Friday, November 05, 2010

Issues exposed

In actuality, the Heat probably shouldn't even have been within a shot of tying that game against the Hornets in the last possession.

That charge call against Chris Paul in the final minutes was an awful call, as Udonis was clearly moving into position after Paul was in the air (Glen Davis gets that call for the Celtics all the time), and the ensuing technical foul on Paul made that game closer than it should have been.

Regardless, the game itself exposed one of the issues that many are going to say will be the Heat's downfall this season, and that's the lack of size at center.

Emeka Okafor went for 26 points on 12 of 13 shooting an 13 rebounds, with pretty much all of it coming with very little resistance. Granted, it was a lot of Paul's doing because he scrambled the Heat defense and put Emeka in position to either get an easy putback or put up a point-blank shot, but a handful of those could've been a lot more difficult for Emeka if the Heat had more size to contest those shots.

The Heat has faced four formidable centers so far, in Okafor, Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez and Shaq, and all four of them have had significant impacts, two of them in a win and two putting up numbers in a loss. It shouldn't take much longer for the Heat, meaning Erik Spoelstra, to recognize that it might become an issue in the long term. The options currently, though, are to start Ilgauskas and play him heavy minutes (he not only offers more size, but can give you more offense and opens up the paint for Bosh) or to start playing a rookie in Pittman who's probably not close to ready.

That might mean Pat Riley will have to get to work looking for outside help, whether it comes soon or midway through the season when quality names start to get bought out.

It might be jumping the gun, but if this trend continues it's going to be difficult to ignore for much longer.

What New Orleans had that made life so difficult for Miami was both a decent center and a stellar point guard. Paul, like Rajon Rondo, makes the most simple of pick-and-roll plays look absolutely indefensible, hence the 19 assists. It makes you wonder why you can't put Wade and Bosh in a pick-and-roll with LeBron, James Jones and Big Z on the floor and make it look as easy. But some point guards just have a knack, and Paul certainly has it.

On the Heat's side, the issues were as follows. First, Bosh needs to really pick up his game. He's playing far too passively, seems to have lost every instinct and is simply not playing very tough in key moments. Second, those threes that were wide open for four straight games were more contested Friday night, but the Heat took those shots anyway. That's not good enough for this team. Any threes should be wide open, especially when they're coming from Eddie House or James Jones. That includes that last shot, which wasn't a good shot at all. I'd rather Wade take a step-back three there than kick to House, who was 0 of 6 from three at the time.

Finally, the Heat played scattered basketball for way too long in this one. Not even this team, especially at this time of year, can afford to play playground basketball and hope talent elevates them. At least not when you fall into a 10-point hole at the start. The sign of a great team is one that can overcome those types of deficits, and this team only played inspired basketball in the final six minutes or so. That has to start earlier if this is going to be a special season.

Just one loss, but one that will turn a lot of people off to the Heat because it supports all the supposed problems the team has.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Get used to it

Part of the theory on how to defeat the Heat is to zone them, make them shoot jumpers and just make sure you outrebound the Heat.

Well, the Nets played zone. The Nets outrebounded Miami, particularly working the offensive boards, getting a 19-5 edge in that stat.

And yet the result was the same as Friday's against the Magic, a lead never smaller than 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Granted, it was just the Nets, but if it's height that people think will be the Heat's downfall, it's clearly not going to be something the team can't overcome.

For two games in a row, a quality big man put up impressive numbers in the first half, first Dwight Howard then Brook Lopez, then did little to nothing in the second half.

Probably the most encouraging part of Sunday afternoon's game was the play of Bosh, who had been struggling with his shooting in the first three. He was 8 of 10 for his 18 points, all of it looking smooth and under control.

Other interesting numbers from the game:

7: assists from both Wade and LeBron. They both should average about that number for the season.

12: points for Carlos Arroyo, along with four assists and five rebounds. No, he's not ideal, but you have to give him credit for learning how to play with that lineup. He's taking shots with confidence, and even hit a three-pointer Sunday.

4: Blocks for Joel Anthony. He now has six blocks on the season to just two shot attempts. If that ratio stays true for the season, it will probably be some sort of all-time record.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Bunches of (Free Agent) Hunches

Forget the Fourth of July. The First of July is here and the fireworks will soon begin in the biggest free LeBron-Wade agency market in NBA history.

D.Wade is a free man. LeBron is the most sought-after player on the market. Chris Bosh is tweeting like crazy without saying much of anything definitive.

And the Heat's executive power force of team prez Pat Riley, VP Nick Arison, Heat legend Alonzo Mourning and coach Erik Spoelstra is jetting from coast to coast to meet with the team's top targets.

Before we get any further, let me first recommend that you follow me on twitter, which is the quickest way to get our updates amid the free agency frenzy. Just click the link at the bottom of this post and we're all set.

As we reach the midway point of the first day of free agency, I've got a bunch of hunches after some of the initial developments across the country.

Hunch One - The Heat made one of its first recruiting pitches to Amare Stoudemire out in Los Angeles just after midnight. But we've learned that the sides emerged from the amicable, hour-long session without the Heat offering Amare a contract. That's a clear indication that the Heat, despite its aggressive pursuit of Amare at the February trade deadline, is taking a Bosh-and-see approach in its quest for post help. Bosh tweeted this morning that he received proposals from the Heat, Rockets, Raptors and Bulls. Perhaps there are legitimate concerns about Amare's knees. Remember, we reported last month about his visit to a South Miami clinic to have his knees examined. That clinic, coincidentally, is also used by the Heat.

Hunch Two - My feeling all along has been that LeBron James would find it too hard to walk away from Cleveland when all is said and done. The imminent hiring of Byron Scott might be the best thing the Cavs could have done to help convince James to stay. Not only does Scott bring credentials as a former championship player, he also has led the Nets and Hornets as far into the playoffs as those franchises have been in a long, long time. One key nugget to keep in mind. Scott was really, really close to Chris Paul as coach of the Hornets. James and Paul are good buddies. This might encourage Paul to push for a trade to Cleveland, which has a few attractive pieces to send back to New Orleans for its troubles. Mo Williams (native of nearby Jackson, Miss.) and All-Star forward Antawn Jamison could be a start.

Hunch Three - If Stoudemire somehow walks away from Phoenix, look for the Suns to consider pushing for Carlos Boozer as a potential replacement. Boozer could easily fill the production void Amare would leave behind. Not sure how much salary-cap space the Suns would have to make room for Boozer. But it's clear that Boozer would be a much cheaper option than Stoudemire - although you'd get the same production. We learned in February that the Suns were willing to take Boozer from Utah in that failed three-way trade with Miami that would have sent Stoudemire to the Heat. Utah backed off because it didn't like the pieces it would have gotten back for parting with Boozer at the time.

Hunch Four - As hard as it might be for Dwyane Wade to open his mind up to considering other options in Wade-Olympics free agency than returning to the Heat, he's going to seriously listen to the Bulls, Nets and Knicks. Those teams could offer as much or more for him than Miami could in terms of surrounding him with impressive talent. The Heat has a clean slate as far as its roster is concerned. But the Bulls have Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng along with their cap space. The Nets have Devin Harris and Brook Lopez in addition to space for two max stars. On paper, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers don't really stack up to those other parts. New York simply has cap space and Broadway appeal. But Wade has tremendous respect for Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, who was on the coaching staff of Team USA's gold medal squad in Beijing.

Well, those are my hunches for now. More to come as the madness continues.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 94, Nets 86

Mercy. It's over. It's finally over. Heat-Nets-Main

Of all the people on all of the rosters in the league, it took Yakhouba Diawara to deliver the Heat from going to a third overtime against the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the regular season.

Instead, Frenchie stepped up and knocked down a three-pointer midway through the second overtime that stretched the Heat's lead to five and gave it enough cushion to hold on for a 94-86 double-overtime victory against the Nets on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Needless to say, it was Khouba's first three-pointer of the season. The fact that he was on the floor at that point in the game tells you all you need to know about Wednesday night. The Heat tried to do all it could to give itself as little chance as possible to win.

And it failed by succeeding. In a crazy sort of way.

With the victory, Miami (47-35) secured the No. 5 seed in the East and a first-round playoff matchup with No. 4 seed Boston in a best-of-seven series that will open Saturday in Beantown.

The Heat is 0-3 against Boston this season, with all three games decided by seven or fewer points. Would Miami have preferred to lose Wednesday and land into the No. 6 spot and face No. 3 seed Atlanta in the opening round? Probably so.

It didn't work out that way.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade was busy before the game meeting with his biggest little fan, two-year old YouTube sensation Chad Sher, who made a name for himself shouting Wade's version of "This is My House." Wade met with Sher's family before the game. He sat out to rest an assortment of bumps and bruises that included his knee, calf and wrist. But Wade insisted he was not injured and would be ready to go once the series against Boston starts. Wade wraps up his seventh season having averaged 26.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds. After opening the season ice cold, Wade finished the year shooting a respectable 47.6 percent from the field. He had 142 steals and 82 blocks. But the most important factor with Wade right now is that he ended the regular season playing his best ball of the season. He's truly in playoff form. And the Heat is going to need everything it can get from Wade to get past Boston.

TURNING POINT: It all goes back to Khouba. The Heat could have taken care of matters in regulation, but Brandon-Marshall decided it needed to make things interesting by blowing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter. Miami also didn't want to win in overtime. So Khouba shook off the dust, checked in during the second overtime and went to work. Dry as a bone, he banked in a three from the right wing. He insists he called "bank" and later said something might have gotten lost in translation. At any rate, his shot extended Miami's lead to 89-84. That was all the cushion Miami needed. But not even new Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall stuck around to stomach the finish.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The Heat scored 25 points off 20 New Jersey turnovers. Pretty much everything else was a wash. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field and below 31 percent on threes.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: For all of you who wanted Atlanta in the first round, consider this: Miami would be a lot more confident and - perhaps - a bit complacent going into a first-round matchup with the Hawks. Yes, the Heat was 3-1 against Atlanta this season. And yes, falling to the No. 6 seed would have given the Heat a playoff path through Atlanta and Orlando, a pair of Southeast Division rivals the Heat is a combined 5-3 against this season. But this is the playoffs. One thing about a Heat-Celtics series is that Boston will get and keep the Heat's undivided attention from Game 1. There will be an edge to Miami. There should be a passion in the series. There better be a focus from jump. And on another level, this Boston team is reeling right now, having dropped seven of its last 10 to end the regular season. Miami has won 12 of 13. In a lot of ways, this Boston team reminds me a lot of the Heat team the season Miami defended its NBA title. A lot of pride. A lot of big names. A lot of talk. But the moment Miami was smacked in that series against Chicago, it faded fast. This Celtics team just might be ripe for the downing of the Big 3 Dynasty.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Michael Beasley certainly filled the stat sheet if nothing else. He had 25 points, 13Heat-Nets-Beas rebounds, six fouls, five turnovers, three blocks, two steals and two assists in 35 minutes before he fouled out. Beasley was 10 of 24 from the field. For the Heat's sake, Beasley should have worked out his kinks. He says he's ready for the challenge of facing Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. That matchup could decide the outcome of the series. 

NEXT UP: Heat at Boston Celtics, Saturday, 8 p.m. (Game 1) TD Garden - Boston

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 99, Nets 89

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Heat didn't bother with the suspense this time. Miami didn't leave muchNets-Heat-Main1   to chance in the second half on the way to holding off the Nets 99-89 Monday at the IZOD Center.

With the victory, the Heat (37-34) maintained its grip on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It also helped the Nets extend their franchise-record losing streak at home to 14 consecutive games.

Dwyane Wade and Jermaine O'Neal got the Heat going early, but things didn't really start to go Miami's way until the supporting cast of Michael Beasley, Dorell Wright and Carlos Arroyo pitched in with big-time plays in the second half.

The Heat trailed 53-52 at the half, but took control in the third quarter and maintained a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter to cruise to the victory.

Arroyo ran the team with confidence and even had enough swagger to shout down Wade on a play in the fourth. Beasley, who got chewed out by coach Erik Spoelstra for taking an ill-advised jumper, responded down the stretch by taking everything to the rim. Dorell Wright offered the energy to lift the Heat out of its lethargic start. It was a team win. Yes, it was bit harder than it should have been against the Nets.

But what else is new with this Heat team?

D. WADE'S DOINGS: The bad news: Wade banged up his right knee/lower thigh late in the third quarter and admitted after the game that he lost quite a bit of his lift by the time he returned to finish the game. The good news: The Heat has two days off before he'll be asked to display his heroics again when the Heat's three-game trip continues Thursday in Chicago. Wade was far from his defensive best at the start of Monday's game. In fact, Courtney Lee tortured him on several plays on the way to a 13-point outburst in the first. But that seemed to wake Wade up. He then proceeded to pick apart the Nets for 27 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Wade simply embarrassed his defenders on several plays down the stretch. The one that sticks on the mind was that lethal move to the basket, when he dribbled behind his back, split two defenders and scored off the glass. Wade then shot a long look and smile over at the apparent Nets fan who wore that bag over his head in the courtside seats.

TURNING POINT: A lethargic first half left the Heat trailing 53-52. But Miami got going in the third quarter and outscored the Nets by 13 to carry a double-digit lead into the fourth. Arroyo found his jumper in the third to help Wade and O'Neal. The Heat also suffocated the Nets defensively.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: It's rare when the Heat wins the transition battle against any team. But it outscored the Nets 15-5 in fastbreak points. The best play of the night came on Arroyo's lob pass to Wade on to complete an alley-oop in the third quarter.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: I know the Nets are bad. But the fans in the metro area should be ashamed Nets-Heat-Second2 of themselves for the embarrassing attendance. At tipoff Monday, there literally were as many arena workers, media members and team members as there were fans. As if that wasn't enough, the Nets were working with their third coach in as many games against the Heat this season. Lawrence Frank coached the first game against the Heat. Kiki Vandeweghe coached the second. And with Kiki out of town tending to a family issue Monday, the Nets went with assistant John Loyer against Miami. I know what you're thinking. John Who?

KEY CONTRIBUTION: O'Neal returned from a sprained left ankle to put up another solid performance. He finished with 25 points, but scored 14 in the first half to get the Heat going. His legs were back. Just consider the first-half flush he had against the entire Nets frontline. When Jermaine's dunking, the Heat is usually doing big things. He certainly has saved his best for the season's stretch run. Of course, he's also playing for that next contract. Still, O'Neal clearly has emerged ahead of Michael Beasley as the Heat's second option on offense. He's handled this type of role before. It might be best for Beasley as well.

NEXT UP: Heat at Chicago Bulls, Thursday 8 p.m. United Center

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 87, Nets 84

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It had the potential for disaster. Jermaine O'Neal left in the first two minutes ofNets-Heat-HarrisMain the game with a back strain. Dwyane Wade followed five minutes later with a strained calf. And Rafer Alston also left the game for an extended stretch with a bruised hand.

"We had every possible excuse," coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward.

It had all of the makings of a horrible night for the Heat. But Michael Beasley and Quentin Richardson rescued Miami and rallied the team to an 87-84 victory over the lowly Nets on Wednesday at IZOD Center.

Under normal circumstances, this night would have been all about discussing how Beasley stepped into the starring role and came up with major buckets on the way to a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds in perhaps his best performance of the season. But his best play of the game came on that rejection of Kris Humphries' layup with 30 seconds left in the game.

Beasley was huge. But the story beyond the story is about the status of Wade, who left the arena in a walking boot and saying he "felt something pop" in his lower left leg after grabbing a first-quarter rebound.

Wade feared the worst initially. And the Nets doctors told him he could be out far longer than he really wants to be, although the Heat did not offer a time frame, other than to say he's day-to-day. Wade is almost certainly done for the rest of this four-game trip, which wraps up Friday in Memphis and Saturday in Dallas.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade's night ended very early after he came down awkwardly seven minutes into the game. Wade went up for a rebound, came down without contact, dribbled twice and grimaced in severe pain. He left the game moments later and headed directly to the locker room. Wade had eight points on 2 of 4 shooting from the field. He made 4 of 5 free throws and got three rebounds and an assist in 7 minutes, 26 seconds. Wade's eight-point effort ended an impressive streak of double-figure scoring games. He had set career and franchise records by scoring double figures in 148 consecutive games. The only player who had a longer streak was LeBron James. Wade is expected to miss his first games of the season.

TURNING POINT: The Heat was down 80-74 with three minutes left, but rallied to outscore the Nets 13-2 Nets-Heat-Main over the next two minutes. Beasley started the run with a driving layup and sweet jumper off the glass. Quentin Richardson delivered a dagger of a three-pointer after that, and it was on.

WINNING EDGE: The Nets were held to 37 percent shooting overall, and a 1-of-15 clip from three-point range. They became the fourth straight opponent the Heat has held to under 40 percent shooting from the field. The Heat's last two opponents are a combined 2 of 27 from three-point range.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: What in the world would make Nets officials think it's a good idea to toss burritos into the crowd as if they were T-shirts? That's exactly what happened in the first quarter of Wednesday's game, coincidentally, moments after Wade left the game with a calf injury. The Nets are bad enough this season to watch on an empty stomach, let alone one filled with black beans, guacamole and cheese. Other than that, you had to wonder what was going on when O'Neal left the game two minutes after tip-off with a mysterious back injury. The first think that came to mind was that it might have been an Amare-induced injury. You know, something that tends to happen when trades go down while a game is in progress. It went on around the league Wednesday, with Bulls guard John Salmons left at the team hotel instead of playing at New York, and Knicks guard Nate Robinson suddenly stricken with the flu as New York and Boston worked to finalize a trade. But then, J.O. came back.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: With Wade out and O'Neal limited, this was the ultimate breakout-game opportunityBEASLEY_MICHAEL for Michael Beasley. He stepped up and delivered a brilliant all-around game. Beasley was 10 of 17 from the field and had 23 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He had a monster rejection that prevented a go-ahead layup with 30 seconds left in the game. Beasley was beaming with confidence after the game, going as far as to say that the Heat's win "shut a lot of people up" who have doubted Wade's supporting cast. These were the Nets after all. But there was no need to ruin the kid's post-game buzz. Still, it was a major, breakthrough-type performance for Beasley. Richardson also came up big, with 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds.

NEXT UP: Heat at Memphis Grizzlies, 8 p.m. Friday - FedEx Forum

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 81, Nets 80

In Thursday's loss to Cleveland, Dwyane Wade topped the highlights with a thunderous flush over Nets-WadeAnderson Varejao. On Saturday, the signature moment came with a finishing swish.

Wade's three-pointer with one-tenth of a second left over Trenton Hassell allowed the Heat to avert disaster and escape with a 81-80 victory over the winless New Jersey Nets.

One flick of the wrist was the difference between the Heat becoming the first team to fall to Nets (0-10) and Erik Spoelstra becoming the fastest coach in franchise history to win his 50th game. Spoelstra, nine games into his second season, got to the mark two games faster than Stan Van Gundy.

Both had Wade to thank for the victories. Especially on Saturday night.

"Well thank you, Wade, for burying that three," Spoelstra said afterward. "I didn't really help us out. At times, that's what the great ones do. They bail you out of a competitive but frustrating game."

But it wasn't just Wade. Quentin Richardson's three with 25 seconds left set up the final dagger. And Udonis Haslem's career-high tying 28 points and 12 rebounds kept the Heat close enough to close it out.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade was 0 of 4 from three-point range before he stepped back and raised up for the game-winner. Didn't matter. "I don't really worry about that," Wade said. "My focus ain't on nothing I did earlier. It's just about that moment." And Wade delivered. His shot capped perhaps his most complete performance of the season. A first-quarter injury to Mario Chalmers forced Wade into more of a playmaking role. He came through with 22 points (setting a franchise record with his 22nd straight game of 20-plus points). Wade also added 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals and 2 blocks in 42 minutes.

TURNING POINT: Wade's shot won it with essentially no time left. But the turning point came when Sean Williams, who has had his way with Michael Beasley since the Orlando summer league last year, blocked Beasley's shot with 33 seconds left and the Heat trailing 78-75. Williams appeared to grab the ball, and then he lost it out of bounds. That's when it seemed divine intervention may have been on Miami's side. Eight seconds later, Quentin Richardson nailed his banked-in 3-pointer to tie it. That was prayer No. 1 answered. Then came prayer No. 2: Wade's final dagger.  

Nets-Beasrebound WINNING EDGE: On a big-time fight night, the Heat did some damage with body work. That would be its edge rebounding on the offensive glass. The Heat turned 15 offensive boards into an 18-10 advantage in second-chance points. Beasley had five offensive boards, Haslem had four and Joel Anthony had three.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Mario Chalmers left the game in the first quarter with a freak injury. The team called it a strained right shoulder. Spoelstra called it a slightly pinched nerve or a stinger. Chalmers wasn't quite sure what happened. All he know is that when he tossed a halfcourt lob to Wade on an alley-oop, there was a sharp pain that shot through his right arm. Chalmers didn't return and is considered day to day. The Heat was already without center Jermaine O'Neal, who sat with a bruised hip sustained in Thursday's loss to the Cavaliers.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Haslem had perhaps his best game as a Heat player. Sure, it came against a winless Nets team. But if it weren't for UD's career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds, the Heat wouldn't have been able to keep up with the Nets. Miami simply had no answer in the second half for Brook Lopez and Sean Williams. The Heat needed Nets-UDevery point Haslem could provide. Halsem and Beasley had problems matching the athleticism of the Nets frontline players.

NEXT UP: Oklahoma City Thunder at Heat, Tuesday 7:30 AmericanAirlines Arena

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The J.O. Effect

Seven months ago, he was widely viewed as the low-post presence who would balance the roster and get the Heat back into deep playoff contention.

And if it didn't work out, he would simply be reduced to another O'Neal with a bloated contract the Heat

New Jermaine

would look forward to dumping for financial relief and roster revitalization.

Today, with the start of training camp approaching in mere hours, Jermaine O'Neal (pictured right) is a man who finds himself in the middle of those two distinction.

The Heat's success largely depends on Dwyane Wade's health and hunger.

Miami's improvement from last season will be based mainly on the second-year growth of Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers.

But the team's ultimate finish in the playoffs - assuming things work out as expected and the Heat falls somewhere between the 5th and 7th seeds - could hinge on the joints in O'Neal's troublesome knees and his ability provide a productive and proficient anchor in the middle of the starting lineup.

From Chalmers at the point, to Wade at shooting guard, to Beasley/Quentin Richardson/James Jones at small forward, to Udonis Haslem at power forward, you pretty much know what to expect from four-fifths of the Heat's starting five.

And then there's Jermaine.

Other than a few twitter updates, O'Neal has maintained his media/public silence this offseason. Those close to him say that it was all part of his plan to no longer SAY what he would do after an offseason of health and hard work, but rather to SHOW it once he arrives for training camp.

Well, OK. It's that time. O'Neal has certainly been here before. He arrived in Toronto a year ago talking big about playing even bigger alongside Chris Bosh with the Raptors after his career and body had grown stiff in Indiana. Then, that situation blew up after a few months, as did the swelling in one of O'Neal's knees.


Then came the trade to Miami, where there was hope just after the February trade deadline. Then, it was later discovered that all was not well with O'Neal's knees or his comfort level with his role in the game plan.

But those kinks should be worked out by now. Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra (pictured left, facing O'Neal) have all raved about how explosive O'Neal should be this season after working out in Chicago most of the summer with Tim Grover, the man who fixed Wade's body and mind after back-to-back years of breakdowns.

There was even talk that if O'Neal could perform his way back into All-Star contention, he would be offered a decent deal to stay on with the Heat after his contract expires next summer. Still, reaching the status of being the second-best center in the East might be next to impossible. With the way the position shapes up in the conference this season, it will be hard enough to be the second-best center in the Southeast division.

We continue our position-by-position rankings of projected starters in the conference, with the focus now shifted to center. Based on several factors, including past production, potential, durability and overall impact on both ends of the court, Jermaine comes in as the 6th-ranked center in the East.

Here's the order: 1. Dwight Howard, Magic. 2. Shaquille O'Neal, Cavaliers. 3. David Lee, Knicks. 4. Al


Horford, Hawks. 5. Rasheed Wallace, Celtics. 6. Jermaine O'Neal, Heat. 7. Samuel Dalembert, Sixers. 8. Joakim Noah, Bulls. 9. Andrew Bogut, Bucks. 10. Tyson Chandler, Bobcats. 11. Brook Lopez, Nets. 12. Andrea Bargnani, Raptors. 13. Jeff Foster, Pacers. 14. Brendan Haywood, Wizards. 15. Chris Wilcox, Pistons.

The bottom line is this: the center position is deep in the East. If Jermaine (pictured right, with Chalmers) is healthy and on his game, the Heat can be a dangerous darkhorse among the conference contenders. If not, it will again create a huge void for Miami that not even Wade's dynamic play can overcome.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Will Bosh Squash The Plan?

If Chris Bosh is - or ever was - considered the Heat's top free agent target in the blockbuster summer of Bosh screaming 2010, then there's now some cause for more pause. Or there probably should be.

In just the span of this offseason, Bosh (right) already has gone from being viewed essentially as headed out of Toronto, to practically soon on his way to the Heat via trade, to perhaps a strong possibility to end up in Miami by next summer at the latest, to virtually a wrap to stick with the Raptors.

Just consider these comments from Bosh this week, before he left for an NBA humanitarian trip to Africa: "(I) like that we're not sitting around, waiting around, putting all our eggs in the basket and saying we're going to wait for 2010 because we want to have (salary) cap space to get players you might not be able to sign," Bosh told the Globe and Mail of Toronto. "The do-it-now approach is very motivating for everyone."

Needless to say, this is from a high-profile player who shares a friendship and an agent with Dwyane Wade. Needless to say that this is from a 2010 mega-free agent who could re-sign with his own team for as much as $30 million more than any other team could offer. Needless to say that Wade sounded out a similar song earlier this summer in a not-so-patient plea for roster help.

There is no doubt that Heat president Pat Riley is going to have a load of money to toss around in free agency next summer, which was always the man's main plan. Objective 1 in 2010 is to re-sign Wade to that six-year, $120 million max deal. Objective 2 was expected to center on what once seemed almost a certainty: Toss another max deal - perhaps five years, $90 million - Bosh's way and call it a day.

Again, perhaps.

By the end of this season, this plan would be two years in the making. Two years of vision. Two years of waiting. Two years of preparing for the big-time NBA coup. And it could backfire. At least at the top level. Yes, LeBron is going to be out there. But getting him to Miami might be the next stop north of a pipe dream. Sure Amare sounds like he will be very available. But with his injury history and demands to be The Man wherever he goes, there are also risks involved. Point is, if you can't get a top-3 guy off the 2010 board - including your own - you would have wasted two years to bring in Joe Johnson or Carlos Boozer. All respect due.

But a Wade-Bosh tandem always seemed to be priority No. 1 for the Heat, with Riley's affection for the versatile 6-11 All-Star forward dating to that 2003 Draft when, truth be told, Bosh (who went 4th to Toronto) was the target and Wade (who went 5th to Miami) ended up being the consolation catch.

Bosh-Wade Yes, it turned out to be the right pick for the Heat. In a very big way. But still. Feelings are feelings. And judging by Bosh's most recent emotions, he's loving life in Toronto right now - and, perhaps, for the long haul. Remember, this was the same guy who at the start of the summer made it clear that he was not happy with what was going on north of the border after a miserable season. Making matters worse was the fact that his domestic issues with the mother of his child played out in the press, which resulted in a messy child support dispute that played out over two states and two countries.

Bosh was the first of the big-time 2010 classmates to publicly make it clear that he would not sign an extension this summer and would wait to look into his free agency options.

Now, after watching his team go out and pick up a few key players, including Hedo Turkoglu, there's a different message coming from Canada. Bosh (defending Wade above) said he spent majority of his summer there for the first time. He might even at least consider that extension now.

Bosh sounds more and more like he's warming up to he idea of staying put. If so, that might only place more heat on Miami to deliver the goods under Riley's 2010 Grand Plan.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ranking the Heat Rookies

In the midst doing a guest spot on 790 The Ticket's morning show earlier today, I was hit with a rather intriguing question regarding the Heat's performance this season.

The query was simple. Finding an answer, for me, was not.

The question: Which Heat rookie has had the best season, and which has had the worst. It was difficult enough to break down when I assumed the only logical answers were Michael Beasley or Mario Chalmers. But then came the twist.

First-year coach Erik Spoelstra was also thrown into the mix. Mario

In my haste to avoid dead air, the cardinal sin of radio, my answer was that Mario had the best season and that Beasley slightly edged out Spoelstra as the one having the worst.

You could shuffle the order in any fashion and make a logical argument in this case. So I decided to bring the debate to you and get your feedback.

First, I'll defend my choices, in order.

1. Mario Chalmers - Despite some inconsistent moments recently, the second-round pick has delivered first-round value for the Heat. Chalmers is the only rookie point guard - and maybe only rookie overall - to start every game for his team this season. That alone qualifies him for first in the three-man race. 

Add in the fact that he ranks among the league's leaders in steals (1.9) and averages 10 points, 4.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds to boot, and the choice was easy. If there's a criticism of Chalmers, it's that he needs to bring a high level of focus and intensity to every game and not just the ones when he's facing someone drafted ahead of him last summer. He welcomes the challenge of facing big-name guards, but too frequently gets picked apart against the more marginal opponents.

SpoPractice 2. Erik Spoelstra - I place Spoelstra here, knowing full well that there will be disagreement out there with this choice. But facts are facts. Yes, a healthy Dwyane Wade deserves all the credit for the Heat posting the biggest single-season turnaround in franchise history after last year's 15-67 debacle. But Spoelstra is ultimately responsible for what happens on the bench in games - unless Pat Riley is texting Spo with some undetected device from his court-side seats. Spoelstra has brought some innovation and energy to the head coach's seat. One of the first things he did to get his players to buy in was to pass out those fancy iPod Touch gadgets in training camp, already loaded with the team's playbook and film.

He also opened the door of communication with all of the players and has had several heart-to-hearts with them along the way. And the preference to play Tupac's jams during light practice sessions go a long way with this group. On the flip side, Spoelstra's management of timeouts and his playing rotation has left plenty to be desired. Several of his players have privately questioned their roles and expressed displeasure with the ever-changing pecking order off the bench. But nothing unhealthy appears to be brewing like a potential mutiny or anything. There's also a need to get others involved and expand beyond the five or so sets that seemed designed to get Wade the ball.

3. Michael Beasley - It's easy to pick on the second overall pick and suggest that he has struggled to live up to expectations. Beasley is here, perhaps, for reasons that are often beyond his own fault. Derrick Rose, the No. 1 pick, was handed a starting job and the keys to the franchise, D-Wade-style, right off the bat. O.J. Mayo, the third overall pick, was given the green light - or perhaps sped through plenty of yellow BeasleyPractice lights - for a disastrous Grizzlies team. And Russell Wesbrook, Kevin Love and Brook Lopez, among others, have shown drastic improvement over the course of the season.

Beasley, in many ways, remains an enigma - an explosive talent capable of kissing the rim with his athleticism and scoring 28 one game and kissing plenty of pine and offer up three points and three rebounds in 13 minutes on other nights. Beasley has been the biggest victim, by far, of Spoelstra's fluidly unpredictable playing rotation. His defense has been an issue all season. Case in point came last night. Spoelstra inserted Beasley and specifically told him "no air space" in reference to not allowing Rashard Lewis any breathing room out to the three-point line. So what happens? Beasley bites for a ball fake and rushes into the lane to help on Dwight Howard. The skip pass goes over to Lewis on the perimeter, and he calmly knocks down the go-ahead three in Orlando's 101-95 win. It's times like those when Spoelstra sort of justifies his handling of Beasley's minutes. He's got to earn them.

All in all, this has been a season of significant development for each of the Heat's rookies. 

But now is no longer the time for growing pains. It's all about winning games.

You rank the rookies.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ 




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