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 @ twitter.com/wallacesports. 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 @ twitter.com/wallacesports. 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 @ twitter.com/wallacesports. 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 @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Pat on the ('09) Prowl

You really didn't think Riley was going to stand pat, did you?

The woe-is-me, wait-and-see approach isn't really his thing. It just isn't. He admitted as much during a Ron Artest recent meeting in his office at AmericanAirlines Arena.

No, the Heat isn't in financial position to be big spenders - or middle-class spenders, for that matter - in this summer's free agent market. But Riley's best work is often done on the recruiting trail and making moves where they don't seem to exist.

Amid several calls that have gone out the past two days to free agents have been two placed directly to Ron Artest (pictured right) and Allen Iverson. The Heat hasn't centered its focus on those two players by any stretch. An all talks are in the preliminary, exploratory, meet-and-greet stages. 

But the fact that Riley is swinging for the fences - or even bunting amid a financial squeeze - suggests two things: The Heat is being far more aggressive on the free-agent/trade front this summer than it suggested. And that could also mean another thing: That it wants to be in position to pounce on a blockbuster deal if Dwyane Wade in fact signs that extension this summer when he's eligible on July 12.

But even if Wade doesn't sign, the Heat still needs to make a move or two to upgrade a roster that relied so heavily on youth last season. Even if Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook improve, and Jermaine O'Neal and James Jones are healthy, and Wade picks up where he left off last season, the Heat might still be the No. 5 seed in the East - as is. At best.

Iverson-Action From a check of league sources Thursday, there is certainly mutual interest between the Heat and both Iverson (pictured left) and Artest. The Heat has been after these two before. But this may be the easiest path Riley has ever had to either one of them. Both are on the open market. Iverson can come  with no strings attached - aside from a potential luxury-tax hit - if he's willing to sacrifice a couple million and a year on a contract. Artest will likely require sign-and-trade help, because Houston would be foolish to let him walk away without getting anything back.

Yes, there are still Chris Bosh dreams and Amare Stoudemire potential realities out there for Miami, which is still operating to maintain flexibility for 2010 in the event Wade doesn't extend and opts for free agency. But the Heat is active on the free-agency front, the sign-and-trade front and the improve the roster now front.

That Don't-Spend-Till-2010 mantra now seems to coincide with a Find-Something-In-2009 option.

 (For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Let's Make a (Draft Day) Deal

This has to be eating away at Heat president Pat Riley.

The East is rebuilding and reloading around him right now, while the Heat maintains its position with a 2010 view of the landscape.

In just the past few days, Shaq has gone to Cleveland to help bolster LeBron James' front line, one that Shaq2 fell flat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Within the Heat's division, Washington's Gilbert Arenas is getting healthy and the Wizards just got deeper by trading for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Atlanta, the team that eliminated Miami from the playoffs, just got a bit more explosive by adding Heat headache Jamal Crawford.

The entire conference - or at least the teams that matter - all seem to be on the move. Riley has said he would speed up the team's roster overhaul, but not before he has Dwyane Wade's signature on a contract extension, which could happen as early as July 12. Otherwise, things will have to wait a year.

Although the Heat's stated goal is to avoid doing anything that would jeopardize its flexibility during the mega free agency period of 2010, there are some solid moves the team can make to improve right now.

With the NBA Draft set to start in a few hours, here are three moves I would consider making if I'm the Heat. They would make the team better next season. A few might send the team a bit deeper into the luxury tax for a year, but none of them would compromise the team's 2010 spending flexibility.

DEAL 1: Trade Dorell Wright, James Jones and the 43rd overall pick tonight (the $4.2 million tradeCamby exception)to the Clippers for Marcus Camby. (UPDATE - I stand corrected. I initially had the Heat sending its $4.2 million trade exception instead of Jones in this deal, but upon further review, such exceptions cannot be combined in a deal with another player. It has to be a separate transaction) The skinny: Camby is on a convenient contract that expires after the season. He is also still a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder who would be insurance for Jermaine O'neal. Both have had injury issues the past few seasons. Both are off the books at season's end. But Miami, for now, has absolutely nothing in the post behind O'Neal. The Clippers get to clear out room for Blake Griffin. If the Heat could find some way to ship either its $4.2 million or $800,000 trade exceptions in a side deal, it would sweeten the pot for the Clippers. It's also money the Heat probably wouldn't use otherwise. Wright gets to go home for a fresh start to a career that never materialized in Miami after he was taken with the 19th pick in 2004. Jones would be another kick-out option for Baron Davis who could also balance the floor for an improved inside attack. Plus, Jones has an option-friendly deal after next season that could be terminated with a reduced guarantee.

DEAL 2: Trade Mark Blount and Daequan Cook and the 43rd pick to Indiana for Marquis Daniels and Jarrett Jack. The skinny: The Heat gets back two playmaking-type perimeter players (Jack, a young backup PG to push Mario Chalmers. Daniels, a poor man's Josh Howard) and gives up very little aside from Cook's promise. There are contract options that make this a comfortable move for the Heat. What does it do for Indiana? Blount reunites with Jim O'Brien, the coach that got plenty out of him in Boston. Cook's shooting - Blount's, too - would be tailor made for Indiana's inside-out system. The moves would also settle the point guard logjam in Indiana and also give first-round pick Brandon Rush a chance to develop faster.

DEAL 3: This one hurts because I truly respect what Udonis Haslem means to this team. He's taken over Marc gasol for Zo as the heart and soul of the organization. However, trade Haslem and the 43rd pick to Memphis for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. The skinny: Again contract options on both Conley and Gasol give the Heat an out if necessary. But Conley, who could use a fresh start after a turbulent two years in Memphis, is another young guard who could challenge Mario. The Griz could also use the 43rd pick to take a point guard, move O.J. Mayo to the point or bring in a veteran with their cap space. Gasol is a skilled, big body and a banger. But if the Griz take Hasheem Thabeet at No. 2 tonight, there won't be room for Thabeet, Darko and Gasol. Haslem would give the young and promising Grizzlies the proven, rugged, veteran power forward who brings a winner's resume. This deal also opens the gates for Michael Beasley to take over in Miami at forward. Haslem has an expiring contract and could also consider coming back to his hometown team a year from now.

Pat might possibly have a lot on his plate tonight. Or, he could stand pat and maintain the patient approach, with a focus squarely on 2010.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

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 @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

When Riley Talks ...

Heat president Pat Riley talked Wednesday.

A bunch of us South Florida media members gathered at AmericanAirlines Arena to listen.

Now, after transcribing - or, rather, quickly listening to the comments - let's determine what they mean in order of priority as the Heat heads into the offseason.

Priority No. 1 - Signing Dwyane Wade to an extension this summer, before he can opt out in 2010. Wade-Riley

Riley: "It's been broached. It's on everybody's mind. We want Dwyane Wade here the rest of his career. We would love to get a commitment. He's our franchise player. We understand he has the right to wait."

Lowdown: Now, it's D. Wade's turn to make everyone wait on his commitment. Riley should know how it's done, considering the way he publicly handled his coaching future a few years ago. I've got no problem with Wade taking his time. I've got no problem if he waits until 2010. He's earned that right. He knows he's the anchor of this franchise. But business is business. And he's got leverage.

Priority No. 2 - Moving Michael Beasley to small forward

Riley: "I'm a believer in Michael and Erik (Spoelstra) is a believer in Michael. He never really had a developmental summer the way Dwyane had (after his rookie season). He can play that spot. I coached James Worthy, when he was a power forward coming out of college. Michael has the ability to be one of the best 3-4s in the league. You need offensive firepower."

Beasley-Wade Lowdown: If Riley is truly determined to make this current roster work, he had no choice but to move Beasley to small forward. Why the team couldn't have committed to that change after the Shawn Marion trade is beyond me. There is no doubt that Beas can play the three. And enough with all of the talk about him not being able to defend LeBron James and Paul Pierce. Hell, who can? Beasley simply must stay out of foul trouble and force opposing small forward to guard him as well. He can create mismatches.

Priority No. 3 - Is Michael Beasley untouchable as a potential trade chip?

Riley: "I would think so. (But) You never know what will come from outside."

Lowdown: Riley had to be convinced to keep Beasley on draft night - and beyond. Of course, he's going to say all of the "we-want-to-keep-Beas" things right now. But let Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire become available, and Beas might be out of here as quick as he can get a shot up. Having said that, I would much rather see Beas stay and develop and benefit from being alongside Wade the same way Wade did so being alongside Shaq in those first couple of seasons.

Priority No. 4 - Developing the young core of Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook and - get this - Dorell Wright.

Riley: "Michael and Mario and Daequan and Dorell are going to be part of what we call the Heat Academy. We have foregone the summer league this year because I want it to be about a summer of work. Of drilling and out of the box thinking about developing their athleticism and not just their basketball skills. I think they will get more out of it than in the summer league. I'm not saying we won't take them somewhere for a session - I've talked to four or five other teams.  

Priority No. 5 - Making a blockbuster move this summer.

Riley: "Being patiently impatient is what it's about. If something happens that is good and could change the direction of the franchise immediately, if it was sound, fiscal, fit into all of the parameters, like the Shaquille deal did at the time, you move forward. But with what we did last year, what we brought in this year, and how we were able to clean the table for 2010, that has to be the vision and the long-term plan. But I would be proactive if something were to happen. I've got a huge ego. But it's got nothing to do with anything other than the team. It's really about the team."

Lowdown: Pat's got Henry Thomas on speed-dial. Henry not only represents D. Wade, but also Chris Bosh. And if Pat can get Henry to get Toronto to take back anyone on the roster, except Dwyane, it's a done deal this summer - if not by the trade deadline next season.

Priority No. 6 - Getting anything near $23 million worth of production from Jermaine O'Neal next season. SPO-O'NEAL

Riley: "We saw the balance he gave the team. He gave us a presence in the middle. Trying to incorporate him into a perimeter-based game around Dwyane wasn't an easy thing. He needs one summer of just getting strong. We had to drain his knee three times. I think we're going to have that (a strong, healthy and consistently productive) O'Neal next season."

Priority No. 7 - Deal or No Deal regarding Udonis Haslem, who has an attractive expiring contract.

Riley: "You don't want to move players like Udonis. We all know what Udonis brings. We all know what Udonis is all about. Business is business. But Udonis is a fixture here. I would like to keep him here.

Lowdown: Again, this might go back to the Henry Thomas factor. Henry also represents Udonis in addition to Chris Bosh and Wade. The bottom line is that Udonis has taken on a sort of Zo-like quality within the franchise. He doesn't complain. He works hard. And he's the toughest dude in the locker room. Plus he's Dwyane Wade's sidekick. Wade and Haslem are the only rotation players left from the 2006 title team. Jordan had Oakley. Magic had A.C. Green. Bird had McHale. Wade has Udonis.

Priority No. 8 - Riley's future beyond 2010, when his contract is believed to expire.

Riley: "I can have a handshake agreement with (owner) Micky (Arison). After 14 years, I don't think it's Riley-Arison about contracts."

Lowdown: As Riley admits, he has a huge ego. Don't think for one second that he did all the groundwork (along with his staff) to set this team up for a blockbuster summer of 2010 to walk away without reaping the benefits of what becomes of it. Riley will eventually head off into the sunset of Southern Cal. But not before he sets Wade up with another mega star to make a run at one last title.

Priority No. 9 - On dealing to get a first-round pick for the draft, which the Heat does not have right now.

Riley: "Maybe. We'll take a look at it if we like the player and it slots into what we're trying to do."

Lowdown: Probably not. Unless landing a draft pick is part of a larger deal to dump salary. Any takers for Mark Blount? Going once ... going twice ... ?

Mario Priority No. 10 - Acquiring a veteran point guard to compete with Mario Chalmers.

Riley: "I have a depth chart in my office with all of the starting point guards on a board. I told Mario: Don't make me trade for one of those guys to take your spot. He said: I won't."

Lowdown: Riley sees a little bit of Rajon Rondo in Mario. And that's a good thing. Because Rondo faced all of the same questions Mario does now when he took over as the starting point guard in Boston two years ago. Look at Rondo now. One of Mario's best games this season came against Rondo and Boston on the road, when Wade was out. Don't expect Riley to give up on Chalmers now.   

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Playoff Prep Day 1

A few quick notes from the Heat Thursday:

  • The team did not practice but had meetings and went over film in preparation for Game 1 in Atlanta Sunday.
  • Udonis Haslem now says that he might not get his stitches out and play with them in Game 1. He has six stitches from the lacerated right thumb he suffered April 3. He said it's possible though that they could be removed Friday or Saturday. He only had tape around his thumb Thursday, but it sounds as if his injury still is healing. Right now Haslem said conditioning is the biggest issue. He is working out and trying to avoid being winded this weekend.
  • Michael Beasley's right eye still is a bit swollen after being poked in the eye by Detroit's Amir Johnson in Wednesday's regular season finale.
  • Jermaine O'Neal said his strained calf is no longer an issue and he's ready to go.
  • Jamario Moon went through an individual workout but said he didn't attempt to dunk because his strained groin still is healing. He said he feels 90 to 95 percent. He said he hasn't gotten any indication whether he'll be in the starting lineup.
  • Coach Erik Spoelstra said he would not reveal his starting lineup until Sunday. He said he has a good idea who will be starting but did not want to discuss his plans.
  • Mark Blount is expected to miss Game 1 and 2, while he tends to a family matter in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Atlanta Hawks 81, Miami Heat 79 (Beyond the Box Score)

ATLANTA--Dwyane Wade was shown on "Kiss Cam" during the game, so he whipped out a red handkerchief and used at as a shield as he pretended to kiss Jamario Moon. That was about all the work Wade and Moon did in this game. They sat out along with Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem. This is about as meaningless of a game as you'll have in the regular season. The Heat lost but it was refreshing to see some of the core players, who need rest, actually get it before the playoffs start.

The next time the Heat is here, the game will look decidedly different. The Hawks limited the minutes of its starters, while the Heat used a makeshift starting lineup of Jamaal Magloire, Michael Beasley, Yakhouba Diawara, Daequan Cook and Mario Chalmers.

Player of the Game: Michael Beasley continues to impress as a starter. He had a game-high 23 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. He was a possessed man, particularly early. When he grabbed his 10th rebound, there was still 42.9 left in the first quarter. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds in that quarter. His recent play is earning him a larger role in the playoffs, and it appears the way the Heat has brought him along this season is paying off.

Surprise, surprise: Mark Blount entered with 6:27 left in the game, his first action since Feb. 22. He played the rest of the game and finished with six rebounds and was 2 of 5 from the field. He had several key rebounds late that helped give the Heat more opportunities to tie the game or take the lead. His three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Heat its final score. Blount has been dealing with a death in his family, so it was encouraging to see him back on the floor.

Tough night: Back-up point guard Chris Quinn got a ton of playing time but it didn't result in much production. He went 0 for 9 from the field in 29 minutes. He had seven assists, but four turnovers.

Lit 'em up: Marvin Williams scored 13 points off the bench on 4 of 4 shooting. As he works his way back from a back injury, he seems to be on track to be fine for the playoffs.

Stat of the Night: The Hawks scored 17 fast-break points, while the Heat had none. Not having Wade certainly affects that.

That Says It All: "One thing I do know is that Michael Beasley will get a significant amount of playing time in this (playoff) series." -Coach Erik Spoelstra

Next up: Wednesday-Heat vs. Detroit Pistons, 8 p.m. (AmericanAirlines Arena) [*Regular-season finale]



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