turnover, another blown chance to get in the game, another momentum builder for the Cavs.
It was clearly a frustration move from Dwyane, and he showed no emotional response after the play. Udonis, meanwhile, was pulled out of the game and on his way to the bench stopped in front of the coaches and yelled for a good 15-20 seconds. Not sure what it was about (assuming it had something to do with that particular play), but as he's yelling, Dwyane, who had his hands on his knees and turned away from the tirade, turned his head toward Udonis just to get a look and listen. It just didn't look right. Those two can't be happy with each other, at least based on that exchange.

Not sure what's going to happen from here on out, but I'm sure Riley will spend Thursday (the team will be off then and not practicing) doing everything he can to make some sort of roster move. He's got to bring the Smush thing to a resolution and probably make a significant trade.
And for those who think Scott Skiles is the answer... please. His approach grated on a group of youngsters, you think Shaq and Dwyane will respond to him? No chance.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Trade rumor! (updated)

)You gotta love the Internet. Mitch Lawrence in New York writes a Heat trade rumor as the last note of his Sunday column with no attribution and very little detail, and it's still the lead item on Hoopshype and being talked about as if it's a lock to happen.
That's just ridiculous...
So let's talk about it as if it were going to happen, shall we?
The trade he mentioned was with Memphis for Mike Miller and possibly Stromile Swift.
Now, he doesn't mention who the Heat would give back, but based on salaries, I would say it's easy to figure it would be for Jason Williams and Ricky Davis. The Heat can trade Ricky in the next few days (I believe 60 days after he was traded to the Heat is coming up on the 26th, or something close to it), and with his and Jason's contracts expiring after this season, it would strictly be a salary cap move for the young Grizzlies.
As for the Heat, Miller's contract runs for two more years after this, which coincides with Shaq's deal and keeps Riley's plan of being a "room" team in 2010 intact. And Swift's deal has one more year on it after this one.
I would love the trade because Miller is exactly what the Heat needs on the perimeter, a drop-dead shooter and a guy who also can rebound and handle the ball. He's not the greatest of on-ball defenders, but who is anymore these days anyway? Miller also has more of a grasp of team play than Davis, and he can definitely pass the ball to a big man in the paint.
It would be a reunion of sorts for Miller and UD, who were in the same recruiting class at Florida and still are close friends.
What would the Heat do at point guard, you ask?
Well, in the short term it would have to be a combination of Chris Quinn, Dwyane Wade and a prayer that they can both stay healthy. But in the long term, if this trade goes down as detailed here, I can guarantee this is what would happen: J-Will would never report to Memphis, his former team, and the Grizzlies, who are loaded with four PGs already (Lowry, Stoudamire, Conley Jr. and Navarro), would buy him out to save themselves money and an unnecessary headache. Then J-Will, who at this point would only want to play for Miami or his hometown Orlando team, would probably just re-sign back here, teaming him back up with his buddy Mike Miller.
In a perfect world, it all works out just like that, and the Heat will look like a team that's back in contention by February (not to mention one that is endorsed by the University of Florida with three potential Gator starters).
But this is not, of course, a perfect world. So in all likelihood, none of this happens, and it's weeks and weeks of more frustration. If it does happen, though, you should probably send the Grizzlies a huge Christmas gift, and start reprinting your "Pat Riley sucks" T-shirts and replacing them with "Pat Riley is a miracle worker" ones. It would just be a matter of time before he has his own national holiday.

(I believe there is some sort of waiting period for a player to re-sign back with his old team, but it's not entirely disallowed. Have to check that new rule... Also, there may be a chance the Grizzlies want Udonis in this trade, which I wouldn't do, if that were the case, because then you're relying on Stromile as your PF, and that hasn't worked for anybody.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can't figure it out

OK, so you're watching the Heat and the Nets, and at one point in the fourth quarter you're thinking, 'There's no way the Heat can lose this game.' It's the same thought you had when you watched the Heat play the Hawks at home.
And then, somehow, the Heat loses, and it's hard to explain what you just saw.
There are a handful of games where the problems are obvious, but in games like this one you just have to really study the stat sheet to believe what you just saw, because it seems improbable for these guys.
It's like Udonis said after the game, "I've seen bad teams before, and we're not a bad team."
The Heat shot 47 percent, shot 29 free throws, got 41 from Dwyane and played what appeared to be active defense against the Nets. And yet, when you look at the stat sheet, you see the Nets lived at the foul line even more than Miami, outrebounded Miami by eight and outscored the Heat in the paint by 10. Those are the signs of a team that doesn't play nearly enough defense. Even with that, the Heat was one desperate Vince Carter three-point miss away from winning in regulation. Instead, the shot goes in and Miami loses in overtime.
You can't blame Alonzo's absence for this loss because it was happening way too often even when he was available.
Not sure what the answer is, but there are still even more questions from a coaching standpoint. I can't for the life of me figure out why Riles continues to start Ricky Davis in the second halves. Dorell had seven first-half rebounds and was playing great help defense as well as creating a couple of easy buckets. And that was with the starters. Then he doesn't start the second half and the chemistry is entirely different. Riley is not exactly a guy who succumbs to players' egos, so it shouldn't be a matter of him simply appeasing Ricky. I think it's just a coach grasping at straws, and it just doesn't make any sense. This team needs continuity, and changing starters each half doesn't support that.
Then there's the inability to adjust within games in offensive play-calling, whether it's against an aggressive defense that's trying to keep the ball out of Dwyane's hands or against a simple zone defense, which continues to baffle this team. It's mind-boggling for a coach that is normally a lot better at figuring these things out.
Still, this game was lost on the defense end, and it might just be a matter of guys moving better defensively for longer periods of time, or adjusting how the team plays pick-and-rolls defensively. Something's got to give, because otherwise there is no reason to believe this can change.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Zo news

It's official, for this season at least. Alonzo underwent a two-hour surgery on Thursday to repair the torn patella tendon and torn quadriceps tendon in his right knee and will miss the rest of this season.
Whether or not that means his career is over is uncertain, but there was certainly some resignation in his comments after the Atlanta game on Wednesday night.
I spoke with Zo about this being his last season just before the season opener, and he guaranteed it would be his last year. And with this devastating an injury, it's hard to imagine he would want to come back and leave open the possibility that he's not his usual self, or worse, that another serious injury occur. He has fought through so much in his career that he has no need to return, and I don't even think his pride will get in the way this time. I think his career is over, and it was a brilliant one.
Of course, Pat Riley won't let him think that way. He said today that his dream is Zo will make a comeback and block Tim Duncan's game-winning dunk attempt in Game 7 of the NBA Finals next year.
Well, that would be a great ending, but I'm pretty sure even Pat can't talk Zo out of this one.
As for a replacement, there really isn't one out there. There are just more bodies with different strengths. P.J. Brown will probably receive a call, if he hasn't already, but how are you going to entice a semi-retired guy to play on a team 10 games under .500 and hurting. The best way to make up for the interior defense Zo gave you is improve the perimeter defense so you don't need as good a shot blocker. The only way I see that happening -- at least at a significant enough rate -- is if the Heat can pull off a trade for Artest, but I also don't see why the Kings would trade that guy at this point. They're playing well, and it appears Bibby is far more of a trade option for them.
Good luck to Alonzo in his lengthy recovery, though. As Shaq said today, he's a Hall of Famer, he'll have his jersey retired down here before any other Heat player and he is one of the most fierce competitors this league has seen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Obvious discord

Remember last year when Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade (or was it just Dwyane? I can't entirely remember) talked about there being no joy in practice or games?
Well, this year there's not only a lack of joy, but there's a sense of friction or disharmony among the guys on the floor most of the time. The only players who seem to have any sort of personal connection are Dwyane and Dorell. Everyone else just seems to be out there not getting along.
I know teammates don't necessarily have to get along to succeed, but there has to be some sort of harmony on the floor, and there just doesn't seem to be any with this group.
Not sure if it's because guys are frustrated with certain aspects of the team (like, say, Shaq's struggles, Shaq's comments about needing the ball more, Dwyane's inconsistencies, Ricky's lack of a team concept on either end of the floor, or the entirely random rotation from night to night), but there's something to it.
You can see it in Jason Williams' apparent lack of interest at times (not when he's on the floor, necessarily, but off it). Maybe he's concerned about the horrific idea of getting traded back to Sacramento (that might actually be his worst nightmare), but there's something holding him back, it seems.
Dwyane is clearly frustrated with his lack of explosion at times, and his game hasn't fully adjusted yet. Just look at the charges he was called for in the Indiana game. It appears at times he's forcing the issue for no reason. And you can also gauge his level of frustration in how he plays in fourth quarters. It used to be where Dwyane would value every possession, every shot even more in the fourth quarter than he did in the first three. That's why it would be noticeable that his play was sharper in the fourth, therefore earning him the "clutch" label early in his career. Lately he has had too many willy-nilly type efforts/plays in the fourth quarters, and it has cost the Heat. That, to me, says he's just trying too hard because he's frustrated with something -- whether it be his own body or his teammates' inability to make plays for themselves at times.
Udonis appears to be the only player whose primary concern is playing the game the way that is most conducive to winning (maybe Zo, too, but his minutes aren't big enough to have that kind of great impact).
So I wonder if guys' nerves are just being worn thin and it's resulting in poor play.
All I know is that these guys, even in the win against Minnesota, were playing like they didn't even know each other for most of that game. Just look at the sequence at the end of the half, when Jason missed a three, then got another wide-open three off the offensive board, and rather than shoot, tried to hit Udonis in mid-shot and turned the ball over. Udonis would've, at best, had a contested, rushed shot at the buzzer.
If this continues for much longer, it might be necessary to make a significant move (and by significant, I mean an obvious starter with immediate impact), or else this team is headed for the lottery.
Then there's that thought... If this team is going to struggle, and it's obvious it can't make a big move, maybe the best way to go is San Antonio Spurs style and tank it for a prime pick in next season's draft.
As of right now, the Heat would be picking No. 3, I believe, which means they'd likely get either Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon or Michael Beasley. Imagine either of those guys mixed in with Dwyane (my favorite is Rose, because he's basically Dwyane in a point guard's frame). Three words: Ho-ly crap!
That's instant turnaround, right there. I know, it's crazy to consider enduring an entire season of this mess, but, man, I bet the Spurs don't even remember that 1996-97 season with their four championship trophies clouding their memories.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just awful

Yes, I know Dwyane Wade played like he was on some sort of tranquilizer for much of Thursday's game against the Wiz.
And yes, DeShawn Stevenson was making tough shots against all kinds of defense.
And yes, the Heat missed its share of open shots, including a pair of layups from Dwyane and Jason Williams.
But I still have to take issue with Riley and some of his decisions, or lack thereof.
How many times does he have to get hit in the head with teams going small until he finally starts matching up against it sooner. I know Shaq worked for a good stretch against a Phoenix team that doesn't play any defense, but once you can tell that he is ineffective, why not bite the bullet and pull him and play Udonis at center. It seems like he always waits until the team is down 10, 12, 15 points before he makes a change.
Was it not obvious at the end of the first half, after he pulled Shaq for a third foul, that the team would have been better off playing the uptempo game rather than trying to pound it into Shaq with two guys on him and Brendan Haywood looking like a formidable opponent? Look at the quarter-by-quarter scoring, and this game was clearly lost in the first quarter, when the Wizards guards were driving and getting to the foul line, while the Heat spent all its time trying to pound it into Shaq and getting a three points out of it.
And in the second half it's more of the same, just waiting until Shaq gets himself in foul trouble before he is forced to yank him. This is not an indictment of Shaq, either, just an admission that he can't be the ultimate mismatch anymore. Sometimes a smaller, quicker team can actually defend him, so it's time to look for other options. Not to mention, when Shaq's not in the game, the opposition can't automatically force him to defend the pick-and-roll, which always seems to end up in an open shot.
Then there's the Dorell Wright factor. The kid played great toward the end of the road trip, and all of a sudden he's not worth more than 11 minutes in a game that was begging for his athleticism on the boards (48-36 in favor of the Wizards). No, Dorell didn't have a rebound in his 11 minutes, but he had at least one tip-out that led to an offensive board, and he certainly can't grab any boards from the bench.
Instead, Riley goes with Luke Jackson for 15 consecutive minutes in the second half. And while it's pretty clear Luke has a good court sense and might be a pretty nice addition to this team if he can hit some shots, it just doesn't make sense why Dorell would get shortchanged like that.
And all that preseason talk about making sure Udonis is more involved in the offense was clearly just talk. You post up Udonis against Antawn Jamison and he can have a huge night. Instead Jamison gets to coast on defense and be the guy who hangs on Shaq's back, and Udonis still manages 19 points and 11 rebounds while working off scraps.
I've said this before, Pat can't stick to his guns at this point when the losses keep building like this. He has got to adjust during each game in order to scrap and get some Ws. And he can't continue to wait until the deficit is in the 15-point range. This is not 2006, and Dwyane is not playing consistently great basketball yet.
He also can't afford to wait for a big personnel move, though it appears that Jason Williams would be the one expendable piece if he does make a move, if only because Chris Quinn has proven capable of handling big minutes. An espn.com piece had Williams as the most likely player to be moved this season, and at this point, I wouldn't be surprised. Would be disappointed, given that he was the team's best player before Dwyane came back and now he has been relegated to a jump shooter, but certainly not surprised.
Nice game from Quinn, though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Go figure

The reason the Heat won that game against Phoenix is pretty easy. Guys hit shots, which hasn't been the case very often this season. Dorell Wright, Chris Quinn and Dwyane Wade (in the fourth) hit enough jumpers to make the fact that Phoenix outscored Miami in the paint irrelevant.
It was also key that the seven guys Riley played didn't get tired (how 'bout Udonis playing all 48 minutes?), and that the team without a bunch of three-point shooters didn't take a bunch of three-pointers (3 of 6 for the game).

But the one thing that has been most impressive lately -- and most hard to figure -- is the improved play of Dorell. I get the feeling Dwyane might have been in his ear a little bit, knowing that this would REALLY be his last chance to stick in the rotation and not end his Heat career on a crappy note. But will it continue? You would think so, because even if he's not hitting shots, he seems to be contributing in other areas, which is what got him in the mix early last year. Plus, he has a Mohawk, which can't hurt.
I think Daequan will still get involved on occasion, but Dorell seems to make less "rookie mistakes" than Daequan, so he might actually be more reliable despite the fact he can't match Daequan in shot-making.

Most importantly, the win should provide a confidence boost for this team, which appears capable of scoring with any team in the league, even if it appears not to have a team of big-time scorers. There is a nice stretch of schedule coming up, too, and the team can easily get its record back to respectability before the end of the calendar year.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


So, at what point does making the postseason become a concern? I know it's not a quarter of the way through the season yet, and nobody other than Orlando and Boston have done anything to pull away, but yeesh! The Heat's healthy right now and blowing games. If guys start missing games at some point down the road, then they won't have any wiggle room at all to drop games and still have a decent record.

I can't believe Riles left the same five guys in the entire fourth quarter against the Warriors. Now, I didn't watch the game (in New York for Heisman), but it sounded like typical Riley not exactly knowing how to adjust to this "new" smaller style of play. I put "new" in quotes, of course, because ol' man Nellie has been doing it forever, but apparently some folks just can't catch on. I know it doesn't translate to postseason success, necessarily, but right now it's about putting some Ws on the board in the regular season. If you gotta go small, go small (and substitute every once in a while).

I like the Luke Jackson signing, if it is indeed gonna happen. I used to think he would be a poor man's Chris Mullin (like, barely rubbing two dimes together poor) before he was drafted -- mostly because he was lefty and appeared crafty in college. Now I think he can be a median-income man's Jason Kapono. If he can play any defense at all, he should be given a try. I have a hard time believing that Fred Jones and Luke Ridnour can both find spots in the league, while Jackson, who was the best player of the three on that Oregon team, can't even stick on a roster.

Lastly, there was apparently some buzz around Sacramento that there is a deal in the works with the Heat. Not sure the source of it, but if it is true, I would have to assume it includes Jason Williams and Mike Bibby.
But there's another point guard out there that would be better. Don't yell at me for suggesting it -- especially because the Heat will have to give up half the team to get him -- but Jason Kidd appears available (pausing here for angry, disappointed, dismissive and possibly excited reaction) ...................... Now I will pause to think about the combination of Kidd, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal playing  together.................. And now I will cringe awaiting the expected reaction.



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