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41 posts from December 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Latest on Heat injuries: Wade and Johnson in, McRoberts and Winslow out

Miami faces Memphis on Tuesday night on the second night of a back-to-back. 

Here's the latest injury updates:

-- Dwyane Wade woke up with a sore left hip, as expected, after a hard spill to the floor in the loss to Brooklyn. He's playing, meaning he still hasn't missed a game due to his own injury this season. (He missed one when his son was in the hospital.) But he's hoping it doesn't get hit again, and joked that it probably will.

-- Tyler Johnson, who played against Brooklyn, after missing seven recent games due to a sore shoulder, was warming up and appears as if he'll play.

-- Josh McRoberts is out again with a bone bruise in his knee. He has not addressed the media during his absence, which is going on three weeks.

-- Justise Winslow was optimistic he could play against the Grizzlies, after missing the game against the Nets due to a sore ankle. But he'll be held out, meaning Beno Udrih and Johnson will play with Gerald Green on the second unit. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dwyane Wade: "We're 18-12. We're a good team in the Eastern Conference."

Chris Bosh had some interesting comments after tonight's troubling 111-106 loss to the lowly Nets -- about how the Heat loses concentration too often, getting distracted by officials' calls, or opponents' long shots. He called that a "top to bottom" problem, including the coaches as well as the players. 

When I relayed Bosh's concentration comment to Dwyane Wade, he paused for a few seconds.

"Chris said it, then it is," Wade said. 

But for the most part, Wade took on a positive, calm tone during his post-game press availability.

"Thirty games together," Wade said of the 18-12 Heat. "We haven't figured it out yet.... We haven't played together too long enough to figure it out. Either this is going to be our season like this, either we're going to figure it out or we're not. We're a good team. If we're satisfied with being a good team, then we'll keep playing like this throughout the year. If we want to be a great team, we'll put it together. There's only one way to find out. About 52 games away from that." 

Wade spoke of how hard it is to win in the league. 

"It's a young team in our 30th game," Wade said. "We're still learning together. Like I said, hopefully we figure it out before it's too late. But I'm very confident this team could bounce back... That's comforting you got a team that's never satisfied." 

 

When asked whether 18-12 was good enough through a softer stretch of the schedule, he said "it has to be, because that's what we are." 

"I said it since training camp, we don't know what this team is going to be yet," Wade said. "No one knows. I have no idea. 18-12, that's what we are. I know we have a good team. I know that. 18-12, that is pretty good in the Eastern Conference. So that's all I know. Sometimes your record tells you the truth.... You are what your record says you are. We're 18-12. We're a good team in the Eastern Conference." 

Wade hasn't missed a game due to injury this season, but bruised his hip during a fourth quarter fall. He didn't express great concern about the injury, but more will be known Tuesday night prior to the game in Memphis. 

Winslow, out with a 'tweaked' left ankle, talks new SportsCenter commercial with Coach K

Justise Winslow won't be on SportsCenter tonight. 

The Heat's first round pick will be sitting out his first game as pro after rolling his left ankle in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's win over the Magic. Winslow, though, said he doesn't expect to be out long and will be making the trip to Memphis with the Heat for Tuesday's game, where barring a setback he'll likely play.

"Just rolled it. Nothing serious. Just taking it slow," Winslow said. "It's day-to-day. We'll see how it is tomorrow."

Even if you don't see a highlight of Winslow from Monday's game against the Nets, you still might be able to catch him in a SportsCenter commercial. In case you haven't seen it yet, ESPN debuted a new commercial recently with Winslow, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and his grandsons Joey and Mike Savarino.

Winslow said Monday he knew the commercial was coming out, but he didn't know the context. Fact is, ESPN hit a home run without even asking Winslow for input.

In the commercial, Krzyzewski sees a highlight dunk of Winslow on SportsCenter and asks his grandsons to send him a text message. His grandsons and Winslow communicate through emojis, something Winslow said he's actually done with Coach K's grandsons before.

"It was funny," Winslow, 19, said of the commercial. "Me and Coach don't text like that. But us young kids, we do that sometimes. I have texted Joey and Mike like that before."

> Center Hassan Whiteside missed morning shoot around with what he called a headache, but he was in the Heat's starting lineup.

"I had a heachache and my body was just aching a lot," Whiteside said pregame. "I don't know what it is, but I'm going to play through it."

> Backup point guard Tyler Johnson also confirmed he would play tonight. Johnson has missed five consecutive games and eight of the Heat's last nine games overall with a left shoulder impingement.

Whiteside (illness), Johnson (shoulder) game time decisions vs. Nets; McRoberts to miss 10th game in a row

Just when you think one guy is about to come back for the Heat and bolster the lineup, another seems to go down with something.

Hassan WhitesideHassan Whiteside, who has seen his fourth quarter minutes go up in the past week, will be a game time decision for tonight's game against the Brooklyn Nets according to coach Erik Spoelstra

The Heat's starting center missed Monday's shoot around because he wasn't feeling well, Spoelstra said, and will be re-evaluated before the 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

"Next man up," Spoelstra responded when asked who would start at center for the Heat if Whiteside can't go. "I'll go through that tonight."

Some good news: backup point guard Tyler Johnson (left shoulder impingement) went through shoot around and appears on the doorstep of making a return as he said Saturday. Spoelstra said Johnson will be a game-time decision as well.

"He's put in a lot of work," Spoelstra said. "He could have gutted it out a little bit earlier [and played]. But he probably would have continued to deal with lingering effects of that shoulder. So he's put in a lot of time trying to rehab, getting stronger, building up all the support muscles where he can play without thinking about it."

Forward Josh McRoberts, meanwhile, will miss his 10th consecutive game with a bruised right knee. It's hard to tell how close to a return McRoberts really is. But Heat sideline reporter Jason Jackson said he saw McRoberts go through early pregame work in Orlando Saturday night, something he hadn't seen him do in a while.

McRoberts, who was supposed to be a vital piece off the bench for Miami, hasn't played since Dec. 9 at Charlotte. The Heat had said he bruised his knee against the Lakers Nov. 10 and continued to play through it until he couldn't anymore.

""He is [making strides]," Spoelstra said. "We're looking at it big picture -- that the swelling is going down, that it's getting stronger. He's starting to really work on his conditioning now. I'm pleased with his progress."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Heat have found a new winning lineup combination in the 4th quarter with Hassan Whiteside

The way his roster has fluctuated this season with injuries to key backups like Tyler Johnson and Josh McRoberts, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has often looked like a mad scientist in the fourth quarter, trying to find the right combinations in his lineup to create a winning chemistry.

For most of the season, he's stayed away from using Hassan Whiteside in the final period and opted to go small and fast, moving his most prolific weapon in Chris Bosh (now plus-58 for the season in the 4th quarter, 20th NBA, tops on Heat) to center and allowing the pieces around him (Justise Winslow, Gerald Green key among them) to help him as he attacks the basket early in the final period.

Usually around the 6 minute mark, Spoelstra brings in his closer, Dwyane Wade (plus 31 in clutch situations, 14th in NBA) to bring the Heat home like he did again on Saturday night against the Magic. 

The guys shooting the basketball in key situations -- Bosh, Wade and now Green (plus 32 in clutch situations, 13th in NBA) -- doesn't figure to change. What has in the past week is Whiteside's sudden heavy workload in the fourth. 

In three of the Heat's last four games, Whiteside, ninth on the team through Miami's first 25 games in fourth quarter minutes, has played 11 minutes or more in the final period. Suddenly, the 7-foot center Spoelstra hasn't opted to use with the game on the line, is not only out there, but he's producing.

Saturday night against the Magic, he and Green played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter and were part of a relatively new lineup Spoelstra has now gone with twice in the last week to open the fourth quarter. The others on it: Bosh, Winslow and third-string point guard Beno Udrih, who has been pressed into more duty with Johnson out. 

Both times that group has been out on the floor together to open the fourth quarter -- vs. the Magic and last Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers -- they've turned a deficit into a lead before Wade or point guard Goran Dragic have returned to replace Udrih and Bosh. Of the Heat's 93 different fourth quarter, five-man lineups Spoelstra has used that Bosh-Whiteside-Udrih-Winslow-Green lineup is now the fourth-most successful unit at plus-12

Sure, it's only a two-game sample size. But when you are desperate to find winning combinations in the NBA having lightning strike twice with something is often good enough for a coach to continue to come back with. 

All of this of course comes back to Whiteside, who is doing more of late in terms of playing team basketball (setting screens, stepping out on shooters and rushing back to defend the paint and rebound) to warrant the usage by Spoelstra.

Over the last four games, Whiteside has played 39 minutes in the fourth quarter (second-most on the team) and is six of eight on field goal attempts, 4 of 4 from the free throw line with 18 points, 14 rebounds, 1 turnover and a plus-nine overall. 

Through the Heat's first 25 games, Whiteside sat out seven times in the fourth quarter, was 10 of 22 from the free throw line, and was a minus-12 overall.

"He was playing spectacular basketball," Bosh said of Whiteside after Saturday's win. "He was the backside of that defense. He's the anchor. Yeah, [Nikola] Vucevic was making it tough on him. He was inside and outside and was just playing his game. But he eventually caught a rhythm for him.

"We couldn't have won this game without him. Sometimes it's going to be like for him and really for all of us. Just because you don't show up in the stat sheet doesn't mean you weren't an important piece for wins. We all have to remember that and if its not our night we just keep doing what we're doing, keep playing defense, keep getting second chances and live with it. He can't lose sight of that. As long as we get the win, that's what's most important."

It's going to be interesting to see how Spoelstra tinkers with his fourth quarter lineup on Monday against the Nets when Johnson (left shoulder impingement) said he's hoping to return after missing eight of the last nine games. Will he let Udrih, an unselfish, steady hand at the point, remain in his early fourth quarter role or put Johnson, his backup point guard, into his usual spot? We'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tyler Johnson targeting Monday return vs. Nets

The last time Tyler Johnson tried to come back he played all of five minutes in the first half at Brooklyn before being shut down again.

He's hoping for better results the second time around.

The Heat's 23-year-old backup point guard was inactive Saturday against the Magic for the fifth consecutive game with a left shoulder impingement. But now that he's gone through a full practice without discomfort in the shoulder, and had a few days since to continue to strengthen it, he and the Heat are targeting Monday night's game against the Nets as comeback attempt number two.

"We're just trying to make sure it's strong again or back to where it was before," Johnson said pregame Saturday night at the Amway Center. "We feel we're headed in that direction. So Monday is probably the best bet.

"[Thursday's practice] was the first time I played and there was no pain. After that, we've been trying to work on the strength of it just because it was a little bit weak."

Counting Saturday's game, Johnson has missed eight of the Heat's last nine games. The shoulder pain is something he's dealt with since he was back in college. But he hasn't had surgery to correct it and is trying to avoid it.

"We'll kind of see how it goes the rest of the year, but I think with the right rehab and if I take care of it on my end, if I don't have that hiccup again where I go through what I just went through, I might not even have the procedure done [at the end of the year]," Johnson said. "I guess it just depends on how diligent I am taking care of the shoulder."

Johnson said when he returns the plan isn't to incorporate rest days. So, if the Heat have a back-to-back or three game stretch in four days, he plans on being out there for all of those games. He said he just needs to continue to strengthen the shoulder as the year goes on.

"It's not a tear. What it is is that I have an impingement," Johnson explained. "Basically, there's not a lot of room for the muscles in my shoulder to move around. So they get irritated very easily. That's what causes the inflammation. And when the inflammation is there there's even less room, because it flares up. That's why movement is restricted sometimes. That's what we're trying to work through, correct it. So I don't have those things rubbing together, causing friction."

How tough has it been to sit and watch?

"It's good and bad," he said. "Bad in the sense now that I have to find my rhythm again. But it's good in the sense I get to see the game from a different perspective. A lot of things that go on throughout the game you may see them on the court, but it's different to see them from a coach's perspective on the bench. There's actually some things I can add to my game to help me out. Pick and rolls, seeing how the defense plays certain teams, certain things like that."

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dwyane Wade races out to big All-Star lead among East guards

Dwyane Wade has been selected to 11 All-Star teams, played in 10 All-Star teams, and started nine times.

So he's not necessarily obsessed with the voting process, or whether he'll be chosen -- by the fans or the coaches -- to play in Toronto this February.

Still, he smiled when speaking of the first official returns, which have him ahead of all other East guards, with more votes than the next two players -- Cleveland's Kyrie Irving and Toronto's Kyle Lowry -- combined.

"I think my fans are mad after last year," Wade said.

Last season, a spirited campaign, spearheaded on social media by Canadian musicians Drake and Justin Bieber, helped Lowry surge past Wade at the end, to pair with Washington's John Wall. Wade was then chosen by the coaches as a reserve, though a hamstring injury prevented him from playing. Now, with the game in Toronto, Wade knows that can repeat itself. Voting ends at midnight on Jan. 18.

"It's early," Wade noted.  

Even so, it appears that Chris Bosh will be reliant upon the coaches again to make the team, and play in front of his former home fans at the Air Canada Centre. He's currently seventh in frontcourt voting, when only three players will start; Detroit's Andre Drummond, in the third spot, has more than 50,000 additional votes.

"I hope Hassan (Whiteside) makes it, too," Wade said.

Whiteside is currently ninth among frontcourt players, so he will also need the coaches' vote, which -- due to level of experience -- he is less likely to receive than Bosh. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Goran Dragic still not sure how he hurt his wrist, or about Friday

Goran Dragic looked like he was ready to spar after Tuesday's 93-92 loss to Detroit.

The Heat's starting point guard had wraps on both hands, the one on his right hand to support his sore thumb -- which has been bothering him for a while -- and the one on his left hand to support his inflamed wrist.

Dragic isn't exactly sure of the origin of the latter ailment, other than that the wrist blew up on him after Sunday's win against Portland. 

An MRI was negative, as was an X-ray, so the team suspects it's tendinitis.

Even so, Dragic couldn't commit to playing Friday on Christmas against New Orleans, not until he sees the swelling go down. He said he might be able to deal with the injury, if he could use his other hand completely, but he can't do that either.

In Dragic's place, Beno Udrih played well, making 7-of-11 shots in 34 minutes, recording 14 points, three rebounds and six assists, as well as a plus-12. 

Miami, however, was minus-13 in Josh Richardson's 14 minutes.

The Heat is now minus-48 in the rookie's 120 minutes.

Heat's Goran Dragic (left wrist/hand) ruled out vs. Pistons; Udrih to start

Goran Dragic has been listed as inactive for tonight's game against the Pistons with a left wrist/hand injury.

Coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters pregame Dragic was going to test his shooting hand pregame and see if he could play. Instead, Beno Udrih, a fellow Slovenian, will start in Dragic's place.

Udrih, a 33-year-old 12-year veteran, was acquired in the Mario Chalmers trade back in November and has been playing more lately with Tyler Johnson (shoulder) out. He's started 267 games in his career, but hasn't started since he was with Memphis last year.

Dragic injured his right thumb on Dec. 11 at Indiana and has been dealing with pain in the thumb. But this injury is something new. Dragic wasn't in the locker room pregame and was not available to comment on this new injury.

All Spoelstra said was that Dragic "didn't know when he hurt it."

"He is being evaluate," Spoelstra said pregame. "I will tell you more when we find out more."

ESPN's Rose, Carlesimo say Heat -- nor anyone else in the East -- can topple Cavs, LeBron

The Heat wants to believe its a legitimate contender, a team that can contend with Cleveland and LeBron James for the Eastern Conference crown.

But even after a 16-10 start, the experts still don't believe Miami or anyone else in the Eastern Conference can really beat Cleveland when it matters.

Jalen-PJ_1-660x400"Playoff team, yes. Contending team, no," ESPN analyst Jalen Rose responded when I asked him during a teleconference Tuesday afternoon if he thought the Heat could contend with Cleveland if the roster stays as is.

"They're not better than the Cleveland Cavaliers," Rose continued. "They will not beat the Cleveland Cavaliers four times in 10 days. They, however, are amongst a few teams in the Eastern Conference that have an opportunity to fight for second in that Eastern Conference with Atlanta. [We still don't know] what's going to happen with Indiana, Toronto, Washington. [That] remains to be seen. Those squads have been up and down. But the Cleveland Cavaliers are clear cut the best team in the Eastern Conference."

Rose said he sees the Heat as a team that "just wants to wake up and be in the playoffs healthy, with Dwyane Wade playing the way he's playing." Rose said Wade looks rejuvinated and that he's playing really well.

"He's attacking the basket, making his open shots," Rose said. "And Chris Bosh has shown flashes also. [Hassan] Whiteside continues to improve. He can contain his emotions, continue to compete on each play, contest shots, grab boards, finish around the basket. Goran Dragic is going to be a key. Can he be as effective and efficient as they need him to be?

"They're a definitely, legitimate playoff team that's worthy of advancing. But beating the Cleveland Cavaliers? I don't see it."

Neither does former Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo.

"Cleveland, what they've done without Kyrie, they've clearly reestablished themselves as the best team and that's without Kyrie," Carlesimo said. "You would have to think [with Irving back] they're going to get better.

"I love Miami. I don't think they get the credit for how good they are defensively. They're quietly one of the best three defensive teams in the league and very seldom do you hear people talking about that. I love their experience. I love all the things they bring to the table that's going to make them dangerous. But you can't put anybody [above Cleveland]. There's Cleveland and then you put the next gap. Miami is right there. I don't think realistically anybody [in the East] can think 'We're ready to go at Cleveland. Nobody has shown they are that good yet."

Would making a trade for a three-point shooter take the Heat to another level?

"How about adding LeBron James?" Rose responded.

"Those two guys from Oklahoma would help them," Carlesimo said. "I don't want to say it's hopeless. Obviously they have more reason to be confident than probably anybody because of their experience and the coaching and the whole deal. I just think Cleveland is not coming back. Cleveland, if anything, is going the other direction. That's the biggest problem the teams in the East have. So many teams in the East are better, even significantly better. The problem is those guys in Ohio are better and getting better."

Still, Rose and Carlesimo both said coach Erik Spoelstra deserves a lot of credit for how well the Heat has bounced back after missing the playoffs last season.

"Spoelstra doesn't get enough credit by the media," Rose said. "Because everything that happens positive in Miami, we give the credit to Pat Riley. And rightfully so, he's one of the all-time greatest puppet masters in the league. But seeing how Spo helped develop Whiteside into a player that's going to be looking for a major deal when his contract up, how they're bringing along Winslow in their lineup, I just really applaud the job he's done in Miami as a head coach."

Said Carlesimo: "I'll piggy-back that. I had radio last year for Miami-Cleveland on Christmas. I remember vividly practice on the 24th, Spo said to me and this was kind of before Hassan [blew up], he said 'He's going to be a player for us. He's going to be an impact player. We like what he's shown in practice on a regular basis. He's going to surprise people.' That was really before he kind of burst on the scene and done the things he's done. Spo deserves tremendous credit."


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