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10 posts from August 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Answer? No Thanks.

If Allen Iverson is truly awaiting a counter offer from the Heat, The Answer should probably expect a four- Iverson-badDetroit word response from Miami president Pat Riley: Thanks. But no thanks.

League sources with knowledge of the Heat's thinking at this point suggested Friday that Riley has essentially abandoned any thought of addressing his lack of point guard depth through free agency.

With the Heat already about $3 million above the league's dollar-for-dollar luxury tax threshold of $69.9 million, any significant additions Miami might make to the roster would presumably come through a potential trades or sign-and-trade deals.

What that likely means is that Riley will pass on available playmakers such as Iverson, Jamaal Tinsley, Flip Murray or anyone who'd command more than the league-subsidized vet's minimum on a 1-year deal.

The Heat has expressed varying levels of interest in Iverson, Tinsley and Murray throughout the offseason. Riley even went as far as to inform Iverson's camp to hit up the Heat before the 10-time All-Star and former MVP decided to accept another offer.

A source close to Iverson confirmed that the Grizzlies have a standing offer, which reportedly is a one-year deal for the $3.5 million Memphis has left under the salary cap. Iverson's camp complied with Riley's request to get back to the Heat with Memphis' figures and is awaiting a response. Charlotte, reportedly, is also in the mix. But the math just doesn't make sense as far as Miami is concerned.

The $3.5 million Memphis has offered equates to just that: $3.5 million. That's how finances work for the very few teams out there that are below the $57.7 million salary cap. 

Should Charlotte decide to match Memphis' offer, the $3.5 million or more chunk it would eat out of the Bobcat's mid-level exception would equate to just that. That's how finances work for team's that operate above the salary cap but below the punitive luxury tax.

Dorell-Wright And then there's Miami, where $3.5 million for Iverson would equate to $7 million, where even $1.5 million for Murray means $3 million on the expense account. We all know Miami has a tropical climate. But when you're making it rain to the tune of $23 million for Jermaine O'Neal and almost $3 million for Dorell Wright this season - eating up nearly half the salary cap right there alone - spending flexibility gets drenched.

That means the $5.9 million ($12 mil in actual cost) mid-level exception and the $2 million ($4 million) veteran's exception available at Miami's disposal probably won't get touched. And maybe not even the two trade exceptions ($4.2 mil and $800K) that have been available.

Money matters meant having to make a sort of mind-boggling move this week. The Heat shipped $1.5 million and a second-round draft picks to the Lakers to acquire Pat Beverley on draft night. But Miami then saved $1 million this week by not signing Beverley and allowing him to instead sign with a Greek team for this season. 

Miami is no longer in the business of doing business straight up this summer. There can only be addition by subtraction. In theory, that brings Utah (Boozer), Portland (Blake, Bayless), the L.A. Clippers (Camby), New Jersey (Alston, Dooling) and a few other overstocked potential partners back into the mix.

Or maybe - just maybe - Miami goes into training camp Sept. 28 as is. Without The Answer or an obvious solution to its point guard depth issues.

Beasley update: Sources also confirmed Friday that forward Micheal Beasley moved from an out-patient to a more stringent in-patient program because of a violation of rules. Beasley remains in a Houston substance-abuse facility for treatment that was initially prompted by a violation during last summer's NBA rookie transition program. Beasley is still expected back for training camp, barring an additional setback. 

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's/Where's/Who's The Point?

And then there was Chris Quinn.

For now, that's all the Miami Heat has at point guard behind returning starter Mario Chalmers. A team that Chris Quinn long has needed another dose of depth at the position instead got a departure.

With Wednesday's confirmation that second-round draft pick Pat Beverley has signed to play next season for Greek power Olympiakos, the Heat now has as many point guards as the Miami Hurricanes have scholarship quarterbacks. There's Chalmers and Quinn (right).

On the surface, it appears Heat president Pat Riley has essentially blown that $1.5 million the team forked over to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft night to acquire Beverley. Yes, the Heat still maintains Beverley's rights, and the expectation is that he will be brought back a year from now when Quinn's contract expires.

Beverley wasn't going to be a sure-fire answer to get the Heat's backcourt rotation over the hump this season. That type of job should - and needs - to fall into the hands of a veteran, either through a late summer free agency pickup or trade prior to the Sept. 28 start of training camp.

By now, you're familiar with the names still out there.

Over here, there's proven and presumably pricier options such as Allen Iverson and Jamaal Tinsley. But neither, despite what they say, would come into the fold and simply bow down to the much younger and far less accomplished Chalmers. Over there, you've got the salvage-what's-left-of-their-careers crew consisting of well traveled Bobby Jackson, Brevin Knight, Ty Lue, Flip Murray, Jason Hart and so on. And beyond that, there are long-standing restricted free agents in the form of Nate Robinson and Ramon Sessions.

You're probably thinking what I'm thinking. That Riley has to make a move at this point. That he wouldn't have stamped Beverley's boarding pass to Europe without the intention of landing some veteran help.

That is unless there's an unexpected wild card in play, some form of relief already on the roster. The only other in-Cook dribblehouse option that comes to mind would be Daequan Cook (below left). But if you recall, the backup shooting guard was a disaster in that brief stint when he was pressed into point guard duty a while back. Maybe he's improved. Cook, last season's 3-PT Shootout Champion at All-Star Weekend, spent the bulk of this offseason running pick-and-roll sets and working on his ball-handling. And that might be his best path to steady playing time, considering the roster crowd at shooting guard and small forward.

But that can't be the plan, can it? Therein lies the story of this puzzling offseason for the Heat. As the start of training camp approaches a month from now, there continues to be a lot more questions than answers. You have to believe that Miami can only get to the point of this problem by eventually addressing the problem at the point.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Believing in Beasley?

Heat forward Michael Beasley has already had one promising yet controversial season in the NBA. But in BeasleyDraft many ways, the rest of his career - and life - start today.

Actually, it began again on that day he arrived in Houston to start a rehabilitation program designed to address the demons that have haunted him since the moment he became a basketball prodigy.

What we know is that concerns over drug use and psychological issues led the Heat to push Beasley, the talented 20-year-old forward, into a treatment program of some kind in Houston. Details remain sketchy about how long Beasley (right) has been in treatment and when he'll emerge from the program.

But this latest development has completely altered the course and perception of what already had been a rocky and, at times, outright difficult offseason for the Heat. Until Monday, the Heat's summer has been defined by its inability to bring in quality help to upgrade the roster this offseason.

Suddenly, it's now all about the player Miami has sent away to get his life, health and priorities in order. It's hard to know what's been racing through Beasley's mind during an offseason filled with emotional speed bumps. It's hard to know what may have driven him to the brink of substance abuse. But life came at Beasley fast this offseason.

It started with the birth of his first child, daughter Mikaiya, back in May. At one moment, Beasley talked about how the birth had changed his outlook on things. I spoke to him in June about this very issue and he went as far as to say that he planned to save 75 percent of his salary to put away for his family.

New Beasley In the very next breath, Beasley was as defiant as ever when it came to the maturity issue. He wondered out loud why everyone expected this 20-year-old young man to act like he was 30 or, well, a mature 20.

In July, there was the second snub from USA Basketball execs, who passed over Beasley as they picked out young prospects who will be in line for future Olympic squads. Almost everyone who was anyone in the draft lottery the last three or four years was invited to that Las Vegas training camp tryout. 

Except Michael Paul Beasley, Jr., the No. 2 overall pick in 2008. 

That omission sent Beasley on the rant that led to the disappearance of his first Twitter account. He posted something about being in "kill mode" entering next season as a result of the USA tryout snub.

Then came the trade rumors involving Carlos Boozer, who was to be shipped from Utah to Miami if the Heat were inclined to include Beasley in the deal. Heat president Pat Riley came out and essentially said it wasn't happening. But later in July, there was the Lamar Odom situation.

At one point during the Heat's free agency pursuit of Odom, Beasley was ready and willing to accept a move to Los Angeles if a sign-and-trade could have been worked out after Odom's negotiations with the Lakers broke down. But it never got to that because the Lakers were willing to call Odom's bluff and in no way planned to aid in the Heat's acquisition of the versatile forward.

And then came last week's most recent Twitter episode, when Beasley posted a photo of himself and his new tattoo. In the process, there were two plastic bags in the background that caught the attention and speculation of Internet nation. The notion was that there may or may not have been marijuana in the bags. 

Then came Monday's revelation that Beasley had been out of town for some time and had recently sought treatment for a number of his issues. ESPN's Jay Bilas made an interesting observation when I spoke with him Monday about this Beasley ordeal. He was hoping that we all weren't on the verge of another Chris Washburn situation. Remember him? If so, the similarities probably frighten you a bit.

Like Beasley, Washburn was an incredibly talented big man with perimeter skills and a silky smooth game 25 years ago coming out of high school. Like Beasley, Washburn faced questions about his academic credibility and concerns over his maturity level after repeated off-the-court issues entering college.

Like Beasley, Washburn was a one-season wonder during a breakout year at North Carolina State. Like Beasley, Washburn showed plenty of promise during his rookie NBA season after he was a top-three pick in the 1986 draft. Then the drug issues and concerns kept popping up. Just like Beasley.

As his second NBA season was just taking off, Washburn (right) was forced to check into a drug treatment Washburn facility. A bad situation quickly grew worse. After failing three drug tests in three years, Washburn was banned for life from the NBA in 1989. After only 72 career games, Washburn was an NBA washout.

"Unfortunately, you've seen this type of thing before," Bilas said. "You hope it doesn't get to that point (with Beasley) and he gets the help he needs. But you know these sort of issues and concerns have been brought up before, with a talented player that early in his career."

I'm sure former NBA player, coach and league 12-step program czar John Lucas will probably mention the Washburn story to Beasley - if he hasn't already - during one of their counseling sessions in Houston. Of course, Lucas could tell his own story of overcoming substance abuse to gain his status as one of the NBA's truly great comeback stories.

The good news is that Beasley still has plenty of basketball left ahead of him if he comes back from Houston with his life together. Far more importantly, he's still got plenty of his life ahead of him too if he comes back with a proper gameplan. 

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Roster: Rank and File

One of the Miami Heat's biggest strengths last season was also its biggest weakness.

Fluidity. The playing rotation was never settled. Coach Erik Spoelstra intended to eventually establish a Spo-timeout pecking order that would have established an eight-player group night in and night out. Eventually he gave up and went with an all-hands-on-deck approach.

In part, the problem was that some of the available hands were unable to stay healthy or productive enough to hold down a solid role. Another issue was that Spoelstra (right) struggled as a first-year coach to find his way through this rotation situation and never closed the door on any possibility - or player. Pat Riley's hand-picked successor couldn't have been more anti-Riley in this regard.

It was an approach that created the Michael Beasley debate and - ultimately - the Michael Beasley/Udonis Haslem dilemma. It cleared the way for the Yakhouba Diawara experiment, one that saw him go from the inactive list one week and into the starting lineup the next, and back into street clothes the following. It allowed for the Jamaal Magloire opportunity, one that saw the Big Cat embrace the role of resident banger/enforcer when given a shot to shake off the bench-induced rigor mortis.

You thought you were done in December with Chris Quinn. Instead, you met him again in March.

And it all essentially left nothing resolved. 

That's one reason the Heat will open training camp five weeks from now facing far more questions than answers regarding its roster and roles.

Is this team in "End Now" mode, with more than $40 million in expiring contracts coming off the books after this season? Or is it in "Win Now" mode, with Wade in the midst of his prime years heading into free agency uncertainty next summer? We certainly know - based on this offseason - that Miami isn't in "Spend Now" mode, despite its long-shot pursuit of Lamar Odom, because the plan has always been to wait, to cash in and splurge in the summer of 2010?

So where does that leave the Heat right now? With essentially 14 players in the mix, 13 under contract, a 12-man "active" roster that will almost certainly change frequently on game night and with about 11 players who are candidates to find themselves as key contributors one week and among the missing on the back of a carton of milk the next.

With a little more than a month to go before camp opens, we rank the Heat's roster - as it currently stands - based on a combination of value to the team, expectations, ability and priority in the pecking order entering the Sept. 28 start of training camp.

14. Chris Quinn - The team's handling of Quinn has been questionable. This summer has been no exception. He was given a $1.1 million option as part of last year's contract to return this season almost certainly as a third-string PG. It's a deal that ultimately might prevent the Heat from adding a much-needed, experienced veteran.

13. Dorell Wright - It's officially breakthrough or bust for Wright. There's no more middle ground for the 2004 first-round pick who will earn $2.7  million this season, which equates to a $5.4 million hit when factoring the luxury-tax penalty. And who said Miami didn't spend its mid-level exception this summer?

12. Pat Beverley - The Heat invested $1.5 million to acquire him in the second round of the June draft. For that alone, he's got to be in the plans - although he remains unsigned. The fact that Quinn and Beverley are this deep on the board shows you just how big of a void there is with the PG depth. 

New Cook11. Yakhouba Diawara- Also a member of "The Expirings," Diawara is essentially a roster mistress. Spoelstra couldn't get enough of the defensive-minded small forward one moment. The next, Khouba was shoved aside and found himself retrieving in-game stats for coaches during timeouts last season. 

10. Joel Anthony - It's Year 3 of the Joel Project. There isn't a teammates he hasn't embarrassed with a ferocious dunk or block in practice. But in games, there isn't a low-post entry pass he hasn't been able to fumble away. The shot-blocker remains as raw as Eddie Murphy in that purple leather suit in 1987.

9. Jamaal Magloire - Arguably the best offseason move the Heat made was bringing back the Big Cat. Yes, it's been that kind of summer. Still, D. Wade got back his bodyguard and the Heat got back an intimidating defender and rebounder for those moments Jermaine O'Neal feels an indifference toward loose balls.

8. Quentin Richardson- Q may have an opportunity to start at SF for the simple fact that no one else has stepped up yet. Trading Mark Blount for someone who could sing the national anthem every night would have been a productive trade for Miami. So getting a double-figure scorer in Richardson should almost register a coup.

7. Daequan Cook- Last year's 3-point All-Star shootout champ may be nearing a crossroads. The mid-first-round draft status, the inconsistent play and the nagging injury concerns could put Cook (above, left) on course for Dorellwrightville instead of a key rotation role if he doesn't get it going early this season. 

6. James Jones- Miam's 2008 top free-agent pickup missed most of last season with a wrist injury that has altered his stroke. He finished as the starting SF when since-departed Jamario Moon was hurt. Jones must prove he is what the Heat thought he was when he got that 5-year partially guaranteed deal. 

UD-Beasley5. Udonis Haslem- Debate, if you must, UD's value. Argue that he is standing in the way of Michael Beasley's development if he continues to start at power forward. But no one on the team has sacrificed as much to focus almost exclusively on the dirty work, played through as many injuries and has exhausted every ounce of his ability as Haslem (left, with Beasley in background). 

4. Mario Chalmers - Riley has put a lot of faith and trust in the second-year point guard. Enough to say he wouldn't sign anyone to start ahead of Chalmers, despite glaring needs, this summer. That puts a ton of pressure on Chalmers. Sure, Wade handles the ball a lot. But Mario's essentially all there is at PG on the roster. 

3. Jermaine O'Neal - Jermaine has declined media interviews this summer to focus on getting healthy. Fine. Actions speak much louder than words. And his action on the court will determine how much of a contender Miami will be this season. Set to collect $23 million this season in the final year of his deal, Jermaine is being paid like a superstar. He needs to perform at something close to an All-Star - or at least the second-best center in the Southeast Division. 

2. Michael Beasley - Regardless of which side you fall on the Beasley debate, here's what you need to ask yourself about last year's No. 2 overall pick: If - and it's a colossal IF - Wade does the unthinkable and bounces next summer as a free agent, can Beasley anchor the franchise through what is sure to be a difficult regrouping, rebuilding, rehabilitation process? Could he offer the stability Chris Paul does in New Orleans? The production and promise Kevin Durant exudes in Oklahoma City? The leadership, steadiness and upside Derrick Rose already shows in Chi-town? I don't think Beasley has convinced the Heat of any of this yet. This season may go a long way in doing so. 

1. Dwyane Wade - From movie deals to real estate contracts to new shoe endorsements, D. Wade WADE-outcasthas put his signature on seemingly every binding document placed before him this summer. Except one: That contract extension to commit long-term right now to the Miami Heat. Because of the power and influence he holds at this moment, Wade is the most important person in the history of the franchise. If he walks next summer as a free agent, the Heat must start from scratch. Almost in the form of 1988 all over again as far as NBA relevance. Pat Riley's reputation would take a huge hit. Because it would not only mean the Hall of Famer ended his coaching career with the worst season in franchise history two seasons ago, he would also be the executive who oversaw Wade's departure after gambling the franchise's future on 2010. Unless you can rebound with a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant signing, no amount of cap space could buy back the credibility of the franchise. Having said all of that, Wade only has to do three things to make this all work out the way it should for Miami: Avoid a major injury this season, get the Heat back into the playoffs to make things interesting and re-sign for $120 million over six years next summer.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Blount Out, Q-Rich In. What Now?

So what does Thursday night's trade mean for the Miami Heat? Quentin Richardson

That Heat president Pat Riley is still operating on West Coast time, for one thing. The Heat announced at 11 p.m. Thursday that it had dealt seldom-used center Mark Blount back to Minnesota in exchange for veteran swingman Quentin Richardson.

The deal also means plenty of other things for the Heat. Let us count the ways.

1. Pat Riley finally made an offseason move that could improve the team a bit next season. The Heat had been one of only two teams in the league to stand pat with regards to making a new veteran addition to its roster this offseason.

2. The move brings better balance to Miami's roster. Blount was one of four centers on a roster that was all too thin on the perimeter, particularly at point guard.

3. Richardson could challenge for the starting small forwardspot or provide a nice boost off the bench. He is a career 11.5 ppg. scorer who added five boards a game over the course of his nine-year career.

4. This has to make Wade at least a wee bit happy. Not that Q-Rich makes the Heat a title contender next season (he doesn't). But he is good friends with Wade and can ease some of Wade's frustrations and questions about the roster heading into free agency.

Richardson-Wade 5. The Heat does move a couple million more into luxury taxterritory. Blount and Richardson both have contracts that expire next summer, but by sending out Blount's $7.9 million and taking back Richardson's $9.3 million (as a team already in the tax), the Heat moves from about $2 million to about $5 million deeper into the tax based on Riley's recent estimates.

6. This move has no affect on the Heat's priorities to maintain significant cap space for 2010, when it hopes to resign Wade to a six-year, $120 million contract and also add another top-tier free agent from a class that could be highlighted by LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

7. There still is a need at point guard, unless Wade is committed to playing a lot of minutes at that position again. In that case, the Heat could go with a big backcourt with Wade and Richardson in moments when Mario Chalmers is on the bench. Otherwise, there is still a need for point guard help. Chalmers and Chris Quinn are all that's there on the roster at that position.

8. Considering the slightly higher luxury-tax bill, this could be the unofficial end to any interest the Heat had in acquiring Allen Iverson. There already were concerns about potentially getting everyone enough shots before Richardson came aboard. Iverson, a pure scorer, won't be needed as much. But Jamaal Tinsley and Flip Murray (or anyone capable of being a pure point guard) could still be added for the NBA-funded veteran's minimum.

9. Now that Richardson is a member of the Heat, the Southeast Division now boasts the most-traveled player (Richardson, four teams in one summer) and coach (Larry Brown, coached nine different teams).

10. Those minutes at small forward that were supposed to go Michael Beasley's way might be a bit less availableif he's unable to improve his perimeter defensive skills. On top of that, James Jones, Daequan Cook and Dorell Wright may have just fallen farther back in line in the rotation pecking order.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Depth or Despair?

Even in an improved Eastern Conference, it's safe to say the Miami Heat - even in its current form - should stack up pretty well in pre-game introductions. O'Neal-Chalmers

The Heat certainly has a top-four starting five in the East.

That's if Mario Chalmers (right) makes the kind of progress Rajon Rondo did in Boston between his first and second seasons as a starter.

That's if Dwyane Wade continues to be the typical Dwyane Wade. He doesn't exactly have to put up another career year across the board, but he does have to stay relatively healthy.

That's if Michael Beasley gets starters minutes or, perhaps, even starts at small forward and shows the type of improvement we've only been able to hear about from those offseason workouts.

That's if Udonis Haslem remains two things: Here and his usual rugged, defensive-minded self. 

And that's if Jermaine O'Neal can somehow fight off the injury bug and re-establish himself as one of the top three centers in the East - even as he's paid as the top center in the league.

If you're a Heat fan, you should like your chances with a Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal starting five. But the question you then ask yourselves essentially represents the biggest dilemma facing the Heat this coming season after you get past the opening act.

Then what?

Where does this team go from here?

The critical issue facing the Heat as training camp looms in a handful of weeks isn't whether or not Chalmers or Beasley will improve on last season's promising rookie campaigns. They should.

It's not wondering if Wade can deal with the distractions and lure of his pending free agency next summer and produce another dose of "anything-my-team-needs-from-me-to-win" antics. He probably will.

And it's not about whether O'Neal will live up to the $23 million he'll make in the final season of his contract. Because he won't. It's unrealistic at this point. But he needs to give the Heat at least as much alongside Wade as Shaq provides LeBron James in Cleveland.

So in essence, this team will only go as far as the rest of the roster can push it. Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal can keep you pretty much even with Cleveland.

But can you win in moments when you have to rely on Chris Quinn?

James Jones How many points can you book when Wade sits and in comes Daequan Cook?

Can James Jones (left) deliver in spots when he's not left alone?

Would it be a tough night if your next best reserve defensive forward is Dorell Wright?

Heck, what's in store if you need extended minutes from Joel Anthony or Jamaal Magloire?

For all of the debate about Beasley's role - or lack thereof at times - last season, the standard reason for bringing him off the bench was to infuse the second unit with some form of life and spark. If he moves to the starting lineup - it opens up a huge void for the Heat.

This is where a Tinsley might be useful, an Iverson helpful or even a Flip (below right) serviceable. Otherwise, this team - as it currently stands - can only do so much, get so far, with what it has in reserves.

Meanwhile, Orlando can turn to Mickael Pietrus. Atlanta has the option of Jamal Crawford or Marvin Flip Murray Williams. Charlotte can summon Raja Bell, D.J. Augustin or Boris Diaw, depending on who doesn't start. Washington acquired Mike Miller and Randy Foye as reinforcements.

And that's just in the Southeast Division.

Heat president Pat Riley took his longshot at a major pickup in free agency this offseason, and it didn't work out. But a minor move or two will be needed for this team to realistically compete in the East.

Otherwise, Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal will only spin their wheels this season if the team doesn't make a deal to fortify the bench.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Heat Button Issues

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra appeared on 790 The Ticket's morning show Monday and addressed several key topics surrounding the team as we press through August toward the Sept. 28 start of training camp.

Allen Iverson speculation. Dwyane Wade calling out his teammates earlier this summer. Dorell Wright's latest last chance. Michael Beasley's old/new position. The Heat's direction next season. Spoelstra pretty much discussed them all.

Let's hit the high points.

Beasley: After seven weeks of offseason workouts designed to help last year's No. 2 overall draft pick BeasleyPractice transition between power forward and small forward, Spoelstra said he's reached a decision on what Beasley (right) will be classified next season: "I want to be able to just call him a forward," said Spoelstra, who suggested Beasley wouldn't be tagged with a position-specific title next season. That means, as Heat president Pat Riley said recently, Beasley will see time at both forward spots. Nothing new here. But Spoelstra did offer some insight on how Beasley will be used in roles similar to the ones played by Marvin Williams, Lamar Odom and - to a very slight degree - LeBron James. In a quest to maximize Beasley's versatility, Spoelstra said you can expect to see Beasley initiate the break off defensive rebounds and push the ball up the court. At 6-9 and 235 pounds, Beasley could also be paired with Udonis Haslem or Jermaine O'Neal as the playmaker in "big pick-and-roll situations." From the sounds of it, Beasley will get every opportunity through the first half of the season to convince Riley not to trade him in any sort of blockbuster move that might land someone who would otherwise become a mega free agent in 2010. 

Iverson: Spoelstra really didn't want to go there when asked about the latest scuttlebutt regarding the Heat's interest in Iverson (see previous blog post), who at least remains in the discussion as a potential free agent pickup. A source close to Iverson told me last week that both sides maintain mutual interest but aren't yet close to reaching a deal. Spoelstra said any Iverson talk right now is pure "conjecture" but also acknowledged Iverson's stature and impact in the league. The Heat could very well pass on Iverson. But any talk that Miami doesn't need a player who can produce 20 points, six assists, a couple of steals and be a box-office draw for a team that reportedly lost about $3 million in ticket revenue last season and lacked consistent clutch offense, especially in the postseason, alongside Wade, is asinine. Get that? Especially if it might only cost you a one-year deal at a third of what you're paying Mark Blount, half of what you're paying James Jones and even less than what you're paying Dorell Wright. Ditto for Jamaal Tinsley.

Wade: Spoelstra spoke as if it's a forgone conclusion that Wade will join Chris Bosh and LeBron Wade-SpoNew James among the group of players who will bypass extensions this year and pursue unrestricted free agency next summer. Again, that's been the expectation from the moment Wade and Riley both made conflicting points of sorts earlier this summer. Riley preached patience and a 2010 revival. Wade called for more urgency in the Heat's "get-better-soon" plan. At the time, Wade question how ready the Heat's supporting cast was to help him take the team to a higher level. There was criticism, albeit constructive, of Beasley and other young Heat players. There was a plea for help. Spoelstra said Wade has already reached out to his teammates to make sure they understood where he was coming from. "Dwyane's been great about communicating," Spoelstra said. Spoelstra also said the team and front-office are bracing for what could be an uncomfortable season of conjecture and speculation regarding Wade's free agency at almost every stop on the road. 

Wright: Sounds to me like Wade might have some serious competition for the team's MVP award next Dorell-Break season. If all goes according to best wishes, hopes and plans, Tim Grover might be the most valuable person affiliated with the Heat. Not only is the Heat hoping that Grover can work some of the same magic on Jermaine O'Neal that he did with Wade last summer, Spoelstra also confirmed Monday that Wright (left) is also in Chicago being pushed through Grover's intense rehab sessions. Wright, entering the final year of his contract, has been slowed by knee injuries the past two seasons. The Heat's 2004 first-round pick has yet to live up to the expectations many had when he was selected out of high school, one spot ahead of Orlando Magic All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson, no less. With Jamario Moon bolting for Cleveland, Lamar Odom electing to stay in Los Angeles and even second-round pick Robert Dozier apparently headed for Europe instead of eating up a spot on the bench, Wright still has an opportunity to make his mark at small forward for the Heat. If this sounds like a broken record, it is. You've heard this hit song last year, the year before and the year before that. Is this when Wright finally gets right?

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Calling for The Answer?

Allen Iverson might still prove to be a free agent answer for the Miami Heat.

Apparently, Heat president Pat Riley hasn't abandoned his interest or pursuit of the 10-time NBA All-Star Iverson-badDetroit and former league MVP just yet.

According to a source close to Iverson (pictured right) on Thursday, Riley reached out to the 10-time NBA All-Star recently to let him know that the Heat "has continued interest in (Iverson's) services" and also that Miami "could be a great opportunity for us."

Speaking with reporters by phone from his Los Angeles home earlier this week, Riley acknowledged that there had been Heat interest in both Iverson and free agent guard Jamaal Tinsley. But Riley also said there were no plans to bring in a player to start ahead of rising second-year guard Mario Chalmers.

Riley also suggested he was less likely to bring in an established veteran now than before the Heat lost out in its chase for Lamar Odom, who was the team's top free agent target. Odom re-signed with the Lakers last week and turned away from the Heat's five-year, $34 million offer.

Obviously, Riley isn't ready to completely close the door - ever after Odom slammed one shut - on an Iverson addition to a roster that needs a proven, veteran perimeter scorer to complement Wade.

In addition to the Heat, Iverson had received at least some level of interest from the L.A. Clippers, New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies. The Clippers and Grizzlies were, at one point, reportedly ready to offer Iverson a one-year deal for about $5 million. Those teams were interested in A.I. as much for his potential box-office appeal as his slightly diminished but still productive basketball skills.

Iverson has said from the start of free agency in July that he would prefer to sign with the Heat and play alongside of Dwyane Wade if a deal could get done. But the Heat has downplayed its interest publicly and likely would only be interested in Iverson at a price between $1.3-$2 million for one season.

According to the source, the Heat has not yet made a concrete offer to Iverson. But Riley has told Iverson's camp that he will soon get back to them. Riley, according to the source, also asked that "before (Iverson) considers accepting any (other) offer, to please get back with him."

With each passing week, Iverson's market value only seems to decrease. His age (34), image issues and demands to be able to compete for a starting job make him an ill fit for many teams.

But at a bargain basement discount, he might be a worthwhile, short-term investment for the Heat.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

On Paper, Treading Water

Consider this, assuming that no other major deals are made by the Heat entering the season.

Ponder this, only with the caveat that Dwyane Wade (pictured right) remains relatively healthy and motivated, that Beasley-WadeMichael Beasley (right), Daequan Cook and Mario Chalmers make at least modest improvements, that Jermain O'Neal can limit his knee drainings to no more than one a month and that coach Erik Spoelstra better manages his rotation and late-game situations.

One thing becomes pretty clear as you examine the Heat's 2009-10 schedule that was released earlier this week by the NBA. Miami's finish next season will have a lot in common with its 2009 offseason activity to date: Not much will change from 2008-09.

As he laid out in detail during a conference call with local beat writers the other day, Heat president Pat Riley made it clear once again that he doesn't expect much to change with his roster from last season. As a result, you can't really expect the results to change either.

On paper - three months in advance of the season opener - the view from here is that the Heat will likely wind up somewhere around 44-38. That's only a one-game improvement from last season's finish. Simply put: treading water. 

But when you take into consideration that not only has the top four teams in the East (Orlando, Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta) gotten a bit stronger, even the teams that finished below the Heat have closed the gap.

A Sixers team that pushed Orlando harder than anyone one outside of L.A. now gets back Elton Brand, the new franchise player that missed most of last season to injury.

DengA Bulls team that provided so much energy and excitement in its first-round series against Boston will overcome the free agency loss of Ben Gordon with the return to health of versatile swingman Luol Deng (pictured left) to a rotation that was boosted by the midseason acquisition of Brad Miller and John Salmons.

Detroit has overhauled its roster a bit by injecting Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox. And the Wizards, Raptors and Pacers will be right back in playoff contention.

So the bar for mediocrity has been raised. Going .500 has only grown tougher in the East.

Here's how I've got the Heat's record breaking down by month.

Oct./Nov. - 9-7.

Dec. - 6-8

Jan. - 8-9

Feb. - 6-7

March - 10-5

April - 5-2

That's 44 victories (subject to change). The Heat will open the season a much better team than it was at Thumbs-UP the start of last season. Gradual development, O'Neal's presence from the start and maturity dictate at least that much.

But given the conditions in the East, coupled with Riley's intentions to stand pat at this point with the roster, Miami's improvement might translate into only one more win on the ledger than last season.

And that's assuming just about everything goes relatively well in Y.2.U.S. - Year Two Under Spo (pictured left right).

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Lesson From Lamar: Move On

Enough with the debate about how "close" Lamar Odom was to signing with the Heat before he thought Wade-disbeliefotherwise and accepted his deal with the Lakers.

It's time to put Odom to bed, as far as the Heat is concerned.

Because all Odom is doing at this point is showing that he's just as versatile off the court in media interviews as his impressive skill set allows him to be on the court.

In his press conference with the Lakers the other day, Odom says there's no way he was going to pass up playing alongside Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Pau Gasol as the Lakers look to defend their title.

In an interview with a south Florida radio station, he talked about how hard of a call it was to turn down the Heat, and essentially confirmed that he was strongly considering a Heat reunion.

Odom simply told both sides exactly what they wanted to hear. But what mattered in the end was his actions, not his words. He signed with the Lakers. He spurned - and to some degree - used the Heat.

And, to some degree, Miami allowed itself to be used in the situation. Given an opportunity to shoot down that L.A. TV station's report that Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade had a meeting set up last Monday with Odom, the Heat instead decided to go silent.

Only after the fact - when Odom signed on Thursday - did the Heat try to set the record straight and confirm that Riley's meeting with Odom took place two weeks ago and not last Monday. In the end, all that did was help Odom give the Lakers the perception that the Heat was swooping in for the steal. 

It's business.

Riley-HushNow that Lamar is old news, it doesn't mean the Heat should necessarily close up shop for the rest of the offseason. This team still has holes to fill, needs to address.

There's still a need for a perimeter scorer/playmaker - someone Dwyane Wade trusts and knows will come through in the fourth quarter. Not someone he hopes will improve this season and come through in the clutch as a sidekick.

Allen Iverson and Jamaal Tinsley are still out there to be had, potentially for one-year deals. Even though the Heat is giving off the impression that there is minimal interest at best in either player, all might not be exactly what it seems.

Remember last season when Stephon Marbury was on his way out of New York, soon to be on the market? The private messages from the Heat then was that there was no way the team would be interested in Marbury, given his previous issues and concerns about him infecting a relatively young locker room with a first-year head coach at the helm.

Then, Marbury signs with Boston and comes to play the Heat last season. That's when it came out that not only had Riley pursued Marbury's services, Wade also made more than a few calls to recruit him.

I'm not saying that's the case now with Iverson or Tinsley. All I'm saying is that this time of the year, be careful about what you choose to believe when you hear it. Words are one thing. Actions are another.

As far as the Heat is concerned, there's still time for action if it's serious about making even the slightest improvements to this roster for next season. Face it: It took a phenomenal year from Wade last season for this very same team to be average/mediocre. So if Wade is slightly less than phenomenal but still fabulous next season and there is at least some improvement from the rest of the cast, where exactly does that leave the Heat in the standings?

Hence, there's a need for some sort of upgrade. A boost to the bench. More flavor in the starting five. Something.

The splash doesn't even have to be as big as bringing in an Iverson or Tinsley or Carlos Boozer through trade. It could be as simple as adding a Flip Murray-type to the fold. And since Lamar left many in the mood for a reunion, Bruce Bowen is now available.

Remember him?

Losing Lamar shouldn't be an excuse for inaction from this point forward. Not as long as there's a season to be played prior to the Heat's next big offseason push in 2010.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)



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