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23 posts from November 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Heat Pregame: O'Neal out w/hip injury

Heat center Jermaine O'Neal will sit out tonight's game against the New Jersey Nets with a left hip J contusion.

O'Neal sustained the injury during Thursday night's loss to Cleveland in a collision with LeBron James near the basket. O'Neal finished the game and had 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes.

It is the first game of the season O'Neal has missed, although he was sidelined for two games during the preseason with a foot injury. Backup center Joel Anthony replaced O'Neal in the Heat's starting lineup alongside Michael Beasley, Quentin Richardson, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers.

O'Neal received extensive treatment on his hip the past two days. He was held out of Saturday's morning shootaround to undergo more therapy. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said O'Neal was "50-50" two hours before the game, but the team decided to hold him out as a precaution.

"It was when (LeBron) James took that middle drive and he had a collision in the second half. His knee ran into (O'Neal's) hip," Spoelstra said. "It's just a bruise right now. He feels much better than he did yesterday. He felt like he got hit by a train yesterday. It's not quite the type of relief and movement we were hoping for."

O'Neal was unavailable for comment before the game. After Saturday, the Heat has two days off before Tuesday's home game against Oklahoma City. O'Neal is listed as day to day.

(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, November 13, 2009

LeBron Fantasy vs. CP3 Reality

As the "fantasy land" of a potential Dwyane Wade-LeBron James partnership next summer begins to settle Paul-Wade a wee bit for now, there very well could be other blockbuster unions available for the Heat.

That said, there aren't many that would be worth sacrificing Miami's spending flexibility in the free-agency market that opens July 1, 2010. While James-Wade in the MIA might be a lot of fun to think about, it still seems to be a bit far fetched.

Not saying it can't or won't happen. Just saying.

Meanwhile, there's a meltdown-soon-to-turn-fire-sale going on out west with Golden State. Stephen Jackson has demanded a trade. Monta Ellis wants in one week and out the next and is no longer hiding his disdain for coach Don Nelson.

There's a mess in Memphis, where the Grizzlies lack of chemistry and leadership existed long before Hurricane Iverson blew through the franchise and wrecked shop less than a month into the season. Now, Zach Randolph is addressing a lack of leadership. O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, who will be a free agent, are barking at one another on the bench. At other times, they aren't talking at all.

Still, none of those situations are worth sacrificing Miami's flexibility next season to make a move this season. But there is a place that might prove ripe for the pilfering: New Orleans.

The Hornets are two seasons removed from being the league's most dangerous up-and-coming contender. Now, after a disappointing drop-off last season and a poor start this season, they've fired coach Byron Scott. That move was made without consulting star guard and face-of-the-franchise Chris Paul.

Paul's frustration dates to last season when the franchise botched the Tyson Chandler-to-Oklahoma City trade. On top of that, Paul and fellow Hornets All-Star David West don't seem to be on the same page.

So here's the deal. If Paul is not long for New Orleans, a team that always seems to be in the cost-cutting business and has had revenue-generating  issues for years, might he be available despite recently signing a lucrative contract extension?

Paul-Wadeson If Paul (pictured below left playing with Wade's son, Zaire, at a recent Summer Groove) wants out - and New Orleans wants a fresh start and to get from under the remaining three years and roughly $50 million left on his contract - the Heat should do all it can to get in on the process.

Heat owner Micky Arison was adamant this week when he said too much talk has been focused on Miami's plans for the summer of  2010 when potential moves might be available far sooner. A realistic shot to get CP3 now would be worth sacrificing a potential pipe dream pursuit of LeBron.

The questions are: What might it take to pry Paul from New Orleans. Or better yet, what are the Heat willing to give up to get him. To get any star of that magnitude, you have to have a combination of expiring contracts, young talent and draft picks.

Check. Check. And check for the Heat. Between $40 million in expiring contracts, a handful of young and inexpensive prospects and draft picks, the Heat has more chips than Lays right about now. While I think dreaming up blockbuster trades is mainly a waste of time, there does come a time when one makes sense. So try this one on for size.

Heat gets: Chris Paul and Darius Songaila.

Hornets get: Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Miami's 1st-round pick in 2010 and the Heat's $4.2 million trade exception from the Toronto trade.

The skinny is this. Paul earns about $13-14 million this season. The combined salaries of Richardson (expiring $9), Beasley ($5 in second year of rookie contract) and Chalmers ($800K, in second year of three-year deal) would fit within the salary-matching structure for Paul.

But chances are, New Orleans would want more, which is where the first-round pick comes in. Miami has two: Its own as well as the one that would come from Toronto should the Raptors make the playoffs this season. And New Orleans might also want to dump Songaila's contract ($4.5 this year, with a player option next season). The Heat could send over that $4.2 million trade exception in a seperate transaction.

This deal might work because it would be equally rewarding and painful for both teams. New Orleans can develop Beasley in a frontcourt with West and Emeka Okafor. Richardson's contract would come off the books after the season. And Chalmers could develop a nice 1-2 combo at point guard with rookie draft pick Darren Collison. The first-round pick is what it is. And the $4.2 trade exception (which can be used or not) gets the Hornets out of Songaila's two-year deal.

The Heat gets a legitimate point guard to pair with Wade for the long haul. And it would be the sort of bold move that also would get Wade's signature on that extension before he ever hits the free-agent market in July. And still, the Heat could be in position to target a major free agent from that high-profile class. 

Much is made of the deep friendship Wade has with LeBron. But Wade seems to be just as fond of his relationship with Paul. As a matter of fact, he's spent more time with Paul over the last two offseasons than he has with any of his elite pals in the league.

Paul was among the first to volunteer his summer to play in those pick-up games with Wade in Chicago as Wade-CP3 he was preparing to get his body right for that Beijing Olympic run. Wade sat courtside at a Hornets game a year ago during a rehab stint away from the Heat. Wade and Paul (pictured right in China during the 2008 Olympics) have been in one another's hometown to help with the other's charity functions.

And it was Wade's mom and Paul's parents who sat courtside together at a Heat game last season trading playful barbs as their sons were battling on the court. So as fun as it might be to imagine Wade and LeBron in Miami, an MV3-CP3 backcourt wouldn't be a bad jackpot consolation prize. The only issue would be that Paul would have to find a new nickname and jersey number.

No. 3 is already taken. The question now is how much longer before Paul is up for grabs?

(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.)

Postgame Breakdown: Cavs 111, Heat 104

In the end, there was disappointment. At the finish, the message was simple. Wade-James

One-hundred and four points should have been more than enough for the Heat, considering it carried one of the league's stingiest defenses into Thursday's clash with Cleveland. But for the first time this season, the Heat's defense was the huge cause for concern in a 111-104 loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

For as much as this is typically a showcase for LeBron's brilliance and Dwyane's dynamics, the difference in this game was determined by their respective supporting casts. While Michael Beasley's season-high 24 points kept the Heat going down the stretch and Jermaine O'Neal's 15 points and nine rebounds allowed Miami to establish a post game early, it wasn't enough to match LeBron's crew.

And it was a crew that, ironically, consisted of players the Heat either wanted but couldn't get or had but no longer wanted

Mo Williams continued his string of breakout performances against the Heat, the team he spurned two years ago as a free agent to take more money from Milwaukee, which traded him to Cleveland. It was Williams who carried the Cavs to their double-digit lead in the third quarter. He had 25 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from three-point range.

It was Jamario Moon, the Heat's starting forward last season acquired in the Jermaine O'Neal trade, who was 4 of 5 from the field had a couple of big-time dunks in addition to spot-duty defense against Wade. Moon got away as a free agent after the Heat declined to match Cleveland's offer sheet.

Former Heat center Shaquille O'Neal did enough damage down low, when adding his 15 points, 6-of-10 free-throw shooting and five hard fouls he delivered. And of course, James closed the show with eight straight points in the fourth and 34 for the game.

"These are games you learn from," Wade said. "We're going to move forward from here. We're 6-2. If we are a good team, we're going to learn from this."

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade did his part to live up to the hype of these showdowns with James. And he should have been arrested for assault for that dunk over Anderson Varejao in the first quarter. "It's probably top 10 (dunks) of all time," said witness LeBron James. "Being a fan of the game, I know a lot of great dunks. I love Andy, but I'm speaking as a fan." Wade did most of his damage from the line, where he made 15 of 21 attempts. He did miss a couple of key ones from there. He was 9 of 21 from the field. He also had five assists, four rebounds and two blocks. But those four turnovers and six missed free throws were still bothering Wade long after the game ended.

TURNING POINT: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra insisted after the game that the Heat's start was the main problem. True, Miami surrendered 35 points in the first quarter. But it scored 33. He said his team's poor play at times on defense set the tone for a rough night. I tend to think this one got away at the end of the third quarter, when Mo Williams and J.J. Hickson sparked a 9-2 run that allowed Cleveland to create a cushion. Williams was shooting lights out. And Hickson was active around the basket and was able to nail a couple of baseline jumpers. Then, LeBron re-entered and closed the show in the fourth quarter.

LOSING EDGE: Most of the numbers evened out by the end of the game. But there's one obvious advantage in the Cavs' favor. Cleveland's point guards - Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson - outscored Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo 30-14. Williams, of course, did most of the damage. But Gibson hit a huge trey to close the third and put Cleveland ahead 92-84.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: You could question why Wade came out for rest to start the fourth quarter with the Jordan-Riley Heat falling further and further behind. But the man needed some rest, considering how hard he played and the intensity level of the game. The Heat was down eight entering the fourth. By the time Wade came back, Cleveland had tacked on two more points to its lead. But there's a bigger head-scratcher. At some point, we need to get to the bottom of this whole No. 23 retired jersey deal with the Heat. Quentin Richardson wore 23 until he arrived in Miami, where he may or may not have been told that number was unavailable because Pat Riley retired Michael Jordan's number/jersey. Here's to wondering if the franchise's stance might change during Riley's eventual recruitment pitch to LeBron next summer. Then again, James said in a postgame interview that he plans to change his number to No. 6 because he believes no one should wear Jordan's number again.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Michael Beasley's 24-point effort was encouraging. Even more so was his presence at the finish of the fourth quarter. That alone hasn't been easy for Beasley, who has found himself on the Beas-Cavs bench during crunch-time. But Beasley had 14 of his season-high 24 points in the second half. He was 9 of 17 from the field, 2 of 5 on threes and made all four of is free throws. That said, he continued to have problems with defensive assignments. J.J. Hickson was a handful. And there was no way, Spoelstra was putting him on LeBron for any extended minutes. Beasley played late because the Heat was playing catchup and needed his scoring touch.

NEXT UP: Nets at Heat, 7:30 Saturday - AmericanAirlines Arena

(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, November 12, 2009

Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 8 p.m. (TNT) PREGAME REPORT

Pregame at the AmericanAirlines Arena:

In the visitors' locker room, Cleveland guard and former Miami free agent target Mo Williams said he does not regret being traded to the Cavaliers in 2007 after resigning with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat pursued the point guard after his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks expired. He averaged 17.8 points during the Cavs' run to the Eastern Conference finals.

"You think about other places, like Miami, places you could have gone to. But I know I made the right call," Williams said. He added that things "got pretty serious'' with the Heat.

Williams scored a season-high 28 points Wednesday against the Orlando Magic.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on guarding LeBron James:

"[Udonis Haslem will] see some time on him tonight. Udonis has proved over the years that he's one of the most versatile, toughest defenders in the league ... The reality is you're going to have to put several guys on James. He has a way of putting people in foul trouble."

Spoelstra added that Quentin Richardson will get the first crack at James, and that Dwyane Wade, Dorrell Wright and even Daequan Cook will defend him.

Cavs coach Mike Brown on guard Delonte West, who went "Desperado" before training camp, driving a motorcycle through Maryland with a guitar case filled with firearms:

"My comfort level (playing West) isn't affected. In my mind I have a way I'm going to go if he is active and if he doesn't go I have a slightly different way so I'm good either way."

West is inactive for tonight's game.

Starting lineups:

Miami- Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers.

Cleveland- LeBron James, JJ Hickson, Shaquille O'Neal, Anthony Parker, Mo Williams.

Inactives: Miami: Yakhouba Diawara, Shavlik Randolph, Chris Quinn; Cleveland: Delonte West, Jawad Williams, Leon Powe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 90, Wizards 76

This was second-half dominance. Wizards-Wade

This was the Miami Heat at its best. When Dwyane Wade is scoring, when the Heat's defense has an opponent scrambling, when Mario Chalmers is hitting clutch threes he way he did in college and when Miami's toughness is questioned, it usually turns out like this.

Especially against the Wizards.

Did I mention when Wade is scoring? All of those factors culminated in Tuesday's 90-76 walk-off victory over the Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat not only erased its first double-digit deficit of the season, it also fought back after trailing at the half for the first time this season.

As a result, Miami (6-1) matched its best-ever start through seven games. The Heat now faces a major challenge when LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and the Cleveland Cavaliers visit on Thursday. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is already hot on the hoopla that will surround the game.

"That's what drives a head coach crazy," Spoelstra said of the build-up leading into Thursday. "I wish we could play it tomorrow (Wednesday). I would love to play it without all of the media hype."

Not a chance.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: I asked Dwyane after the game, his second 40-point outburst in a week against the Wizards, if this was a coincidence or whether Washington's defense was simply accommodating. "It's Caron," Wade said, jokingly, of former Heat forward and close friend Caron Butler. "He brings it out in me." Wade scored a season-high 41 points on 14 of 29 shooting, which included a 12 of 13 clip from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block in 38 minutes. He had a hand in five consecutive scoring possessions when the Heat used an 19-3 run to close the game. If Wade wasn't passing to set up scores, he was pulling up for jumpers. If he wasn't defending to force turnovers, he was dunking at the other end to extend the lead. "I knew they had their defense set around me and I wanted to make sure they couldn't relax."

TURNING POINT: The Heat used an 19-3 run in the fourth to take control and close things out. Wade scored six points and had two assist during the first part of that spurt. Washington was a complete mess at the finish. The Wizards surrendered eight points in the fourth off six turnovers.

Wizards-D WINNING EDGE: The Heat scored 27 points off 22 Washington turnovers. That's the ballgame right there. This defense thing is not just talk with the Heat. Players actually buy into the system and they are seeing the results. "Everything we worked on in training camp is working (now)," Beasley said. "We put in the time. We put in the hours to get the defense working. And we're seeing it."

HEAD-SCRATCHER: The Wizards just can't shake the injury bug. Gilbert Arenas was supposed to sit out of Tuesday's game with a bruised calf. The Wizards staff made the rounds to inform the media. Moments after the introduction, Arenas was in the starting lineup. No sooner than Arenas got going, Washington guard Randy Foye went down with a sprained ankle. He's now added to an injury list that includes Antawn Jamison, Mike Miller, Javaris Crittenton and Mike James. Arenas was so discouraged by the injury struggles and performance that he believes the team is cursed. "I don't know what the hell is going on around here. I don't know if an old player put a curse on us back in the day."

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Mario Chalmers stays in the circle. After putting together a season-best 16-point performance in Friday's big win over the Nuggets, Rio came back with another solid effort against the Wizards. Actually, it was a tremendous bounce-back performance. Last time Rio faced the Wizards, he struggled with foul trouble and watched Gilbert Arenas torch him for 32 points. This time, Chalmers had 13 points, five assists Chalmers-mug and four steals. More importantly, he contributed to many of Arenas' career-high 12 turnovers. No one is expecting Chalmers to be an elite point guard for the Heat. Being steady would do just fine.

NEXT UP:Cavaliers at Heat, 8:00 p.m. Thursday, AmericanAirlines Arena

(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, November 09, 2009

Poof: Afro-BEAS-iac

Apparently, Michael Beasley is pulling out all the stops to get coach Erik Spoelstra to notice him on the bench in crunch time.

This is what makes Beasley so easy to like. He's simply a care-free dude. Today's blog comes courtesy of Chris Perkins, formerly of the Palm Beach Post, who filled in for me as today's correspondent at practice. Perk had a great story to tell after bumping into Beas (who doesn't?).

The following is Perkins on Beasley. Beas-Fro

There’s never a dull moment when Michael Beasley is around, and Monday’s practice provided the most recent example. Beasley, the colorful second-year forward, unbraided his hair and wore it in an Afro - a big, ABA-style throwback Afro.

 You can decide for yourself whether it’s a good look. The verdict is in from teammates, however.

 “We’ve said he looks like the character from the ‘Lion King,’ ” center Joel Anthony said, shaking his head.

 Others said he looked like a reject from the 1970s. Still others cracked all Beasley needed to complete his outfit was some shoes with goldfish in the bottom, like Antonio Fargas (the former Huggy Bear on Starsky and Hutch) wore as Fly Guy in the movie, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.”

 Beasley took the abuse with a smile.

 By the way, don’t judge the ’fro by the photo. Beasley said he waited until he was on his way to practice Monday morning to unbraid and pick his hair “so when I step in it’ll be fresh. It doesn’t look too good right now.”

Beasley-gamer  It’s only the second time he’s unbraided his hair since he went with braids late last season. True to form, when Beasley was asked if he owned a pick, he had a story.

 “I have seven or eight picks because I lose one, I buy one, and then I find the old one,” he said.

 He said he used to have the pick of all picks _ the black one with the fist (you might have to be a child of the ’60s or ’70s to know that one). But…

 “My dogs chewed it,” he said, “so I don’t have that one right now.”

  There was no real reason for Beasley letting his hair down.

 “I just decided I wanted to be different today,” he said matter-of-factly.

 He was definitely different. The NBA hasn’t seen a ’fro like that since Josh Childress had one a few years ago with the Atlanta Hawks. And it was a questionable look at that time.

 Regardless, Beasley forges ahead. He said he might even keep the ’fro for Tuesday’s game against Washington.

 “I haven’t decided yet,” he said, seeming to send a test balloon across media waters.

 The Heat player with the longest hair, forward Udonis Haslem, doubts he’d ever wear his hair in an Afro.

 “It’d probably cover my eyes,” Haslem said. “I wouldn’t be able to play.”

 But there is one advantage to Beasley’s Afro - height.

 Asked what the Heat would have to list him if he kept the ’fro for the Washington game, Beasley replied, “About 7-1.”

(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.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Talking Points: Spo and Beasley

The door to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's office at AmericanAirlines Arena is known to be as wide open as his SPO-wideplaying rotation. Players seem to flow freely through both.

Forward Michael Beasley has found himself searching for answers in both the past few days. That is, both Spo's office and Spo's rotation. While Beasley's inconsistent playing time in recent days has been well chronicled, a bit more light was shed on the player-coach interaction after Sunday's practice.

Spoelstra said he has met exclusively with Beasley twice in the past two days to talk about where the talented-but-still-inconsistent starting small power forward has come up short in the rotation late in games. Spoelstra said he also spoke with Jermaine O'Neal recently to "keep the communication going before you see any type of thing that might be going wrong."

While Beasley's playing time is probably the last subject Spoelstra wants to discuss during the Heat's otherwise hot start, he understands that it's a delicate situation.

He's also aware that it's a topic that Heat fans and followers have feasted on like a Thanksgiving turkey the past few day. Spoelstra sounds as if he sympathizes with those among the fan base who want to see Beasley, the No. 2 overall pick and the roster's VP of relevance, given every opportunity to blossom in his second season and first as the assumed full-time starter.

But Spoelstra was also mindful to remind anyone within earshot Sunday that Beasley was, is and probably will be for some time a work in progress.

"We talked the other day, and I worked him out yesterday," Spoelstra said of the one-on-one touch he's extended to Beasley through this process. "The thing about it is - the hard thing for fans and media to objectively evaluate, because everybody wants it to happen right now (in) the whole microwave society - Mike is doing a lot of good things. He's making progress."

Beasley-Headdown Spoelstra went on to say that it's a shame that the only story that gets told is that Beasley hasn't been finishing games recently. But what it boils down to is this: Despite all of the offseason improvement with Beasley's game and frame, he's still haunted at times by the same demons that hounded him last year.

Defense. The concepts. The focus. The execution. Those are all things he's being held accountable for. As mentioned in a previous blog topic, it's pretty obvious that Beasley gets three quarters to develop and show that he can be counted on in the fourth. Once the fourth quarter arrives, the focus is exclusively on winning.

Beasley, speaking on the subject for the first time since his second-half playing time has dwindled, said Sunday that he's "not doing everything I'm supposed to do" to stay on the court in crunch time. Both Spoelstra and Beasley seem determined to not let this ordeal become a bigger issue. Especially since the team is enjoying quite a bit of success early in the season. Is Mike being held to a higher standard of accountability than some others? Perhaps so. Is it fair? Probably not.

But here's what both should understand. Even in prosperity, Beasley's playing time is going to be a hot topic of discussion. Part of the reason is because of his lofty draft status. Another factor is that the Heat made Beasley's offseason development a huge, public priority. You were told to expect great strides. You've been getting 10 minutes a game in the second half.

You have to assume this thing is going to work out. Beasley is too talented to be excluded at the end of games. He'll eventually earn his playing time in the fourth. Knowing this team, my guess is that Beasley's second-half minutes will increase big-time in Tuesday against Washington to make it seem as if this all was much ado about nothing. At the end of the day, there is no debating whether Michael Beasley is one of the best five players on this team.

He's just got a little bit more work to do, apparently, to be one of the final five at the finish.

(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, November 06, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 96, Nuggets 88

This time, stingy  defense trumped prolific offense. This time, the Heat dominated with defense on a night Nuggets_Heat_Wade when D. Wade struggled to get his scoring in gear.

Denver came in with the league's highest-scoring offense. But the Nuggets departed AmericanAirlines Arena with their first loss of the season after a 96-88 setback to Miami on Friday. It was a historical win for the Heat (5-1), which matched the franchise's best start through six games and also defeated Denver for the first time since 2004.

The Heat built as large as a 28-point lead and then had to sweat out a furious run by the Nuggets in the fourth quarter. But after giving away a double-digit lead to Phoenix on Tuesday night, the Heat held on to knock off the league's highest-scoring team. The Suns held that distinction when they faced the Heat earlier this week. The Nuggets averaged a league-best 115 points entering Friday.

"For the most part, it was a solid win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Defensively, for most of the game I thought we were very active."

And effective.

Jermaine O'Neal, Quentin Richardson, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, who had his fourth double-double of the season, provided the balance to complement Wade. But defense was the key for the Heat.

"That's been our calling card," O'Neal said of the Heat's defensive swagger. "That's what we are. We feel like we will do some special things this year."

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade had one field goal through the first half and finished 6 of 17 from the field to close with 22 points. He also had five assists and two steals. Wade knows he'll again be among the league's top scorers this season. But this was the type of performance - minus the off night from the field - that he hopes to have more often this season. He wants balance, and that's what his supporting cast provided on both ends of the court.

TURNING POINT: The Heat was in control from the early stages of the first quarter. But Miami used a 24-5 run that started in the second and continued through the third to take a 19-point lead. The blowout was on from there, and the Heat entered the fourth ahead by 22 points. Miami would lead by as many as 28 points before Denver chipped away. The remarkable thing about that spurt was that Wade had only one field goal during that stretch. It was clearly a night for the Heat's supporting cast.

Nuggets_Heat_DMelo WINNING EDGE: Miami's defense was so dominant during one stretch that it held the Nuggets to a combined 35 points over the second and third quarters. By the time the Nuggets found a rhythm, it was too late. Miami held an opponent to fewer than 90 points for the fourth time in six games.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Two things come to mind. First, Michael Beasley's vanishing act in the second halves of games continued Friday. If there was ever an opportunity to give Beasley some decent "development" time on the court, it was in the second half as the Heat maintained a comfortable lead. Instead, he played sparingly. So those who have been super sensitive about SuperCoolBeas' playing time this season have more wood for the fire this ordeal has become. Another head-scratcher involved George Karl's decision to defend Richardson with Chauncey Billups.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Chalmers had every aspect of his game working. He was true with his shot CHALMERS_MARIO from long distance. He was driving to the basket and creating for others. And when he had chances to finish, he took them. Among his highlights was a nifty reverse layup, where he floated along the baseline, faked out Carmelo Anthony and scooped in a shot on the opposite side of the basket. Chalmers made 6 of his first 7 shots, including all four of his threes. He did have a mental lapse with that 8-second violation in the fourth quarter. But overall, a solid performance during what has been an up-and-down season for Rio. 

NEXT UP: Wizards at Heat, Tuesday 7:30 - AmericanAirlines Arena

(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, November 05, 2009

Never Easy With Beasley

Might I suggest three words to those who have clearly drawn lines and are firmly on one side or the other inBeasley-action this Michael Beasley/Udonis Haslem debate.

Pipe down. Please.

Don't get me wrong. Passion this time of year, just two weeks into the NBA season? Perfect. But outright rage in some corners after just five games? Ridiculous.

Here the Heat sits, off to a solid 4-1 start entering Friday's game against the Denver Nuggets. And here many in Heat nation stand, picking apart who sits in crunch time at the end of games. While coach Erik Spoelstra's rotation decisions cost him in Tuesday's loss to Phoenix, there was no price to be paid Wednesday in Washington.

Beasley found himself sitting and watching yet again down the stretch in Wednesday's 93-89 road victory against the Wizards, as a unit of Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson, Mario Chalmers, Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal pushed to the finish.

Beasley played only 2 minutes, 38 seconds in the fourth quarter and 24 minutes the entire game. Haslem, along with Wade and Richardson, went the entire 12-minute stretch in the fourth. While it was tough to comprehend during the game why Beasley was not allowed to have a bigger role in the finish (four fouls don't really come into play here), it's just as difficult to argue who should have been taken out to insert Beasley.

It's even harder to argue with the results.

Haslem Upset Haslem had seven points and four rebounds in the final period. He opened the quarter with a layup to put the Heat ahead and closed the quarter with a pair of free throws that put it out of reach.

Richardson made a pair of threes in the quarter at a time when the Wizards were overloading on Wade. And the Heat needed every second of PT Wade could muster in the second half. So where should Beasley have fit in? There is an argument that Wade could have moved to the point, Q-Rich to shooting guard, with Beasley at small forward and Haslem and O'Neal down low. That's putting the Heat's best five on the court, and ultimately should be the way things play out as the season progresses if Mario Chalmers remains inconsistent at the point.

Or, Miami could have moved Haslem over to center, with Beasley at power forward, Richardson at small forward and Wade and Chalmers in the backcourt. But Haslem and Richardson should have been - and were - left on the court for the finish. The bottom line is that the Heat got it done regardless. There's something to be said for playing to win the game.

For the record, I've said all along that I'm for having Haslem in the starting lineup. I'm also for having Beasley there. That's where the disagreements come into play. I believe Beasley could be a very good power forward in this league, giving his crafty ability around the basket and quickness advantage against many at the position. But I think he could be a great small forward if he truly commits to it, given his shooting, handling, and potential play-making ability. Can he defend either position consistently and adequately right now? No. But can he create mismatches at both spots if featured? No doubt.

Yeah, we've heard all about how Beasley needs to be put in crucial situations so he can develop. He has, and he will. But Beasley also has to do his part to stay on the court. This isn't Oklahoma City or Memphis or Sacramento, where young stars are getting 40 minutes a night no matter what. With the Heat, the first three quarters are about development for Beasley. The fourth is for execution. He has to earn that trust from teammates and coaches down the stretch. He didn't necessarily do anything to deserve to be benched most of the fourth quarter. But he also didn't do much - compared with Richardson and Haslem - to warrant extended action down the stretch. That won't be the case many nights.

While Beasley may have overtaken Haslem as the starter at power forward, Haslem has assumed the role of finisher at the position. That's simply the black-and-white of a situation where so much gray area exists.

I've said it before. This is as much about Beasley vs. Richardson as it is Beasley vs. Haslem for those who Spo-timeout look at things that way. Richardson is starting at the three because Beasley can't take on the tougher perimeter defensive assignments to relieve Wade. Beasley is starting at the four because Wade needs more scoring help to open the games. Haslem is coming off the bench because Beasley can't play the three to the degree he can be trusted to start there. So the future is now the present at the four. Add up?

But when the game is at stake, the best five should be on the court. Or, at least, the best five at that time of the game. How coach Erik Spoelstra handles this dynamic situation remains a work in progress. Certainly, he's left himself open for rotation criticism before.

Clearly, this ordeal is overshadowing the Heat's season among many - and will likely continue to do so until either Beasley or Haslem is traded or, in Haslem's case, bolts in free agency next summer. But that doesn't have to be the case. They should be able to co-exist.

But let the record show. Miami is 4-1. The system, for now, is working.

Again, for now. 

(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, November 04, 2009

Game Breakdown: Heat 93, Wizards 89

WASHINGTON - This was the Dwyane Wade rescue mission. Heat_Wiz_Wade

And the Heat needed every shot, every pass, every minute and everything Wade could give in the second half to hold off the Wizards 93-89 Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Wade's 40-point effort helped the Heat to emerge after it squandered all of a 19-point first half lead.

The difference was simple. Miami had Wade. Washington did not. Gilbert Arenas came close to matching Wade's performance. But his 32-point effort fell short after a number of meltdowns and miscues for the Wizards over the final 90 seconds.

Miami bounced back from Tuesday's loss to Phoenix to improve to 4-1. It could easily be 5-0. But the Heat was unable to hold onto what should have been a comfortable first-half lead in that one. Instead, it's a split. Wade did plenty, but he didn't do it all. Quentin Richardson continued his recent scoring binge with 19 points and Udonis Haslem added 13 off the bench.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Whether Wade wants to or not, he's going to have to carry a heavy scoring load for the Heat this season. There are sidekick options. But there isn't really anyone who will be there every single night to help him with the scoring load. The first two games it was Jermaine O'Neal. Then it was Udonis Haslem. The last two, it's been Quentin Richardson. But Wade did his thing. He was 14 of 26 from the field and 10 of 13 from the foul line. He also had five assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 43 minutes. So yeah, that's a season-high 40 points in a season-long 43 minutes. On the second night of a back-to-back on top of all of that.

TURNING POINT: The 27-8 run to open the game should have been all the turning point this game needed. But it just didn't work out that way. The Wizards rallied in the second and third quarters, outscoring Miami 49-35 during that stretch to get back into the game. The game went back and forth from there, until Wade put the Heat ahead for good with a jumper from the top of the key with 24.6 seconds left. He added a free throw for the final margin.

Heat_Wiz_RioD WINNING EDGE: The Heat's defense posted dominant numbers again. It held the Wizards to 37.8 percent shooting from the field and 31.3 percent from three-point range. After getting off track late against Phoenix, the Heat fell back into a defensive rhythm against Washington when it needed to close the game.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: On two occasions in the first half, Quentin Richardson backed off and watched a loose ball go out of bounds that had been last touched by the Heat. Those two lost possessions came at a point when the Wizards were on the verge of slicing a 19-point Heat lead to a one-point deficit. The Heat had eight first-half turnovers that led to 10 Wizards' points. Washington had 10 turnovers that led to 10 Heat points. So the two miscues by Q weren't as costly as they were simply curious.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Q-Rich provided the scoring boost in support of Wade for the second time in as many nights. Richardson had 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was 7 of 10 from the field, including 5 of 7 from three-point range. He's picking up where Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem left off through the first three games. Richardson also hit an off-balanced, shot-clock beating three for the second game in a row.

NEXT UP:Nuggets at Heat, 7:30 Friday - AmericanAirlines Arena

(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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