« May 2008 | Main | July 2008 »

24 posts from June 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Free Agency: The Frugal Approach

Heat president Pat Riley will enter the summer free agency period at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday with at least one comforting feeling: His team won't do any worse than it did during last season's free agency.

That would be almost impossible, wouldn't it?

It was this time a year ago when the Heat watched Jason Kapono bolt to Toronto faster than Shaq's honorary security badges got stripped last week. Certainly, there was no shame in the Heat's refusing to cough up $24 million to Kapono the way the Raptors did.

Nice fella. Great shooter. But just not worth that much money in the Heat's grand scheme.

But it had to be painful to watch Posey walk to Boston - after a long, drawn-out, we-really-don't-like-one-another-but-lets-pretend-like-we're-negotiating-in-good-faith process - and become arguably the fourth most critical player in the Celtics run to a title.

So how does the Heat make up for those moves? It signs Smush Parker and takes a shot at Penny Hardaway. Then, it trades for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. If anyone cares to find what detonated the disastrous 15-67 season that soon followed, just look back to what transpired between July 1 and Oct. 24 of 2007. The Heat is here because it dared to go there.

But even amid that mess, Riley still managed to productively unload the bloated contracts of Antoine Walker and Shaquille O'Neal. So a total loss it was not.

Riley has a different plan this free agency period. He's recruiting with a reluctance to offer anything more than a two-year contract as the Heat looks to save up for the sweepstakes of 2010, when D. Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and LeBron James could be on the open market.

Taking such a frugal approach into free agency could lead to another long summer as the Heat waits for the market to set itself and the trickle-down process to take affect. Would Chris Duhon be willing to take a two-year, $12 million deal from the Heat when New York or Phoenix might double that offer?

Would DeSagana Diop? Would Beno Udrih? Or might the Heat be left to pick from the less desirables, which is how they ended up Smushed in the first place.

There's something to be said for taking the short view on a long-term approach for 2010. But there are still games to win and rebuilding to be done right now. Indeed, this is a roster that needs to be tweaked. Not torched. If the Heat is healthy, with a few adjustments, it's a playoff team again.

But if Miami is reluctant to pay the price to win now - even at a muted mid-level rate - it might prove to be too costly of a gamble later. The Heat squandered last offseason, in part, by being stubborn.

It can't afford to make the same mistake this time around by being too cheap.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beasley Passes First Test

New Heat forward and co-face of the franchise Michael Beasley said all of the right things during his introductory press conference on the floor at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Beasleydraft He launched his Heat career with five words that sounded more like a prediction than a wish: "Lets win us another championship," he said at the end of his opening statement.

Here are a few other Beasley tidbits from Friday.

Beasley on the relief of finally getting to his NBA city ... "I'm just happy to be here. Obviously, it's a great organization, great team, great fans. I want to be here for 15 or 20 years if I can play that long."

Beasley on reality setting in ... "All of my thoughts are just in a whirlwind right now. It's all about what's coming next. How I might play. I was nervous. I'm still nervous. I knew that I might have been the No. 1 or No. 2 pick for a long time. But reality has set in and my life is changing dramatically."

Beasley on speculation that Miami had questions about his character and might trade him ... "Coach told me not to pay any attention to what was said in the media. But it was hard. It was kind of hard to put aside all that's been said. I was just hoping that it would play out well and it did."

Beasley on being passed over by the Bulls to fall to No. 2 ... "I'm very competitive. But it all worked out for the better. I just have to prove to everyone that I'm the best player in this draft."

Beasley on partnering with Dwyane Wade, although he had yet to hear from Wade ... "I love watching Dwyane Wade. He's a great player. A Finals MVP. He won a championship. And it's a dream come true to be in the same organization with a player like that."

Beasley on his impact with the Heat ... "I just want to come into this organization and make an impact early. I'd like to be the go-to guy. I'm going to do whatever it takes. Rebound. Loose balls. Whatever it takes."

Beasley on maturity and past so-called character issues ... "It's a business. It's my job now. But in order to do well, you have to love your job. I think basketball is the funnest thing in the world to do. I'm going to smile everyday."

Heat trade Darnell Jackson and more on Beasley & Chalmers

The Heat traded second-round pick Kansas forward Darnell Jackson to Cleveland for a 2009 second-round selection. It's not a particularly surprising move considering the Heat has plenty of forwards.

ESPN's Ric Bucher said after the draft that he could see the Heat trading Michael Beasley to Memphis for O.J. Mayo. Even if other players were thrown in the deal I don't see it happening. The Heat got their guy and it wouldn't make sense for the Miami to give up the top talent in the draft for a combo guard. Mayo's camp would welcome a trade since he still is playing in a small market. I can't imagine being traded from Minnesota to Memphis did much to please Mayo. He wanted to be on the Heat, and perhaps his agent will try to pursue a deal but at this point let's not get carried away with talk of Beasley not being in a Heat uniform when the season starts.

The Heat's trade for Mario Chalmers was a good move and if Miami can't find an appealing point guard option in free agency Chalmers figures to be in the mix to start. Marcus Banks is better as a backup and Chris Quinn, presuming the Heat's qualifying offer is enough for him to stay, is a reserve.

Now that the Heat added another point guard, has Dwyane Wade at shooting guard and plenty of forwards, look for the Heat to focus its free-agency efforts on finding a serviceable starting center.

What do you think of the Heat's draft picks?

The Heat added a trio that played for Kansas schools: Kansas State's Michael Beasley and Kansas' Mario Chalmers and Darnell Jackson. The Heat has a plethora of forwards since both Beasley and Jackson play the position. Chalmers is a point guard. He hit the game-tying three-pointer that sent the national championship game against Memphis into overtime.

Are you pleased with the Heat's additions? Of course much work remains but this should give them some more talent.

Minnesota now has three future Heat draft picks, including Miami's 2009 first-round selection and two future second rounders.

Scenes from the draft:

Beasley seemed happy but mostly relieved that he ended up in Miami.

His mother described her reaction as "a flood of tears, happy tears."

Beasley said he planned to find time to celebrate with top pick Derrick Rose, third pick O.J. Mayo, fourth pick Russell Westbrook and fifth pick Kevin Love in New York.

We'll have more tomorrow. The Heat is set to introduce Beasley Friday afternoon press conference and perhaps Jackson and Chalmers too. 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

NBA Draft Night: Heat select Michael Beasley

NEW YORK--We're a little less than 75 minutes from the start of the draft and the top prospects are standing on the stage at WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden being photographed. Most of the players look pretty serious. Of course Michael Beasley is smiling and seems to be cracking jokes with some of the guys.

These guys have been trying to kill time all day. They had a meeting with the NBA this morning and then a luncheon with commissioner David Stern. The players and their families are staying at the same hotel as many of of the out of town media. Many of the players and their families were lounging around the lobby. ESPN cameras were following Beasley, since they are chronicling his pre-draft experience in a series of short videos.

The "green room" here is situated right by the stage, which is right by the media.

Check back the blog for updates. Obviously there will be more to report once the draft starts. Mike will be reporting from AmericanAirlines Arena and I'll be giving you updates from the Garden.

7 p.m.: Beasley is sending text messages. This place is really alive. O.J. Mayo has a large contingency here and they're waving signs congratulating Mayo. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is seated at forward Joe Alexander's table. Huggins, who recruited Michael Beasley to Kansas State, shared a long embrace with Beasley. Supersonics forward Kevin Durant, last year's No. 2 pick, is here. He and Beasley played on the same AAU team and are close friends. Memphis coach John Calipari is here to support Derrick Rose.

7:08 p.m.: ESPN reporting that Miami still shopping No. 2 pick. Heat is reportedly talking to Clippers about a trade that would include Shawn Marion for Elton Brand and the team's first round picks. ESPN also said that Heat wants Rudy Gay, Mike Conley Jr. and the No. 5 pick for Miami to part with the No. 2 pick. Not a surprise that ESPN also is saying that Chicago will take Derrick Rose.

7:37 p.m. The Heat's Dorell Wright is here in the crowd.

7:39 p.m. The Bulls select Derrick Rose first overall. Beasley is clapping.

Beasley said he felt really relieved to go the Heat. He started thinking that he would fall to third or fourth because of the trade rumors.

Beasley's mother Fatima Smith was in tears and really pleased that he will wind up in Miami. She said she would move to South Florida but be in the "shadows."

Beasley said he had a lot of trouble sleeping last night and while smiling a lot he looked mentally spent from all the pre-draft craziness.

Draft Mocking For Dummies

Somehow, over the past few days, logic and reality seem to have been removed from the process leading up to Thursday night's NBA Draft. But we'll attempt to wade through the smokescreens, misdirection and muddled mess to deliver our best-guess, updated mock draft.

A lot has changed since our first version of the mock draft on the blog after the lottery order was set. Still, plenty has remained the same. Or at least it should have, especially when it comes to how the top of this draft should - and will - play out tonight.

Bank on it. We'll be right - unless, of course, we turn out to be dead wrong. And if that turns out to be the case, then forget this file ever existed. So with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft ...

Rose_derrick 1. Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis: Just like its approach to hiring a head coach, Chicago made this process much more difficult than it had to be. Housecleaning will follow, but Rose is the type of point guard and selfless player who could allow the Bulls to blossom into a serious contender again.

2. Miami Heat - Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State: With two years left on his contract, let's hope Heat Beasley_2 president Pat Riley gets this right. Because he probably won't be around to apologize down the line if he  blows this pick by gambling with a trade.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves - O.J. Mayo, G, USC: The T-Wolves insist they will get an impact player Usc_mayo_basketball_la103 either here or by trading for a spot later in the lottery. Brook Lopez fits a need, but Mayo is the best player - and biggest star - on the board after Rose and Beasley depart.

4. Seattle Supersonics - Brook Lopez, C, Stanford: First real draft surprise here. Until recently, all signs had pointed to the Sonics going small with Jerryd Bayless. Instead, they go big with Lopez, who also fits a need and adds to a nice young nucleus of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.

5. Memphis Grizzlies - Kevin Love, F, UCLA: Gritty, skilled post player would slot right into the spot Lovek vacated by Pau Gasol in that awful trade to the Lakers. Memphis would prefer Beasley, but Love is a solid consolation prize to team with budding stars Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay.

6. New York Knicks - Jerryd Bayless, G, Arizona: New coach Mike D'Antoni will be tempted to snag Italian star forward Danilo Gallinari because of close ties. But D'Antoni also got a great look at Bayless while coaching the Suns. Bayless would provide a nice transition away from the Stephon Marbury era.

7. L.A. Clippers - Eric Gordon, G, Indiana: Instincts say go with the local product in UCLA guard Russell Westbrook. But conventional wisdom suggests Gordon because his ability to score and light it up from three-point range would far better complement the inside attack of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman.

8. Milwaukee Bucks - Joe Alexander, F, West Virginia: Had him in this spot in the original mock draft and see no reason to move him now. Alexander's athleticism and relentless play give new coach Scott Skiles the same attacking wing play he had in Chicago with Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni.

Westbrook 9. Charlotte Bobcats - Russell Westbrook, G, UCLA: An athletic post presence and point guard depth are the needs, so DeAndre Jordan or even Anthony Randolph could be options here. But Westbrook plays Larry Brown-type defense and would be insurance for the erratic Raymond Felton.

10. New Jersey Nets - Danilo Gallinari, F, Italy: One way or the other, Gallinari is expected to end up in the New York area. But the Nets also are in the market for a big man, which might lead them to Jordan or possibly trading down for Roy Hibbert or Robin Lopez.

11. Indiana Pacers - DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M: Now that the Pacers have addressed the point guard position by trading for T.J. Ford, they must now fill the hole in the middle left by Jermain O'Neal's departure. Jordan lacks an offensive game, but his shot-blocking and rebounding are NBA-ready.

12. Sacramento Kings - D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas: If he's available, this would be a steal for the Kings. Augustine With Beno Udrih headed into restricted free agency, Augustin would be a more-than-capable insurance policy who could start as a rookie. If he's gone, Darrell Arthur or Randolph are fall-back options who would fit other needs.

13. Portland Trail Blazers - Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas: With a young, deep and athletic roster, the Blazers could be looking to trade and pick up a playoff-tested veteran, preferably a deep shooter to free up space for center Greg Oden to operate inside upon his return. Otherwise, Arthur is the best player available.

Randolph 14. Golden State Warriors - Anthony Randolph, F, LSU: With Baron Davis' situation shaky, the Warriors could use a point guard. But ones worthy of a lottery pick should all be gone. Although his stock has dropped some since the pre-draft camp, the super slender Randolph is an intriguing athlete who could give the Warriors a shot-blocking presence as he develops both an NBA frame and game.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Live from NY: Rose, Beasley, Mayo and Bayless

The top prospects spoke to the media this afternoon and the biggest buzz is about who Miami will end up with Thursday night. Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless each thinks they could land in Miami, presuming Derrick Rose is taken first by the Bulls.

Rose was quite humble about being taken first and made a point to say he would not be unhappy if he fell No. 2 to Miami.

Beasley is quite a character and seemed relaxed, finding a way to inject his humor into several answers. Predictably he was asked several questions about his supposed maturity and character issues.

The Beasley show:

*While trying to work his way through the media crush to get to his assigned table, he said playfully: "I can't get through. I feel like Moses. Hey, who knocked down my name card?"

*He told a story about how he did not come to Miami prepared for wet weather, and wound up caught in the rain. "My socks got wet!"

*On whether he should grow up: "I'm a kid. I don't want to grow up too fast. I'm not 25."

*On whether needs to change and what he says to people who say he should mature: "Why change? I think they need to smile more."

*One of his close friends is lottery prospect and UCLA forward Kevin Love. They had a funny exchange as Beasley left his media session and Love entered. Beasley inquired about hanging out and asked, "What are you doing tomorrow?" Love responded: "Getting drafted." Beasley also mentioned that he had lost his room key.

Mayo's take: He said that his Heat workout was the most fast-paced and intense of all the individual workouts he did leading up to the draft. He said he got only one water break and did lots of running. Beasley said his Heat workout also involved lots of running. Mayo said he did not realize he was working out with coach Erik Spoelstra because the 37-year-old looked so young. Mayo thought he was a team trainer until a good way through the session.

Mayo said he is very capable of being a point guard in the NBA, but mentioned that if he ends up with the Heat he would probably share ball-handling duties with Dwyane Wade.

Bayless' view: Although he primarily played shooting guard in college, Bayless said he will be a point guard in the NBA. He said he thinks he would fit real well with Wade.

O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless in the picture (with poll)

All eyes are on the Heat, With point guard Derrick Rose appearing to be a virtual lock to go to Chicago first overall. Keep in mind that the Heat must select a player with the second pick before making a trade, so even if Michael Beasley's name is called that does not guarantee that he finishes the night with the Heat.

Baylessphoto_2 Former Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless and USC guard O.J. Mayo worked out for the Heat in Miami Tuesday, ESPN reported late Tuesday night. (No official word from the Heat yet--as the team did not send out a release like usual with the list of players that worked out after the fact--and team officials were not available for comment.)

Earlier Tuesday, word was the Heat would select and KEEP Beasley. However, team officials continued entertaining trade offers and still really intrigued by Mayo. A few days ago it appeared the Heat's interest in Mayo had cooled a bit, when team officials went to watch Rose workout in LA while Mayo worked out for several top lottery teams in Mayo Chicago. The Heat's interest in Mayo is real but don't bet on the Heat passing over Beasley. I still think it would take an appealing trade package for the Heat to unload Beasley. That is where it gets complicated because if the Heat wants to be assured of getting Mayo it might only be doable if Miami's trade partner is Minnesota. The Timberwolves, which hold the No. 3 pick, are one of the teams that covets Mayo.

Bayless entering the fray suggests the Heat wants to cover as many bases as possible should the team trade for the guard.

The problem is the Heat could regret not ending up with Beasley, if that's what happens. In most of the possible trade scenarios involving the Heat, Miami would be sending the best player--Beasley--to another team, and it's hard to think of a trade where the team that get less in return made out better. All of this goes back to the dilemma. The Heat has several pressing needs--center and point guard. The talented Beasley would fill none of those.

If you're the Heat what would you do? (Vote below).

I'm in New York, check back for updates. The top prospects including Beasley, Rose, Mayo, Bayless, etc. are scheduled to speak with the media Wednesday afternoon so stay tuned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Versatile Marion To Pass on Option

Heat forward Shawn Marion averaged only 2.2 assists this season, but barring an 11th-hour change in direction, it looks like he's going to pass on Tuesday's 6 p.m. deadline to opt out of the final year and $17.8 million on his contract.

Reached late Monday night, agent Dan Fegan said he has informed the Heat that Marion won't opt out.

Hard to blame him. But it's just as difficult to fault the Heat for preferring to take a wait-and-see approach before committing significant money and years to Marion when there's really no rush.

Truth is, Marion wasn't going to get anywhere near even money on the open market. Truth is, the Heat probably never had any intention of committing to Marion long-term right away when it traded for him and unloaded Shaquille O'Neal's bloated contract in February. The priority for Heat president Pat Riley is - and has always been - maximum cap flexibility in the summer of 2009 and/or 2010.

Does Marion command the same kind of $60 million extension Vince Carter opted out and re-signed with New Jersey for last season? Does Marion deserve to be treated like an elite player? Probably so. Because it's hard to argue against his numbers, his production when compared with others in the league.

Only 10 players in the league averaged double figures in points and rebounds this season. Marion was one of them, although his numbers didn't register among league leaders because his season was cut short by foot and back injuries.  And there are only about 10 current players 30 or younger who have played in at least four All-Star games. Marion, 30, is among them.

But Marion's game is based largely on athleticism. And it's difficult to commit anywhere close to mid-max money to a player whose ability to run, jump, rebound and hustle might diminish each year of a possible four-year extension.

Just look at Detroit. Only a year after re-signing Chauncey Billups to a $50 million-plus extension, there's speculation that the Pistons' brass questions how much he's got left. That's also the case with Vince Carter, who certainly didn't provide the typical Vinsanity this season we've grown accustomed to.

So there's a fair argument to be made on both sides of this debate. So if Marion and the Heat don't reverse course and reach a deal today, it's understandable.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Simply no two ways about it

Word arrived earlier today that the Heat's itinerary for its West Coast trip to meet with University of Memphis guard Derrick Rose in Los Angeles didn't include a layover in Chicago for a second look at Southern Cal guard O.J. Mayo.

Rosepredraft Essentially, it was a direct flight with a direct focus on the Heat's primary target on the board. No more misdirection. At least not Saturday when it came to viewing Rose.

Still, it's getting more difficult to tell if things are getting simpler or more complicated for the Heat as we get closer to Thursday's NBA Draft, where Miami holds the second overall pick.

The feeling here is that Mayo remains nothing more right now than an enticing side dish for the Heat. But it's clear that the main entrees are what they've always been when it comes to Miami's appetite: Derrick Rose and Kansas State forward Michael Beasley.

And whichever player Chicago doesn't take at No. 1, the Heat will grab and maintain a grip on at No. 2.

The guess here is that Rose departed his two-day visit with the Bulls earlier this week with a great vibe established with GM John Paxson and new coach Vinny Del Negro. But that vibe may have fallen just short of a guarantee from the Bulls that they would select Rose first on Thursday. That's why Rose did Beasleypredraft_2 his part to make sure he delivered his message to the media after stating his case to the Bulls brass.

And the assumption here is that Beasley departed Miami after his two-day visit with the Heat's front- office crew last week with plenty to feel good about, but nothing in the way of a commitment from Pat Riley that he'd definitely be kept - after likely being taken - by the Heat with the second pick. Beasley never got the chance to tell the media what he did or didn't hear from the Heat. He wasn't made available to the media for dissecting purposes.

So it appears everything is right back where it started a month ago when the ping-pong balls delivered the pecking order for the draft. And if there's any clarity right now as to how the top of the draft might play out, it can only bee seen clearly from the Bulls' extremely guarded view.



Powered by TypePad