Thursday, December 31, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Hornets 95, Heat 91

NEW ORLEANS - Honestly, the Heat probably should have never been in this one at the finish, consideringHornets-West the way things started. Yet still, Miami was right there.

The Heat overcame a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter and led 88-87 with a minute left. But it finished the way it started, and the Hornets avoided a major collapse at home to hold off the Heat 95-91 on Wednesday at New Orleans Arena.

The Heat (16-13) took a slight step back after having won five of its past six games, including three in a row entering the matchup with New Orleans. The Hornets (14-16), meanwhile, remained hot at home, having won their fourth consecutive game at The Hive.

The Heat was at its inconsistent best Wednesday. At times, there was a smooth low-post game flowing through Jermaine O'Neal. There was Carlos Arroyo finding his stroke on the way to 11 points, one off his season high with the Heat. There were clutch shots and on-the-spot plays from Quentin Richardson. There was Beasley banging early with David West.

But there were also uncharacteristic mistakes. Plain, dumb mistakes. Dwyane Wade's turnovers. O'Neal's inability to even jump for the jump-ball to start the game. Players challenging one another and pointing out mistakes on the court. You name it.

Still, there was a chance at the end to pull out a win on the road. It just wasn't meant to be. The Heat essentially played its way out of the game, back in it again, and then out of it at the finish.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Hard to imagine, but Wade only had nine field goal attempts through the first three quarters and didn't find much breathing room until the fourth. Wade finished 7 of 13 from the field, 7 of 10 from the free-throw line, for 22 points. He also had six assists, but matched his season high with six turnovers. There were a few moments of fierce frustration. Wade dug into his team a bit after the game for his supporting cast's inability to consistently capitalize on New Orleans' trapping defense. "We've seen every trap there is," Wade said afterward, before pointing out how his team had "no focus" at times in the game. "We let them play their game," Wade also said. Regardless, six turnovers are six turnovers.

TURNING POINT: There were plenty of those. But the final turn in the final minute made the difference. Chris Paul carved up the Heat's defense with his pick-and-roll execution. He's a wizard with the ball. And he made the Heat look silly in finishing with 18 points and nine assists. Paul split the defense and found David West on the baseline for the jumper that gave New Orleans the lead for good with 53.4 seconds left.

LOSING EDGE: This game was decided on the slimmest of margins. Look at the stats, and it's almost even across the board. Both teams had 78 field goal attempts. Both made 7 threes. Both made 20 free throws. But the Hornets made two more shots than Miami. As Wade also said, "We gave ourselves a chance to win. They just made a few more shots."

HEAD-SCRATCHER: With six minutes left in the third, Beasley and Richardson were jawing at one another Hornets-Beas near the bench while the coaching staff met briefly out on the floor after a timeout. Beasley was replaced less than two minutes later and would only play six seconds in the fourth quarter. Six seconds. Wow. Richardson, Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal each had moments on the court when they were frustrated after West or Emeka Okafor or someone else in a Hornets uniform grabbed an offensive rebound or scored on a back-door cut. But Richardson was animated in the first few seconds of that timeout, and then Beasley appeared to be defending himself. After the game, Beasley acknowledged that the exchange was partly about defensive breakdowns and the other part was to figure out why there were times when "nobody acted like they wanted to play." It was hard to figure out who was right and who was wrong. But the fact that Beasley stepped up and spoke out with pride and emotion was a good step. Coach Erik Spoelstra always talks about healthy controversy.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Arroyo was aggressive. He was 5 of 10 from the field for 11 points in one of hisHornets-Paul better-scoring games of the season. He also had three assists without a turnover. Among his biggest shots were a pair of jumpers in the second half during the Heat's rally from that 16-point deficit. He played 26 minutes and took another big step toward maintaining the starting job on merit. Unfortunately for Arroyo, he also had the assignment of trying to stay in front of Chris Paul. Let's just say that in the fourth quarter second half, CP3 left Arroyo's ankles feeling like jelly. Still, it was a supporting performance from which Arroyo can build.

NEXT UP: Heat at Spurs, 7 p.m. Thursday AT&T 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.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

And The (Small Forward) Answer Is?

Listen to Heat second-year coach Erik Spoelstra talk on Monday, and you'll come away believing that Miami is on the verge of breaking all kind of franchise records this season.


In fact, they've already taken care of one significant mark. The Heat will enter its first preseason practice on Tuesday having already shattered the previous records set for offseason tests since president Pat Riley instituted his conditioning standards 14 years ago.

From Dwyane Wade's hip to Jermaine O'Neal's knees to Udonis Haslem's back to Michael Beasley and James Jones beefing up to Quentin Richardson and Jamaal Magloire trimming down, the message from AmericanAirlines Arena during Monday's media day is that this team is in tremendous shape for the season.

But can it endure with what's there?

Yes, there are numerous questions facing this team - even if Spoelstra (above, right) couldn't not or chose not to see beyond his opening-day-of-camp optimism to acknowledge most of them. But for the first time that I can recall, there seemed to be some legitimate optimism from Spoelstra when he talked about one of the most pressing questions facing the team this preseason.

Who's at Small Forward? Or, rather, who will be starting there when the games start to count?

Asked specifically Monday if he envisions Michael Beasley starting at small forward this season, Spoelstra almost went there with a complete, unwavering answer. But he couldn't help himself. Instead, he gave the closest thing to a definitive response to that specific question as he has since this Beasley-to-small-forward issue first gained wings at the end of last season.


With Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal locks to return to their starting roles, Beasley seems poised to slot in at small forward. All of the posturing and mixed messages in rhetoric this offseason from Spoelstra and Riley were necessary because Beasley (left) still has to earn it.

But ...

"I have a lot of things penciled in right now," Spoelstra said when asked if Beasley is starting material. "I would say it would be surprising for him not to step into a significant role this season."

Notice, Spoelstra stopped short of saying Beasley would step into a "starting" role. But how much more significant of a role could Beasley play this season outside of the starting lineup? As the Heat's second-leading scorer last season, Beasley averaged 14 points and 5 boards in 25 minutes.

Give him 10 more minutes a game, and you can expect those numbers to jump to about 20 points and somewhere between 8 to 10 boards a game. And the best way to get him those extra minutes is to insert him into the starting lineup at the only open spot available at the moment.

If that's the case, Beasley would rank as the 11th-best starting small forward in the East based on our preseason rankings that take into account a player's potential, past production, versatility and impact on both ends of the court among other factors. In our fourth of five installments of position-by-position rankings, the small forward spot in the East shapes up like this:

1. LeBron James, Cavs. 2. Paul Pierce, Celtics. 3. Caron Butler, Wizards. 4. Hedo Turkoglu, Raptors. 5. Danny Granger, Pacers. 6. Rashard Lewis, Magic. 7. Luol Deng, Bulls. 8. Tayshaun Prince, Pistons. 9. Gerald Wallace, Bobcats. 10. Al Harrington, Knicks. 11. Michael Beasley, Heat. 12. Thaddeus Young, Sixers. 13. Marvin Williams, Hawks. 14. Bobby Simmons, Nets. 15. Joe Alexander, Bucks.

One logical argument for keeping Beasley out of the starting lineup is that the Heat might prefer to open

James Jones

with more deep shooting on the court alongside a strong penetrator in Wade and a solid post-up option in O'Neal. Beasley shot a highly respectable 40.7 percent on 81 three-point attempts last season. But he can hardly be considered a punishing three-point shooter right now.

James Jones (below, right) is, which is why he's probably atop the depth chart at small forward going into Tuesday's first practice. Quentin Richardson and Daequan Cook are also stretch-the-floor threats. But none are as dynamic overall as Beasley - even at this yet-to-be-truly-developed stage of his career.

What Beasley has to convince those in camp of is that he's capable of holding his own on the defensive end at the position. He said Monday that he spent the entire offseason guarding point guards and that "if I can stay in front of them, I can stay in front" of guys at his position.

We'll see. Beasley's success at the position - at least on the defensive end - will hinge largely on O'Neal's success at the center spot. If O'Neal can protect the rim as a consistent shot-blocking presence, Beasley can get away with a slip up or two on the perimeter. But he has to hold his own and avoid those mistakes consistently.

But make no mistake. Beasley sees himself as a starting-caliber player at small forward. He didn't need to be reminded that he started the first 15 games of his career there last season before he was moved to the bench. This time, if he earns the spot in camp, he doesn't plan to let it slip away.

"It's one of my goals this year," Beasley said. "It would mean a lot to me. It's like a hill I've got to climb."

(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, August 18, 2009

The Roster: Rank and File

One of the Miami Heat's biggest strengths last season was also its biggest weakness.

Fluidity. The playing rotation was never settled. Coach Erik Spoelstra intended to eventually establish a Spo-timeout pecking order that would have established an eight-player group night in and night out. Eventually he gave up and went with an all-hands-on-deck approach.

In part, the problem was that some of the available hands were unable to stay healthy or productive enough to hold down a solid role. Another issue was that Spoelstra (right) struggled as a first-year coach to find his way through this rotation situation and never closed the door on any possibility - or player. Pat Riley's hand-picked successor couldn't have been more anti-Riley in this regard.

It was an approach that created the Michael Beasley debate and - ultimately - the Michael Beasley/Udonis Haslem dilemma. It cleared the way for the Yakhouba Diawara experiment, one that saw him go from the inactive list one week and into the starting lineup the next, and back into street clothes the following. It allowed for the Jamaal Magloire opportunity, one that saw the Big Cat embrace the role of resident banger/enforcer when given a shot to shake off the bench-induced rigor mortis.

You thought you were done in December with Chris Quinn. Instead, you met him again in March.

And it all essentially left nothing resolved. 

That's one reason the Heat will open training camp five weeks from now facing far more questions than answers regarding its roster and roles.

Is this team in "End Now" mode, with more than $40 million in expiring contracts coming off the books after this season? Or is it in "Win Now" mode, with Wade in the midst of his prime years heading into free agency uncertainty next summer? We certainly know - based on this offseason - that Miami isn't in "Spend Now" mode, despite its long-shot pursuit of Lamar Odom, because the plan has always been to wait, to cash in and splurge in the summer of 2010?

So where does that leave the Heat right now? With essentially 14 players in the mix, 13 under contract, a 12-man "active" roster that will almost certainly change frequently on game night and with about 11 players who are candidates to find themselves as key contributors one week and among the missing on the back of a carton of milk the next.

With a little more than a month to go before camp opens, we rank the Heat's roster - as it currently stands - based on a combination of value to the team, expectations, ability and priority in the pecking order entering the Sept. 28 start of training camp.

14. Chris Quinn - The team's handling of Quinn has been questionable. This summer has been no exception. He was given a $1.1 million option as part of last year's contract to return this season almost certainly as a third-string PG. It's a deal that ultimately might prevent the Heat from adding a much-needed, experienced veteran.

13. Dorell Wright - It's officially breakthrough or bust for Wright. There's no more middle ground for the 2004 first-round pick who will earn $2.7  million this season, which equates to a $5.4 million hit when factoring the luxury-tax penalty. And who said Miami didn't spend its mid-level exception this summer?

12. Pat Beverley - The Heat invested $1.5 million to acquire him in the second round of the June draft. For that alone, he's got to be in the plans - although he remains unsigned. The fact that Quinn and Beverley are this deep on the board shows you just how big of a void there is with the PG depth. 

New Cook11. Yakhouba Diawara- Also a member of "The Expirings," Diawara is essentially a roster mistress. Spoelstra couldn't get enough of the defensive-minded small forward one moment. The next, Khouba was shoved aside and found himself retrieving in-game stats for coaches during timeouts last season. 

10. Joel Anthony - It's Year 3 of the Joel Project. There isn't a teammates he hasn't embarrassed with a ferocious dunk or block in practice. But in games, there isn't a low-post entry pass he hasn't been able to fumble away. The shot-blocker remains as raw as Eddie Murphy in that purple leather suit in 1987.

9. Jamaal Magloire - Arguably the best offseason move the Heat made was bringing back the Big Cat. Yes, it's been that kind of summer. Still, D. Wade got back his bodyguard and the Heat got back an intimidating defender and rebounder for those moments Jermaine O'Neal feels an indifference toward loose balls.

8. Quentin Richardson- Q may have an opportunity to start at SF for the simple fact that no one else has stepped up yet. Trading Mark Blount for someone who could sing the national anthem every night would have been a productive trade for Miami. So getting a double-figure scorer in Richardson should almost register a coup.

7. Daequan Cook- Last year's 3-point All-Star shootout champ may be nearing a crossroads. The mid-first-round draft status, the inconsistent play and the nagging injury concerns could put Cook (above, left) on course for Dorellwrightville instead of a key rotation role if he doesn't get it going early this season. 

6. James Jones- Miam's 2008 top free-agent pickup missed most of last season with a wrist injury that has altered his stroke. He finished as the starting SF when since-departed Jamario Moon was hurt. Jones must prove he is what the Heat thought he was when he got that 5-year partially guaranteed deal. 

UD-Beasley5. Udonis Haslem- Debate, if you must, UD's value. Argue that he is standing in the way of Michael Beasley's development if he continues to start at power forward. But no one on the team has sacrificed as much to focus almost exclusively on the dirty work, played through as many injuries and has exhausted every ounce of his ability as Haslem (left, with Beasley in background). 

4. Mario Chalmers - Riley has put a lot of faith and trust in the second-year point guard. Enough to say he wouldn't sign anyone to start ahead of Chalmers, despite glaring needs, this summer. That puts a ton of pressure on Chalmers. Sure, Wade handles the ball a lot. But Mario's essentially all there is at PG on the roster. 

3. Jermaine O'Neal - Jermaine has declined media interviews this summer to focus on getting healthy. Fine. Actions speak much louder than words. And his action on the court will determine how much of a contender Miami will be this season. Set to collect $23 million this season in the final year of his deal, Jermaine is being paid like a superstar. He needs to perform at something close to an All-Star - or at least the second-best center in the Southeast Division. 

2. Michael Beasley - Regardless of which side you fall on the Beasley debate, here's what you need to ask yourself about last year's No. 2 overall pick: If - and it's a colossal IF - Wade does the unthinkable and bounces next summer as a free agent, can Beasley anchor the franchise through what is sure to be a difficult regrouping, rebuilding, rehabilitation process? Could he offer the stability Chris Paul does in New Orleans? The production and promise Kevin Durant exudes in Oklahoma City? The leadership, steadiness and upside Derrick Rose already shows in Chi-town? I don't think Beasley has convinced the Heat of any of this yet. This season may go a long way in doing so. 

1. Dwyane Wade - From movie deals to real estate contracts to new shoe endorsements, D. Wade WADE-outcasthas put his signature on seemingly every binding document placed before him this summer. Except one: That contract extension to commit long-term right now to the Miami Heat. Because of the power and influence he holds at this moment, Wade is the most important person in the history of the franchise. If he walks next summer as a free agent, the Heat must start from scratch. Almost in the form of 1988 all over again as far as NBA relevance. Pat Riley's reputation would take a huge hit. Because it would not only mean the Hall of Famer ended his coaching career with the worst season in franchise history two seasons ago, he would also be the executive who oversaw Wade's departure after gambling the franchise's future on 2010. Unless you can rebound with a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant signing, no amount of cap space could buy back the credibility of the franchise. Having said all of that, Wade only has to do three things to make this all work out the way it should for Miami: Avoid a major injury this season, get the Heat back into the playoffs to make things interesting and re-sign for $120 million over six years next summer.

(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.)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Blount Out, Q-Rich In. What Now?

So what does Thursday night's trade mean for the Miami Heat? Quentin Richardson

That Heat president Pat Riley is still operating on West Coast time, for one thing. The Heat announced at 11 p.m. Thursday that it had dealt seldom-used center Mark Blount back to Minnesota in exchange for veteran swingman Quentin Richardson.

The deal also means plenty of other things for the Heat. Let us count the ways.

1. Pat Riley finally made an offseason move that could improve the team a bit next season. The Heat had been one of only two teams in the league to stand pat with regards to making a new veteran addition to its roster this offseason.

2. The move brings better balance to Miami's roster. Blount was one of four centers on a roster that was all too thin on the perimeter, particularly at point guard.

3. Richardson could challenge for the starting small forwardspot or provide a nice boost off the bench. He is a career 11.5 ppg. scorer who added five boards a game over the course of his nine-year career.

4. This has to make Wade at least a wee bit happy. Not that Q-Rich makes the Heat a title contender next season (he doesn't). But he is good friends with Wade and can ease some of Wade's frustrations and questions about the roster heading into free agency.

Richardson-Wade 5. The Heat does move a couple million more into luxury taxterritory. Blount and Richardson both have contracts that expire next summer, but by sending out Blount's $7.9 million and taking back Richardson's $9.3 million (as a team already in the tax), the Heat moves from about $2 million to about $5 million deeper into the tax based on Riley's recent estimates.

6. This move has no affect on the Heat's priorities to maintain significant cap space for 2010, when it hopes to resign Wade to a six-year, $120 million contract and also add another top-tier free agent from a class that could be highlighted by LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

7. There still is a need at point guard, unless Wade is committed to playing a lot of minutes at that position again. In that case, the Heat could go with a big backcourt with Wade and Richardson in moments when Mario Chalmers is on the bench. Otherwise, there is still a need for point guard help. Chalmers and Chris Quinn are all that's there on the roster at that position.

8. Considering the slightly higher luxury-tax bill, this could be the unofficial end to any interest the Heat had in acquiring Allen Iverson. There already were concerns about potentially getting everyone enough shots before Richardson came aboard. Iverson, a pure scorer, won't be needed as much. But Jamaal Tinsley and Flip Murray (or anyone capable of being a pure point guard) could still be added for the NBA-funded veteran's minimum.

9. Now that Richardson is a member of the Heat, the Southeast Division now boasts the most-traveled player (Richardson, four teams in one summer) and coach (Larry Brown, coached nine different teams).

10. Those minutes at small forward that were supposed to go Michael Beasley's way might be a bit less availableif he's unable to improve his perimeter defensive skills. On top of that, James Jones, Daequan Cook and Dorell Wright may have just fallen farther back in line in the rotation pecking order.

(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, August 10, 2009

Heat Button Issues

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra appeared on 790 The Ticket's morning show Monday and addressed several key topics surrounding the team as we press through August toward the Sept. 28 start of training camp.

Allen Iverson speculation. Dwyane Wade calling out his teammates earlier this summer. Dorell Wright's latest last chance. Michael Beasley's old/new position. The Heat's direction next season. Spoelstra pretty much discussed them all.

Let's hit the high points.

Beasley: After seven weeks of offseason workouts designed to help last year's No. 2 overall draft pick BeasleyPractice transition between power forward and small forward, Spoelstra said he's reached a decision on what Beasley (right) will be classified next season: "I want to be able to just call him a forward," said Spoelstra, who suggested Beasley wouldn't be tagged with a position-specific title next season. That means, as Heat president Pat Riley said recently, Beasley will see time at both forward spots. Nothing new here. But Spoelstra did offer some insight on how Beasley will be used in roles similar to the ones played by Marvin Williams, Lamar Odom and - to a very slight degree - LeBron James. In a quest to maximize Beasley's versatility, Spoelstra said you can expect to see Beasley initiate the break off defensive rebounds and push the ball up the court. At 6-9 and 235 pounds, Beasley could also be paired with Udonis Haslem or Jermaine O'Neal as the playmaker in "big pick-and-roll situations." From the sounds of it, Beasley will get every opportunity through the first half of the season to convince Riley not to trade him in any sort of blockbuster move that might land someone who would otherwise become a mega free agent in 2010. 

Iverson: Spoelstra really didn't want to go there when asked about the latest scuttlebutt regarding the Heat's interest in Iverson (see previous blog post), who at least remains in the discussion as a potential free agent pickup. A source close to Iverson told me last week that both sides maintain mutual interest but aren't yet close to reaching a deal. Spoelstra said any Iverson talk right now is pure "conjecture" but also acknowledged Iverson's stature and impact in the league. The Heat could very well pass on Iverson. But any talk that Miami doesn't need a player who can produce 20 points, six assists, a couple of steals and be a box-office draw for a team that reportedly lost about $3 million in ticket revenue last season and lacked consistent clutch offense, especially in the postseason, alongside Wade, is asinine. Get that? Especially if it might only cost you a one-year deal at a third of what you're paying Mark Blount, half of what you're paying James Jones and even less than what you're paying Dorell Wright. Ditto for Jamaal Tinsley.

Wade: Spoelstra spoke as if it's a forgone conclusion that Wade will join Chris Bosh and LeBron Wade-SpoNew James among the group of players who will bypass extensions this year and pursue unrestricted free agency next summer. Again, that's been the expectation from the moment Wade and Riley both made conflicting points of sorts earlier this summer. Riley preached patience and a 2010 revival. Wade called for more urgency in the Heat's "get-better-soon" plan. At the time, Wade question how ready the Heat's supporting cast was to help him take the team to a higher level. There was criticism, albeit constructive, of Beasley and other young Heat players. There was a plea for help. Spoelstra said Wade has already reached out to his teammates to make sure they understood where he was coming from. "Dwyane's been great about communicating," Spoelstra said. Spoelstra also said the team and front-office are bracing for what could be an uncomfortable season of conjecture and speculation regarding Wade's free agency at almost every stop on the road. 

Wright: Sounds to me like Wade might have some serious competition for the team's MVP award next Dorell-Break season. If all goes according to best wishes, hopes and plans, Tim Grover might be the most valuable person affiliated with the Heat. Not only is the Heat hoping that Grover can work some of the same magic on Jermaine O'Neal that he did with Wade last summer, Spoelstra also confirmed Monday that Wright (left) is also in Chicago being pushed through Grover's intense rehab sessions. Wright, entering the final year of his contract, has been slowed by knee injuries the past two seasons. The Heat's 2004 first-round pick has yet to live up to the expectations many had when he was selected out of high school, one spot ahead of Orlando Magic All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson, no less. With Jamario Moon bolting for Cleveland, Lamar Odom electing to stay in Los Angeles and even second-round pick Robert Dozier apparently headed for Europe instead of eating up a spot on the bench, Wright still has an opportunity to make his mark at small forward for the Heat. If this sounds like a broken record, it is. You've heard this hit song last year, the year before and the year before that. Is this when Wright finally gets right?

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

Friday, July 24, 2009

Back (2008-09) To The Future (2009-10)

Back from vacation and ready to jump into the offseason frenzy once again.

Between bumping into Tyson Chandler on the way out to L.A. and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds on the ODOM-WADE way back, what did I miss? (By the way, I had no problem finding Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in the middle of the night, but no such luck at all in tracking down Lamar Odom).

Apparently not much, other than tons of rumors, pounds of speculation and plenty of trade and free-agency discussions. But no real action when it comes to the Heat upgrading its roster so far.

It's clear that Allen Iverson and Carlos Boozer seem to be far more interested in Miami than the Heat is interested in either of the All-Star players. At least when it comes to doing what it'll take to get them right now. Really, there's no reason to rush with either player.

It's also clear that Lamar Odom is doing his best Mo Williams impersonation. While both players had genuine interest in Miami, the Heat simply represents leverage in an attempt to get the deal they really want from their current teams. Williams was presented the full mid-level - and a replica 2006 championship ring - from Pat Riley two years ago, but took more money to return to Milwaukee.

Odom, after getting the full mid-level commitment from Riley a few weeks ago, has suddenly resumed talks with the Lakers that broke off after L.A.'s front office learned of Odom's flirtation with the Heat.

Moon-SPo Toss in Jamario Moon's likely departure to Cleveland today via an offer sheet Miami is unlikely to match by tonight's deadline, and you can argue that the Heat has lost a bit of ground the past week or so.

In fact, the Heat moved a few steps closer to solidifying a team next season that looks an awful lot like the one from last season, by locking up Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire this week for another year.

Offseason overhaul or back to (last season's roster) the future (2009-10)?

Knowing Riley, this could all change with a phone call or two in the next few minutes. Or not, if he sticks to his original plan of making 2010 the priority.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Between Riley and Reality

Pat Riley didn't sugarcoat things on Thursday.

He wants nothing more than to see Dwyane Wade return his affection - this summer. He wants nothing Wade-Riley more than for Wade to receive the paperwork on that contract extension on July 12 and fax it right back to AmericanAirlines Arena with his signature.

But Riley is also aware of the reality. And frankly, for as much as Dwyane Wade wants to retire as a member of the Heat, the better business decision is for him to delay his commitment (paperwork, at least) until next offseason.

Wade becomes a free agent on July 1, 2010. He could bypass that process and extend his contract as early as July 12, 2009. That leaves him about three weeks away from having to make a sensitive call.

The truth of the matter is that Wade won't necessarily hurt Pat Riley's feelings if he passes up extending his contract this season and waiting until next summer. Riley has already braced himself for that reality.

That's why the message from Riley out of the executive glass tower on Thursday was this: His hands are tied until the official commitment comes from Wade. 

What that means is this: Jermaine O'Neal, Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem or any other meaningful chip the team has for potential trades won't be going anywhere until the Heat is certain Wade is here for the long term.

So all you have to do to introduce yourself to the 2009-10 Heat team is brush off the program from the final two months of the 2008-09 season. The faces will be the same.

But this is not all about Wade. The Heat is in a tight spot. It's up against the tax already, with the 13 players who are under contract, who are likely to execute options or who have been extended qualifying offers. There is little wiggle room for anything - or anyone - else at this stage.

Mike and Mario That Heat team that finished the season was good enough to win 43 games and make the playoffs. The expectation, the hope, is that the team comes back and gets to 50 victories and beyond the first round.

Riley insists he still loves the idea of what this current team can become, with a healthy Jermaine O'Neal, another dose of D. Wade in his prime and the continued development of Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook.

"I don't want to make a change for the sake of change," Riley said Thursday. "Keeping this team together just might be the answer until we get to (2010)."

Until Wade offers his autograph on either an extension this summer or a new contract next summer, this is as good as it's going to get.  

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Training Camp Already

Apparently, the offseason for the Miami Heat lasted for all of about two weeks.

If it isn't training camp already, it certainly seemed like it Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat-Teamstretch championship champagne isn't even dry on Kobe Bryant's jersey yet. But the Heat is already in a full sweat. Moments after draft prospects (which included University of Miami standout Jack McClinton) walked off the practice courts at AmericanAirlines Arena, several Heat players came bursting through the doors to start their workouts.

Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Daequan Cook, Joel Anthony and Jason Richards (an undrafted free agent last season who sustained a season-ending knee injury) were all on the court. It may as well have been a Wednesday in February.

Word is, the Heat has had almost all of its players in for voluntary workouts in recent weeks. Dwyane Wade was in last week. Jermaine O'Neal was in for a two-week stretch recently. Michael Beasley has been in. About the lone exceptions have been Mark Blount, Luther Head, Jamaal Magloire and Chris Quinn, who are either free agents or have yet to execute contract options to return next season.

SpoPractice "The guys have had about a month off, and they're just eager to get back into the gym," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the bad taste the first-round playoff loss to Atlanta left. "We went through the evaluation process with each one of our guys, and we had to be really honest with ourselves. We're approaching this as if this is the team, these are the guys, who are going to be here. We have to take an organic approach to improving this team. It's from the inside out."

Players are working out four times a week, from Monday through Thursday.

A few updates and Heat tidbits to get you through the offseason drought ...

- Beasley appears to be adjusting well to the initial stages of his conversion from power forward to small forward. The team plans to continue to play him at both positions, which is why Beasley is being strongly encouraged to put on about 10 pounds this offseason. He will add the weight yet improve his quickness and versatility. He also won't have a shortage of motivation. Beasley will likely find himself on the outside looking in when it comes to a spot at the USA training camp. The team will bring together 24 of the top first, second or third-year players to form a pseudo pipeline for future USA national teams. Judging by the names that have emerged, it looks like USA basketball went out of its way to pick around Beasley.

- Yes, Wade has been invited to the White House to meet with President Obama. But he's not the only Heat basketball team member doing big things in big places. Erik Spoelstra has been invited to the Philippines with NBA officials and the State Department to participate in a basketball clinic among other things as part of a humanitarian project. Spoelstra, who is of Filipino decent, will leave late next month. Also, assistant coach Bob McAdoo was tabbed earlier this month to go to China to participate in the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program.

- Like Beasley, James Jones has also been challenged to bulk up and add some versatility to his game. The Heat's top free-agent pickup from last season was signed to add deep shooting to the roster. But there are concerns that he became too one-dimensional when he finally got healthy last season. A counter concern among several players, however, was that there were limited opportunities to do much other than stand and wait for Wade to make his moves. Perhaps it might all lead to more of a motion offense to help offset those moments of stagnation that led to plenty of empty possessions when Wade didn't deliver home run plays to beat the shot clock.

-After last season's coaching staff shakeup, with Riley stepping away from the bench and the addition of two assistants, the Heat doesn't expect to make any more moves this offseason. Wade likes working with assistant Dave Fizdale, who essentially took over handling Wade's numerous, lengthy and often late-night workouts. Spoelstra had that job of being Wade's sparring partner until he was promoted.

-Mario Chalmers said he felt "good pressure" when Riley called him into the office after the season and Mario showed him a board that contained all of the league's starting point guards and top backups. Riley then told Chalmers not to give him a "reason to trade for any of those guys." A few days later, Chalmers was already back in the gym trying to make major improvements from a solid but inconsistent rookie season. "I'm all for whatever is going to help this team," Chalmers said. "But I know I can help this team, and feel this is my spot. I'm the point guard and I'm not going to give that up."

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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sounds Like Fightin' Words

First off, we apologize for the technical problems with the blog the past few days. We're doing some renovations and should have the tweaks worked out in short order.

But on to the matters that really matter.

Count me among those who thought it was lame for some Heat players and coaches to complain that Josh Dunks Josh Smith was trying to embarrass Miami with his botched, between-the-legs dunk attempt in the final minutes of the Hawks Game 5 victory.

If anyone should be embarrassed, it should be Smith for being a knucklehead and missing the dunk.

If anyone else should be embarrassed, it should be the Heat for giving up on the play and allowing Smith to measure his steps starting at halfcourt to set up the attempt.

The Heat should be embarrassed for not getting back on defense to prevent the attempted highlight.

It should be embarrassed for having no one even bother to get back to prevent Joe Johnson from snagging the offensive rebound after Smith embarrassed himself.

It should be embarrassed for allowing Johnson to show his teammate how it's done the respectful way a few possessions later, when he got his own breakaway dunk, with no Heat player within 10 feet of him as he swooped in for a traditional dunk.

The bottom line is that Smith has been dunking on the Heat all series. Yes, that final dunk had a Ricky Davis-ish sort of quality to it, when it comes to classless showboating.

That said, I have no problem with a player going for the exclamation point to a pivotal victory in front of his own fans. If you've got those kind of hops, you use them.

Jamario Moon would have gone showtime in the same situation if the Heat were at home. So would Michael Beasley or even Dwyane Wade - to an extent.

So would it have been less offensive had Smith settled for simply a windmill 360?

As Udonis Haslem put it Thursday: "We should be embarrassed by a lot that happened before that."

Now, on to more important stuff (You get a bonus blog since I haven't posted in a while).

With his team facing playoff elimination heading into Game 6 Friday against Atlanta, Dwyane Wade came out a day early, firing on all cylinders.

He didn't discriminate in his attempt to motivate. He was in rare interview form. It was part comedy, part anger, part resentment, part praise, part desperation. But it as all designed to get his team in the right mindset if it plans to extend its playoff life.

It was also designed to ruffle a few feathers in Hawks-ville.

So here's Wade, unplugged, from Thursday's media session. Wade Headhurt

(On Hawks radio broadcaster Steve Holman, who berated Wade throughout Wednesday's broadcast and referred to the Heat as a bunch of "street thugs") WADE: "Us? That's why he don't work in Miami. That's why he works in Atlanta - to make them feel good."

(On Jamaal "Big Cat" Magloire stepping in to defend Wade after the hard foul from Solomon Jones) WADE: "That's Big Cat. I know if I go down to the beach and eat right now, and somebody comes to mess with me, Big Cat is going to come out of nowhere. I loved him from Day 1 when we signed him. He's been that force we needed."

(On how he's dealing with soreness in his head, back and shoulder) WADE: "I'm feeling better. I'm at the point where whatever is bothering me, it doesn't really matter at this point. I'm moving on from my injuries."

Mario West (On Hawks guard Mario West celebrating after he forced Wade to miss a shot at the halftime buzzer) WADE: "His celebration for his one stop? What is this game coming to? One thing I go back to is something my high school coach always told me. Act like you've done something before. He used to hate when I used to dunk and pound my chest all the time. Win lose or draw, you have to be classy. There are some unprofessional things that (the Hawks) have to take care of. On the court, you show emotion, and that's great. But celebrating after one stop? That's funny."

(More on Hawks guard Mario West, because Wade was on a roll) WADE: "I don't know what it was a sign of. I was laughing after the fact because I've never seen that before. Tony Allen did that the other night when he stopped Ben Gordon from hitting a shot to win the game. That's what you do. But we're not here to point out every little thing they do. Who cares?"

(On his flagrant foul on Mo Evans in Game 5 that was rescinded by the league Thursday) WADE: "If anybody knows basketball and looks at the play, they'll know I didn't even come close to trying to hurt him. I'm not that guy. I'll take a hard foul. But that one, I went straight for the ball. At that time in the game, in one instant, I'm not understanding why they called it. But looking back, I can see why they called it because they thought the game was getting out of hand. But (Atlanta) got two free throws and the ball for something that didn't happen. That hurt our momentum."

(On the officiating and series becoming a physical slugfest) WADE: "Each game has been different. Some games, they let you go, they let you fight. Some games, if you breathe on a guy, it's a foul. We have to go in and play and don't worry about what the call is going to be."

(On calling out rookies Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers - or not) WADE: "Tomorrow is going to   show a lot - to see if our guys really feel it. If it seems like I'm calling them out, I'm not calling them out. Mike and Mario  But I want to see our young guys play like it's Game 6 of the playoffs. If Rio (Chalmers) says he won a national championship (at Kansas), well, I want to see him play like it. I want to see Michael (No. 2 overall draft pick), play like it. It's not about making shots. It's about your intensity, your focus."

(On his approach to an elimination game. Should he come out swinging or defer early?) WADE: "It's a tough position to be in. I don't want to come out and shoot my team out of it or shoot us into it. I want it to be a total team effort. I'm not the kind of guy that feels like I have to do everything. Success comes from team success. Hopefully, we can go out and play our normal game."

(On things getting testy between the teams) WADE: "It was one of those games, one of those playoff series. It's just about, do we have the team to come back and fight as much as (Atlanta's) going to fight? Zaza Pachulia is knocking people out. It's as simple as that. ZaZa I'm not telling my teammates to knock him out. But when he comes down the paint, just make sure he feels us. We're not a team that's playing dirty. We're the team that wants to play smarter and protect ourselves as well."

(And one more good dig at Mario West, just for good measure) WADE: "First off, I have nothing simmering with Mario. He's not been a factor in the series. (He's) irrelevant to me. I have nothing brewing with him at all."

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

Forward Progress? Maybe(not)

The Heat and the Hawks had at least one thing in common Friday in the first postseason practice for both teams heading into Game 1 Sunday of their first-round series.

Neither team was willing to divulge its starting small forward.

While Heat coach Erik Spoelstra maintained his guessing game with the media, Hawks coach Mike Marvin Williams Woodson offered a curve ball of sorts in Atlanta and suggested that Marvin Williams (bad back) might just be healthy enough to start after all.

This series is about Dwyane Wade. Joe Johnson. Al Horford. Josh Smith. Mike(s) Bibby and Beasley, respectively. The stars are at shooting guard. The balance in this series might be tipped by what happens at point guard and center.

The position that could very well have the least impact on the series is the one getting all the attention.

Has there been progress at small forward for either team? Maybe. Maybe not.

Spoelstra said the team tried "everyone" at the position Friday.

Jamario Moon had been the starter there until a groin injury took him out of the final three games.

New Beasley Yakhouba Diawara started there to start the preseason and finish the regular season. But he's considered a stop-gap option.

Daequan Cook also got some burn at the position, from what we're told, in today's scrimmage action.

Beasley, apparently, didn't. Which means he still could be in play for minutes there anyway.

The view from here is that James Jones might be the best option right now to start at small forward for the Heat.

What does all of this mean at the end of the day?

Not much. Other than the fact that Woodson and Spoelstra are already in mid-series form with the coy chess moves being made from Bankhead to South Beach.

Expect to hear Dominique Wilkins and Jamal Mashburn mentioned as possibilities Saturday.

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



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