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14 posts from December 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Heat 103, Timberwolves 101: Wade does it again and other stuff

MINNEAPOLIS -- Leave it to Dwyane Wade to upstage LeBron James on his birthday. A few post-game thoughts, but first:

--Excellent screen by Bosh on the play. Ricky Rubio, welcome to the NBA.

--If you notice closely, Wade actually stumbles while running to the rim. LeBron had to adjust the weight of his lob and Wade reached behind himself while in the air to finish the play. In this one play you had two of the LeBron and Wade's signature traits as basketball players on display: James' vision and Wade's ability to balance and right himself in the air. 

--If you thought the Heat's sideline-out-of-bounds play looked familiar, you were correct. The Celtics used it to defeat the Heat two years ago.

--James attempted his first three-pointer of the season in the fourth quarter. He missed. Wade still hasn't attempted a three-pointer.

--Norris Cole played 30 minutes. Mario Chalmers played 14. Interesting, to say the least.

--The Timberwolves outscored the Heat's bench 57-21; the Heat's starters outscored the Timberwolves starters 82-44.

--Ricky Rubio (12 pts, 12 asts) is the real deal.

--Bosh said he struggled in the first half because the Timberwolves were playing off him. He found his shot in the second half.

--Looks like the Heat has finally found a point guard who knows how to throw an alley-oop. Cole tossed back-to-back alley-oops to James in the third quarter.

Wade might have made the final four points, including the game winner, but James once again carried the team. He was two rebounds shy of a triple-double: 34 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds.

Anthony had eight rebounds (three offensive) in less than 24 minutes.

James Jones played less than three minutes and the Heat was 3 of 14 from three-point range. Should Spoelstra find more minutes for the Heat's most consistent three-point shooter?


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Minny test

After watching the Heat struggle just to get past the Bobcats, it's clear any game can be a difficult one on the road for Miami.

Friday's against Minnesota could be quite interesting, then, because the T-Wolves have potential coming from just about everywhere.

For starters, you can expect an early dose of Darko Milicic, who has a big height advantage over Joel Anthony and an effective hook shot.

Kevin Love can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting, which hasn't been very good yet this season (1 of 7 for the year) but is a legitimate part of his game.

Then you throw in the scoring ability from the wing with Michael Beasley and rookie Derrick Williams, the three-point shooting of Wesley Johnson, the gnat-like, floppish annoyance of J.J. Barea (although Barea-Westbrooka hamstring injury might keep him out of the game) and the passing ability of Ricky Rubio, and it adds up to a team that could score with the Heat -- especially after you just saw Miami give up 60 points in the first half to the Bobcats.

The Target Center was pretty amped in Minnesota's opening game against OKC, which ended in a close loss for the Wolves. And this second home game should have a similar, if not more intense, atmosphere.

LeBron James should be able to put together a good game, though, given that either Beasley or Johnson will defend him early, with only Anthony Tolliver as a decent defensive option off the bench. The Wolves have been going small often in the backcourt, with some combination of Barea, Rubio and Luke Ridnour playing together. That means either a small defender on Wade, or a helpless rookie (Rubio) for segments of the game.

Should be fun.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Heat steals one in Charotte

Well, might as well come out and say it: The Heat had no business winning Wednesday's game in Charlotte.

The Heat struggled offensively -- trailing 60-45 at halftime -- but rallied behind its defense. The Bobcats scored 10 points in the third quarter and shot 36 percent in the second half.

Sure, Dwyane Wade hit the game-winning shot but he played poorly for most of the game. James led the Heat with 35 points and set the tone on defense to begin the second half. (Wade was in the locker room icing his foot at that point).

His defense on Boris Diaw in the second half helped tip the balance of the game.

Easily it was Chris Bosh's poster on D.J. White. Nice left-handed dunk.

Off to Minneapolis...



Norris Cole stole the show in the Heat's home opener. 20 points, including the last nine! Where the heck did this kid come from?

"He makes them all time in practice," Dwyane said.

OK. Practice. Fine. Whatever. But against the Celtics in his first home game? Cole-blooded! But lets fast-forward past all the superlatives and get to the good stuff. I asked Norris after the game if he's better suited at coming off the bench right now than starting. (Because, you know, we're all thinking the same thing, 'When is this kid going to send Mario Chalmers back to the bench?') Cole got a little testy that I would even indirectly imply such a thing.

"Yes, I think it does suit me right now," Cole said of his reserve role. "I'm stilling learning, I still can get better and this is what's best for the team."

When asked why Chalmers wasn't in the game at the end, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, wryly: "Did you watch the last six minutes?"

Spoelstra collected himself:

"It wasn't at all any kind of indictment on Rio. He came back after struggling at the beginning of the third quarter and he did settle down and make some plays. So, that was good to see him show some resolve and some toughness after going through a tough stretch."

So, any thoughts on Cole and Chalmers are welcomed but to add another level to the discussion, does anyone think LeBron should have been taking those shots at the end?


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What should James Jones' role be this season?

James Jones played 19 minutes in the season opener and was 3 of 5 from three-point range. His barrage of threes in the third quarter helped break the game open. For a player who sat out The Finals, it was a good way to start the season.

So, here's the question: How much playing time should Jones command this season? When Mike Miller and Shane Battier return to the starting lineup, Jones' minutes will decrease. Should he become a full-time towel waver again or should he take minutes away from Battier and Miller?


Sunday, December 18, 2011

LeBron's message to fans

Here's what LeBron James had to say about Sunday's sellout for the Heat's first preseason game after the lockout:

"To see how many fans came out for a preseason game, I give a big shoutout to those, our fans tonight. They were unbelievable tonight. We didn't expect that much as far as attendance. To show up in the way that they did, shows how much we missed them and how much they missed us. We respect that."


Heat 118, Magic 85: What's burning?

So, pretty much the only thing to be gleaned from Sunday's preseason opener was the obvious fact that Dwight Howard is going to play like garbage until he's traded. That said, here are three things to consider going into the Heat's final game of the preseason.

1. Is Joel Anthony the answer? Anthony started on Sunday but registered four fouls in seven minutes of action. Those were his only stats other than a turnover.

2. Mario Chalmers had a great game a few days after rookie point guard Norris Cole scored 21 points in the Heat's scrimmage. Coincidence or is Cole pushing Chalmers?

3. Any thoughts on Dexter Pittman are welcome. He had six points in 13 minutes and wasn't afraid to stand up to Dwight Howard after the two become tangled under the basket. Pittman seems pretty tough but he's also out of shape. He's listed at 285 pounds but he appears to be well over that.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pat Riley news, Baron Davis clears waivers and other stuff

Clearing the notebook from Pat Riley's news conference:

--Let's start with Pat Riley's immediate future with the team. Apparently the long lockout helped reinvigorate the Heat's president. He gave no indication of retiring anytime soon and said he's happy running the team alongside Nick Arison, the team's new vice president of basketball operations and heir apparent. Riley works year-to-year for owner Mickey Arison.

"I love what I’m doing here," Riley said. "The Arisons have been great to me."

Any thoughts on how long Riley will remain president before he semi-retires, turns the reins over to Nick Arison and serves as an advisor to the team? Putting the over/under at two more seasons.

--Riley made it clear that the Heat is still in the market for two more players. Immediate needs are point guard and center.

"This is a destination place and we hope that we can get one or two more," Riley said. "We have 13 slots filled. We have two slots that are open, so we’re going to maintain them with our flexibility."

Point guard Baron Davis cleared waivers on Friday night, meaning the Heat can sign him. Something to keep in mind over the next few days. Davis currently is recovering from two bulging discs in his back.

--Riley said using the amnesty clause on Mike Miller was never in the Heat's plans. 

"We love Mike," Riley said. "We want Mike to play for us and make jumpers and help us just like he did in the playoffs. He’s had just a horrible run of bad luck with injuries and we hope this is the last one and that he and LeBron [James] and Dwyane [Wade] and Shane [Battier] can be a formidable, versatile, perimeter combination."

--Riley on LeBron seeking out Hakeem Olajuwon during the offseason:

"He couldn’t have met with a better man, a more honorable man, a guy who’s really humble but also is somebody if you listen to him will give wisdom and also some insight into playing down in the post. That’s what [James] was looking for. I thinking seeking out that kind of advice is good but both of those guys (James and Wade) have to step up this year and be better than they were last. They have to be."

--There's no easy or quick fix for the Heat's immediate needs inside. Riley is hoping everyone just plays "a little bigger."

"Not having [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] and Jamaal [Magloire] and Erick [Dampier], we do lose the bulk and the size and the length but also that’s where the improvement — we hope Dexter comes in and we’ll see what Eddy can give us — but we’re looking and we’re waiting for something to develop but guys are going to have to do more. LeBron and Dwyane and Chris and Udonis, Shane, Mike Miller — everyone is going to have to do a little bit more; play a little bigger. And that’s where it’s going to come first."


Friday, December 09, 2011

The band's back together for the start of training camp

The Heat's roster is taking shape hours before the start of training camp is set to begin and it's not going to be all that different from last season's team.

Mario Chalmers and James Jones will resign with the team and Juwan Howard is expected to stick around as well. The latest free-agent moves puts the number of players on the Heat's roster at 14, or one shy of the league maximum.

Chalmers announced his move on Twitter and Jones made his deal public later in the morning. Not expected to return from last season are free agents Mike Bibby, Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magloire. Magloire is headed to Toronto and Bibby might join the Knicks. Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is retiring.

The Heat's new additions to the team are free agents Shane Battier and Eddy Curry.


Does the Heat have enough without mid-level center?

So, camp begins today and the Heat struck out on signing a center with its full mid-level exception. Sam Dalembert didn't take the bait and the Heat wasn't in a position to trade for a big name like Nene.

Instead, the Heat is taking a flyer on center Eddy Curry, hoping the once overweight big man is ready to take his career seriously. Is it enough? Remember, team president Pat Riley indicated last season that it was the Heat's top priority to sign a center with its mid-level exception.

It appears Riley did the best he could with the limited resources at his disposal. The addition of Shane Battier provides a top-notch defender to the mix and that could be important come playoff time. For example, if the Heat meets the Bulls in the playoffs again, Battier could guard Bulls forward Loul Deng, which would allow LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to conserve energy.

A retrospective example: If the Heat had a defender like Battier in last season's Finals, things might have turned out differently. Instead, James couldn't keep up with Jason Terry and, conversely, James didn't have enough left in the tank to close out the series.

At least, that's one guess as to what happened to James in The Finals.

Of course, free agency is far from over and the Heat could potentially still reel in a quality center willingly to take less money to chase a championship. Options are limited at this point, though.

The Heat's other area of need heading into free agency was the point guard position. All signs point to Mario Chalmers resigning with the Heat, but if a larger offer sheet than his qualifying number is placed in front of Chalmers, there is a very real chance he would take it. The Heat would then have to match the offer or, worse case scenario, go searching for a starting point guard at the start of camp. Carlos Arroyo, anyone? (According to the latest speculation, the Knicks are interested in Arroyo.)

Expect it to be worked out by Friday afternoon when practice begins. If Chalmers is absent, that means another team has offered him a contract and the Heat would have three days to match it.

As for the original question: Does the Heat have enough without a mid-level center? I'd say yes. For me, this free-agency period isn't nearly as important to the Heat as some would like you to believe. Give me Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh and I like my chances.




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