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17 posts from April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bashing Shaq? Just Save It ... Ask Spo

Had a completely different blog topic typed and all ready to go. Was going to call for the official end to the Shaquille O'Neal hatefest. Was going to point out how it's getting old.

Shaqsunphoto How it has grown childish. How scorned lovers have more compassion for an abusive ex than apparently some - including so-called objective media types - have for the Big Declining. 

O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns were ousted in five games against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, giving those from Camps "I-told-you-so" and "Serves-him-right" reason to toast the demise of the Diesel.

Drink up. But was going to offer a shot of reality to those tipping HatAtoast_3er-aide-filled glasses. Was going to point out how Steve Nash had as much to do with the Suns downfall as O'Neal. How Nash provided as much defense against Tony Parker as Jason Kidd did against Chris Paul. Absolutely none. Maybe even negative-none, counting the late turnovers.

But it's much easier to aim at Shaq, who at 7-1 and 325 pounds (allegedly) is a can't-miss target for criticism. Was going to place a significant amount of the blame on Shaq's shoulders for missing all of those free throws. But was going to include coach Mike D'Antonio (I meant that) for helping the Spurs cause by stubbornly leaving Shaq in to toss brick after brick. Or, for not leaving Shaq out when the Suns made their late comeback to take the lead with him on the bench.

True, for what was expected, the Shaq-Sun experiment failed. But was going to mention that Shawn Marion wouldn't have made much difference had the trade never happened because, well, he couldn't get the Suns past the Spurs in previous years. Big or small, the Suns just can't stand up to the Spurs. And was going to point out how the Heat has 40 million reasons - one for each dollar remaining on Shaq's contract - to count its beans and blessings. The Heat's season was defined as much by the dumping of the Big Burden's contract than it was for dropping a franchise-tying 67 games. For that, give Pat Riley 16 victories in his final season as coach rather than the 15 the record shows.

Spoelstraphoto_2 But just as I was going to hit the "post" button on the blog, the file somehow vanished, un-saved. Gone. A night's work lost. And then another thought hit me. Here's to hoping new Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has better cyberspace skills than I when he's scheduled to go on-line to chat with Heat fans Thursday from 1-1:30 at Heat.com. He's already making smart, innovative and new-millennium moves.

Can't make it there, post your question for Spoelstra here. We'll present them to CyberSpo and post his responses on the blog when we get them. Otherwise, if you've got something to say about Shaq, do what I forgot to do - and just save it. After all, it's time to move on, isn't it?

-Michael Wallace

Live Chat with Erik Spoelstra Thursday

Erik_spoelstra_2New Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be taking questions from fans Thursday from 1-1:30 p.m. The chat will be on Heat.com. If you can't make the chat or want to leave your question early just click here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Shaq factor& more on the coaching change

Pho_oneal_shaquille_3If the Shaq trade hadn't happened, I'm not so sure that Erik Spoelstra is the head coach today. It's hard to figure whether Pat Riley would feel comfortable stepping down if Shaq were still there, but the point is that not having Shaq should certainly make this transition easier for the Heat. Jettisoning Shaq to Phoenix is working out better for the Heat on all fronts.Riley can focus on the personnel side and it allows there to be a fresh voice in the lockerroom. Also, even though Shawn Marion missed more than a dozen games because of injury, the Heat will be a much better defensive team than if it had Shaq (The "Big Cactus" doesn't look like he's improved the Suns defense or has the ability to carry the team to the second round of the playoffs).

Spoelstra emphasized that playing sound defense will be paramount to the Heat having a successful season. He made that a big point before talking about wanting to run a more up-tempo offense. Spoelstra should be able to better relate to the players than Riley, and perhaps having a new voice will re-energize the team. Injuries aside, there was little life in the lockerroom this season.

Bob_mcadoo_3 A few of you asked about why Riley passed over assistant coach Bob McAdoo (pictured left) for the job. Riley never addressed that Monday so it's hard to know exactly what Riley thought of McAdoo as a candidate. McAdoo worked primarily with the post players and was in charge of charting the team's offensive efficiency. He also prepared the Heat's game-plan for defending opposing big men. Spoelstra's role seemed to be more encompassing as he coached the summer-league team the past few years, worked on developing more of a range of players and was involved in personnel discussions. One big difference between Spoelstra and McAdoo is age. Spoelstra is 37. McAdoo, a Hall of Fame player, is 56. Riley mentioned that he thought having a young coach is an asset because of how demanding the job is time-wise and he is fairly close in age to the players. McAdoo has been a Heat assistant coach for 13 seasons, so he is clearly highly regarded and Spoelstra made a point of saying he wants to keep the coaching staff intact.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Highlights from Riley & Spoelstra

Pat Riley, owner Micky Arison and new coach Erik Spoelstra talked a little while ago at AmericanAirlines Arena and here are some of the more notable things to come out of the news conference. (See poll question below).

Riley said he really had no intention of fulfilling the final three years of his contract going into this past season. In Rilely's words, "I lied" he said Monday while laughing. He and Arison realized the questions needed to stop about his future so that's why Riley publically said he was commited to coaching for the duration of his contract.

  • Dwyane Wade called Coach Spo Sunday night to congratulate him and say he's excited about the future (Spo has worked a lot with Dwyane since he came here as a rookie and has a good relationship with the superstars down to the summer league players)
  • Riley said he put feelers out to three players on the coaching change, and though Riley wouldn't divulge names you'd think they were Dwyane, Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem
    • We'll have a lot more in the coming days on the new Heat coach, both in the paper and on the blog, but first just wanted to find out what you think about Spoelstra.

      Riley will announce future at 4 p.m.

      Riley_2 Pat Riley is holding a news conference this afternoon, where he is expected to announce he is stepping down as coach. That would allow him to focus solely on being team president. For more details click here.

      Also, check the blog later this afternoon, because it will be updated with details from the press conference.

                                                  -Sarah Rothschild

      Saturday, April 26, 2008

      Zo says it ain't so

      Well, at least that matter has been cleared up. We now know where Zo stands.

      In his guest studio appearance during TNT's broadcast of NBA playoff games Saturday, Heat center Alonzo Mourning got straight to the point in addressing a pressing issue that has galvanized the initial days of the Heat's offseason.

      Act_alonzo_mourning Mourning's future? No. Mourning, sitting Saturday in an Atlanta studio just blocks from where he sustained his season and potential career-threatening knee injury on Dec. 19 against the Hawks, said he is continuing to rehab his knee with the goal to "possibly get back on the floor again."

      Pat Riley's future? Nope. Chuck and Ernie didn't go there. So Zo didn't have to either.

      But 22 seconds into the pregame broadcast, Barkley did go elsewhere.

      "So is Dwyane (Wade) dating Star Jones," Barkley demanded.

      Zo laughs. But he doesn't really answer directly. Still, he comes close enough.

      "We were talking about that last night. We both got a kick out of that one," Mourning said, apparently referring to a recent conversation with Wade. "The tabloids, man ... "

      Wadejones_photo Mourning said he and his wife were sitting near Wade and Jones during the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament when the infamous photos of Wade and Star were taken two weeks ago. But Mourning said Wade, who has been separated from his wife for nearly a year, weren't an item - as has been speculated recently.

      "That's hilarious," Mourning said of the rumors linking Wade and Jones, who reportedly is going through a divorce. "They're friends. We're friends of Star. And Star is a great person. But I don't see that as a match at all."

      Well, so much for that. It seems. We think. At least until Wade shows up in a photo with someone else. But since we're on the subject, where would Wade and Jones have ranked when it comes to strange athlete-celeb matches?

      More compatible than Tyson-Givens? Less weird than Rodman-Madonna? As crazy as Rison-Left Eye?

      Minor matters such as the state of Mourning's rehab and Riley's coaching future were clearly back-burner issues to be settled another time.

      -Michael Wallace

      Friday, April 25, 2008

      Welcome back!

      What happens when the Heat wins 15 games and loses 67? The blog gets an overhaul and you get stuck with us. Israel Gutierrez still will write periodically about the Heat for the Herald, but his job writing columns and general assignment keeps him busy, so Michael Wallace and I officially are taking over.

      Heatbloghorz_spts_jvb_13 This blog will be about having fun, discussing and debating all things Heat. Here you will find updates on the offseason, the NBA draft, free agency and all other things Heat. Please check the blog regularly because we will keep it fresh, including a series of "exit interviews" analyzing each player from the 2007-08 roster. 

      We're hoping to do some chats and live Q&A's in the coming weeks and months. We encourage your input, thoughts and questions.


      Friday, April 18, 2008


      The Heat learned Friday where it will be picking in the June 26 draft. At least in the second round.

      The NBA released its non-lottery draft order, with the Heat holding the No. 52 selection in the second round. For those who may have forgotten, it's the pick Pat Riley pried away from the Magic for allowing Stan Van Gundy out of his contract (as a consultant after he stepped down as coach).

      With the Heat likely to be limited financially by the cap this offseason, this pick could be critical in the team's plans to stock up on cheap labor and non-guaranteed contracts - even if what's available at the bottom of Round 2 qualifies as projects far more often than NBA-ready prospects.

      But there have been exceptions, occasional players who slip through the cracks and down the draft order who turn out to be serviceable if not solid rotation players. Fodder beyond pick No. 50 in previous drafts has produced the likes of Amir Johnson (56th), Rasual Butler (53rd), Jarron Collins (53rd), Manu Ginobili (57th), Mark Blount (55th), Shandon Anderson (54th) and Steve Kerr (50th).

      With underclassmen expected to dominate the first round - and picks spent to acquire the rights to foreign players annually taking up several middle-round slots - expect a high number of productive college upperclassmen to round out the bottom of the order.

      Among those expected to fall to the 50s, according to some mock drafts, are Vanderbilt guard Shan Foster, Mississippi State guard Jamont Gordon, Duke guard DeMarcus Nelson and Kansas big men Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson. These are the type of players who typically find a way to get into the Heat's summer development program and stick as 14th or 15th men.

      And there could be openings at the end of the bench and on future inactive lists, with the likes of Earl Barron, Chris Quinn and Alexander Johnson possibly departing in free agency.

      -Michael Wallace

      Thursday, April 17, 2008

      Putting Disaster to Bed

      The Heat officially put its "godforsaken season" to bed Thursday, with president and coach Pat Riley holding exit interviews with the team's remaining veterans. Then, some of the veterans held their end-of-season interviews with the media.

      There were quite a few highlights ...

      Dwyane Wade, who had been silent on the subject until Thursday, took the high road when asked about his obligation to take more of a leadership role in the absence of center Shaquille O'Neal. Wade playfully required a reporter to specifically mention O'Neal by name when he asked about a certain big fella.

      "I need you to say what you mean," Wade said. "Alonzo's still here. Say what you mean."

      "If y'all can't say it, I can't answer it. So your question was, 'Without Shaq here ... "

      "When Big Fella was here, it was more both of our team. He was the first one and I was the second one. Now, Big Fella has moved to another place and it puts me in the position to be the first. It's something I've been molded to do. It's not a responsibility I would have wanted to have early in my career, and I was glad I had him to shield me."

      It's obvious Wade still has affection for O'Neal, and that their relationship didn't end on as bad of terms as some might have believed. It's also just as obvious that by talking about his appreciation for what Shaq meant to him, Wade had enough class to take the sort of high road O'Neal apparently couldn't locate if he had the help of a GPS tracking device on his way out of town.

      Wade also cleared up a couple of matters with his schedule.

      -He plans to start rehabbing his bothersome left knee on May 5 in Chicago and work out with noted trainer Tim Grover, who worked with Michael Jordan during his prime years with the Bulls.

      -Wade said he will speak with - and soon meet with - Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski and director Jerry Colangelo about their concerns regarding the health of Wade's knee. But Wade insists he'll be ready for June 28 mini-camp in Las Vegas and the July 20 training camp in advance of the Beijing Olympics. He's determined to play.

      “I understand their concerns, but they can come watch me work out,” Wade said. “I really want to stress that I want to be a part of this team. I’ve been waiting four years. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m healthy enough to play.”

      Heat forward Udonis Haslem was also as frank and entertaining as I've ever seen him in a media setting. He jokingly (I think) talked about how he took Riley's complaints about the attitudes in the locker room as something of a directive to: "Put Shaq in a chokehold," said Haslem, who is recovering from ankle surgery. "Then, it would have been more than a broke ankle."

      Haslem, who has started at power forward the past four seasons, also said he wouldn't be threatened if the Heat drafted Kansas State stud Michael Beasley instead of Memphis guard Derrick Rose.

      "I don’t really worry about that. Same situation when (Antoine Walker) came in. We worked that out. We’ll work it out, whatever the case may be."

      A few moments later, a bit of reality set in when Haslem was asked what he would advise Pat Riley to do with the Heat's draft pick.

      "I wouldn't draft a power forward until ... when does my contract run out?"

      You'd be hard-pressed to find a team more thrilled to put this season to bed than the Heat. And after all that's gone on since that 0-7 start to the preseason, who could blame them?

      -Michael Wallace

      Wednesday, April 16, 2008

      Riley says he is undecided

      Pat Riley talked again about whether he would return as coach next season and said he has not decided, Riley but he could make up his mind by as early as this weekend. He will meet with owner Micky Arison.

      Riley, of course, will not reveal any leanings he has, but he sounded more optimistic Wednesday than he did last week. It does seem like the prospects of the future could compel him to come back. He made it sound like he would announce his intentions before the NBA Draft Lottery May 20. He said that his coaching decision would not be tied to where the team winds up in the draft (Heat will be no lower than 4th).

      Last week Riley mentioned fatigue, wanting freedom from the coaching lifestyle and saying this could be the capper on his career. In his news conference after shootaround, he talked about a "very positive approach to the future." But he mentioned that he is aware this could be his last game.

      Stay tuned.



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