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15 posts from September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shaun Livingston to the Heat? "A dead issue" for now.

Heat president Pat Riley called signing point guard Shaun Livingston a "dead issue," because Miami has no open roster spots.

Riley said Tuesday he still is intrigued by Livingston--drafted by the Clippers with the 4th pick in 2004--but no signing is imminent. "We're hopeful but we have to wait. Everyone has to be patient if that's going to happen."

One of the main issues is salary cap space. The Heat is $415,000 under the luxury-tax threshold so the Heat would need to create space. Another question is whether Livingston could contribute this year--or in the future. He suffered a horrific knee injury in February 2007 and has not played since. He injured almost every part of his left knee, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus. He also sprained the medial collateral ligament, dislocated his patella and tibia-femoral joint. He sustained the injury after landing awkwardly following a missed layup. Doctors initially told him he might have to have part of his leg amputated. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trailblazers had been interested recently in Livingston too, but Portland passed on him and Monday Minnesota vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale said that Livingston had chosen to sign with Miami. Asked whether Livingston was on his way to Miami, Riley said Tuesday afternoon, "not right now...he was here 10 days ago."

Livingston was a topic of interest during the Clippers media day, particularly since free agent acquisition and former Heat point guard Jason Williams abruptly retired last week. Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy noted the Clippers offered Livingston a two-year contract (the first year guaranteed and second year a player option) that he turned down.

Would the Clippers reach out to Livingston again?

``I don't think we need to. They know where we stand," Dunleavy said, according to the L.A. Daily News. "We still like Shaun a lot.''

Dunleavy watched him work out this summer.

"He looked good," Dunleavy said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "That's not the issue. What you don't know is how he'll hold up."

Would you like the Heat to sign Livingston? Is he worth the risk?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Camping Out (Day 3) Power Play?

It's amazing how such a small line item in the Heat's 2008-09 preseason media guide could cast such a shadow over the franchise right now.

But right there, it is. On Page 8, left column. The Heat's power rotation had added a new name: Nick Arison, as in the son of team owner Micky Arison. His new title, in addition to that of limited partner, is that of vice president of basketball operations.

The timing of it all could be a coincidence. Or it could be something else. But the Heat insists that 27-year-old Nick Arison's rise to basketball administrator had nothing to do with Randy Pfund's decision to step down and pursue other NBA interests after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Regardless, the Heat is definitely a franchise in transition after last season's debacle - an NBA-worst 15-67 season that matched the worst finish in franchise history and sucked life right out of its fan base.

The timing of Pfund's decision to step down is at least curious. TheRandy_pfund_5  Heat is three days into training camp with a roster that might still be evolving, considering Shawn Marion's expiring contract and the team's need for a veteran point guard.

Clearly, Pfund still had work to be done. But with Heat president Pat Riley no longer coaching and now focusing exclusively on his role as president, there was an appearance in the front office of too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

No matter what led to this decision, Pfund has a resume of which to be proud. In addition to the championship teams, playoff appearances and major signings, he convinced Riley to take Dwyane Wade in 2003. He also convinced Riley to hang onto Michael Beasley last June.

But back to the very-well-likely-unrelated Arison angle. If young Nick is being groomed, it's a wise move. Riley's contract expires in two years. And as recently as at his Hall of Fame ceremony earlier this month, Riley talked about soon cruising into the sunset and relocating to Southern California.

The young Arison certainly lacks the legend status and basketball experience of Riley. But he can certainly close some of the ground with his connections - ones that go beyond his $6 Billion dollar dad.

As a Duke grad, there's the connection to Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who just led Team USA to gold in Beijing.

Arison, who served as a team manager during Duke's most successful four-year run, also worked in a similar capacity with Team USA in Beijing. Who's to say Nick, in two years - assuming Riley walks away - won't at least check Coach K's interest in coaching and/or running the Heat's front office, Riley-style? Coach_k

Coach K turned down overtures from the Lakers several years ago. But by 2010, he'd be several years older and several years closer to retirement, having never scratched that potential NBA itch.

And then there's Arison's connection to Dwyane Wade. The young Doms of the franchise are close in age and were tight during the Olympics. After Wade returned to Miami, he said Nick was the first - and, for a while, only - person he allowed to hang on to his Olympic gold medal after the deciding game.

Wade happens to be up for a new contract the same year Riley might be stepping away. And the franchise can benefit from some continuity in negotiations with Wade in that event.

Indeed, this appears to be a franchise in transition. And Randy's resignation probably doesn't have a thing to do with young Arison's ascent. But two years from now, this might be looked upon as the first step in the franchise's next front-office evolution.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Camping Out (Day 2):Be-Easy? Nope

Heat rookie forward Michael Beasley, the second overall pick in last June's draft, said his body is already feeling the exhausting effects of training camp after just two days.

But his brain might be even more worn out. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spent Sunday hammering home Beasleypractice more of the team's playbook and defensive schemes. It's left Beasley's head spinning, but he insists he's keeping up. In his lone season at Kansas State, the game often came easy to Beasley, who was arguably the most dominant player in college basketball last season.

Two days into NBA training camp, Beasley is learning that it takes more than playing the game at a high level to thrive. It requires understanding the game to survive.

"Honestly, remembering everything (is the toughest adjustment)," Beasley said between two practice sessions on Sunday. "It's the plays to situations to defensive side - you've got to know so much. This game is not only physical, but it's mental, too. And that's been the toughest part so far."

To Beasley's credit, he's pushing himself to learn both the small forward and power forward spots. That means putting in double the work and getting down twice as many concepts. For now, his natural position is power forward, where Beasley will likely split time with Udonis Haslem. But he's also taking plenty of notes at small forward, where Shawn Marion (and his expiring contract) will primarily play.

The prospect of a trade (Haslem or Marion) or an injury could force Beasley into action at either spot.

"I kind of want to know every spot," Beasley said. "You never know what could happen."

Beasley certainly has an NBA-ready body and skill set. But this camp, over the next month, will be about developing an NBA-ready brain. It's about getting your mind in sync with your movement.

Right now, that alignment process is taking shape.

"At times, you see Beasley being quiet because he's trying to learn it," Dwyane Wade said. "Once he learns it, he'll put the head and the mouth and everything together. It'll come eventually. Right now, the mouth is not (there). You have to tell him to keep talking. But he's trying to look and learn everything."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Training Camp Report: Day 1

The Heat had its first training camp practice Saturday, an intense session that focused on defense.  Rookie head coach Erik Spoelstra said the team spent two hours and 15 minutes installing the defense, which he said would be the same system Riley used.

"We really wanted to set the tone defensively."

After saying at Friday's media day he had come up with five or six schedules for the first practice, Spoelstra said he ended up going with his original plan.

Any butterflies?

"Not as much today, maybe a little bit yesterday, media day."

Udonis Haslem rode the bike and did a lot of "rehab and therapy on his foot. He looked good, is moving around and should be able to go at some point next week," Spoelstra said. Haslem has a sprained left big toe.

Among the 20 players in camp, are several longshots that recently signed: guards Eddie Basden and Tre Kelly and forwards Omar Barlett and (former Gator) Matt Walsh.

The Heat opened training camp earlier this year because of the upcoming exhibition games in Paris and London, but said the team should benefit from the extra time. "It's good because I'm going to spend some time teaching."

Rookie forward Michael Beasley said he didn't know what to expect and had nightmares last night but got through his first training camp practice fine and even revealed that he didn't get yelled at by coaches during defensive drills. Beasley's big challenge this season will be defense and he sounds focused on doing everything that's asked of him because he knows that it will affect his playing time. Spoelstra also has said the team really isn't concerned with working on Beasley's offensive skills because he is so advanced.

Shawn Marion, who can play either forward position, said he thinks whether he plays the 3 or 4 will depend on matchups. He also joked: "I want to play some two. I want to play some 1." Don't look for Marion at guard, but his response indicated he is flexible, and in a jovial mood these days.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Snapshots from Media Day (updated)

Update: Former Heat point guard Jason Williams, who was on Miami's 2006 championship team, part of last year's 15-67 debacle and signed with the L.A. Clippers this offseason, announced his retirement Friday.

On the eve of training camp, the Heat held Media Day which provided some news and valuable information and several colorful moments:

*Shawn Marion addressed his contract situation at length but said he would not talk about it again this season. He is "tired" of the business side and insisted he will not let entering the season in the final year of his deal be a distraction. When he arrived in Miami from Phoenix in the Shaquille O'Neal deal he was bothered that his name had surfaced in trade rumors, but said he went into this past offseason knowing his name would pop up since he had the option to opt out of the final year of his contract.

Marion said he recognizes he could be part of trade speculation this season but is trying to view it as a compliment. "I guess I am a wanted player."

Marion is sporting a mohawak. "I came out here for Zo and Wade's Summer Groove and I was like, I'm going to do something different. It's summer. I had my barber cut a little mohawk. I look with it, so why not?"

*The Heat and forward Kasib Powell reached a mutual agreement to release him from his qualifying offer.

*Forward Udonis Haslem, who has a sprained left big toe, said he hopes to be back on the court in about a week. He said he's making progress after having to wear a protective boot. Haslem invited the competition at starting forward, saying he wants to "fight" for the job and does not just want to be given it.

*Forward Dorell Wright said he is trying to be patient as he continues working his way back from knee surgery.

He said he is trying to follow his doctor's advice and that of close friend Dwyane Wade.

"He tells me all the time to take your time and make sure you're 100 percent before you go out there," Wright said of Wade's advice. "Otherwise you'll be in the same position."

Wright recognizes that missing part or all of training camp could be costly because he is vying for playing time on a crowded perimeter, but is not healthy enough to play right now.

*Point guard Chris Quinn said Dwyane Wade has asserted himself as the team leader, "Everyone knows he's our leader."

*Rookie forward Michael Beasley was engaging and funny, showing his more serious side at times, but also his fun-loving side.

Asked whether he likes all the attention since leaving Kansas State after his freshman year, he said: "No not all."

It's been difficult to handle?

“Maybe,” Beasley said.

Have you enjoyed the ride?

“I’ve enjoyed the ride maybe because I’ve got a new ride,” he said.

Wade said Beasley has no idea how good he is, does that resonate? with you "It makes me feel good. You just made my day that much better, thank you Dwyane and Mr. Reporter Guy."

At one point a seemingly half-joking Beasley loudly asked when Media Day would be over, telling a Heat PR representative he was hungry and wanted a cookie.

*Rookie point guard Mario Chalmers, an Alaska native, weighed in on Alaska governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin: "I really don't know her that well personally. I just know a couple things about what she has done around Alaska. I don't care for her too much."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Forward-thinking, Farce or Frugaly Foolish?

Pat Riley certainly sounded convincing Thursday when he candidly spoke with Heat beat writers in advance of this weekend's opening of training camp.

He certainly said what he meant. But did he truly mean what he said? Too tough to tell right now.

When the subject shifted to whether the Heat would have any interest in signing potentially released point guards (League rules prohibit Riley from discussing players on other teams, so he didn't mention anyone by name) Stephon Marbury or Jamaal Tinsley, Riley essentially played the "we're broke" card.

"I am not going over the tax to sign anybody," Riley said. "Unless my boss approves that. We paid a huge tax bill last year and we’re not going there again. We’re going to have to manage our team from where we are. If there are some trades that we can do that can really help the team, then I’ll do them. But right now, we’re not in the market for anybody because we really can’t afford to sign anybody."

Riley said the Heat stood just $415,000 from triggering the league's luxury tax penalty for payrolls in excess of $71.2 million. So that might be the reason why the Heat would pass on landing a much-needed veteran at point guard. While there are plenty of other valid reasons for teams to pass on Marbury and Tinsley, money issues shouldn't be among them.

Not when both - upon their release from New York and Indiana, respectively - could probably be had for the league's veteran minimum, which wouldn't exceed $1.3 million for either player. On top of that, about half of that salary would be picked up by the league. So the total a team would have to commit in salary would be about $700,000. Theoretically, those figures would double for teams over the tax.

But it's hard to imagine Riley (or owner Micky Arison) allowing $300K to come between the Heat landing a battle-tested veteran point guard who could mean the difference between 5 to 10 more wins this season at least. That could mean the difference between a No. 6 or 7 seed and a No. 4 or No. 5 in the playoffs, if everyone stays relatively healthy (mind and body).

Another $300K might not be enough to get you a Miami-Dade school superintendent these days. But the Heat shouldn't let relative peanuts prevent them from landing a point guard that could make a huge difference on a team that has a huge need at the position this season.

At these budget-basement prices, either Tinsley or Marbury (with buyouts in tow from their prospective former teams) would be the fourth-highest paid point guard on the Heat roster based on Miami's partial payment of the minimum.

Today we heard what Riley said about running a team that's committed to balling on a budget short of the luxury tax - by just about any means necessary.

But did he really mean it?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beasley and Chalmers talk about Rookie symposium incident (updated)

Update/Reminder: Mike Wallace will be taking your questions Thursday from 1-2 p.m. during a live chat at MiamiHerald.com.

Rookies Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers spoke to a handful of reporters before working out at AmericanAirlines Arena Wednesday night and both expressed remorse about being disciplined at the NBA's Rookie Transition Program earlier this month in New York.

Here are a few excerpts from them. You can read more in my story that will be running tomorrow. As you may recall hotel security found two women and detected the scent of marijuana, but did not find any drugs or drug paraphernalia in the room of Chalmers and Memphis Grizzlies rookie Darrell Arthur. Beasley later came forward to say he was in the room, apparently hiding, so he did not get thrown out of the rookie program like Arthur and Chalmers did. Beasley later came forward and last week was fined $50,000 by the league, while Chalmers and Arthur earlier received $20,000 fines.

On how the situation sits with each of them:

Chalmers:  I think it was just a mistake, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, something we look back and we regret to the fullest. At the same time we took our punishments and now we're ready to move on and put the situation behind us.

Beasley: It's something I wish didn't happen but it did. All we can do is look forward.

The embarrassment factor and feeling like they need to prove themselves through the first part of the season:

Beasley: I think so. I apologized to my family, to the fans, to the Heat organization, to my teammates. That's something I have to work hard and keep my nose clean to try to erase that.

Dwyane Wade said it won't have a carryover and affect their standing with the veterans, but do you go up to the vets and explain your side of it:

Beasley: I think that's natural. I talked to all the veteran players. They support me more than I do myself. They showed they have support and they don't look at us different.

Your explanation of what happened the night you got in trouble:

Chalmers: I don't really know, it's a situation that's over.

Why the delay coming forward about your involvement in the incident:

Beasley: I would say that's where my immaturity played a factor. I'm 19, I tried to be a kid and get away with it. I talked to the coach, I talked to Pat Riley and we felt it was the best decision. It was eating away at me to watch my teammate go through so much and me basically hiding behind the lights. I just felt it's the right thing for my team and to stand by my teammate.

On whether he was in the room when security came: Yes, I was.

Did you duck out of the way?

Beasley: I don't know. I don't really want to go into detail. What's done is done. We made a bad mistake, I frown upon it myself. All I can do is look forward and try to be the best player and person I can be for the team.

On what the past few months have been like from changing agents to now dealing with this incident: It's been pretty hard but I feel that we have the best organization in the league. Everybody in the organization supported me through my agent change and through this whole situation. It's been hard being that I'm so young and I'm new to the league but we have veteran guys, guys that work in the office, coaches that stand behind me.

In other Beasley news: He reached an endorsement deal with adidas, but said he does not plan to hire a new agent Thursday, when he is officially allowed to since the 15-day period will be over since he filed paperwork parting with agent Joel Bell.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marbury and Tinsley headed for waivers? (with poll)

Point guard Stephon Marbury reportedly will be waived later this week by the Knicks. As for Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley, the Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday that he remains on the roster but had his nameplate removed from his Conseco Fieldhouse locker, and is not expected to attend the team's media day Monday.

"I don't see how it's a distraction," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien told the Star. "I'm just worried about the guys that have uniforms."

A Newsday report indicated Tuesday that Marbury could be gone by the end of the week, but that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan would need to sign off. Marbury is in the final year of his contract and due to earn $21.9 million. The rebuilding Knicks would like to rid themselves of controversy by parting with Marbury, but surely don't like the idea of having to pay him so he can sign with another team.

The report mentioned the Heat's "desperate need" for a point guard, making Miami a possible suitor for Marbury. It also said that Marbury is perhaps in the best shape of his career and "focused to prove a great deal of critics wrong."

If/when Marbury and Tinsley become available, should the Heat try to sign one of them? If so, which player and why? If you're opposed to the Heat taking a chance on either why?

Vote and leave your comments below.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks hold court

Outside the Miami-Dade County courthouse for a promotional event, Heat forward Shawn Marion and point guard Marcus Banks talked about their situations for the upcoming season.

Marion likely will enter the start of training camp Saturday without a contract extension, and a deal that will expire after the season. Smartly, he said that he would not let it become a distraction and insisted his focus is on basketball. It remains to be seen whether Marion is able to maintain that attitude throughout the season, since his name could continue to pop up in trade rumors. He indicated that negotiations are ongoing with the Heat, but don't expect that to drag through the season. From the Heat's standpoint, the front office probably views his contract status as extra motivation. Plus the team has yet to see what Dwyane and Marion can accomplish together, since injuries prevented them from playing much together the last few months of the season.

Banks said the way he sees it he has been trying for the past three months to prove that he should be the starting point guard. Entering his sixth season, Banks said he is ready to have his "own" team. But he also said he has no issue sharing everything he knows with rookie Mario Chalmers.

A few questions to ponder:

-Do you think Marion can remain happy without a contract extension?

-Will Banks win the starting point guard job and why or why not?

*In other Heat news, forward Stephane Lasme, who was waived by the team recently signed with perennial  Serbian League power Partizan Belgrade.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dwyane Wade's future: Is it in Miami?

Dwyane Wade talked about playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls earlier this offseason. Remember how Wade said he heard a rumor that involved a trade involving him and Bulls No. 1 draft pick? His comments came when he was in Chicago.

Well now, while in New York during a promotional trip, he said the Knicks could be a possible destination for him when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2010. He also talked about Stephon Marbury.

Wade_comes_home_basketball_ Nearly two years out are you concerned that Wade may want to play elsewhere? Do you chalk up his comments to Wade having a tendency to express interest in teams while being in that particular NBA city?  What leads to you believe he will or won't be here for the 2010-11 season? What kind of team would the team need to have around Wade to keep him here? Do you think 2010 could result in both Wade and Riley leaving (Riley's contract will be up too)?



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