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9 posts from September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Camp Confidential (Day 2)

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 30 - Regardless of how much faith the Miami Heat has in Mario Chalmers, the void at the point guard position is


going to be obvious this season.

And that's no knock against Chalmers, who became the first rookie in franchise history to start every regular season and playoff game last season. While there should be little doubt this season that Chalmers should hold his own - even with modest improvement - there's just not enough reliable depth at the position.

At some point, Chalmers is going to need a break. Or, he might break down. The obvious answer in those instances would be to move Wade over from shooting guard to the point. But even Wade has concerns about overextending himself in those times when he's needed to run the point before crunch time in the fourth quarter.

While point guard won't be much of a concern on the offensive end of the court, it will be a huge issue defensively. Quick, name one player on the Heat's roster you feel comfortable with when it comes to defending an opposing team's Randy Foye or Rafer Alston or D.J. Augustin? And these are backups we're talking about. This is what made even a Luther Head a decent value for the Heat for the 10 games he was here a year ago.

If the Heat does not make a move to bolster its point guard depth before the season, it will be critical for the likes of Daequan Cook or Chris Quinn to step up defensively. That's why both sessions of the Heat's first two days of practice have been focused squarely on defense. Man-to-man, hard-nosed defense.

Or, as coach Erik Spoelstra put it Wednesday ...

"Grind-it-out, kick ass, defensive stuff," said Spoelstra, who has yet to crack open the playbook. "But we'll move to more five-on-five stuff as the week goes." He also said Quentin Richardson drew three charge calls during drill work.

WEDNESDAY'S NEWS: After saying he wouldn't need to hire an agent until he needed to negotiate an


extension to his rookie contract, Heat forward Michael Beasley confirmed Wednesday that he's shifted gears in his thinking and has retained the services of agent Jeff Schwartz. Beasley fired his first agent, Joel Bell, weeks after he was taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Beasley hinted at the decision during Monday's media day when he said he has taken a "more professional" approach to his career on and off the court after his month-long stay at a Houston rehab facility as part of the league's substance-abuse program. The on-court part of Beasley's decision to improve his professionalism was evident Wednesday morning, when he stayed after the session to work on his own with the coaching staff on dribble-drive moves.

"I've got to think about every decision I make in my life from now on," said Beasley, who added yet another tattoo recently, an image on his left arm of his infant daughter beside the script of a letter he wrote to her, titled 'I Promise.' "I have to act like a professional, on and off the court. When I step between the lines, it's about business. This (ordeal) gave me a chance to see all around me."

WEDNESDAY'S SPOTLIGHT: Dwyane Wade, 6-4, 228: 7th Season.

The Heat may go only as far as the point guard position takes them. And that's a spot Wade only hopes to play in limited doses. He's up for handling the ball and distributing to

Wade-Spo photo

teammates. But when it comes to guarding opposing point guards, Wade is not exactly up for that chase over 94 feet or being hounded defensively by smaller, quicker point guards the distance of the floor. 

"I feel comfortable with it," Wade said. "It's something I've done since I came into the league. It's something, hopefully, we don't have to do for a whole game. You don't want to deal with it 94 feet."

(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, September 29, 2009

Camp Confidential (Day 1)

Thirty minutes. That's all it took for the Heat's players to get a taste of the elevated expectations that are in


store this season, with a roster that returns largely intact.

Just 30 minutes into Tuesday's opening training camp practice, Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley and all of those players who blew away the pre-camp conditioning tests realized that they were only being teased by the conditioning level that would be required of them.

Just a day earlier, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra (right) had raved about how this Heat team was statistically the best conditioned unit to enter camp in the 14 seasons since Pat Riley arrived to run the franchise.

So it was safe to assume that Tuesday's morning session at AmericanAirlines Arena would hardly seem like an opening practice of camp and more like a mid-preseason session, with everything and everyone clicking on all cylinders, right?

Well, not quite.

"There's no one out there who was out of shape," Wade said, pushing the roster continuity message that Spoelstra has preached throughout the offseason. "(But) I'm going to say the first 30, it felt like the first day of training camp, because it was non-stop. But after that first 30, we settled in to breaking things down and working on basketball. But that first 30 was (brutal)."

NEWS OF THE DAY: With Wade considered one of the marquee players who get plenty of favorable whistles from the officials, it should come as little surprise that one of the league's leading free-throw shooters (attempts) annually is throwing his support behind the soon-to-be locked-out referees.


According to published reports on Tuesday, NBA teams were informed by the league office that replacement referees are expected to be used this season after yet another round of negotiations between the league and veteran officials broke down. The Heat's first preseason game is Monday at Detroit.

"I hope they get this resolved," Wade said. "Over the years, you get to have - well, I'm not going to say you get to have a great relationship with them - but you get to know their tendencies and they get to know yours. If they don't get it worked out, hopefully the ones that come up will be able to adjust to the NBA game and get better every game. The bottom line is we're going to whine and cry no matter what, no matter if it's regular officials or replacements out there."

TUESDAY'S FOCUS: Defense. That was the word - and theme - of the day at both sessions of practice. Still burning from repeated breakdowns that cost the team in the seven-game series loss to Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, the Heat picked up with one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three defensive drills to open training camp.

"We're not going to slow down too much," Spoelstra said. "It was all drill work and we wanted to do defense right away. Defensively, we have to collectively and individually get better."

TUESDAY'S SPOTLIGHT: Quentin Richardson, 6-6 - 228. 10th Season.

Richardson, the Heat's lone offseason addition, has lost about 25 pounds and shaved off 3 percent body fat

Quentin Richardson

in the six weeks since he was acquired by the Heat in a trade with Minnesota. Richardson is expected to back up Dwyane Wade at shooting guard and play some alongside Wade, perhaps, at small forward. Now, he's apparently in the best shape of his career.

"They asked me right after the trade if I wanted to come in and get to work, and I said 'Yeah,' " Richardson (right) said of the Heat's training staff. "They pushed me from the start harder than I've ever been pushed before. And here we are."

(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, September 28, 2009

And The (Small Forward) Answer Is?

Listen to Heat second-year coach Erik Spoelstra talk on Monday, and you'll come away believing that Miami is on the verge of breaking all kind of franchise records this season.


In fact, they've already taken care of one significant mark. The Heat will enter its first preseason practice on Tuesday having already shattered the previous records set for offseason tests since president Pat Riley instituted his conditioning standards 14 years ago.

From Dwyane Wade's hip to Jermaine O'Neal's knees to Udonis Haslem's back to Michael Beasley and James Jones beefing up to Quentin Richardson and Jamaal Magloire trimming down, the message from AmericanAirlines Arena during Monday's media day is that this team is in tremendous shape for the season.

But can it endure with what's there?

Yes, there are numerous questions facing this team - even if Spoelstra (above, right) couldn't not or chose not to see beyond his opening-day-of-camp optimism to acknowledge most of them. But for the first time that I can recall, there seemed to be some legitimate optimism from Spoelstra when he talked about one of the most pressing questions facing the team this preseason.

Who's at Small Forward? Or, rather, who will be starting there when the games start to count?

Asked specifically Monday if he envisions Michael Beasley starting at small forward this season, Spoelstra almost went there with a complete, unwavering answer. But he couldn't help himself. Instead, he gave the closest thing to a definitive response to that specific question as he has since this Beasley-to-small-forward issue first gained wings at the end of last season.


With Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal locks to return to their starting roles, Beasley seems poised to slot in at small forward. All of the posturing and mixed messages in rhetoric this offseason from Spoelstra and Riley were necessary because Beasley (left) still has to earn it.

But ...

"I have a lot of things penciled in right now," Spoelstra said when asked if Beasley is starting material. "I would say it would be surprising for him not to step into a significant role this season."

Notice, Spoelstra stopped short of saying Beasley would step into a "starting" role. But how much more significant of a role could Beasley play this season outside of the starting lineup? As the Heat's second-leading scorer last season, Beasley averaged 14 points and 5 boards in 25 minutes.

Give him 10 more minutes a game, and you can expect those numbers to jump to about 20 points and somewhere between 8 to 10 boards a game. And the best way to get him those extra minutes is to insert him into the starting lineup at the only open spot available at the moment.

If that's the case, Beasley would rank as the 11th-best starting small forward in the East based on our preseason rankings that take into account a player's potential, past production, versatility and impact on both ends of the court among other factors. In our fourth of five installments of position-by-position rankings, the small forward spot in the East shapes up like this:

1. LeBron James, Cavs. 2. Paul Pierce, Celtics. 3. Caron Butler, Wizards. 4. Hedo Turkoglu, Raptors. 5. Danny Granger, Pacers. 6. Rashard Lewis, Magic. 7. Luol Deng, Bulls. 8. Tayshaun Prince, Pistons. 9. Gerald Wallace, Bobcats. 10. Al Harrington, Knicks. 11. Michael Beasley, Heat. 12. Thaddeus Young, Sixers. 13. Marvin Williams, Hawks. 14. Bobby Simmons, Nets. 15. Joe Alexander, Bucks.

One logical argument for keeping Beasley out of the starting lineup is that the Heat might prefer to open

James Jones

with more deep shooting on the court alongside a strong penetrator in Wade and a solid post-up option in O'Neal. Beasley shot a highly respectable 40.7 percent on 81 three-point attempts last season. But he can hardly be considered a punishing three-point shooter right now.

James Jones (below, right) is, which is why he's probably atop the depth chart at small forward going into Tuesday's first practice. Quentin Richardson and Daequan Cook are also stretch-the-floor threats. But none are as dynamic overall as Beasley - even at this yet-to-be-truly-developed stage of his career.

What Beasley has to convince those in camp of is that he's capable of holding his own on the defensive end at the position. He said Monday that he spent the entire offseason guarding point guards and that "if I can stay in front of them, I can stay in front" of guys at his position.

We'll see. Beasley's success at the position - at least on the defensive end - will hinge largely on O'Neal's success at the center spot. If O'Neal can protect the rim as a consistent shot-blocking presence, Beasley can get away with a slip up or two on the perimeter. But he has to hold his own and avoid those mistakes consistently.

But make no mistake. Beasley sees himself as a starting-caliber player at small forward. He didn't need to be reminded that he started the first 15 games of his career there last season before he was moved to the bench. This time, if he earns the spot in camp, he doesn't plan to let it slip away.

"It's one of my goals this year," Beasley said. "It would mean a lot to me. It's like a hill I've got to climb."

(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, September 25, 2009

Beasley Begins Again

Heat forward Michael Beasley was many things in his first public comments Friday since he


returned from a substance-abuse treatment facility in Houston.

He was contrite. He was genuine in his remorse. He was responsible for his actions. He was open to accepting whatever role he'll be given this season. He was a young man who wants to do whatever it takes to get his life and basketball career past what he hopes will be the worst summer he'll ever experience.

Let me rephrase that. Michael Beasley (pictured above right, with assistant coach Dave Fizdale) seemed to be all of those things Friday as he sat across a table from a small group of reporters just off the Heat's practice court. Other than holding back on a couple of specific issues at the behest of the team's PR staff that flanked him (under league privacy guidelines), Beasley opened up on just about every other ordeal he has faced in the year since he entered the league as the No. 2 overall pick.

We reserved a huge chunk of what Beasley talked about for a story that will appear online soon and in the Miami Herald on Saturday. But there was plenty of revealing information that didn't make the initial cut.


First and foremost, Beasley apologized for his actions that landed him in the substance-abuse program and a month-long stay at a Houston treatment facility. He knows he not only embarrassed himself, but also brought unnecessary scrutiny to his organization and teammates. But Beasley (pictured left) also revealed large enough shoulders (he gained 10 pounds of muscle in two months) to carry the responsibility he faces.

Yes, the Heat has not-so nicely asked him to make changes with his lifestyle off the court. There's talk that he not only changed residences, but also changed members of his inner circle. On top of that, there's even one rumor that he had to get rid of his dogs - the ones he claimed last season gave him the flu. Beasley wouldn't touch this subject on Friday.

For at least a day, Beasley came across as taking his life and his profession far more seriously. If Friday was the first step in the rest of Beasley's basketball career and life, he seemed to get off to a running start.

Here are his takes on several issues.

(The controversial Twitter comments that were widely perceived as a cry for help and sign of depression) "I'm not suicidal. And I never, ever thought about killing myself or doing anything like that. Those Tweets were miscommunications that were misunderstood. I think I kind of channeled my emotions and threw my emotions the wrong way. "

(On putting your life and career back into perspective) "I'm ready to start the season up and start training camp and I think my situation being locked down for as long as I was, gave me a chance to really get my life organized and get back in touch with myself. I think over this past year, I've got caught up in the NBA life, as most of us do. I think this gave me the perfect opportunity to just sit down and evaluate my life and get the good separated from the bad."

(On taking responsibility for your actions and growing up) "That chapter is behind. Later for the

Beasley Interview

immaturity. Later for me blaming it on my age. I've come to realize I'm a professional, no matter if I'm 38, no matter if I'm 19 or 20. I'm a professional."

(On why it took going through this rehab to reach this point) "Um, you always find out for yourself. You're never really going to listen, especially in my situation, 19 years old, all the money in the world, I wasn't really listening. It's like if somebody tells you a stove is hot, you understand that, but you don't really know until you touch the stove. And I finally touched the stove and came to realize that everything everyone told me was true."

(On how comfortable or uncomfortable the inpatient program was) "It was like the Four Seasons. Seriously." 

(On regaining the trust of his teammates) "They understand my situation and they’ve backed me 100 percent. I’ve talked to them throughout the process. When I got back, I know I messed up and I think they realize I’m sincere and I’m apologetic for having to put them through what I’ve been through. What happens to the team happens to every man on the roster."

(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.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The J.O. Effect

Seven months ago, he was widely viewed as the low-post presence who would balance the roster and get the Heat back into deep playoff contention.

And if it didn't work out, he would simply be reduced to another O'Neal with a bloated contract the Heat

New Jermaine

would look forward to dumping for financial relief and roster revitalization.

Today, with the start of training camp approaching in mere hours, Jermaine O'Neal (pictured right) is a man who finds himself in the middle of those two distinction.

The Heat's success largely depends on Dwyane Wade's health and hunger.

Miami's improvement from last season will be based mainly on the second-year growth of Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers.

But the team's ultimate finish in the playoffs - assuming things work out as expected and the Heat falls somewhere between the 5th and 7th seeds - could hinge on the joints in O'Neal's troublesome knees and his ability provide a productive and proficient anchor in the middle of the starting lineup.

From Chalmers at the point, to Wade at shooting guard, to Beasley/Quentin Richardson/James Jones at small forward, to Udonis Haslem at power forward, you pretty much know what to expect from four-fifths of the Heat's starting five.

And then there's Jermaine.

Other than a few twitter updates, O'Neal has maintained his media/public silence this offseason. Those close to him say that it was all part of his plan to no longer SAY what he would do after an offseason of health and hard work, but rather to SHOW it once he arrives for training camp.

Well, OK. It's that time. O'Neal has certainly been here before. He arrived in Toronto a year ago talking big about playing even bigger alongside Chris Bosh with the Raptors after his career and body had grown stiff in Indiana. Then, that situation blew up after a few months, as did the swelling in one of O'Neal's knees.


Then came the trade to Miami, where there was hope just after the February trade deadline. Then, it was later discovered that all was not well with O'Neal's knees or his comfort level with his role in the game plan.

But those kinks should be worked out by now. Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra (pictured left, facing O'Neal) have all raved about how explosive O'Neal should be this season after working out in Chicago most of the summer with Tim Grover, the man who fixed Wade's body and mind after back-to-back years of breakdowns.

There was even talk that if O'Neal could perform his way back into All-Star contention, he would be offered a decent deal to stay on with the Heat after his contract expires next summer. Still, reaching the status of being the second-best center in the East might be next to impossible. With the way the position shapes up in the conference this season, it will be hard enough to be the second-best center in the Southeast division.

We continue our position-by-position rankings of projected starters in the conference, with the focus now shifted to center. Based on several factors, including past production, potential, durability and overall impact on both ends of the court, Jermaine comes in as the 6th-ranked center in the East.

Here's the order: 1. Dwight Howard, Magic. 2. Shaquille O'Neal, Cavaliers. 3. David Lee, Knicks. 4. Al


Horford, Hawks. 5. Rasheed Wallace, Celtics. 6. Jermaine O'Neal, Heat. 7. Samuel Dalembert, Sixers. 8. Joakim Noah, Bulls. 9. Andrew Bogut, Bucks. 10. Tyson Chandler, Bobcats. 11. Brook Lopez, Nets. 12. Andrea Bargnani, Raptors. 13. Jeff Foster, Pacers. 14. Brendan Haywood, Wizards. 15. Chris Wilcox, Pistons.

The bottom line is this: the center position is deep in the East. If Jermaine (pictured right, with Chalmers) is healthy and on his game, the Heat can be a dangerous darkhorse among the conference contenders. If not, it will again create a huge void for Miami that not even Wade's dynamic play can overcome.

(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, September 16, 2009

UD Hungry for Season, Freedom

While much of the Heat's internal discussions this offseason have been focused on a (so far) failed effort to Haslem convince Dwyane Wade to sign a contract extension, the only other player on the roster who contributed to Miami's 2006 title run essentially has received the silent treatment.

Forward Udonis Haslem (pictured right) has been just as eligible for an extension entering the final season of his contract as Wade has been going into the last guaranteed year of his deal.

But that's where the similarities end in their respective predicaments. Whereas Wade finally went on the record in the Miami Herald last week to say he won't sign an extension and will wait until next summer to consider his options as a free agent, Haslem suggested Tuesday that he would have jumped at the opportunity to tack another season or two onto his contract with the Heat.

But there was only one problem. The offer never came. Not even minimal discussions about one. Heat president Pat Riley has long planned to maximize salary cap space for a potential blockbuster summer of free agency in 2010, so the relative silence with Haslem was expected.

That doesn't necessarily mean it was embraced.

But barring a change in the next two weeks, Haslem will enter the Sept. 28 start of training camp having survived another summer of trade speculation. He was linked to rumors (legitimate or otherwise) in which he may have been headed to Toronto as part of a package for Chris Bosh. Then, it was to Phoenix with accessories for Amare Stoudemire. After that, it was to Utah in exchange for disgruntled Carlos Boozer. And perhaps even to L.A. as a last-ditch effort to swing Lamar Odom.

It's a process Haslem has grown so accustomed to in his six seasons with the Heat that the South Florida native has even convinced himself that a change of scenery or a chance to expand his role elsewhere might not be the worst thing that could happen.

"With so much trade buzz going on about me, I've got to believe that other teams want me," Haslem said Monday during a promotional event to donate computers and supplies to a Miami Beach middle school. "So maybe I will look forward to the free agency market, too."

UD-Beasley While Haslem's value to the Heat and job security as the starting power forward has been deeply debated by fans, there seems to be a completely different perception of him among teammates and Heat executives. Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra have shown nothing but support and appreciation for the heart, hustle, leadership, dirty work and consistent approach that have defined Haslem (pictured left, with Michael Beasley in the background) over the years.

But this is a contract year, and Haslem would like nothing more than to emerge from the box in which he's been widely labeled as a consummate role player.

"I get put in a category, but I'm much more than a utility player," said Haslem, who has averaged 10 points and 8.1 rebounds over six seasons. "If I wanted to score 20, trust me, I could. I've settled for a lesser role to help my team win because I'm all about winning. Make no mistake about it. The thing that makes me special is that I can do other things without the ball. Whether other people respect that or not, that's a skill in this league. A lot of players, you take the ball out of their hands and they're non-existent."

Still, Haslem knows he has a hard time making his case. Especially being a player who brings a rugged Ford F-250 mentality to a position defined by sleek and slick Maybachs. As we continue our preseason position rankings, we place Haslem 9th overall among power forwards in the East based on factors that include statistical production, value, potential, impact and intangibles.

Here's the list: 1 - Kevin Garnett, Celtics. 2 - Chris Bosh, Raptors. 3 - Elton Brand, Sixers. 4 - Boris Diaw, UD-Varejao Bobcats. 5 - Troy Murphy, Pacers. 6 - Josh Smith, Hawks. 7 - Antawn Jamison, Wizards. 8 - Charlie Villanueva, Pistons. 9 - Udonis Haslem, Heat. 10 - Tyrus Thomas, Bulls. 11 - Yi JianLian, Nets. 12 - Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers. 13 - Brandon Bass, Magic. 14 - Jared Jeffries, Knicks. 15. Hakeem Warrick, Bucks.

Haslem (pictured right, against Varejao) has mastered the art of tuning out skeptics and critics, and he'll continue to forge ahead amid the beckons by some for Beasley/Bosh/Boozer to unseat him at power forward. Haslem would have welcomed some sort of extension offer from his hometown team. But he understands why it didn't happen, despite the fact he's one of only two power forwards in the East on the above list to help his team win a title. There are just too many unanswered questions with the Heat's roster to hitch longterm to anyone not named Dwyane.

Now, Haslem is ready to move ahead with his season and future - here or elsewhere. 

"Coach Riley has an obligation to do what's best for the team," said Haslem, who will earn about $7 million in the final year of his contract. "Obviously, if he's kept me here, then he feels this is the best situation. I love Miami. I love being here and I want to be here. This is an exciting year for everybody. I'll have the ability to see the free agent market. I'm looking forward to it as well."

(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, September 14, 2009

Super Mario? Nah, Just Solid

We know he's confident. Mario Chalmers entered the league a year ago with a chip on his shoulder after Mario slipping to the second round of the draft, and refused to take a back seat to any guard picked ahead of him.

We know he's durable. Although he only had to beat out a barely-wanted Marcus Banks, a still-rehabbing Shaun Livingston and a seldom-used Chris Quinn, Chalmers (pictured right) grabbed the starting job last season and became the only rookie in Heat history to start every regular season and playoff game.

We know he's valued. Why else would Heat president Pat Riley go as far as to proclaim that he wouldn't bring in anyone to start ahead of Chalmers, despite the team's significant void of point guard depth? That means - barring a last-minute change of plans - bypassing a group of proven veterans that consists of Ty Lue, Brevin Knight, Flip Murray, Jamaal Tinsley and just-off-the-market Allen Iverson.

Yes, we know plenty about Chalmers. But there's at least one thing we don't. And that is whether or not he's clearly - beyond a reasonable doubt - the solid, steady, clutch point guard this franchise will place in the backcourt alongside Dwyane Wade for the foreseeable future?

This season will go a long way in determining that answer. I still find it a bit strange that Chalmers went from having to be taught the point guard position at this level a year ago to becoming practically untouchable and essentially irreplaceable in just the span of 12 months.

And that leaves the Heat in a curious situation entering camp just two weeks from now. Chalmers and Quinn are the only two point guards under contract. Riley said last week that Wade will again handle significant time at the position late in games and in crisis situations.

Mario-magic That sets up a huge gamble for the Heat. An injury to Chalmers means far more minutes for Wade. An injury to Wade means the season is done, during a contract year for your franchise player to boot. Riley is a risk taker. But he ain't crazy, which is why I think he will address needs at the position via a trade or free agent signing at some point before the start of the season.

If Chalmers (pictured left, driving against Jameer Nelson) continues to develop, there's no question he could be a solid starter in this league for a long time alongside Wade, assuming Wade re-ups as expected next summer in free agency. Remember, greatness doesn't need spectacular as a sidekick to win. Simply solid would do.

That's why Jordan worked so well with Paxson and Armstrong. It's why Kobe gets it done with Fisher. Between now and the Sept. 28 start of training camp, we will rank how the Heat stacks up in the East at all five starting positions, the bench and coaching. Let's start at point guard, where I've got Chalmers ranked 10th in the East entering the season, based on production, potential, expected progress, overall impact and durability among other factors. Here's where the Heat stacks up at the position.

1. Devin Harris (pictured right), Nets. 2. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards. 3. Derrick Rose, Bulls. 4. Rajon Rondo, Celtics. 5. Devin Harris Jameer Nelson, Magic. 6. Mo Milliams, Cavs. 7. Jose Calderon, Raptors. 8. Mike Bibby, Hawks. 9. Rodney Stuckey, Pistons. 10. Mario Chalmers, Heat. 11. Raymond Felton, Bobcats. 12. T.J. Ford, Pacers. 13. Chris Duhon, Knicks. 14. Luke Ridnour, Bucks. 15 Lou Williams, Sixers.

If Chalmers makes the sort of second-year progress the Heat is expecting, Miami will be fine at the position. But if the team enters the season as is at the point, Mario will have minimal margin for error.

(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, September 09, 2009

Wade's World - Now&Later

It's Wade's World this weekend up in Chicago. But in reality, it's Wade's world all the time these days. Wade-Hawks

As Heat star guard Dwyane Wade prepared for his upcoming weekend of charity functions in his hometown, he took a few moments during a block of promotional media interviews to discuss a number of Hot-button topics entering the start of training camp.

From confirming his decision to bypass a contract extension to whether a Chicago homecoming would be too hard to resist next summer to his reaction to Michael Beasley's drug rehab stint, Wade (pictured right, soaring) covered plenty of ground. We reserved majority of his comments on his contract decision for a story that will run in Thursday's paper and appear online in a matter of minutes.

The rest is here. Dig in. There's plenty.

MW: Training camp will be here in a matter of weeks. You've been on the go quite a bit this summer. Are you ready to get it going again?

DW: The main thing is you want to come into camp early and make sure everyone is on the same page, mentally and physically. There's still a little more business I have to take care of, but I'll be there to get it going in the next week or so. It's going to be a little bit different for me this year than it was last year.

MW: You managed to make it through almost the entire season last year without any significant injuries. There were a few times when you were banged up and sore. Were there any lingering injury issues that had to be addressed, through surgery or otherwise, this offseason?

Wade-Training DW: I've pretty much maintained the same approach I had last summer (by) treating some of the nagging things I had, whether it was the shoulder or the hip (late last season) or things like that. Tim (Grover, pictured left, working with Wade) made sure again that I took care of those things and continued to get stronger without necessarily putting on a lot of muscle. I can put on muscle easily, but I didn't want to get any bigger.

MW: Has that muscle mass, or trying to avoid putting on more weight, been a problem? Do you expect to report at or about the same weight you were last season?

DW: About the same. Last year, I was about 228 pounds. Everybody keeps thinking I'm supposed to be 212 or something, which I was six years (ago). I haven't been that in years. You build muscle and strength as you go. But I feel strong and quick at 228, with six percent body fat, to make sure I can go all season.

MW: Shifting away from basketball for a second. I noticed the caller ID says Temple of Praise, which is the church you bought for your mother, Jolinda, a couple of years ago. How is that ministry going and how has it evolved over the two years?

DW: It really has grown. It means a lot to my family and a lot of other people who have come through the doors since we opened. When I bought it, it was just a church. But now it's also place that has expanded into a school. My mother got her license to teach and the doors have opened to young people and adults who have a learning environment to grown in a lot of different areas and subjects. People who never had an opportunity to learn to read or do other things can come here. It's a place we're really proud of, a blessing.

MW: A lot of focus has been on sort of the inactivity of the Heat's roster this offseason. But in another way, you guys have been really active in different communities off the court. You've talked about your foundation expanding, Daequan Cook spoke at a graduation for a rehab program and dedicated his basketball camp to a kid who was killed in a car accident, Udonis Haslem went to impoverished areas of Jamaica to hand out school supplies for four days, James Jones helps people stay in their homes, Jermaine O'Neal does plenty of things behind the scenes, and so on.

DW: We talk about that a lot as teammates. And the thing is, none of it is really for show. None of it is for the TV cameras or to get a lot of recognition. That's what this team, this organization has been about. You basically have choices as a player. You can play basketball, make all of your money and just go retire. Or you can do those things and try to make a difference and help other people. I was proud to see Daequan and some of the young guys really get involved. We try to build on what we're all doing.

MW: Legal issues (divorce proceedings and civil lawsuits) forced you to miss practice time in camp and a few times during the season. Have any of those matters been resolved? Or might you have to miss time here and there this season to deal with some lingering issues?

DW: Let's just say that it's in a better position now than it's been. It's there and it's probably going to be there, but I'm over it and it's behind me. Last year I was over it. It's not going to be a big issue to me, because I'm behind it. But the Heat has been great about giving me time to deal with things. It's a possibility (missing more time), just for the fact that it's not all complete yet. My team understands.

MW: Pat Riley said the other day that you were one of the first players to reach out to Michael Beasley Beasley-Wade after he was forced to spend more time in rehab. I realize you can't address specifics, but what's been your role in dealing with Beasley (right, celebrating with Wade) through this ordeal. And how has it affected the trust between you two?

DW: I reached out to Mike, and my message to him was that we all make mistakes. Everybody else's mistakes just aren't seen all the time. I just told Mike to come in and accept the mistakes that he's made and come into camp and try to make something positive out of it.

MW: A lot was made out of your comments earlier this summer about upgrading the roster. Do you believe in this roster and can this team at least make it back to where you were last season, in the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the East?

DW: It remains to be seen, just like with all of those teams that made all of those changes. I have confidence that our guys have been working hard and getting better. I've seen Jermaine almost every day up here working. We just have to come together early and don't come in thinking about the individual things that everybody may have on their minds. It's going to be tough, even tougher. But that just means we have to get it done early and get it rolling. 

MW: And last, but not least, you sent a Twitter message today saying that Jay Z belongs right alongside Tupac and Biggie as the greatest rappers of all time. I've gotta call you out on that a bit. Jay is a beast. But he has the luxury of being in an era where there's really no competition for him out there. Whereas Biggie had Pac, Pac had Nas, Cube had to deal with NWA, then there was Snoop, Scarface out of Houston. I'm just saying. The field of greatness was much deeper than it is now. Jay is like Mayweather, who is clearly dominating now. But Mayweather never had to fight in that era with Sugar Ray, Tommy Hearns, Hagler, Duran, Sweet Pea Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez and them.

Wade-JZDW: Right, right. But when you look at all that Jay has done, you have to put him up there. He doesn't have to fight. But what he's doing now, everything he's touching, he's taking it to another level. Don't get me wrong. I've got Pac as the greatest who ever did it. Then, I think, Biggie is second. But Jay (left, pictured with Wade) is right up there. People think I'm saying this just because I know him. I know a lot of these guys out there. I'm always going to rep the Chi - Common, Kanye. But when you look at who is doing what now, you've got to put Jay at the top. Then, you've got to go Lil Wayne and Kanye after that, and more after that. When you look back 10 or 20 years from now, just like we're doing with Biggie and Pac, people are going to be talking about Jay Z like that. 

(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, September 01, 2009

Will Bosh Squash The Plan?

If Chris Bosh is - or ever was - considered the Heat's top free agent target in the blockbuster summer of Bosh screaming 2010, then there's now some cause for more pause. Or there probably should be.

In just the span of this offseason, Bosh (right) already has gone from being viewed essentially as headed out of Toronto, to practically soon on his way to the Heat via trade, to perhaps a strong possibility to end up in Miami by next summer at the latest, to virtually a wrap to stick with the Raptors.

Just consider these comments from Bosh this week, before he left for an NBA humanitarian trip to Africa: "(I) like that we're not sitting around, waiting around, putting all our eggs in the basket and saying we're going to wait for 2010 because we want to have (salary) cap space to get players you might not be able to sign," Bosh told the Globe and Mail of Toronto. "The do-it-now approach is very motivating for everyone."

Needless to say, this is from a high-profile player who shares a friendship and an agent with Dwyane Wade. Needless to say that this is from a 2010 mega-free agent who could re-sign with his own team for as much as $30 million more than any other team could offer. Needless to say that Wade sounded out a similar song earlier this summer in a not-so-patient plea for roster help.

There is no doubt that Heat president Pat Riley is going to have a load of money to toss around in free agency next summer, which was always the man's main plan. Objective 1 in 2010 is to re-sign Wade to that six-year, $120 million max deal. Objective 2 was expected to center on what once seemed almost a certainty: Toss another max deal - perhaps five years, $90 million - Bosh's way and call it a day.

Again, perhaps.

By the end of this season, this plan would be two years in the making. Two years of vision. Two years of waiting. Two years of preparing for the big-time NBA coup. And it could backfire. At least at the top level. Yes, LeBron is going to be out there. But getting him to Miami might be the next stop north of a pipe dream. Sure Amare sounds like he will be very available. But with his injury history and demands to be The Man wherever he goes, there are also risks involved. Point is, if you can't get a top-3 guy off the 2010 board - including your own - you would have wasted two years to bring in Joe Johnson or Carlos Boozer. All respect due.

But a Wade-Bosh tandem always seemed to be priority No. 1 for the Heat, with Riley's affection for the versatile 6-11 All-Star forward dating to that 2003 Draft when, truth be told, Bosh (who went 4th to Toronto) was the target and Wade (who went 5th to Miami) ended up being the consolation catch.

Bosh-Wade Yes, it turned out to be the right pick for the Heat. In a very big way. But still. Feelings are feelings. And judging by Bosh's most recent emotions, he's loving life in Toronto right now - and, perhaps, for the long haul. Remember, this was the same guy who at the start of the summer made it clear that he was not happy with what was going on north of the border after a miserable season. Making matters worse was the fact that his domestic issues with the mother of his child played out in the press, which resulted in a messy child support dispute that played out over two states and two countries.

Bosh was the first of the big-time 2010 classmates to publicly make it clear that he would not sign an extension this summer and would wait to look into his free agency options.

Now, after watching his team go out and pick up a few key players, including Hedo Turkoglu, there's a different message coming from Canada. Bosh (defending Wade above) said he spent majority of his summer there for the first time. He might even at least consider that extension now.

Bosh sounds more and more like he's warming up to he idea of staying put. If so, that might only place more heat on Miami to deliver the goods under Riley's 2010 Grand Plan.

(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.)



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