Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hornets go with big lineup for Game 3; Bosh travels with Heat for first time since All-Star break

CHARLOTTE -- Steve Clifford is going with size.

The Hornets coach opted Saturday to replace the injured Nicolas Batum in the starting lineup by shifting power forward Marvin Williams to small forward, inserting rookie Frank Kaminsky at power forward and Al Jefferson at center. Cody Zeller, who started Games 1 and 2, will be coming off the bench. Kemba Walker and Courtney Lee remain as Charlotte's starting backcourt. 

The group has played just three minutes together total all season according to the NBA stats' page

"When Courtney [was acquired in a trade with Memphis] Al was just coming back from his injury," Clifford said. "Just looking at it, you have to try to find a balance of groups offensively and defensively that you can put together for 48 minutes.

"The other thing is watching the film their size has been a problem for us -- their perimeter size. I think by playing bigger more than hopefully we can have a better chance out there. A lot of their [success] zipping the ball on the perimeter inside is the fact they're so big. Hopefully being bigger we can deal better with that stuff."

The Heat has averaged 119 points per game thus far in the playoffs and shot better than 57 percent in its first two games. Clifford said Friday the Hornets did a poor job deflecting passes from the Heat off pick and rolls to the interior. He said the Hornets deflected just 27 balls. He wants them to average more than 40.

What does Heat coach Erik Spoelstra think of Clifford's move to go big?

"We're just open whatever the competition will reveal," he said. "They've played different lineups. You can see the line of thought -- bring some size defensively against us, especially pick-and-roll coverages. It will still come down to who imposes whose game more consistently. Their game won't change even with the size because they still have the skill and the shooting. We will have to be prepared for the energy, obviously, we will feel in this building."

> Clifford said the Hornets will also play forward/center Spencer Hawes more than they did in Games 1 and 2. Hawes has played a total of 12 minutes in the series.


Chris Bosh made the trip with the Heat to Charlotte -- his first road trip with the team since Feb. 5.

Bosh has been out since the All-Star break after a recurrence of blood clots in his calf. He and Tyler Johnson remain inactive for the Heat.

"We love having him around," Spoelstra said of Bosh. "I think he gives a steadying influence, leadership at all levels even when he's not out there on the court. That's why I always lean on him. He's like another coach. He's been through our system and sees the game through a different lens than most players."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Are the Heat stealing a page from the Spurs by winning with depth?

The Spurs beat the Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals in large part because they were a deep team.

San Antonio’s bench not only led the NBA in minutes (21.3 per game) that season but also in plus/minus (+309) among reserves.

By playing his bench so much during the regular season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich kept his starters fresh for the playoffs. Popovich didn’t have a single starter average more than 30 minutes per game that season (Tony Parker led the way with 29.4 per game), but he had eight players average at least 20 minutes (not including the valuable Patty Mills, who played roughly 18.9 minutes per game).

The Heat didn’t have that kind of quality depth. LeBron James played the sixth-most minutes in the league (37.9 per game), Miami had seven players average 20 minutes or more, and the Heat bench while pretty good (18.6 minutes per game, plus-54) simply couldn’t match the production San Antonio got from its reserves.

This year’s Heat team, though, is beginning to resemble those Spurs a little bit. Starters are getting a lot of rest and the Miami bench is producing quality minutes. But don’t tell Chris Bosh the Heat stole that concept from the Spurs.

“I don't even say things that start with S,” Bosh joked Monday when he was asked if the Heat were taking a page from San Antonio and winning with depth. “Nah man – we don't take anything out of their playbook. They're a great team with all due respect. But they're not the first team to play 10 guys."

Miami’s starters are getting plenty of rest. Other than the Knicks, the Heat are the only other team in the Eastern Conference not to have at least three starters averaging 30 minutes or more.

Bosh is playing a team-leading 32.4 minutes per game, second-fewest of his career. Point guard Goran Dragic is barely over 30 minutes at 30.6 (the fewest since he became a regular starter in 2010-2011).

Dwyane Wade, 33, is averaging a career-low 28.7 –- three minutes fewer per game than the 31.8 he averaged last year, which was his lowest average until now.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday the benefit of that rest will show itself as the year goes on. In the immediate sense, though, fewer minutes for Miami’s starters has allowed Wade and Bosh to go hard when they are in there. It’s the same for Hassan Whiteside and Luol Deng, Miami’s best defenders.

“For the most part I know I'm going to play about 30 minutes a game,” Wade said. “So it allows me to be on attack mode for those minutes I'm in. It definitely helps. Some years I was playing 38, 39 minutes a game. With all this rest it feels like there's a couple minutes right now I can get back. But these young guys are coming in -- and they're not just young guys. They're players when they come in behind you to make an impact in the game. You feel confident they can do that."

Wade said in all of his years with the Heat he’s never seen quite the mix of youth and veteran leadership the team has now. With Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, Bosh said, the Heat’s second unit can play a fast-paced style that is tough to deal with.0

“You always need that injection of youth,” Bosh said. “As veterans become super veterans you need that youth to get in there and change the dynamic of the game, change the energy. We're not always going to be able to just be super energetic, get in the passing lanes and run up and down the court. You need those guys to kind of be structured, but go out there and do what they do. That's what Tyler and Justise do. And Josh Richardson, when he gets in the game, gets minutes. He's able to do quite a bit. We really get off to the races and really kind of create that spark for the second unit. That's really what's been giving us a lot of success."

Bosh said when he returns to the game after sitting on the bench and seeing Miami’s younger players do what they do “it energizes” him.

"I always like the second group to kind of change the tempo of the game, to kind of speed it up a little bit,” Bosh said. “When we did have that a few years back it was with older guys, but we were able to spread the floor and do it more so with threes and stops. That's what really got us going.

“Now, we're in the passing lanes, we’re back to creating turnovers and that's when we need that youth. I mean, we weren't that young but we had guys that were doing it a long time, but they knew how to zone up the backside of the defense and kind of get their hands on a lot of loose balls. And we were off to the races after that."

Sort of like the Spurs some might say. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Shaq Smackback

Shaquille O'Neal has done it again. Shaq-Wade-title

No, not help his team win yet another championship. That might not happen in Cleveland after all, with the Cavaliers and LeBron James unable to get a grip on the Celtics.

And no, Shaq didn't do anything to warrant consideration for another two- or three-year contract he insists he'll seek after his current deal expires next month.

What Shaq did yet again was take another snide shot at his former team, years removed from his time with said squad. In a Sports Illustrated cover story that hits the newsstands this week, O'Neal is quoted as saying he can't figure out how his 2005-06 Heat team managed to win a championship that season.

He suggests the team might have been defined as much by Tequila as talent, Patron as production and late nights on South Beach as much as long afternoons on the practice courts at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"I still don't know how we won that championship," O'Neal tells S.I. in a story that chronicles his adjustment from superstar status to supporting cast member. "F&*%ing partied every night in Miami."

Heat president Pat Riley, who took over as coach midway through that season, declined to respond Tuesday night to Shaq's senselessness.

While the revelation probably isn't shocking, considering the distractions that come with playing in this city, it should be a bit disturbing. Shaq didn't necessarily disrespect the Heat as much as he did himself by confirming that joke of a work ethic he's had throughout his career.

If you re-examine that Heat championship team, it's mostly a collection of castaways and characters that only Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders could appreciate.

I didn't cover that Heat team in 2005-06. I came the year after. I essentially caught the hangover that followed in 2006-07. My first game on the beat was that 42-point beatdown on ring ceremony night. Considering how that title defense fizzled, it's amazing how Riley and Dwyane Wade kept that squad together the year before.

Take nothing away from that Heat team. Guys came together, put aside egos just long enough and caught fire at just the right time to deliver the first title in franchise history. But even Riley has admitted in the aftermath that he compromised a piece of his soul - as well as mortgaged part of the franchise's immediate future - for that one shining moment that produced the ultimate bling.

And he'd do it again in a heartbeat - or as quick as you can say: "Bring Back Earl Barron."

During that season - particularly that postseason run - 15 Strong could do no wrong. And for the Heat's sake, you'd have to wish that Shaq was more fond of his time here than he's shown in recent years. You'd hope that the fans would appreciate what he provided during his three-plus seasons.

Heatmain_embedded_prod_affiliate_56 But to know Shaq is to know that he makes nostalgia impossible. Not only do bridges get burned on his way out of town, entire franchises get torched with some of his nonsense.

And I consider myself a Shaq fan. Always have been. Wade led that 2006 team to a title as MVP of the Finals against Dallas. But the Heat wouldn't have been a championship contender without Shaq. He legitimized the franchise on a national level that arguably no other player has. He energized and mobilized a Miami fan base in a way that hasn't been seen since. Be objective enough to admit that.

But his shots at Riley, the medical staff and some of his former teammates on the way out simply have been tasteless and classless. I mean, come on. What have Chris Quinn and Ron Culp ever done to hurt anybody?

Having said that, you have to wonder if that 2006 team will ever come back together for any anniversaries in the future. That season took a toll on a lot of folks.

Stan Van Gundy, who opened that season as coach before he was forced out/stepped down, has no use for the ring he was given and is still bitter about his experience that year.

Shaq and Wade both had marriages destroyed by seeds planted during that season.

Antoine Walker and Gary Payton both despised Riley on the way out.

Shandon and Derek Anderson haven't been seen since. And one didn't even bother to sign the commemorative basketball that is displayed in trophy cases in honor of each of the 15 on that team.

Wade, Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright are the lone players who remained with the team through this season, and there's a chance next season's team might only have one or none from that 2006 squad.

When you walk through the arena hallways and look at the floor-to-ceiling championship photos that cover the walls, it seems more like 14 years have passed rather than four. Shaq

But that doesn't mean it's cool to trash and tarnish what was accomplished. Especially when, despite any faults and factions that formed that season, the ultimate goal was reached.

At 7-1, 365 pounds and in the twilight of his career, you'd think Shaq would be a bigger man than this by now. Obviously, he's still got a lot of growing to do.

(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.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Skip-ping To Conclusions?

There was a time not too long ago when Heat president Pat Riley flat-out refused to bring in a point guard Rafer-alston--038593c824b30d71_medium to start ahead of anointed prospect Mario Chalmers.

Now, if the latest developments flow into fruition as expected, the Heat will soon have its second starting-caliber point guard to presumably jump ahead of Chalmers in the rotation.

But this is not about Chalmers, the so-so second-year guard who has been cast as the Heat's steal of the 2008 draft and the franchise's face for the present and future at the position.

It is, however, about the ability to improve the Heat's standing in the standings and in the basketball accounting department.

The Heat appears on the verge of a reunion with point guard Rafer Alston, who was bought out by the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday and could be in a Miami uniform by the time the team leaves Thursday for its six-game West trip.

In the process, the Heat on Tuesday dealt seldom-used reserve Chris Quinn, who has yet to play this season, to the Nets for a conditional second-round pick and some cash. Doing business this way saves the Heat in the high six figures - if not more - when it comes to the luxury-tax bill. Right now, Riley said the team is facing a $3 million bill at the end of the season.

If Alston comes, it would be for the league minimum, which would allow him to recoup some of the money he gave back to the Nets to get out of New Jersey. The Heat gets a veteran, playmaking, highlight producing point guard who guided the Magic to the NBA Finals last season before he was cast away.

In other words, he'd be the second Magic reject on the Heat's roster. And that's only if Carlos Arroyo is allowed to stay. Arroyo, signed during training camp and promoted to starter about 10 games ago, is in a precarious position. The Heat will have until the end of business on Wednesday to decide whether to guarantee the remainder of his veteran's minimum contract.

If Heat fans were polled about which point guards the team should keep, I'm assuming that the one the Heat has valued the most would finish last in the pecking order. Skip Alston gives the Heat a legitimate point guard who could hold his own against many if not most other point guards in the league.

Arroyo has done a solid job as the starter and has been one of the most efficient point guards in the league over these past 10 games in assist-to-turnover ratio. He won't flat-out win you any games. But he hasn't lost the Heat any during that span, either.

Chalmers, based on production, would be third in that order, with the way he's yet to really take that significant step forward the team was expecting this season after starting all 82 games last season.

The Heat has remained silent on these developments. But it has been clear that Riley and his staff have spent the past month intent on making a move that would reduce the tax bill and help the team in the short term. Among the reasons for Daequan Cook's recent rise in playing time could very well include the team's intentions to shop the third-year, struggling shooting guard and reigning three-point All-Star champion.

Act_chris_quinn But Quinn appears to be the collateral damage in this case. Truth is, that could also be said of Arroyo, because there might not be an overwhelming reason to keep him on board in this cost-cutting scenario. And it would be a shame if that were to be the case. A real shame. But that's business as well.

Credit Riley. It's the second time in as many trades that he'd essentially be replacing end-of-the-bench fodder for a productive starter. Alston could add the same punch to the Heat's roster in the final year of his deal that Quentin Richardson has made since he arrived last summer for Mark Blount.

At the end of the day - or by Thursday, with Skip having to clear the waiver wires - it's a win-win for the Heat if this thing works out as planned.

(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, December 29, 2009

Heat First Trimester Grades

The date Dec. 29 could only mean one thing. Beasley-action

Yes, it's four days after Christmas and three days before the New Year. But it's also been exactly two months (and one day) since the Heat opened its season with that Oct. 28 victory against the New York Knicks. In other words, I should have filed this yesterday. But the methodical drive from New York to Miami hit an extra overnight snag right around Gainesville and required a pit stop.

Still, this officially (or otherwise) brings us to the first trimester of the season. Two months down in the regular season. Four to go. So as the Heat wrapped up practice today in advance of its two-game road trip to New Orleans and San Antonio, Prof. M-Dub couldn't find a better time than now to hand out first trimester grades for the Heat.

In many ways, at 16-12, the Heat is right where it should be, under the circumstances. There isn't quite enough depth and talent on the roster to consistently trade blows with the Big Four in the East (Orlando, Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta). On the other hand, with a healthy Dwyane Wade, there's still enough here to avoid falling too deep into the conference wastelands that exist in the bottom half of the East.

In an effort to provide a truly fair evaluation, these grades are based on how each Heat player has done through the first two months in terms of reaching general expectations and potential. That means Carlos Arroyo's grade might be higher than, say, Jermaine O'Neal's.

But that doesn't mean Arroyo has outperformed O'Neal from an overall team perspective. It simply means, Arroyo has come closer to meeting, or surpassing, what was generally expected of him in this evaluator's humble opinion. So feel free to evaluate the evaluator - or simply chime in with your own studious observations and grades.

Joel Anthony (B+): There have already been a handful of times when Joel - or ZO-el, as we call him on press row, dominated a game on the defensive end. His blocks-per-minutes-played stat makes him one of the most productive shot-blockers in the league. He's even sprinkled in a hook shot, pick-and-roll finish and dunks on lob passes. But the operative word is "sprinkled." Anthony's hands of stone still prevent him from providing heapings of anything on offense. But defensively, he's gone from project to impact player.

Carlos Arroyo (C+): There was a reason Arroyo was available as a free agent well into training camp. He's no longer the flashy, streaky, take-over-a-game point guard. But he's been a productive, steady, veteran option for this team. He doesn't make mistakes and gets the team smoothly into offense. Arroyo still has a great feel for the game and his teammates. Considering he's now starting just two months after the Heat signed him off the Miami playgrounds to a non-guaranteed contract, he's already done more than expected.  

Michael Beasley (B): There are some out there who will give Beas an "A" no matter what he does. But the truth his, the kid is coming around nicely this season after showing flashes last season. Beas still has a few more levels to go before he reaches the peak of his game. That's not a knock on him. That speaks to how much of a star he could be in this league if he continues to develop (and be allowed  to develop). But he is on course to be that "20-10 guy even on a bad night" D. Wade believes he soon will become.

Mario Chalmers (C-): Really, about the only thing Chalmers has shown that's different from his rookie campaign is the ability to lose his starting job. You have to wonder at times why Pat Riley made such a firm public commitment to the kid instead of upgrading the position last summer. Money was a factor. But still. The good news is that Mario can still be a long-term starter. But he's seeing you can't walk into the league and pick up point guard skills on the fly.

Cook Shooting Daequan Cook (D-): The shoulder problems have lingered, the shot isn't falling and he's dropped out of the primary rotation again. Hopefully, he'll come around in the next few weeks to justify defending that Three-Point Shootout championship at All-Star Weekend. This could become another second-guess situation from a previous draft, when Miami took Dorell Wright while Jameer Nelson was on the board. Cook was acquired three drafts ago when a fella by the name of Aaron Brooks was still there to be had.

Yakhouba Diawara (C-): You won't find a nicer, more intelligent, funnier guy in the Heat locker room than Frenchie. But he's not making almost $1 million to be those things. He was brought in to be a three-point shooting, defensive stopper. For whatever reason, he hasn't had done either of those things consistently.

Udonis Haslem (B-): You know what you're going to get from UD year in and year out. Somewhere around 10 points and close to 10 rebounds. That’s both good and bad. You would like to see Haslem follow through on his wish to expand his game, since he always talks about how much he’s had to sacrifice to accept his role with the Heat. He watched Michael Beasley take over the starting power forward role in a move that seems to be paying off for both, even though the staff hasn’t consistently found a way to keep both in the mix at the end of games.

James Jones (D): He was brought in to be the stretch-the-floor, three-point specialist at near mid-level money to complement Dwyane Wade. So either James Jones hasn't truly gotten his chance or the Heat is getting an absurdly low return on its $4.2 million a year investment. Jones hasn't been a factor with this team, despite all of the high praise from coach Erik Spoelstra coming into the season.

Jamaal Magloire (C): When Big Cat plays, he punishes people. He pounds in the paint, and he's a productive rebounder. But the minutes have been sparse for the Heat's resident enforcer. Magloire's biggest accomplishment this season was getting suspended for those two regular-season games for his role in that preseason skirmish with the Pistons.

Jermaine O'Neal (C+): When the offense runs through J.O., good things tend to happen. But the question lingers. Were those 22-point, 12-rebound performances in the first two games just a tease, or a true testament of what should be expected from O'Neal game in and game out? Nagging injuries have rendered his production sporadic. But just when you count him down or out, he bounces back with a big game.

Chris Quinn - I (incomplete): He hasn't played and might not get a chance to do so this season if the Heat decides to keep Arroyo on board beyond the Jan. 6 guarantee date for contracts. Still, a permanent spot on the inactive list is not a bad way to earn a cool million bucks for Quinn.

Quentin Richardson (A): If I've said it once, I've blogged it a dozen times. What essentially was a throw-away trade for the Heat in dumping Mark Blount turned out to be a treasured situation for Q-Rich. He has gone from being buried on the Knicks bench to being traded four times last summer to becoming the Heat's X-factor this season. Q-Rich's shooting, defense and swagger have been huge in support of Wade. Now, all he has to do is stay healthy.

Dwyane Wade (B-): Because greatness is graded on a steep curve, D. Wade's low B would be aJazz Heat wade high A for 90 percent of the league. But his shooting woes, conditioning flap and turnovers have left the door open for a bit of criticism. The expectation is that Wade will shut that door during the second Trimester and get back to being one of the top-3 dominant players in the league. It's not like he's slipped far off that mark - even with his relative dip in production so far.

Dorell Wright (C+): The re-emergence of Dorell Wright has been a bit overstated in recent weeks. But the reality is that Dorell is still young enough at age 24, athletic enough, long enough and skilled enough to make a fool of a front office if it gives up on him too soon. The key to Wright's recent improved play has been the stability in his surgically repaired knee. If he sustains this, his grade will certainly rise.

Coach Erik Spoelstra (C): Although he has been a huge target of criticism among a section of fans, Spoelstra still hasn't really done anything to distinguish himself as a game-day coach. We know he prepares like heck. He knows how to run a practice. He can relate to his players. But the fact is Dwyane helps to hide what may be a few blemishes. The rotation is still his issue. But it's SPO-Coach too soon to say he's a perfect fit or not a fit at all for this team.

President Pat Riley (B-): The natural instinct was to offer a lower grade. But I do give Riley credit for avoiding the sort of desperate moves he's made the past couple of seasons. You know the ones. Smush. Penny. Ricky D. Instead, Riley announced what he was going to do and stuck with it. The plan is 2010. Fate sort of forced his hand on the point guard situation, and he brought in Arroyo. And his biggest accomplishment this season has been his ability to convince the league that he's got a better-than-good chance at bringing LeBron down to Miami to pair with D. Wade. There's hype. And the Heat is winning.

(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, December 23, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 80, Jazz 70

It was ugly. But when things have been going the way they have at AmericanAirlines Arena lately, styleJazz Heat main points don't really matter.

Victories do. And the Heat summoned enough in the second half to run away from the Jazz and secure a 80-70 win Wednesday to close out the six-game homestand with a 3-3 record. In doing so, the Heat held the Jazz to its lowest scoring total of the season. The 80 points were also Miami's fewest in a victory this season, falling one point shy of the 81 it scored to beat New Jersey on Dwyane Wade's walk-off three.

The Heat (14-12) and Jazz barely combined for 60 points in the first half, with each producing their lowest output in a half this season. Turnovers were high. Field goals and assists were low. And I'm still not sure if it was great defense on behalf of both teams, or simply putrid offense.

The numbers would suggest good offense for the Heat, at least in the second half. Miami blocked a season-high 11 shots, held the Jazz to 37.5 percent shooting from the field and scored 28 points off 21 Utah turnovers.The Jazz was held 31 points below its season average.

"It was important for us to take a step forward with our mental toughness," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, with the Heat improving to 9-8 at home this season. "Toughness, defensive efforts, pursuits - they're all things that can be built through habits."

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Perhaps there's just something about facing the Utah Jazz that brings out the best in D. Wade. He provided another solid performance Wednesday. The last time Wade played the Jazz, he poured in 50 points in a triple-overtime victory last spring. That outing increased his scoring average against the Jazz to 30 points a game, his highest against a Western Conference team. This time, there was a bit more balance, a bit more lift, a bit more energy in his approach after a recent stretch of less-than-stellar play (to Wade's standards). Wade closed with 29 points on 12 of 28 shooting to go with seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He did most of his damage in the decisive third quarter, including two vintage, soaring dunks.

Jazz Heat wade TURNING POINT: Miami used an 18-5 run midway through the third quarter to open its first double-digit lead. Wade found his rhythm during the spurt, flushing down a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Carlos Arroyo and also knocking down a mid-range jumper. Joel Anthony, who started the second half at center in place of the injured Jermaine O'Neal, was active on the boards. He had a blocked shot and a put-back following an offensive rebound to provide an energetic presence in the paint.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The 28 points off turnovers were huge for the Heat, which forced the Jazz into 21 uncharacteristic miscues. In a game where points were at a premium, the takeaways were huge.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Another week, another nagging injury knocks center Jermaine O'Neal out of a reliable role for the Heat. This time, it was a right groin strain/hip flexor he aggravated just three minutes into Wednesday's game against the Jazz. The latest ailment came a day after O'Neal sat out of Tuesday's practice with the strain just below his right hip. But O'Neal also had been slowed by ankle and hip injuries earlier this season. And that's not good, considering this was supposed to be a bounce-back season of sorts for O'Neal, who spent the offseason working life back into his damaged knees and legs while training in Chicago with Tim Grover. The good news is that none of these nagging injuries have worked their way to O'Neal's knees. But it seems the guy can't catch a break and have a sustained run of uninterrupted performances. The Heat knew J.O. was damaged goods when he was acquired at the trade deadline last February. But the hope remains that he'll get right.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Joel Anthony filled the stat sheet with plenty of hustle plays throughout the night. ItJoel-Block was his energy that got the Heat going in the third quarter. Yeah, he did catch a mouthful of Deron Williams' dunk in the fourth quarter in what was perhaps the highlight play of the game. But other than that, Anthony provided rebounding on both ends, blocked shots, tip-outs, tip-ins and everything else you can do to help your team. He finished with eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks, one shy of his career high.

NEXT UP: Heat at Knicks, Friday, noon, Madison Square Garden

(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, December 02, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 107, Blazers 100

This was the Heat's supporting cast at its best. No doubt about it. Heat_Trail_Wade

This is how you want to open a four-game Western conference swing and put behind consecutive home losses to Boston and Washington. Adversity? What adversity?

In perhaps its most impressive performance of the season, the Heat cruised to a 107-100 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden on Tuesday. Dwyane Wade notched his first double-double of the season, while Michael Beasley and Quentin Richardson both turned in season-high scoring efforts to snap a four-game losing streak against the Blazers.

With the win, the Heat (10-7) avenged its worst loss of the season last year in a 106-68 loss at Portland. The victory also assured that Miami will return home from the four-game trip with at least a .500 record.

The Heat needed this one. Badly. Now, a 2-2 finish on the trip isn't so far fetched. All it has to do is figure out a way to steal another one from either Denver, the Lakers or Sacramento. The Heat is now 4-2 on the road, which is better than its 6-5 mark at home this season.   

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade did a masterful job of managing the game while facing a Portland defense that was intent on taking away his lanes to the basket. Instead, Wade shifted to point guard in the third quarter and picked apart the Blazers while finding teammates. Along the way, he accumulated his first double-double of the season with 22 points and a season-high 12 assists. Michael Beasley and Quentin Richardson, who finished with 20 points in his return to the starting lineup from a back injury, were the main recipients of Wade's playmaking skills. It goes without saying that the Heat's starting shooting guard is the best point guard on the team. Imagine the possibilities if Wade truly embraced the role.

TURNING POINT: That came the moment Heat coach Erik Spoelstra learned the Blazers would be without Heat_Trail_Nateboth LaMarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw because of injuries. Aldridge and Outlaw, a pair of long, athletic, attacking and aggressive forwards, are the type of players who give the Heat fits on both ends of the court. Beasley didn't have to defend or shoot over the 6-11 Aldridge. Wade and Richardson didn't have to deal with the long-armed Outlaw. Portland still dominated the offensive glass, but didn't have two of its better finishers in the lane. Coach Nate McMillan was playing with a short deck a few other options.

WINNING EDGE: Balance. Neither of Miami's first two scorers to reach 20 points were named Dwyane Wade. Beasley got there early in the third quarter and Richardson, who had 20 points and nine rebounds, followed midway through the fourth. This clearly was the Heat's most complete and promising game of the season. The roster lived up to its fullest potential, considering the circumstances and rotation limitations. There was movement in the offensive sets. Wade got off the ball, swinging it frequently to the weak side, where shooters made shots in key moments. Beasley was a beast in the lane again and didn't settle for jumpers. Every bit of Tuesday's offense will be needed Thursday in Denver, which scored 135 points in a win Tuesday.

HEAD SCRATCHER: If there was one curious aspect from Tuesday's game, it was the frequent shots of Daequan Cook sitting on the floor in front of the bench. If Cook, who remains mired in an awful shooting slump, isn't careful, he might be watching yet another opportunity slip away. The Heat used 10 players against the Blazers. The two who dressed but didn't play were Cook and center Jamaal Magloire. In just a short span, Cook has gone from being on his way to securing the sixth-man role (or first guard off the bench) to being the Heat's 11th man on the active roster. A shoulder injury has stunted his development this season, but 29-percent shooting from the field also has been a factor.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Michael Beasley has established himself as a force in the offense, without havingHeat_Trail_Beas to force shots at the expense of team chemistry. Beasley had 18 points in the first half. He closed with 27 points and eight rebounds. But the most encouraging aspect of his performance were his trips to the free-throw line as a result of aggressive drives to the basket. When Beas is going strong, he can't possibly go wrong. Beasley attempted his 10th free throw just two minutes into the second half, which matched his career high, and then set it with 12 attempts for the game.  He came in averaging 17 points and nine rebounds over his previous six games. If he can keep this up, Wade's three-year search for a consistent sidekick might soon come to a productive and promising end. Beasley continues to find his way on the other end of the court, but it's clearly apparent that his offensive firepower is starting to far overshadow any defensive deficiencies.  

NEXT UP: Heat at Nuggets, Thursday 10:30 p.m. - Pepsi 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.)



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