The Heat's last game of 2008 was far more impressive than its first.
Remember that 103-98 loss at home to Milwaukee on Jan. 2, 2008? Neither do I. And I was there, I think. But that setback dropped the Heat to 8-24 en route to a 15-67 finish in 2007-08.
Tuesday's 104-95 home victory against the title contending Cavaliers brought the Heat's record this season to a respectable 17-13 through its first 30 games of 2008-09.
As the Heat heads into what appears to be a promising New Year, we update where things stand with each player on the roster at the close of 2008.
Joel Anthony - The second-year, shot-blocking center still struggles to catch the ball. But as long as the Heat stays above .500 and defensively consistent, he'll hold onto a starting job.
Marcus Banks - Another year Banks finds himself without a steady role despite a starter's salary. He recently pulled ahead as the No. 2 point guard, a move even coach Erik Spoelstra has trouble explaining. Maybe this was truly about defense. Or maybe Banks is being showcased for potential trades.
Michael Beasley - Fun-loving kid who is still searching for his way, despite his offensive production. Of the top five players chosen in last June's draft, Beasley is one of only two who isn't a starter.
Mark Blount - Every team has a highly overpaid, under-producing player stuck on the bench. Blount is the Heat's representative. A heck of a nice guy, who, at this pace, will earn about $230K per game played.
Mario Chalmers - Cool. Calm. Confident. Is playing like he was the Heat's No. 2 overall pick. Has become the second-most important player on the Heat's roster behind employee No. 3.
Daequan Cook - What a difference a year makes. Because, a year ago, you had to wonder if the Heat simply missed on this kid. Now, he anchors the Heat's bench and is Wade's No. 1 bailout option.
Yakhouba Diawara - Has only showed flashes of the defensive stopper the Heat thought it landed in free agency. Frenchie, as Diawara is called by teammates, has had a hard time finding playing time.
Udonis Haslem - Beat him up in the paint. Bloody him. Still, Haslem continues to bounce back for more. Looks like this will finally be the season he averages that elusive points-rebounds, double-double.
James Jones - Any day now, he'll pop up on the active roster after a methodical recovery from wrist surgery. But it will be interesting to see where he fits in, considering Cook's surprising emergence.
Shaun Livingston - The promise is still there (we think), even though the playing time is not. Livingston remains a long-term project as he works back from 2007 knee surgery. Sitting has to be killing him.
Jamaal Magloire - His legs and explosion might be shot, but he's still big enough to bang, board and bring that intimidating presence in the paint the Heat desperately needs ... until Zo makes up his mind.
Shawn Marion - By now it's obvious that Marion is more counterpart than catalyst. But that's fine, as long as he continues to rebound, defend and provide energy. His $17.8 million expiring salary will keep him in play for potential deals until the Feb. 19 trading deadline.
Chris Quinn - Remember that line from the Ice Cube movie, Friday? When Cube's character, Craig, got fired on his day off? Somehow, that's happened with Quinn, who was demoted to third-string point guard when he was shooting a team-best 44 percent from 3-point range.
Dwyane Wade - Putting up MVP numbers in every category now, including team victories. Wade is having the best all-around season of his six-year career. Thirty games into the season, the issue is no longer whether D.Wade is back. It's how far can he go?
Dorell Wright - Speaking of characters from funny movies. Remember Can't-Get-Right, the character from Eddie Murphy's movie, Life? Well, that's Wright. Despite two procedures on his troublesome left knee, including March 2008 surgery, Dorell just can't get right. And it's a shame.
Alonzo Mourning - The mystery man. He's not on the roster, and is officially a free agent. But Zo continues to work toward a return from last December's devastating knee surgery. The Heat would have to make a roster move to make room for Zo. But at this stage, would a reunion be more about gratitude or need? And would a three-month swan song be worth parting with the potential of a Livingston or Diawara? Or even pausing the progress of Anthony? Or would the simple answer be to release Magloire before contracts are guaranteed on Jan. 10, with the hope that Zo would be ready to step in soon after?