Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dexter Pittman, not Eddy Curry, the Heat's biggest loser

WASHINGTON -- Dexter Pittman has moved ahead of Eddy Curry on the Heat's depth chart. Pittman played 12 minutes against the Wizards on Friday and had two points and four rebounds.

I caught up with Pittman afterwards in the locker room and asked him about he new physique. Pittman has lost 35 pounds since the start of training camp. The second-year player added that Eddy Curry has lost 33 pounds since the start of camp.

Pittman is down to 280 pounds with a body-fat index of 14 percent. His goal is to get down to 12 or 11 percent.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heat 118, Magic 85: What's burning?

So, pretty much the only thing to be gleaned from Sunday's preseason opener was the obvious fact that Dwight Howard is going to play like garbage until he's traded. That said, here are three things to consider going into the Heat's final game of the preseason.

1. Is Joel Anthony the answer? Anthony started on Sunday but registered four fouls in seven minutes of action. Those were his only stats other than a turnover.

2. Mario Chalmers had a great game a few days after rookie point guard Norris Cole scored 21 points in the Heat's scrimmage. Coincidence or is Cole pushing Chalmers?

3. Any thoughts on Dexter Pittman are welcome. He had six points in 13 minutes and wasn't afraid to stand up to Dwight Howard after the two become tangled under the basket. Pittman seems pretty tough but he's also out of shape. He's listed at 285 pounds but he appears to be well over that.


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Chris Bosh has muscles and other things you won't believe (or maybe you will)

When I first walked into the Heat's practice gym on Thursday, I was immediately surprised by how much muscle Chris Bosh has stacked on his frame. No, seriously, the guy looks pretty jacked. I mean, he's not Karl Malone or Charles Oakley or anything, but there's no question Bosh dedicated himself this offseason amid all the other responsibilities he had on his plate (getting married and being a newlywed and now he's expecting his second child, so it goes).

An aside: Bosh wouldn't say how much weight he's gained or even how much he bench presses. He did tell me that what he used to bench was "pretty heavy" and now it's "really heavy." Those Georgia Tech guys. Always so precise about their measurements.

"I say it’s probably a 50-pound difference — 60- to 70-pound difference," Bosh said. "No, I’m serious. I’m not joking."

Yes, before you ask, Bosh says he'll play center if need be.

So, reporters watched Bosh, Udonis Haslem and James Jones shoot jumpers for about 20 minutes and then came the day's big shocker. Mike Miller is hurt again. This time, he had hernia surgery. If you're counting, that's four surgeries for Miller since he arrived in Miami last year (two thumbs, a shoulder and now hernia). I caught up with Mike on the phone and he obviously was down about the injury but was also refreshingly upbeat at the same time.

The kneejerk reaction to Miller's injury is to assume he's gone -- that the Heat will use its amnesty exception to free itself of Miller's contract. I'm going to avoid jumping to conclusions for now. I'm fairly confident that no one else will do the same but Haslem seemed hopeful that Miller could be an important part of the team despite the recent setback.

Still, there was a lingering feeling that Miller's days might be numbered.

As for Haslem, he had a little fun with reporters (me and Mike Wallace) when we asked him about trade rumors. Haslem played dumb and asked what rumors were swirling around the league. I told him that there's a rumor that could send him to Denver in a package deal for Nene. Haslem's response was spot on:

"If I was going to go to Denver, they should have let me go last year. [WILD LAUGHTER] I could have got the extra $14 million. [DORKY REPORTERS LAUGHING AWKWARDLY] I should have just signed that last year and got the extra $14 million. You know, then sending me now for $14 million less. Now I feel cheated. That’s all. [MORE LAUGHS] I don’t pay attention to it. I didn’t know until you guys just told me." 

Seriously, does anyone really believe that the Heat is going to deal UD one year after Dwyane Wade and LeBron James both took less money to keep him? If UD was dealt, fans would feel betrayed and so would the players. Not going to happen.

Still, UD defended his value to the team.

"I haven’t heard [the rumors] here and I haven’t heard it from my agent but the bottom line is I make this team better. So, it’s up to the people upstairs to make those decisions. I make this team better. The decisions that are being made, I can’t control that. But the bottom line is, I make this team better.

"The decisions that’s being made, I can’t control those.  I can’t control the rumors, I can’t control anything. I make the team better and whatever decisions bounce around, I only worry about what you can control. The rumors, can’t control. The trades, you can’t control. What you can control is how hard you work to get back from injury like I had to do. When I came back from injury, what I brought to the team. What we did to get through the Chicago series. That’s all I can control. I can’t control anything else."

UD makes a good case for himself. But, the way I see it, he's understating his true worth. UD brings team chemistry, toughness and familiarity to the team that cannot be measured in a box score. (Ahh, but let me stop before I start sounding like a coach.)

That chemistry was apparent when Haslem talked about Miller. UD clearly was upset about Miller's latest injury. (They're good friends, you know.) In hindsight, it made for an interesting shootaround, considering Jones could be one of the free agents the Heat picks up if it waives Miller. (Of course, everyone loves Jones, too.) Jones said he's open to returning to the Heat.

Dexter Pittman arrived at the practice facility after Jones, Haslem and Bosh were finished. The big center might have put on a few pounds since last season but not much. He'll lose it by the time the season begins. The Heat's coaches told Pittman before the lockout that he would play a more important role in his second season in the league. (He didn't really play a role last year. He was in Siberia or some cold place playing in the D-League.)

We'll be back at the arena on Friday. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are back in town after the flag-football fun, so we'll see if they show up.

Oh, Mario Chalmers worked out in Las Vegas on Thursday. No word yet on when he's returning to Miami. Also, Juwan Howard worked out Thursday but declined to speak with reporters. The Warden was also in the house.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Chalmers organizes exhibition in Alaska; Wade might not play

Mario Chalmers has organized an exhibition basketball game to be played in his native Anchorage, Alaska, on Dec. 1.

48_chalmersmarioIn other words, MARIO CHALMERS has organized, arguably, the most logistically challenging exhibition game of this long offseason. Congrats to him. I mean, never mind getting to Alaska. Being there this time of year is miserable. The low tonight in Anchorage is two degrees.

Chalmers has commitments from some of his buddies around the league and Carlos Boozer (the other Alaskan). No doubt a good time will be had by all when Chalmers gets together with Michael Beasley,  Daequan Cook and James Harden.

Chris Bosh and Dexter Pittman will play in the game but Dwyane Wade told Chalmers he might not make it because of his responsibility as a parent. Sounds like a good excuse to me to get out of going to Alaska in December.

On Thursday, Wade did say that he might consider playing overseas if the season is lost. (He said this in August as well.) I seriously doubt Wade will ever play in a league overseas but I'm assuming he'll be bringing his boys if he does so.


PICTURED: Sources confirm that this Heat dancer will not be playing overseas or going to Alaska.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heat players lose $8 million in salary with first missed paychecks

So, Heat fans, anyone out there having trouble paying the bills lately? Is the rent TOO DAMN HIGH!?! Check out these numbers.

Players missed their first paychecks on Tuesday. Here's a breakdown of how much each player lost, based on the commonly used contractual formula that each player is paid 1/110th of their total contract each game. These figures include the eight preseason games that were never played and the regular season's first six games. (Players are paid per game. And, obviously, we can debate the merits of these numbers all day based on a new CBA, prorated salaries and everything else. But, you get the point: It's a lot of money.)

Total 2011-12 contract: $16,022,500 Miami-heat-dancers-2
Per game: $145,659.09
First paycheck: $2,039,227.27

Total 2011-12 contract: $16,022,500
Per game: $145,659.09
First paycheck: $2,039,227.27

Total 2011-12 contract: $15,512,000
Per game: $141,018.18
First paycheck: $1,974,254.54

Total 2011-12 contract: $5,400,000
Per game: $49,090.90
First paycheck: $687,272.72

Total 2011-12 contract: $3,780,000 Heat_natalia_natalie_odaymis
Per game: $34,363.63
First paycheck: $481,090.90

Total 2011-12 contract: $3,600,000
Per game: $32,727.27
First paycheck: $458,181.81

Total 2011-12 contract: $1,399,507
Per game: $12,722.79
First paycheck: $178,119.07

MARIO CHALMERS (Restricted free agent/team option)
Total 2011-12 contract: $1,091,100
Per game: $9,919.09
First paycheck: $138,867.27

Total 2011-12 contract: $788,872
Per game: $7,171.56
First paycheck: $100,401.89

Total amount in lost wages: $8,096,642.74

Also, the Heat's dancers (pictured) are losing money.


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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stackhouse effect

The Stackhosue signing makes perfect sense. He's a veteran who can still play some defense and hit open shots, and even at this point in his career might be a tad more versatile than James Jones, who doesn't work much off the dribble and rarely handles the ball.

But still, the Heat will probably ease Stackhouse into any playing time. There are too many new parts to this team to add another brand new contributor just before the first game. The rotation will probably include James Jones and Eddie House, and if for some reason that's not working, then Spoelstra will probably start to incorporate Stackhouse.

The problem now is there will have to be two cuts made. It still seems pretty simple to me. You cut Patrick Beverley and Da'Sean Butler. Butler can stick around Miami and re-sign when he's actually healthy, which is probably next season. Jamaal Magloire still feels like he's more important to the team as an emergency center option. Zydrunas Ilgauskas isn't exactly injury prone anymore, but he is still 35 years old. And Dexter Pittman is probably too young to contribute. So Big Cat must remain.

On a random note, just saw where the Hornets got a hold of Jerryd Bayless from the Blazers for a 2011 first-round draft pick. I know the Heat is just about fresh out of draft picks to trade, but it would've been nice to get Bayless. I've always liked him and thought he was buried in Portland. Plus, is anybody sold on Mario Chalmers? I'm pretty sure I know that answer.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Different cast?

It's impossible to play an entire roster and still be productive in the preseason, so it's likely that Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Eddie House and other who didn't get in Tuesday's preseason opener will play in Friday night's game against the Thunder in Kansas City. There's always the chance that those particularly guys get held out Friday, though, and play Saturday instead in San Antonio.

With back-to-back games -- especially after watching Wade go down with the hamstring injury -- chances of key players playing significant minutes in back-to-back games are quite miniscule.

I'd like to see some of House alongside LeBron, because from what we saw in practices during the training camp in Hurlburt Field, they love kicking out to House, and House loves knocking down open shots (on a side note, it would be interesting to catch up with Elizabeth Riley, daughter of Pat and creator of the "Free Eddie House" campaign back in his first go-around with the Heat, now that House has had a healthy career that includes a championship ring).

I think folks are especially intrigued by Dexter Pittman, who looks like he's about 15-20 pounds away from being a real force in the league. I'm going to go out on an early limb here and say he can be a starting center in the league in two years.

Random end note: Saw where David Stern said the league is anticipating its most successful year ever. It would be something of an awkward position for owners if that happens, wouldn't it? If the league has its best season ever, which would have to mean fiscally, wouldn't that give the players tons of leverage in collective bargaining negotiations next offseason? They'd be able to say that the system is perfect as is, including free agency. Maybe contract lengths could still be an issue, but if you start implementing hard caps and discouraging star player movement, then something like what Miami has just done might never happen again. And it clearly excites people, even if it's in the short term.
 Just a thought.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Top 15, starting five

Funny how people originally thought the Heat's supporting cast around the Big Three would be made up of scrubs, and at this point the roster's deep enough to make the final choice on the 15-man roster rather difficult.

The locks for the roster are obvious: LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Haslem, Miller, Ilgauskas, House, Anthony, Chalmers, Jones, Arroyo, Howard and Magloire.

That's 13, leaving two spots open with about five guys fighting for them.

Dexter Pittman is probably a lock, given that he's a big guy the Heat drafted and they love to develop big guys with potential. Pittman would be a fourth center, yes, but Pittman would likely be stashed on the inactive list every night. Then if Big Z has health issues, there's still depth to deal with the bigger teams like Boston.

Shavlik Randolph and Kenny Hasbrouck, though they were on the team at some point last year, are probably out when you consider that, a) the Heat has enough in the power rotation without Randolph and b) Hasbrouck hasn't even been the best defensive specialist in camp.

That distinction would go to Patrick Beverley, who played point with the red team that featured the Big Three in Friday's scrimmage.

If he makes the roster, though, that would mean Da'Sean Butler, another draft pick, wouldn't. Of course, Butler is working his way back from a torn ACL, but if he really was a coveted player, there's always the fear that if he's cut here, another team could sign him, work him back to health and have a significant contributor in the future. I'm sure with Wade and LeBron on the perimeter, it's not as if the Heat is very concerned about losing a potential role player, but why would the team have signed Butler at all if the plan wasn't to work him back to health themselves? The guess here is they signed him as a show of good faith, so when they do cut him, he'll work his way back to health in Miami then re-sign down the road.

So my guess is Pittman and Beverley get those final roster spots.

But back to the top of the roster... Should be interesting to see who Spoelstra starts against the Pistons on Tuesday. If it were my starting lineup, I'd go with Bron, Wade, Miller, Bosh and Anthony. But based on how LeBron talks about playing the point, I doubt he wants to start there. So it'll likely be Chalmers (or healthiest available point guard), Bron, Wade, Bosh and Anthony. Not a ton of shooting there, especially if it's Arroyo or Beverley starting, and even with Chalmers it's not as if he's threatening enough an outside shooter to keep teams from just packing in the defense. To me, either Miller, House or Jones should be on the floor whenever the combo of Wade and Bron are on the floor. But I guess we'll see where that goes.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

5 Heat Scrimmage Reflections

The Heat pulled the curtain back on their training camp preparations Friday for a scrimmage that gave Wade-LeBron players their first chance to play basketball under normal game standards.

We were there for a rare start-to-finish view of the Heat's first dress rehearsal for the Tuesday preseason opener against Detroit. We present five reflections from Friday's scrimmage.

1. Big 3 Chemistry - There are still plenty of kinks to work out between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But they certainly will enjoy luxuries they've never experienced before now that they're playing for the same team. After spending the first half split apart, Bosh, James and Wade were in the red team's starting lineup for the second half of Friday's scrimmage. That red team either scored or got to the free-throw line on at least 60 percent of its possessions when Wade, James and Bosh were on the floor. That's huge. When Wade wasn't driving to the line and drawing fouls, Bosh was stroking his baseline, turnaround jumper. At one point, he scored on that move four times in five possessions. James was allowed to play free safety on defense, and seemed to be guarding three guys at a time.

2. LeBron bests Wade again - James got the upper hand on Wade when they anchored different squads in the first half of the scrimmage. James' white team built an early double-digit lead in the first half and was up by about 20 at one point before closing out with a 49-34 victory. James' squad has been getting the best of Wade's teams for most of the week. LeBron's playmaking ability is as good as advertised. His passing might be his best skillset, and that's saying a lot considering all he can do on both ends of the court. But it was Wade who made the play of the night when he banked in a lefty hook from halfcourt after James fouled him by grabbing his right arm. The play didn't count because a time-out was called moments earlier. But it was still the play of the week.

3. Starting 5 set - That might not be the case just yet. But the red team that opened the second half consisted of Pat Beverley at point guard, Wade at shooting guard, James at small forward, Bosh at power forward and Joel Anthony at center. It's pretty safe to assume that four of those five will be in the starting lineup when the preseason opens on Tuesday. Obviously, Beverley, who has been stellar on the defensive end in workouts, won't be the Heat's starting point guard. He was in that role Friday because Mario Chalmers was held out of the second half of the scrimmage, perhaps as a precaution to prevent more wear and tear as he works his way back from that high ankle sprain.

4. Bench Boost - The fact that the Big Red team couldn't exactly pull completely away from the white team of reserves says one of two things. Either Bosh, James and Wade are still weeks away from working out some of the chemistry kinks. Or, the bench might be even better than many people believe. James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Carlos Arroyo, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller started for the white team. Miller eventually was traded midway through the second half to the red team. That allowed Haslem to be a lot more aggressive offensively than normal. James Jones also looked really good and knocked down shots to keep the game competitive. James took advantage of his opportunities with Eddie House sidelined with shoulder soreness.

5. Riddle in the Middle - The Heat still does not have a legitimate low-post, offensive threat at center. There's size, rebounding and shot-blocking. But not necessarily all at the same time. Big Z certainly was a crowd favorite among the military fan base. He also knocked down a few shots, and drew loud cheers and chants after every positive move he made. Joel Anthony was active and altering shots at the rim. And Jamaal Magloire was an enforcer in the middle. Just don't ask him to shoot free throws. The Heat might prove to be dynamic enough at the other four spots to overcome some shortcomings at center. Rookie Dexter Pittman might be the best back-to-the-basket option at the position, but will he get an opportunity for meaningful minutes as the fourth center in the rotation? Not likely.  



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