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14 posts from October 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Luol Deng on facing the Hawks following this summer's controversy: 'Obviously, that’s going to be in the back of your head'

Heat forward Luol Deng plays the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday for the first time since the organization used offensive language to describe him in a scouting report.

“Obviously that’s going to be in the back of your head, but it’s the players that you’re playing against,” Deng said. “They’re not the ones who said what was said.”

During a meeting with Hawks executives and owners over the summer, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry disparaged Deng by calling into question his character. Ferry also inferred that Deng’s African heritage somehow detracted from his abilities as a basketball player. Following the controversy, Ferry was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the team.

Deng hopes to use the incident to “do something so someone benefits for the mistaken that was made,” but the Heat’s forward hasn’t had any contact with Ferry or the Hawks. Deng said on Monday after practice that he was closer to signing with the Hawks than the Heat at one point during free agency, and that interest from Chris Bosh helped sway Deng to the Heat.

Heat makes first cuts to roster with more on the way

The Heat waived Chris Johnson and Reggie Williams after returning from Rio de Janeiro. The roster stands at 18 players, but teams can only carry 15 players during the regular season.

At this point, five players are competing for two roster spots: guards Shannon Brown, Tyler Johnson and Andre Dawkins, and forwards Khem Birch and Shawn Jones. Based on playing time and the Heat's needs, Brown and Dawkins appear to have inside tracks, but even those players aren't locks. The Heat also could waive all five players and sign two free agents to fill out its roster.

Dawkins is a young player with nice range, and that combination is tough to find on the Heat's roster. Brown offers a tough veteran presence and he told the Miami Herald last week that he's confident he'll be making the team.

The Rio wrap-up blog post: Stuff I learned

No.1 Don't drink the water.

I'm not saying I went around chugging the stuff from the tap, but somewhere along the way my body was invaded by black death. Still, I managed to write THIS and THIS and THIS and THIS and I'm back at practice today, but don't ask me how.

No.2 Blanket statement here: Chocolate in Brazil can save the world.

No.3 Huge growth potential for the NBA in Brazil. During one 15-minute walk, I saw about 10 beach volleyball players who could probably play right now in the D-League.

No.4 Good luck covering the Olympics, guys and gals. Get ready for all-day bus rides.

No.5 Those girls don't think you're cute. Those girls are working.

No.6 The NBA should adopt tassel nets.


No.7 When in doubt, stay as close as possible to the guys with the big guns.


No.9 They know how to throw parties in Rio.


No.10 The Heat is a long way from ready for the regular season.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

When Spoelstra gives you a 'Spo smile,' you know something's up

#### UPDATE ####

—So, I'm all set to go cover Heat practice after a nine-hour flight and a long wait in customs and an even longer bus ride. I get on the elevator heading down to the lobby in this hotel in Rio ON THE BEACH and the lift stops at the third floor.

The doors open and there's Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and his top assistant, David Fizdale, and they're both staring at me ... and not getting on the elevator. Spoelstra then smiles one of his Spo smiles, and the doors close. I get off at the lobby prepared to board the bus for another ride...and that's when I figured out what that Spo smile meant.

The Heat canceled practice today.



For the first time in over four years, the Heat is on the outside staring into the LeBron fishbowl, and that reality is going to set in here in Rio de Janeiro over the next three days.

In the meantime, Chris Bosh says he's just happy to be here.

“I’m looking forward to having a great time,” Bosh said. “I’ve never been. I think this is a chance for us to soak in another culture and take a nice trip in the NBA, so this is always a good opportunity to see the world. If it wasn’t for basketball, I wouldn’t have gone to 100 percent of the places that I’ve been to, so I’m very excited and looking forward to meeting to some Brazilians.”

Such an ambassador, that Christopher Wesson Bosh.

So ... this Rio place is pretty exciting, and I can't wait to experience it (or experience as much of it as the NBA security apparatus will allow. We had some kind of serious police/military/commando escort from the airport to the hotel, which is across the street from the beach.)

My first bit of Rio exploration invovled me trying a Coca-Cola. I just had to do. Coke! ... In Rio! ... And it tastes like Coke!

Next on the agenda is Heat practice from 2-4 p.m. local time. (Rio is an hour ahead of Miami.) I'll update the blog accordingly, and in the meantime drink more Coke to stay awake.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

On the Heat's growing concerns at point guard and other observations from the second preseason game

Norris Cole started at point guard and he played well, so that was a major positive for the Heat on Tuesday night in its second preseason game, a 108-101 overtime loss to the Orlando Magic.

Now the bad news.

While Cole's debut at helm of the offense helped calm some troubled waters, it is already obvious (and sometimes painfully so) that the Heat's needs at point guard go well beyond who is introduced on the videoboard before the game. Starter is important, yes, but so is depth, and the Heat doesn't it have it right now in the backcourt.

The memory of LeBron James has cast a long shadow over the position.

Cole finished with six assists and two points in less than 27 minutes, and that allowed Mario Chalmers to come off the bench as something of a hybrid guard. I wouldn't call it a true Sixth Man role at this point because, well, he also had to do plenty of ball handling, which has never been a true strength. The Heat could use a third point guard, but rookie Shabazz Napier is developing slowly.

Napier has received minutes at the end of both preseason games, but nothing more, and he has had trouble getting off shots, which is a troubling.

Cole noted after that game that the Heat had been sloppy at point guard to begin camp and he focused on cleaning some of that up. The Heat had 22 assists to nine turnovers overall (not bad), but was an even better 17-to-4 in turnover-to-assist ratio entering the fourth quarter.

—James Ennis was a bright spot once again for a rebuilding team looking for young and athletic players at a bargain. Ennis 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in less than 29 minutes of work, and also sparked the comeback near the end of regulation.

—Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and looked better than his preseason debut against Anthony Davis in New Orleans.

—Can't blog much tonight. Gotta catch a bus to the airport and then a flight to Brazil.

Stuff from the Heat's shootaround today, including Spoelstra on LeBron, Stan Van Gundy and this 'microwave society' we all live in

Dwyane Wade called the Heat’s point-guard position a work in progress on Tuesday after the Heat’s shoot around. The progress continues tonight with a home preseason game against the Orlando Magic before the team boards a plane for Brazil. The Heat plays LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday in Rio, and one of the biggest voids the Heat must fill after losing LeBron is at point guard. Mario Chalmers is the veteran at the position, but his role as completely different last year than what it is expected to be this season. Norris Cole is the backup at the position, but pushing to be the starter.

“We’ll need them to be aggressive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his point guards this season. “They’ll have more opportunities than they have in the past. I don’t want them thinking they have to shoulder all the responsibility to create opportunities for the rest of the team, but the more aggressive they are and the more confident they are, the better it is for us.”

Tons more from shootaround Spoelstra today:

## On the offense:

“We’ve made some progress. We’re trying to balance the two so we’re really trying to set the tone defensively for this training camp. But offensively we’ve been spending this time trying to build continuity and trust and working on helping each other get open shots. I thought the other with the second unite they did a very good job of moving the ball and helping each other.”

--The Heat has put in long hours in the gym in the last two days after a poor showing against the New Orleans Pelicans. Spoelstra is hoping for a result (or at least a few major signs of progress) tonight against the Magic:

“We spent the last two days really working on the whole group and we really made some progress. We’ll see tonight when we get some real defense out there.”

## How to implement an offense with a guy as important and unique as Josh McRoberts out with an injury:

“I think that’s what helps because he is so unique and so skilled and has such a high IQ, Josh can fit in to virtually any kind of offense and he’ll make it work and he’ll make it seem to flow. When you think of flow, that’s usually when you have either a super-high IQ point guard, or a super-skilled high IQ big, and that just helps the flow of your offense. I think he’ll be able to fit in. He’s doing things in practice and he’s very observant. He asks all the right questions. But a lot of what we’re doing anyway is because of the skill level of our bigs.”

##On the progress of James Ennis:

“We went into it with an open mind and the way we’re looking at James is we want to invest time in him. It has been two summers and two summer leagues and one training camp, partially, and he has made progress. We just want to continue for him to grow, and get better and understand our system and see where he can go. He’s already much better than he was last summer. When you have young players like that who are hungry and who also have a very good work ethic, you don’t know what their ceiling can be”

--So, it sounds like Ennis is still very much a work in progress. Spoelstra used a lot of D-League buzzwords and phrases there if you were paying attention.

##Where is Luol Deng fitting offensively:

“I think he fits in with all those intangible gaps. He is really a versatile player, which obviously we like those kind of guys. They can do a lot of different things. But he is very comfortable and efficient playing off the ball. And I think that fits into our system very well with his cuts and his secondary post ups and his offensive rebounding and his random, miscellaneous drives. And we think he is an underrated shooter. So all of these things we think fit with the type of game we’re doing because he makes it work.”

##On Stan Van Gundy returning to the profession:

“I’m sure the Detroit press is loving it. They’re going to have a new storyline every single day. But Stan definitely seems reinvigorated. We text now probably more than we talk because both of us our so busy. But we text enough. I probably fired off a text right before training camp asking him, ‘Are you sure this is really what you want to do? I’m sure it is quite different than what he was doing last September, just hanging out.’”

##Van Gundy was out the league for two seasons. Will he have to play catch up? What’s different in the league then and now?

“Stan is super sharp. He’ll figure out whatever adjustments…it wasn’t like he was on a total exodus from the league. He was watching the league, and saw how everything was going. That’s one of his strengths, being able to adapt.”

## Has Van Gundy mellowed out at all?

“No, not at all. I wish I had more time to talk to him. It’s just that I love the give and take and arguing and hilarity of the conversations usually. And it might not have anything remotely to do with basketball. Oftentimes it’s not.”

## On the Heat’s coaching staff and how it’s working out?

 “Number one, we wanted it to be a player development staff. Number 2, there is great continuity and No.3 there is great versatility. Guys with a lot of different backgrounds and former head coaching experience. Keith [Smart] is only 50 years old and he has a wealth of NBA experience. And we have future head coaches in line and everybody is hungry and ready to work because there is going to have to be a lot of work done this year.”

## With the TV deal and player contracts getting shorter, the importance of having core Heat players like Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade:

“It is absolutely vital. It is absolutely critical in our microwave society now, and it is seeping into pro sports more than ever. We always talk about how there is constant change and turnover in pro sports, well now it is on steroids. Your windows to put together great teams are shorter, your windows to even have a familiar group of guys to build a culture is shorter. And if you don’t have that consistency in your organization, you’re leaving it to random chance. That’s the toughest thing to do, to build consistency and continuity, and it starts with your ownership and your management and then everything just falls into line from there. So, the one thing you can count on with the Heat is stability. That doesn’t guarantee you anything, but at least it gives you a head start.”

## What will it be like facing LeBron on Saturday?

“I haven’t gotten to that point, but it will probably be a little strange. At least we’re in a different country for it, so the whole trip will be a different experience.”

Monday, October 06, 2014

Vague and Tenebrous Tweets by Almario Vernard Chalmers: Did Chalmers get benched today?

This is a running blog post of all the entertaining stuff Mario Chalmers writes on Twitter and/or Instagram...

This is a great thing, this new blog-post idea, because I can pretty much speculate about whatever I want because Mario Chalmers is so enjoyably vague and tenebrous when he communicates with ... his fans? ... his teammates? ... his coaches? ... his family? ... himself? I'm not quite sure, but does it matter? That's also part of the fun, obviously. Who the heck is Mario Chalmers talking to and what on Earth is he talking about?

Monday, Oct. 6, 2014

Is Mario Chalmers benched?

I raise this question based on purely anecdotal evidence, if you even want to call it that. After a long day of practice, in which the team ran over its scheduled stopping time by at least an hour, Chalmers posted this to Instagram:

"After the day of negativity I had it's good to b around some positive energy..."

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 9.49.35 PM

Why would Chalmers be depressed? Well, being demoted to second-string point guard is enough to put anyone from Miami in a bad mood. (Of course, so is being in stuck in traffic on Biscayne Boulevard waiting on that damn bridge, or getting busted for smash porn, or, you know, getting plucked from your bubble by the Coast Guard.) Anyway, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has said several times during training camp that competition is wide open at point guard. Norris Cole has made it clear that he is pushing to be the team's starter, and, of course, Chalmers didn't exactly have the best possible finish to the 2014 playoffs.

He was benched for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and there was probably a time after The Finals when he thought he wasn't returning to the Heat.

Anyway, Chalmers went 0 of 2 for two points in the Heat's preseason opener. He played just 21 minutes and recorded two assists and two turnovers. Meanwhile, Cole played more than 23 minutes and went 4 of 8 from the field for 10 points and had four steals, two assists and didn't commit a turnover.

It is of vital importance this season that the Heat identities a reliable point guard who can manage a game, run the team's offense and score some points. The Heat didn't have a true point guard during its championship run because, of course, LeBron.

Josh McRoberts might not be fully healthy for the #Heat season opener, which is kind of a problem.

Last week we asked the all-important question "Is it time to start worrying about the Heat's projected starting power forward?" and the answer appears to be yes. Yes, it is time to worry.

On Monday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra indicated that Josh McRoberts might not be cleared medically in time for the start of the regular season. The Heat opens the season on Oct. 29 with a home game against the Washington Wizards. McRoberts is recovering from offseason surgery on is left great toe.

“It’s too early to tell, but he’s doing a lot,” Spoelstra said. “I anticipate he’ll increase his workload significantly in the next week to 10 days.

The Heat plays the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday before flying to Brazil for a preseason game against LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. McRoberts certainly isn't expected to play in either game unless, of course, Spoelstra is being completely evasive, which sometimes he is wont to do.

But, for the purposes of this blog post, let's assume McRoberts is out for at least the next 10 days, which means at best he'll be back for the Heat's preseason home game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 17. That appears to be a best-case scenario.

McRoberts missed the Heat's preseason opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, which rasied more questions than it answered, and it's beginning to seem like there will be plenty of questions revolving around this team by the time the season starts. For starters, McRoberts is supposed to be an important piece to the team's new offensive system, so if McRoberts isn't playing preseason games and participating fully in practice, then the Heat can't really implement much of what it plans to build upon throughout the season.

So, that's kind of a problem.

It means that even if McRoberts is healthy by the season opener, and plays against the Wizards, the team will only be starting at square one. On top of that, the Heat will be playing without LeBron James for the first time in four years. Some major growing pains could be in store for the Eastern Conference's four-time defending champions, but, hey, it could always be worse.


## Chris Andersen went through a full practice session on Monday, according to Spoelstra, but Andersen remains questionable for Tuesday's game due to a sore calf and foot.

## Asked if all 20 players in camp were traveling to Brazil on Tuesday night, Spoelstra said yes, but left room for doubt. "Yes, as of right now," he said.

## A story on how the NBA's new national television deals could affect the Heat will be in Tuesday's paper.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Here are three things to think about after tonight's loss by the #Heat


1. Could rookie forward James Ennis average more than 10 points per game as a rookie?

If that actually happened, everyone in the Heat's scouting department should get raises. An unexpected offensive infusion this season from someone like Ennis would certainly help compensate for the loss of LeBron James. Ennis led the Heat with 17 points tonight in Miami's 98-86 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Ennis, who played in Perth, Australia, last year, is an athletic wing who has put in the work developing his outside shot since graduating from Long Beach State. The Heat is hoping for big things from Ennis as a back-up to Luol Deng, and he delivered in his first NBA preseason game.

2. Birdman and Josh McRoberts didn't play. Is it time to start worrying?

Probably not, but it's not a positive sign that Chris Andersen finished last season with an injury and he's nursing another injury after the first week of training camp. Soreness and aches and pains are common in the preseason, of course, but for someone who relies so much on athleticism, it's at least worth noting. Josh McRoberts is being held out as a precaution after having surgery on his toe after last season's playoffs. That's not unusual either, but a lot is expected out of McRoberts this season and it would help if he could use the preseason to learn the Heat's system while also getting into shape (as opposed to doing that over the first month of the regular season).

3.Did Chris Bosh shoot at all during the offseason?

Chris Bosh went 3 of 13 in his debut as the Heat's offensive focal point. As first impression go, that's not a good one. Does it matter? Not one iota, of course. It's the first preseason game. Still, Bosh's poor night shooting isn't going to build any confidence among teammates. He'll need to round into form before the season starts, and the first preseason home game on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic would be a good time to start.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Stuff I saw at the Heat scrimmage and other things from training camp like the depth chart and also some craft beer

So, let's start this blog post by first making note that, while I was setting up my laptop and munching on some carrots courtside on Wednesday night before the Heat's scrimmage, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra walked up for some small talk and asked, "What could you possibly write about this scrimmage or take away from it?" or something like that.


Spoelstra also asked me if I was on a gluten-free diet because I was eating carrots and almonds, and I assured him that, no, I prefer gluten over all other protein composites because, well, obviously and also and such and such and so on.

Well, turns out, there were things worth observing from the scrimmage — important things, actually. As in, who didn't play.

Chris Andersen didn't compete in the scrimmage and neither did Josh McRoberts. Andersen has a sore calf muscle, and of course you would have known this immediately last night if you follow me on Twitter. McRoberts still hasn't been fully cleared by the Heat's training staff after having surgery on his left great toe following last season's playoffs, but we already knew that and asked this question about McRoberts on Wednesday afternoon.

—The training camp roster stands at 20 players right now and a lot of people are probably wondering who's going to make the team because there are 13 new players in camp. Five players will be cut before the regular season and fans are always wondering about the 13th, 14th and 15th players on the roster because it's important to people who will sit on the bench all season or get shipped back and forth between Sioux Falls.

So, right now I'd say Justin Hamilton, Shawne Williams and Andre Dawkins are the 13th, 14th and 15th players, but in no particular order. Hamilton can't compete in contact drills until Oct. 20 after being diagnosed with a heart flutter on Monday, so that might hurt his chances.

—I spoke to Hamilton on Wednesday night and he said he was doing fine and feeling great. He was treated on Monday for his heart flutter, so hopefully everything is back to normal for him very soon. He had a great season in Sioux Falls last year before being signed by the Charlotte Hornets and then the Heat.

—Note: Hamilton has a trigger on his one-year, non-guaranteed contract this season that pays him about $400,000 if he's still on the team on Dec.1. Hamilton has already been paid half of his contract, which started at the end of last season.



—Mario Chalmers

Chalmers entered camp in good shape, which is important because his backup is a fitness nut and a workaholic and gunning for starting point-guard role. Chalmers had some good moments during the scrimmage, but his attempted alley-oop off the glass to Tyler Johnson was a poor decision.

—Norris Cole

Always improving, Cole's development as a point guard could give the Heat some options this season on the depth chart. If Cole can start at point guard, then Chalmers might come off the bench to spell Dwyane Wade. Chalmers could be a solid Sixth Man if put in the right situation, at least that's what the Heat might be thinking.

—Shabazz Napier

The Heat is hoping he can develop fast enough to be a viable option as a backup. That would free up Chalmers to be the Sixth Man, and allow Cole to be the starter. The most important thing Napier can provide at this point is solid defense, and he did that during the scrimmage.


—Dwyane Wade

Did Dwyane Wade things early in the scrimmage. He's healthy, so that's all that really matters here.

—Shannon Brown

Traveling call while being guarded by Napier wasn't a good moment, but other than that Brown provided a veteran presence. He was 3 of 4 from the field shooting.

—Andre Dawkins

Using a very light pencil here for Dawkins, who is an undrafted rookie. He is from Duke, though, and the Heat love their Duke players. He also shot the ball nicely in the scrimmage, and the Heat needs as many shooters as they can get right now.


—Loul Deng

Showed some of his offensive versatility in the second half. Finished the scrimmage with 15 points.

—Danny Granger

Granger missed some early three-pointers and then hesitated on a look. Spoelstra and assistant coach David Fizdale immediately reminded Granger to shoot whenever he's open. "That's why you're here," Spoelstra told him. Granger later provided a spark in the third quarter with a flurry of three-pointers. He'll need to do that often this season.

—James Ennis

Found his confidence in the second half. The Heat likes Ennis' infusion of athleticism on the wing.


—Josh McRoberts

Sat out the scrimmage.

—Chris Andersen

Also sat out the scrimmage.

—Shawne Williams

Williams started alongside Wade, Deng, Chalmers and Bosh and took advantage of his opportunity. He had 17 points with three three-pointers.


—Chris Bosh

His driving dunk is what everyone is talking about, but Bosh's leadership and energy are probably the things that most please the coaches.

—Udonis Haslem

Started bleeding in the first quarter and spent the break between the first and second quarters arguing with officials. Yep, he's ready.

—Justin Hamilton

Sat out the scrimmage.



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