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5 posts from September 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Revamped Heat coverage team to be led by NBA insider Ethan Skolnick

BOCA RATON -- He hasn't been out to camp yet, but expect to see Ethan J. Skolnick representing team Miami Herald as we cover the Miami Heat going forward.

Ethan will write, report, columnize, blog, tweet, and discuss all things Heat, leading a revamped coverage team aimed at giving Heat viewers, readers and listeners everything they want to know about their favorite team.

A former Miami Herald sports writer on the Dolphins and Heat beats from 2000 to 2002, Ethan has since worked as a sports columnist at the Sun-Sentinel, a Heat columnist at the Palm Beach Post and a national NBA writer at Turner Sports/Bleacher Report.
He brings with him a national and local following that includes a platform on 790 The Ticket, 65,000 Twitter followers and regular appearances on NBA TV and other major media outlets. 
Together with longtime Herald veteran Barry Jackson (@FlaSportsBuzz), Ethan and myself, we hope to bring you the best Heat coverage in the business.
Welcome back to the team Ethan. I'm looking forward to a great rookie season myself with the Heat. 

Spoelstra still sees aging Wade as "force of nature"

BOCA RATON -- There's been a lot of talk surrounding Dwyane Wade's age -- he's 33 now -- and if he's still capable of being an elite player in the NBA entering his 13th season.

Wade on media day said himself he's no longer the same player he once was. He said his goal is to be "maybe not SportsCenter Top 10 elite, but you-still-better-look-at-me-in-the-scouting-report elite.”

What does coach Erik Spoelstra think about that?

"My plan with Dwyane is to maximize his abilities as much as we can," he said Tuesday. "This is not about a decreased role or minimizing him in any way shape or form. Players adjust and adapt as they get further on in their career. I think he's been an absolute genius with that reconstruction and additions of his game. But, I still see a player that is a force of nature in particularly in the biggest moments. He's a game separator. Those guys are tough to find. And I'm not going to minimize that role on his part. Now, will we be smart about all the other things? As we go. But in terms of style of play, I want him to have a maximum impact on this team."

Wade on Wednesday, the second day of camp at FAU, once again discussed his aging body and abilities. He says the latter part of his career is going to be more about beating guys with his smarts than athleticism. And he's fine with that. It's something he's talked to other veterans about and observed others do over the years.

"I remember when I came in young, I think Eddie Jones was maybe 31, something around that age. They used to cheer when he dunked in practice," Wade said. "I was like 'I remember Eddie Jones. He used to take off like off that all the time.' I didn't understand [why guys were clapping then]. Now, I understand it. It was a big deal at that age to still be dunking and being semi-athletic. Those vets say listen you're not going to have it always. Now you've got to get smarter at the game.

"You've got to be real with yourself and I think a lot of people in this world are not real with themselves. Once you figure that out and understand who you are, you're better off."

Wade said he's not going to try and reinvent himself by trying to become a more prolific three-point shooter. He is what he is until it isn't good enough anymore.

"At this point, I've done pretty much everything on the basketball floor scoring wise in the game," Wade said/ "Now it's just enhancing [what I have] and being prepared for it all, being able to score in the post, being able to score off the dribble, being able to score off cuts, being able to score in different ways. I'm always on high alert, just trying to be a complete basketball player.

"When the [three-point] shots are there I'll shoot it," Wade continued. "When it's not, it's not. Like I said yesterday I'm focusing on whatever action is there. If this shot is there I'll shot it if I'm comfortable with it. Like I said, a lot of times I don't get the spacing other guys get for some reason. And I've got a slow windup to get to my shot. It makes it a little difficult for me. It's not that I'm not comfortable shooting that shot."

Point guard Goran Dragic, whom the Heat acquired in part to take some of the point guard and creative duties out of Wade's hands, said Wade is still one of the most dangerous players in the game to him.

""He's still quick," Dragic said of Wade. "I think what he's talking about in terms of playing smarter is that sometimes you're all over the court, running up and down. Now you're choosing [when to run]. Sometimes you need to take it easy a little bit and save your energy. He knows how to do that.

"But still when he's on offense, he's dangerous. I had a chance to guard him when you guys played in Phoenix and he still had that first step that is unbelievably fast. He's so crafty, can go left, right. He's really tough to stop."

> Center Hassan Whiteside sat out practice for the second straight day with a strained right calf Wednesday.

"Little bit more treatment, little bit more work on the side, but not ready for practice," Spoelstra said of Whiteside. "Everybody else was able to work out."

> How has forward Josh McRoberts looked in his first two days of work after missing all but 17 games last season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee?

"Very encouraged," Spoelstra said. "We tried to give him more breaks [Wednesday]. He and CB were so overwhelming excited to be out there yesterday. They didn't take one rep off [Tuesday]. So, today I was trying to be a little more conscious of getting Josh a little bit more rest during practice, which we did and he was able to go through the whole thing."

> What is Wade's opinion of rookie Justise Winslow after two days of camp?

"He's good," Wade said. "I can tell he's going to be a very good defender in this league. He just has the body for it. Offensively, he's still trying to learn the concepts of everything. He's a rookie so he doesn't get to shoot the ball much. But he looks good out there."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Heat, Bosh open camp at FAU with Hassan Whiteside (right calf strain) sidelined

BOCA RATON -- So much for finally getting the whole band together.

The Heat's first practice of training camp Tuesday at FAU was supposed to be the first time Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside were out on the floor together. Turns out it wasn't. 

Whiteside, who came into camp with just seven percent body fat and in the best shape of his career according to coach Erik Spoelstra, missed Tuesday's practice with a right calf strain and it could be a couple days before the 7-foot center and defensive stopper finally gets out there with his teammates.

Whiteside said he strained his calf doing some extra conditioning work last Friday and he's taking a couple days off under the advisement of trainer Jay Sabol.

"During the workout I just felt like a tug on my calf muscle," Whiteside said. "So, I'm just taking a couple days off just to take it day-by-day. I didn't really know what to expect because I never injured it before. They just told me take it day-by-day. So, it's no rush."

Spoelstra didn't seem to be too bothered or in a rush to get Whiteside back out there. 

"He's feeling better, but he's probably not ready for this right now. So we'll just take it day to day, see how he feels with another full day of treatment," Spoelstra said. "He did a long day of triple treatments [Monday], more treatment this morning. And we'll see how he feels in the morning. But everybody else was able to go."

Wade said as long as Whiteside is back at the right time that's all that matters to him.

"Obviously we want him out there, but we want to be smart," Wade said. "It's the time of the year, especially the veteran guys, when they have to take care of their bodies. We don't want something small to become a bigger deal -- especially with someone who is so valuable to our team."


As for the team's first practice, the Heat, as usual, focused nearly all of its efforts on defense. Spoelstra said he threw everything in the defensive playbook at the team with the hope some of it would stick for the newcomers. 

"I thought everybody did good," Wade said in his assessment of practice. "Veteran guys communicated, talked with the newcomers, just trying to help everyone fast track things.

"We do things a certain way and that will never change. We've added a few things here and there, but our defensive principles are the same. Now it's about getting guys on the right page. It was good talking to Gerald [Green], talking to Goran, coming from Phoenix and a total different camp style. It was good to kind of look in their eyes when we started getting it going. But it's all good."

The Heat ranked 19th in defensive efficiency (103.8) last season. Going backward the four previous seasons -- all trips to the NBA Finals -- the Heat ranked 11th (102.9), seventh (100.5), fourth (97.1) and fifth (100.7) in the same statistical category.

"It's a tough defensive concept to grasp. It's not easy," Wade said. "Once you get it, it's special. But it takes awhile. You have to program a lot of guy's minds to do something they haven't done their whole life. A lot of us have been told when the ball is away from you, you're just by your man chilling. Not in this defense. You got to get off. You've got to be able to help the other person. It's no something common for other guys. So it takes a little while."


Bosh, back from the blood clots in his lungs that cost him the final 30 games of last season, enjoyed being back out there with his teammates. He said he had no trouble breathing. He also didn't feel any extra emotions despite everything he's been through in the past year.

"I've been blessed to put that situation behind me," Bosh said. "That's the best part about all of this. I have no worries. I'm just able to go out there. Like I said, I've told so many people before, it's a little easier just being able to go and play basketball. Being a thinker is a little bit tough when you are confined to a space.

"It's just another day. I don't try to make things too big of a deal. I'm not an excited person anyway. I just come and do my job. I'm concentrated on trying to be a good leader and doing my job right."

Spoelstra said Bosh looked to be in good physical condition to him. "He has to get into 5-on-5 basketball shape, but he did his work," Spoelstra said. "I was pleased with what CB did in the offseason."

With the focus primarily on defense, Bosh and Dragic didn't get much opportunity to zero in on their pick and roll game. But that eventually will be a big focus in camp and in the preseason. 

"It was a little helter-skelter out there today," Bosh said. "But you can see it. Right now we're just trying to get our conditioning up, getting our timing right and just get all that. We talked about that. Let's not even worry about that right now. For the first few days, let's just get out there and play. Then, eventually as it slows down for us we'll be able to communicate more and talk about it, see spots and really attack and work off each other."

> How did newcomer Amar'e Stoudemire look in a Heat uniform after so many years with the hated Knicks?

"I was very encouraged," Spoelstra said. "He knew what to expect coming into this. He went through the entire practice. He's very vocal. So we can definitely build on that defensively. He's picked up our main principles pretty quickly. You can tell he's a student. He's very detailed in his thought process. He's got a whole approach to it and he's vocal. Those are positive steps we can build on."

> As usual, owner Mickey Arison, Pat Riley and most of the front office and scouts were at Tuesday's morning practice. The Heat was scheduled to practice again Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., but Spoelstra said it will be more of a team meeting.

Since the new collective bargaining agreement began teams are allowed only 3 1/2 total hours of practice per day.

"We went a little bit longer today," Spoelstra said. "It was a 2 1/2 hour practice. We never go that long. We'll have a meeting and classroom session tonight and get back to two-a-days Wednesday."

Wade, Haslem show off lip sync talents, dance moves on Heat Media Day

He's 33 and entering his 13th season in the NBA, but Dwyane Wade hasn't stopped having fun. 

Monday at Heat Media Day he and captain Udonis Haslem produced the following music videos for the world to enjoy. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

News, notes and quotes from Heat Media Day

Tuesday morning, the Heat will open camp at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Sunday night, the preseason gets underway at American Airlines Arena against Charlotte.

It goes by quickly people.

Here are some observations and highlights from Monday's media day session: 

>>> It's quite obvious the Heat struggled last summer to recover when LeBron James bolted for Cleveland and left the organization scrambling to fill its roster. This summer, Pat Riley and the front office had plenty of time to fix things and expectations are back to a championship level. Coach Erik Spoelstra reiterated Monday that he likes his roster.

"We think we've added the essential and needed depth that you need to compete for a title and to be able to absorb all the unpredictable things that happen in an 82 game season," Spoelstra said. "Our team is a nice blend of veteran talented players, experienced players that have tasted and known what it takes to get to the top of that mountain, and players that have been extremely close to that and feel the pain and agony and motivation of falling short. We also have guys right in their prime athletically and experience wise of their careers. And then to have some youthful exuberance to add to that roster just to give your team some energy, we like the roster."

>>> As far as health is concerned, no one is entering camp with any fresh injuries or health concerns. Obviously, though, Chris Bosh (blood clot) will be closely monitored and Spoelstra said veterans over 30 will not necessarily be given the same workload as the younger players on the team.

"Training camp is really 28 days long," Spoelstra said. "We're going to try to take positive steps every single day. We've done an inordinate amount of planning. We've got a lot of time to train for this camp. But I'll adjust as necessary depending on how guys feel. Really, the communication will be at an all time level between our veteran players, our training staff and myself."

Josh McRoberts said he expects to be able to go full go. He missed all but 17 games last season with a right meniscus tear.  

>>> As far as competition goes for starting jobs, there really isn't any. The lineup is going to be Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. The second unit is pretty locked in too with Mario Chalmers, Gerald Green, Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire expected to get the bulk of the play off the bench.

Spoelstra usually likes to mix and match starters and backups in camp, but early on at least he's going to give his first unit time to gel. That's smart considering Dragic and Bosh have never played together.

"That's very important," Wade said. "A lot of times when you go through training camp, a lot of it is to try and get guys in shape. You're putting in new guys, you're trying to slow things down and you kind of get away from being prepared as the units you're going top play with. That continuity you're looking for, you don't get that because a lot guys don't play in preseason, especially early on. As soon as the season starts you're still searching for it. Hopefully we can get on the court together and start building that continuity that we need with this new unit."

>>>  Wade, 33, missed 20 games last season because of hamstring injuries. He's happy, though, his knees weren't a problem and he says they appear to be good in shape heading into camp thanks to the extra rest.

"Every year you go into the year not having any idea what's going to irk you," Wade said. "Last year it was missing games from my hamstring, which was very unfortunate. But I worked very hard to make sure that's not the case this year.

"The year before and year before that it was tough years, very tough. Not just physically, but mentally as well. You start questioning a lot of things. Last year was a year that reassured to myself I'm still an elite player and its just a different game. Maybe not SportsCenter Top 10 elite player, but efficient, winning ballgames, you better look at me on the scouting report top player. I'll strive to be there this year as well."

>>> Whiteside, 26, took advantage of being with NBA trainers this off-season, something he hasn't been able to do in years past when he was in the D League or playing overseas. The seven-foot, 265 pound center comes into camp in the best shape of his life -- with seven percent body fat -- and as fast as a guard according to Spoelstra.

Whiteside of course has millions of reasons to be motivated. He can cash in big time (maybe as much as $20 million a season) if he can improve on last year's 11-point, 10-rebound, 2.5-blocks per game season.

>>> Alonzo Mourning told Whiteside this summer to focus on becoming the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. Whiteside is buying in.

Bosh, meanwhile, has tried to take Whiteside under his wing this summer with one-on-one games after workouts. He said he and Whiteside will be locker mates this season.

"It's different when you see people with your jerseys," Whiteside said of the fame he's started to receiver. "It really shows that support, that they really went out, spent their hard-earned money to go get a jersey with your name on their back. It's really a humbling thing."

Whiteside will also have Stoudemire as a role model. Whiteside said he looked up to Stoudemire when he was in high school. "I still remember Amare wearing two or three socks out in Phoenix," Whiteside said. "I used to do it just to emulate him."

>>> Speaking of Bosh, he said he feels there is no benchmark he has to reach to feel like he's back to being the All-Star player he was before last year's health scare.

"I'm here. That's all I need," he said. "I think I have a chance to improve from last year. I think I'm a better player -- even without playing games as crazy as that sounds. I feel rested, refreshed. I was able to really heal and work on my body and work on my game. So I'm confident. I'm in really good shape. I haven't been in this good shape in a few years because we never had time. So, now, I wanted to make sure I did the work so I can be ready."

>>> Bosh shot a career-best 37 percent from three-point range last season. He believes he can reach 40 percent.

"I'm trying to get to a point where it feels like its just a regular jumper," he said. "Threes can sometimes be a little bit different. You got to step into it. There's always catch and shoots on the move, off the fastbreak, off the dribble. There's so many different ways you can get better at that. I always want to improve and make sure I'm knocking it down when its time."

>>> Dragic, who signed a five-year, $90 million deal back in July, said he has no individual statistical goals for this season. He just wants to win.

"It's all about the team," he said. "When you come to the league you want to be the best player you can. You try to do this and that. But now, I feel like I'm already established as a player in this league and now it's all about the team. Whatever the team needs I'm going to do that and try to win a championship. That's the most important thing right now."



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