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11 posts from August 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nucleus Intact (For Now)

If Heat president Pat Riley has a major trade in mind, it probably won't come until after the start of training camp.

Patriley Speaking with reporters for the first time since days after the June draft, Riley said Thursday he expects to enter training camp with the team's nucleus intact. To be certain he heard my question correctly, Riley not only repeated, but placed an emphasis on the phrase "training camp."

What that likely means is a Heat roster than includes Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley would get at least a test run to see how well that core might mesh. Otherwise, that blockbuster deal many of us in the media - and you in blognation - have been expecting might take shape.

"Anything can happen," Riley said after unveiling an Olympic banner in honor of gold-medal winning Heat guard Dwyane Wade at AmericanAirlines Arena. "But I think this nucleus probably will go into training camp."

The Heat opens camp on Sept. 27 and will travel to Europe to play two of its seven preseason games. Training camp trades aren't new for Riley. Last October, the Heat dealt Antoine Walker, Wayne Simien, Michael Doleac and a first-round pick to Minnesota for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount two weeks into training camp.

Riley also addressed a few other Heat matters Thursday.

Summing up summer free agency, a time when the Heat acquired James Jones and Yakhouba Diawara, parted with Ricky Davis, Jason Williams and Earl Barron and re-upped with Dorell Wright:

"The only player that we didn't get that we wanted was Roger Mason (who left the Wizards to sign with the Spurs after visiting the Heat). Everybody else we wanted, we got."

On finding help at center, where the Heat has worked out Lorenzen Wright, Jamaal Magloire and D.J. Mbenga in recent days but has yet to settle on anyone:

"Now, we're just trying to fortify with pieces. We still need help in the post."

Riley also said the team continues to negotiate with restricted free agent point guard Chris Quinn, who was extended a 1-year, $1 million qualifying offer earlier this summer.

Banner Day for Heat's D. Wade

First came the bling. On Thursday came the banner.

Wadeolympics Heat guard Dwyane Wade kicked off his Olympic celebration tour on Thursday when the Heat unveiled a banner in his honor in wake of the U.S. team's gold-medal performance in Beijing.

Wade, who led the U.S. in scoring during its 8-0 run through the Olympic field, picked up more hardware during Thursday's celebration. In addition to the banner, which will be positioned alongside the Heat's 2006 NBA championship banner, Wade also received a ceremonial key to Miami-Dade County. City officials also proclaimed Aug. 28 as Wade Day.

"I actually had to hold back some tears," Wade said after the ceremony. "It was just heartfelt. It's still setting in. It's still surreal. It's a whirlwind. I'm enjoying it. I feel a sense of accomplishment inside, that we did something really important. It's not going to really set in until days later. Years later."

Heat president Pat Riley said Thursday that drafting Wade with the fifth overall pick in 2003 was "the best thing this franchise has ever done."

Riley also said the team would also recognize the Heat's two other Olympians later in the season. Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning played on the gold-medal winning national team at the 2000 Sidney Olympics.

Wade's banner is affixed with his name at the top, with mention of the 2008 Men's Basketball team and the Beijing Olympic logo.

"It's Thursday at noon," Wade said. "And to see people in the arena - all the kids there - to come out and support you, it's always special. Any time I look up there and see I have a banner for something I accomplished, it's going to bring chills to my body."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heat's Math Yet to Add Up

If for no other reason, credit Pat Riley and the Heat's front-office staff for this offseason mathematical wizardry.

It had to take a supreme level of administrative crafting to put together a roster with this many 2s and 3s, yet somehow not come up with a reliable 5. Though, it hasn't been for a lack of trying.

The Heat, as it stands exactly one month before training camp opens, has more than $40 million of its 2008-09 salary cap committed to shooting guards (2s) and small forwards (3s).

As a result, the team is left with what appears to be a carb-conscious approach at the most difficult spot on the court to fill. Mark Blount is 7 feet. But he's defensively-challenged, to say the least. Joel Anthony is on the come. But the raw, 6-9 shot-blocker still has quite a ways to go to be the reliable inside presence the Heat needs in the middle.

And that's what makes the Heat's recent flirtations with the Jamaal Magloires, D.J. Mbengas and Lorenzen Wrights of the world so painfully necessary for Miami.

Tuesday updates revealed that Magloire was still waiting to hear back from the Heat after last week's workout. Wright continues to explore his options around the league. And I'm told MBenga, who worked out in Miami on Monday, has a minimum-level offer to return to the Lakers. But he hopes to get a somewhat sweeter offer from Miami and expects to hear from Riley and Co. as early as Wednesday.

Yes, barring a trade over the next 30 or so days, it's come to this for the Heat.

With Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Dorell Wright (if healthy and confident), James Jones, Yakhouba Diawara and Daequan Cook on the perimeter, Miami has the potential for something special at the 2 and 3 spots.

But do the math. 

Unless - or until - there's an upgrade at the 5, it'll remain a roster that simply just doesn't add up. Or stack up, either.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reality Check: From Beijing to Biscayne

Now that he's done with that, there's this.

No sooner than newly-minted Gold Medalist Dwyane Wade finished off his job with the Redeem TeamWadeolympics_4   at  the Beijing Olympics, he's faced with a major reclamation job on Biscayne in Miami.

But there's a major difference between the challenges with Team USA and Team MIA. In Beijing, Wade  had plenty of All-Star help. He was a star among stars.

On Biscayne, Wade's a star among ... well, you just can't be too sure right now. Beyond Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion (assuming he sticks around ... and it appears he will), where else can battle-tested playoff commodities be found on this Heat roster? Sure, there's promise with rookies Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. OK, there's even hope in Marcus Banks, Dorell Wright and Mark Blount. And there are certainly bench upgrades in Yakhouba Diawara and James Jones.

But the next time any among that group hits a clutch playoff shot, provides a critical postseason defense stop or grabs a game-sealing rebound, it will be the first time they do any of those things.

Indeed, Wade has his work cut out for him. It's a daunting task, which is why you have to give him props for somehow summoning the mental strength to address the Heat's issues on Monday just moments after emerging from 18 hours of flight time from China.

Wade had a gold medal around his neck, but he knows he's still got quite a burden on his shoulders. In Beijing, everyone from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to Carmelo Anthony all carried a fair share of the weight. On Biscayne, Wade is back to handling the bulk of the heavy lifting.

With the Heat's training camp starting a month from now, Wade deserves a recess before he serves as foreman of the Heat's reclamation job. And he'll get one.

"One thing you want to do is relax," Wade said after his flight landed at Opa-Locka Executive Airport on Monday. "We’ve been going for a month, been preparing for it for three months. Relax. Enjoy it. But we start training camp this time next month. I’m looking forward to this season. But I do need to relax my mind and body some before we really get into it."

Wade did a remarkable job accomplishing his many missions in Beijing. He showed he's regained his explosiveness and is back among the league's top five or six players. He also led Team USA in scoring and provided the spot defense that had gone missing the past two seasons in Miami. And ultimately, Wade brought back a medal a few shades lighter than the collection of bronze he's reluctantly accumulated the past four years.

But Beijing is over. Wade should rest up. He deserves it and will need all of it he can get. Because now, he's back on Biscayne. And the challenges only get tougher from here.

But one thing's for sure. Wade is back. Both figuratively and literally.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wade's call from Beijing--discusses Team USA and outlook on upcoming Heat season

Dwyane Wade spoke with South Florida reporters via conference call late Wednesday night and the full transcript is below, but first a few highlights and observations.

  • He believes that if this team wins gold and continues dominating it could be worth mentioning in the same breath as the Dream Team.
  • He said winning a gold medal would probably feel more special than winning the NBA title, only because he said he has never experienced anything like the tribulations of the last two years. You can tell just be listening to Dwyane's voice that he is having a ton of fun and this experience has re-energized him. Two games left--Friday's game against Argentina and with a win a matchup with either Spain or Lithuania for the gold medal.
  • Yes, he has been paying attention to all the gushing over his play--just as he took note of all the negative things people said as he has been hampered by injures--but he is still angry. That's a good thing for the Heat because when he feels like he has a point to prove he seems to be at his best.
  • He is excited about rookie Mario Chalmers, and the way he talked about the Kansas product made you think Wade sees him as the team's point guard of the future, and even present. The way referred to him he made it sound like Chalmers would be the starter.

There's lots of good stuff from Wade...

*(On whether Team USA expected to be this dominant): "We expected to be playing well, we expected to defensively be probably one of the best defensive teams that Team USA has seen. You never know how it is going to come out, because these teams are very good over here. I can't say we expected it, but can't say we didn't expect it either."

*(On whether making it to the medal round has seemed like a long time coming since Athens Games and 2006 World Championships): "It's been a long time. It seems like all the hard work we've put in over last three summers have all been for this. All the games we played this summer have been for this moment--these two games right here. We all got we wanted, and the four teams left are the four best teams in the tournament. We've got to go through all the tough teams to do it, so it's good."

*(A lot made about this team being more dedicated, is that the case or is this team just more talented): "Of course the team is way more talented. This is one of the best teams you can put together in the world. It's a very deep team. Not only do we have the best starting five, but we have the best bench. The main is we know if we play the way we can defensively, everything else will take care of itself--free throws and making threes.

*(Dough Collins kidded you about your defense and this will make you have to be a year-round defender with the Heat. How much will this translate to the NBA and how important is it to you show people yeah I can do this): "I told him for one thing, I play only 17 minutes. With the Heat I play 40 (minutes), two totally different things. Being healthy I'm a very good defender. My job with the heat is totally different...It's about being smart and getting the right guys on your team that can help. I wouldn't be a good defender on this team if I didn't have anybody to come in. I can go hard for 15-17 minutes and know that Kobe (Bryant) is going to come in, Deron Williams is going to come in and those guys are going to keep the pressure up."

*(If you pull this off and be as convincing as you all have been, comparisons to '92 Dream Team are going to be inevitable. What do you think of those comparisons, and what are your memories of that team): "It was phenomenal. When I was a kid I just remember I had all of my favorite players on one team. To see them go out there and way they played together, it looked like they didn't have any egos, it looked like they just had fun playing the game. They were of course very dominant. It was amazing. For this team if we keep our dominance up and win the gold the way we can I think it will be special for us because the world has caught up, the game of basketball is a lot better internationally than it was in 92. I think we'll take a sense of pride from that but that team is the Dream Team. There will never be another Dream Team. This team is special as well, I think we said a couple years ago we can be in the same breath as those guys if we do what we're supposed to do."

*(On how winning a gold medal would compare to winning the NBA title): "I have never won a gold before so it's going to be very special. Winning the NBA title was unbelievable, something I always dreamed of, but this gold is going to be something beyond my dreams. I think from losing in '04 and 06 and all of the things we've been through is going to make this even that much more special. I'm going to enjoy it more especially because now I've been through the trials and tribulations as an adult, as an athlete. That's going to make me enjoy it more and appreciate it more. When I won a championship, I didn't have anything in adulthood that was like I've had over the last two years."

(The coolest thing you've done away from the court and athlete you've most enjoyed meeting): "The swimmers really have been the people we've been going to their meets and and talking to. The first night we came here we went to the village and were in the swimmers' part. We all took pictures and talked to them, the boxers as well. Of course Mike Phelps, he's a guy when we went there we all knew him. I knew him from the ESPYS and Carmelo (Anthony) knew him from Baltimore. We all know him from diff places, he came in the lockerroom after (Monday's game). That guy is young but is writing the history books as one of the best athletes of all-time. Also I got an opportunity to go to the Great Wall. I think it's something I'll always remember, something I can always tell kids when I go talk and speak to them about my experiences in life and where I've been. It's one of the seven wonders of the world, and one of the seven to dos and I did one of them, so I feel good about it."

*(On whether playing in the Olympics has been fatiguing, and does it leave you enough time to come back to training camp fresh): I'm only playing 17 minutes a game. Even though I'm playing hard and of course you get tired, I'm fine. I talked to coach (Erik Spoelstra) yesterday about it, and I just found out camp starts early this year! I am going to come into camp smart and not kill myself on the first day trying to prove anything. I'm going to continue to build my body, continue to build the strength back up, of course be there with my guys. We're going to get this going. We have some young guys on the team that need to have leadership in front of them. I'm looking forward to it but at the same time being smart and not killing myself and have my body break down at the end of September."

*(On whether his getting a grasp of optimism from people in Miami and around the NBA about his play, and his initial reaction to that): "Of course I've heard all the things that people have said about me just like last year i heard all the negative things. I try to look at it as I'm angry. That's not going to change. I'm glad people are seeing that me being healthy, I'm still one of the top players in the game, Last year I wasn't healthy and maybe I wasn't one of the top players in the game and my team didn't win as well. Being healthy is very key. I hope the Miami fans are excited about it because I worked my tail off. We want everyone to support us like they have. We don't win without them. I hope the fans are getting excited in Miami about the opportunity to see a young team like my rookie year where guys played hard and we did things we probably shouldn't have done that season."

*(Whether he has thought about how to transfer positive energy etc to the Heat): I think they're all pumped. I talked to coach Spo, I talked to coach Riles. Of course I talk to teammates all the time. I talked to (rookie Michael) Beasley for a while the other night and he was pumped. He was on his way to work out, it was night here and I was on my way to work out. Everyone is excited and focused, knowing of course there are still question marks about our team and we have a rookie point guard and we haven't found a five-man but we're going to let coach Riley do his job. I think everyone is excited to play the underdog role again. With Shawn Marion and Beasley, myself and Udonis (Haslem) and hopefully (Dorell) Wright comes back stronger that we can do some things. I really believe in our point guard Mario Chalmers. I think he can be great for us, and surprise a lot of people."

*(On whether Riley will make a move before camp): Of course I do. I want to have our team be as good as can and be as stacked as we can. One thing i found out being in a lockerroom with 11 other Olympians, they feel their team can make a move. I told them yesterday, ya'll are being selfish. You've got teams like the Lakers and Kobe and they were in the championship and they feel they can make moves. Everybody wishes they could make a power move. It's no secret, I think coach (Riley) has been working his tail off. I've been staying informed with everything."



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dorell Wright and Jamaal Magloire updates (updated)

Forward Dorell Wright agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Heat, his agent said Wednesday. Free agent center Jamaal Magloire's visit with the Heat is scheduled for Thursday. Wright and Magloire are represented by Bob Myers.

Magloire was supposed to be in town Wednesday but Tropical Storm Fay postponed his trip a day. Magloire, 6-11, would be a defensive upgrade over Mark Blount. Magloire is an eight-year veteran and has averaged 8.6 points and 7.2 rebounds during his career. Blount averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds last season. The Heat is under the luxury tax for next season and Magloire figures to fit in from a financial perspective. Should the Heat sign Magloire?

Stay tuned.

What would you like to know from Dwyane and Heat's 2008-09 broadcast schedule

The Heat announced its local broadcast schedule Wednesday, but before getting to that, check back later for comments from Dwyane Wade. He will be talking with South Florida reporters via teleconference late tonight. What would you like to hear from Dwyane? There's obviously been tons of Olympics coverage from national and local outlets regarding Dwyane, but anything you feel like has been overlooked? If you come up with something really good I'll try to ask the questions for you. One caveat: No questions about his health. It's been written about enough the past several months and he has addressed it a zillion times. Feel free to leave a question for Dwyane in the comments section. 

As for the upcoming season's broadcast schedule...

All 82 regular season games will be televised locally or nationally. Seventy-one games (39 home and 32 road) are scheduled to air on Sun Sports.  The rest will be aired nationally.

Among the marquee matchups scheduled to be broadcast by Sun Sports:

*Three meetings against the defending champion Boston Celtics

*Jan. 11 when the Heat faces reigning MVP Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles

*Shaq's return to Miami March 4


Monday, August 18, 2008

Dwyane's "I'm Back" tour

Dwyanewadeoly_2Dwyane Wade had an Olympics-low 10 points in Team USA's 106-57 blowout of Germany Monday. He still had a solid and efficient performance, shooting 4 of 6 in 17 minutes. Through five games he is averaging 16.2 points and shooting  72 percent. Wade has been spectacular showing an explosiveness that had been absent since the 2006 title run and playing sound defense. Though Wade is a reserve, he has constantly starred and provided a big spark off the bench. He's been efficient and played no more than 20 minutes in a game. (Of course he is likely to play twice as long come the NBA season.)

Heat fans should be thrilled that Wade went to the Olympics. I didn't think he would look this good, uncertain how he would fare coming off rehab, but he has left no doubt he is back. In addition to his health, he's got his edge back. A few months ago before the announcement, Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a conversation that he challenged Wade to recapture the fire he had in 2006 when he was one of the NBA's best players, particularly during the Heat's title run. Colangelo told Wade he had a lot to prove, to others and himself.

This seems to have been a cathartic experience for Wade, who in addition to injuries, had to deal with all the negativity surrounding the Heat. Expect a re-energized Wade at training camp next month, and a player ready to reclaim his spot as one of the best players in the NBA.

What are your impressions of Wade? Do you see this Olympic experience benefiting him come the Heat's regular season? For those of you that were skeptical whether Wade would be healthy for the Olympics, or even opposed to his playing for Team USA, what do you think now?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Zo talks comeback and Wade being NBA MVP

After Alonzo Mourning showing up at Heat fan Sarah Wiseman's 102nd birthday party as a surprise Wednesday, the Heat center addressed a range of subjects from how his rehab is going as he tries to Alonzo_wade2_2 return from a serious knee injury to Dwyane Wade's Olympics performance and whether he identifies with Brett Favre.

I've pasted Mourning's full answers below, but for those of you interested in the quick hits here they are:

*He hopes to return by December, but left open the possibility it could end up being February. Bottom line: Mourning said if he can't get himself back in the shape he wants that Dec. 19, 2007 game against the Atlanta Hawks--when he suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee--was his last.

*He told Wade he expects the star to be a MVP candidate this season.

*He believes Pat Riley is not done re-shaping the Heat's roster this offseason.

Q: How is your rehab going?

A: It's coming along well. I'm trying to work my butt off to try to get myself healthy. It's not going as fast as I want it to, but the doctor said I'm ahead of schedule so i have to keep doing my part. Hopefully I can be out there sooner or later.

Q: Before you had tentatively talked about aiming for a December return. What's your timetable now?

A: I'm hoping for December, but no later than maybe February. I'm hoping for December barring (I) don't have any setbacks.

Q: Wade has looked impressive in the Olympics. What is your take?

A: D-Wade and I had a long conversation (before he left). He understands the responsibility that he has as a (Heat) team leader, as a franchise player and I think he has accepted that responsibility and he did that by taking a different approach this summer and taking care of his body. You can see that he's coming back stronger than ever. He has his explosiveness back. He's only 26, so he's got a lot of good basketball in him. I think his maturation process (has progressed) towards him educating himself and understanding what he has to do to take care of his body to endure the rigors of the season, and accept responsibility on both ends of the court. You can definitely see that.

I see him as a MVP candidate this year and I told him that a goal of his should be to on first team all-defense and there is no reason he shouldn't be there.

Q: The Heat has not added a center this offseason, so do you get the sense that they're expecting you to come back and contribute in some capacity?

A: I think Pat Riley is not done. I think he's going to continue to make the right decisions to build the team to a level that we can possibly contend at some point. At this particular stage I'm not going to look at this as a rush to get back healthy again.  I've got to take my time and based on my conversations I've had with Pat Riley, he told me, "Take your time. I want you to be 100 percent if you're able to come back and play again." I'm going to do that.

Q: You seem to have a similar passion for basketball that Brett Favre has for football. Can you relate to what Brett Favre went through and how will you know when it's time for you to walk away?

A: I think Brett can still play this game at a very high level. My body will let me know when it's time to stop. So many people feel that once you reach a certain age, then it's time for you to retire from a sport you love. I don't think it's true at all. I think age should not dictate that. I think you can play a particular sport as long as you take care of your body and have that hunger where you want to be part of an organization and contribute to the success of a team. You can't let other people dictate your future. If I would have listened to other people back in 2000 telling me I should stop playing basketball because of kidney disease, I wouldn't have won a world championship.

I listen to myself. I listen to my body, my mind, I follow my heart. I know time is going to dictate my future. Come December or January, if I'm not able to play the game at the level I expected to, then it's time for me to step away.

Q: Can you elaborate on where you are in your rehab?
A: I'm at a stage where I have to strengthen my quad muscle, because it was immobilized so long I lost a lot of strength. I have to strengthen those muscles to serve as a shock absorber to the tendons that were torn. Right now I'm going through that strengthening phase, but at the same time you have to monitor that level of activity because you don't want to overdo it and set yourself back.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wade's popularity in China and Spoelstra talks about Diawara (updated)

Dwyane Wade has the eighth most popular jersey in China, according to sales tracked by the NBA. In 2006-07 he ranked fourth. You'd have to think that his popularity spiked after he propelled the Heat to the NBA title and waned as he was riddled by injuries. Interestingly, Wade's jersey still is more popular than Yao Ming's. (Wade scored 19 points in the Redeem Team's 116-48 victory over Angola, so perhaps his popularity will rise if he continues to be one of the team's best players.) [Apologies, the score was 97-76 for Team USA Tuesday. I incorrectly wrote this score while covering Dolphins training camp and reading a recap that referenced the Dream Team's score over Angola.]

Top 10 jerseys in China for 2007-08:

1. Kobe Bryant

2. Kevin Garnett

3. Tracy McGrady

4. Paul Pierce

5. Allen Iverson

6. Gilbert Arenas

7. LeBron James

8. Dwyane Wade

9. Dwight Howard

10. Yao Ming

Bryant's is the top seller for the second straight year.


Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's first comments on last week's signing of swingman Yakhouba Diawara:

"Yakhouba is someone we have tracked since he participated in our summer program in 2005," Spoelstra said. "He brings a defensive toughness and intensity on the perimeter that we really value.  He is also a diligent worker who has improved his offensive game considerably since college."



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